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Margaret Byrne | The Irish Experience - oral history project | Birmingham City Council
Photograph of Margaret Byrne

Margaret Byrne

I was born in Howth, County Dublin, in 1910. I was an only child. My father was a van driver, and my mother didn't work. We lived in a thatched cottage. We had to get water from the well across the field.

I went to school in Scotland. We left Ireland when I was a baby. I went to school in Dumbarton, but we returned to Ireland when my aunt died. I was still only young. My father worked in Scotland in a shipyard on the Clyde. I went to school in Ireland at a convent school with nuns. It was terrible, you know what nuns are. They used to beat us with a leather strap if you didn't know something. I used to go home with my hands and legs red.

We used to learn Gaelic, but nobody bothers about it over there. We used to walk 3 miles to school. We used to start out at 8am to get there for 9am. There were no uniforms. When I left school I didn't work, my mother was ill and I looked after her.

I got married when I was 20 to a man that lived in our street. He came from Liverpool but was training with the army. He came to England and I came over later. I left the children with my mother. We had 2 girls and a boy.

My husband worked on the railway, and we got digs in Balsall Heath. We then got a maisonette in West Heath and I brought the children over.

I've been to Ireland, but Dublin has changed. There was no money when I was there, and no work, that's why we came here. There's loads of work over there now.

I used to work at Lucas, and my husband worked shifts on the railway. We didn't see much of each other.