Search

Norwich Weather

Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 8°C

min temp: 5°C

Irish Society of East Anglia celebrates 125th anniversary on St Patrick’s Day

The Irish Society of East Anglia celebrate their 125th anniversary at The Maids Head, Norwich.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

The Irish Society of East Anglia celebrate their 125th anniversary at The Maids Head, Norwich. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

ARCHANT NORFOLK

Compared with other corners of the globe, the reach of the Irish diaspora may not seem quite so extensive in East Anglia.

The society’s history

Following its creation in 1891, the Irish Society of East Anglia has continued with varying success over the years.

At the outbreak of the First World War, all its members, except the old and incapacitated, signed up to serve in the military. There was no annual St Patrick’s Day dinner in 1915.

Many members did not return from the war and the society was not re-established until 1926.

During the 1930s, a merger with the Norwich Society of Saint Patrick was considered, but the application from the latter organisation – which was considered to be more of a working class group – was dismissed. It folded shortly afterwards.

The society’s ordinary activities were suspended, again, during the Second World War. However, from 1940 to 1943 dances were held in The Samson and Hercules, in support of various war charities.

Full activities were resumed in 1948. Shortly afterwards, women were allowed to join and membership restrictions were gradually relaxed. Today it is open to anyone with an interest in all things Irish.

But as St Patrick’s Day showed, Celtic roots run deep in our region, and its Irish community is still going strong.

The day was celebrated by an event in Norwich marking the 125th anniversary of the Irish Society of East Anglia.

It took place yesterday at the Maids Head Hotel, the venue of the group’s very first St Patrick’s Day lunch in 1892, a year after its creation.

Over the decades, the group has supported and hosted events for people of Irish descent living throughout the region.

The Irish Society of East Anglia celebrate their 125th anniversary at The Maids Head, Norwich. Mairin Breathnach dressed for the day.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYThe Irish Society of East Anglia celebrate their 125th anniversary at The Maids Head, Norwich. Mairin Breathnach dressed for the day. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

John Gardiner, of Hellesdon, is the longest-serving member, having joined in 1976. The 79-year-old, originally from New Ross, County Wexford, said: “It is very important for us, not because we don’t mix with everyone else, but because it is nice to be around other Irish people.

“The two things we never discuss are religion and politics, and it does not matter whether people are from the north or south [of Ireland].

“It is great that after so many years it is still running and hopefully it will continue that way.”

The society was formed on St Patrick’s Day in 1891 by a small group of Irishmen who met at the old Central Cafe on Orford Hill, Norwich.

Membership at that time was confined to “gentlemen of Irish birth” and one of its objectives was 
to hold an annual dinner on St Patrick’s Day each year.

Today, the organisation has more than 130 members and welcomes people of all backgrounds.

Shivaun Barnes, 70, of Eaton, has been a member for more than 35 years. She said: “It is amazing we have been around for 125 years. It is a big social network and while we embrace anyone, we like to look after our own. We love to be around Irish people and we are very proud to be from Ireland.”

Is your organisation celebrating a major milestone? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Norwich Evening News visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Norwich Evening News staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Norwich Evening News account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most Commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists