Heritage, Diaspora and the Consumption of Culture: Movements in Irish Landscape, ed. by Diane Sebanachio Nititham and Rebecca Boyd [book, 2014]
‘P.A.D.D.Y.’ is the title of a piece of work I devised in response to a brief provided by Unison: ‘The influence of Irish immigration on the development of Scottish Trade Unions’. The title itself alludes to the slang term for an Irish man, my grandfather’s name and the renowned use of acronyms within trade union history, such as T.I.N.A. (There Is No Alternative), and was thus an integral part of the work.
The piece comprised of a short narrative text painted directly onto the wall of three designated sites: The Labour History Museum in Dublin and the Unison offices in Belfast and Glasgow. The chromatic presentation of the work was designed to utilise the symbolism and visual impact of the three Unison colours: green, purple and white. Although hand-painted, the text commanded the appearance and authority of the printed word.
The Narrative told the story of my grandfather Paddy McCreesh, who lived and worked in North Lanarkshire in the 1910s. It recalled how he found work in a mining company in Bellshill, and how he experienced something of life as an Irish immigrant worker. The viewer was invited to engage with the subject of immigration fueling British industry and Trade Unionism through personal and human experience, rather than through a didactic and overtly political approach. Possible outcomes and scenarios were suggested rather than described, outcomes that did not come about for my grandfather but did for many other Irish. My grandfather returned to Ireland to run the family farm only because his younger brother absconded to America. And though relatively short, his time ‘abroad’ provided him with a Scottish lilt which he always held onto, calling out to us, ‘Hey Lassie! or Hey Laddie!’ when he wanted our attention. For me, as a later generation of the Irish diaspora, it provides a sense of belonging to encounter so many people whilst working in North Lanarkshire whose people hail from Ireland. My time abroad has been a little longer than my grandfathers… though when I’ll be homeward bound, is often on my mind.