Friday, March 25, 2005

Newtown Cardiff

My father was brought up in a place called Newtown in Cardiff. Last Sunday he went back, along with my mother, for the opening of the Newtown Memorial Garden which has been set up by the Newtown Association.

Digging around on the web, I found a site called Real Cardiff run by Peter Finch that gives some history.

Newtown was built by Bute in 1846 to house Irish workers fleeing the potato famine by sailing from Cork as human ballast on the coal ships that plied industrial trade across St George's Channel. Cardiff was a boom town with a vast need for labour. Docks were to be dug, railways laid, buildings to be slung up, pig iron to be loaded. The district consisted of six streets - Pendoylan Street, Roland Street, North William Street, Rosemary Street, Pendoylan Place and Ellen Street - two hundred houses - jammed, insanitarily, back-to-back, in the sliver of ground between the main rail line and Tyndall Street. A warren of bedrooms used in relays above cramped, over-occupied parlours and damp, unventilated kitchens were home to more than a thousand desperate immigrants. There were shops, pubs (five in one street alone in the early years) and two churches - the Roman Catholic St Pauls's which was permanently full and dominated local life almost as much as the drink did and the Welsh All Saints which scratched a congregation from somewhere, just.

You can read the whole thing here.

I really don�t know anything at all about my Irish antecedents, apart from the fact that my grandfather was born there. I think he must have come over in the early part of the 20th century. We are going to try and get away to Cork for a week or so in the summer. A plan that was in hand before I found out that Cork was almost certainly where he set out from, perhaps even his home. That will certainly make it a lot more interesting.

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