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Theresa McPherson | The Irish Experience - oral history project | Birmingham City Council
Photograph of Theresa McPherson

Theresa McPherson

I was both in Rathkeale, County Limerick on 6 January 1914. There were 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. My father died on 5 February, so I was only a month old. It was hard times then. My grandmother took the eldest boy, so there were 3 of us left at home. My mother had to work, she helped the farmers and took in washing.

We lived in a cottage with a slate roof; there were 2 rooms and a kitchen. When my brother grew up he made another room and improved it. My brother is over 90 now. We had to go to the well which was a distance away. We had a hearth, which later became a grate. My sister went away to work when she was 14, which left the 2 of us. My brother slept in the room upstairs and I slept with my mother until I left home.

I remember my first school, the teacher was very strict; she was a friend of my mother's. She would smack the whole class. They wouldn't stand for it now. It was a parish school, we were all in the same room except for the younger ones. I used to walk to school, it was about a mile or so. We were taught Gaelic, but I never liked it. I never liked any of it. An hour a day was spent on religion.

When I came out of school I used to go to a big farmhouse where my mother and brother worked; I used to have my dinner there. The people there were very nice to me. I used to go out with the old lady of the house for a ride in a donkey and trap. There were no time for play.

I left that school to go to the nuns in Rathkeale, at the convent school. I liked it there and I left when I was 16. I went to go and work in a shop in the town for about 2 years.

I had to give up my job to go and help my sister who lived in Kildare. Her husband had died and she had 3 children and was expecting a 4th. When the children got bigger I went to work at a mill making men's clothing. Then they sent about 30 of us over here to the mills in the west of England making men's suits. We were here for about a year, and when we went back there was factory ready for us in Portleish, and I stayed there until I got married.

My husband had to come over to England because jobs were scarce. Then I came over to join him and worked in a factory. I didn't mind coming here because we hadn't got much at home. We lived in rooms in Stechford. When I had a little girl they gave us a flat, where I lived until my husband died.

I missed my mother and friends, but I made friends over here. I remember there was always storytelling, someone would come in and tell their tale. I would have stayed in Ireland if things had been different, but it's much better there now, they are all well off now. We were poor.