Photograph of Anne Morris

Anne Morris

Born: 29th October 1942

Dublin, Ireland

Date of interview: 20th July 2006

Map showing where Anne Morris came from

My name is Anne Morris

When and where were you born?

I was born on the twenty-ninth of October 1942; I was born in Dublin, in Ireland.

And what are your earliest memories from that time?

Well I grew up in Ireland and ... didn't leave Ireland until the fourth of June 1960, but I was educated in Ireland in Newtown Forbes Convent, that was in County Longford, and we, our family lived in County West Meath and we emigrated in 1960. My parents emigrated in March. Those days in Ireland the economy was not good. I was still at the convent boarding school and the term didn't finish until June so I followed them on the fourth of June.

Have you got brothers or sisters?

I have got four brothers and three sisters.

And what are your memories of Ireland?

Well yes I grew up there well I ... we had a ... it was lovely really growing up in Ireland but, as a child you probably weren't aware of perhaps the economic difficulties that, you know, the adults had. It was lovely and free and, I was educated at a convent which was very strict, very, very strict in comparison to these days. Yes I suppose we all say that the school days are the best days of our lives but, not really, because I used to miss my parents desperately when I would go back at the beginning of term. My best subject at school was Music. I did my, which will be familiar to Irish people, my Intermediate Certificate in the secondary school and I did Music as well. So I, Music was my best subject and I did extremely well at piano. I didn't stay on to finish my education in Ireland because my parents had emigrated so I came over here when, as I say, I was eighteen and, came to England and it was, I have to say, a complete shock to me. It was nothing as I had expected it would be.

I imagined from my History and my Geography that England would be all industry, houses absolutely everywhere not a, you know a sign of any green fields. And my parents had actually settled in a little village, Whitchurch in Pangbourne. I remember my father and mother picking me up and we drove back to Whitchurch near Pangbourne and I could not believe, the country is so beautiful I was really, you know, amazed. And the next morning I remember going down, walking down from Whitchurch down into Pangbourne, which was just about five minutes, and you had to walk down, and there was a toll bridge, which is still there, and it was so pretty, the bridge goes over the Thames. It was absolutely beautiful and I really couldn't believe the beauty of the place, it really was amazing. And I was expecting just factories and its just your, you know your perception of things really, isn't it? But I was, I was amazed and it was beautiful. Having said that, when I look back now, I think if my parents weren't there I wouldn't have stayed here but having your family around you it was very comforting and very reassuring.

But when I came over here I just couldn't wait to get a job; I was so anxious to get a job to earn money obviously and I remember getting the, what was it called the Reading Chronicle then, I used to get it and look for jobs. I always remember my father saying to me, 'Anne, don't be in such a hurry to get a job, because once you start working Anne you will be working for the rest of your life' and he's quite true, he was so true. Eventually I did get a job, there was a job advertised in a company called Underwood's Typewriters in Station Road, Reading.

In Reading?

In Reading, yes, in Reading. Quite amusing really, I was very shy, very shy in those days, [laughs] you know, very, very shy, no confidence at all, and I remember this interview. I went in as an office junior. The office isn't there any more, I think it's a burger shop, but I remember my father came with me for the interview, I mean in these days with my children, you know there is no way anybody, young people, their parents or family would go. I remember my father came with me for this interview, it wasn't that I'd said come with me, you know, it was like it seemed the most natural thing to do. And it was this little office in Station Road and the man, the boss there, was a Scotsman and I think he spoke, I think his name was a Mr Grey, and I think my father and him had great chats and I got the job.

I got the job as this office junior and I was paid four pound a week, but after tax I took home three pound fourteen and four pence. But I got the job and my job really was to answer the phone, it was a company that repaired typewriters, which of course they don't do anymore do they.

I remember the first day I had my job in Reading, so at lunchtime I thought I'd just pop out, and I popped out went down towards the lights and then I crossed the road and I was down into Queen Victoria Street and I hadn't a clue where I was. I was totally confused and had to ask somebody, 'Can you please tell me where Station Road is?' and I got back then. That was fine.

Yes, so I worked there for probably about six months and as I say I took home three pound fourteen and four pence, and used to get the bus in from Pangbourne every day. And every week I would go to Martin Fords - which is not in Reading anymore - I would go down to Martin Fords and it was real, we are talking about cheap and cheerful clothes, because obviously I didn't ... I had very limited wardrobe to put it mildly, and I would go into Martin Fords and spend all my wages on absolute rags really, I shouldn't really say that but, you know cheap stuff, and I would go home with them having spent all my wages. And my father, he was a gem, 'and why wouldn't you,' he said, 'and why wouldn't you,' he would never tell me off, and for the rest of the week he would be giving me bus fare in and out to Reading.

I was there probably for about six or eight months and then I saw a job advertised at the BBC monitoring station up in Caversham. They were looking for a copy typist and I arranged to have an interview there. So I had an interview in the afternoon and this lovely lady, a Miss George, I think her name might have been Hilda, anyway Miss George her surname was, she interviewed me for the job. And she was from Ireland, I think she was from Northern Ireland, but she was the loveliest woman out. Now my typing was very ... I'd done a little typing at school but it wasn't a priority, so I thought there's no hope I'd get the job, but I got the job. Now the only reason I think I got the job was because this woman that interviewed me probably felt quite sorry for me and I was so quiet and shy.

But I was there for ... how long was I there for ... I don't know, maybe a year or something. And I think meanwhile I had applied to work, I had always wanted to work in a bank, I don't know why, I just like counting money I think, and I had actually applied to the bank and I had a letter come through to say, that was it I had to go for an interview, and the interview was in London and this was the Nat West bank at the time. And I had to go up to the head office for this interview, and went up on the train and had an interview, and then they said to me they'd put me on the waiting list. Now this would be unheard of now now-a-days as they have a job to get staff now-a-days. So I was on this waiting list and I had a letter - while I was at the BBC - I had a letter saying there was a vacancy in Wallingford in the Nat West - the Westminster Bank it was called - in Wallingford. So I left the BBC and went to work in Wallingford. I was actually there for four years in Wallingford and then my parents had moved from Whitchurch into Caversham in Reading, and I thought it would be much easier and less expensive if I could get a job in the bank in Reading, so I applied for a transfer to Reading and worked in the Market Place.

And then during that time I met my future husband, and we got married in 1965 in St Anne's Church in Caversham, and then we lived in Tilehurst. I carried on working in Reading for about six months or eight months after I was married, and then I became pregnant with my first child. So yes, that was I suppose my early working life stories and I went on and had four children and what else ... I didn't work then for a long time. I went back to work in 1978.

How did you get involved in the Irish Eye Programme?

I was working in Reading during this time ... I often thought when I listen to the radio ... I love music and as I said it was my best subject at school. I used to think, 'I wish there was a programme for the Irish community,' meaning like a programme of Irish music on local radio, and I the time I'd turn on the radio and there was like Asian programmes and different nationalities, programmes that catered for them, and I thought well why can't we have one for the Irish community, so this was in 1995 now.

In June 1995 I rang up the local radio station, which was Radio Berkshire, and asked to speak the boss his name was Henry Elford, he was head of the Radio Berkshire, I suppose at the time, and I said to him have you ever thought about having a programme for the Irish community? And he said, well we have sort of, he said that he didn't think there would be a demand for it, obviously they have to have a demand for things or they won't do it. And I said there's a lot of Irish people around, and its not just Irish people ... my husband was English and he loves Irish music ... and I've got lots of friends that are different nationalities and they love Irish music. So we had a long chat about it and the sort of programme it would be etcetera and he, you know, what, who would present it and everything, and I said well the thing is you want somebody to present this programme that's easy to understand; you don't want a definitive Irish accent say from the very north, or the very south, or the west, that people would have difficulty understanding. So it was sort of left like that, and you know he said about the numbers, who it would appeal to, and I said well leave it to me and I'll find out some information for you.

So I then rang up the Irish Embassy and very shortly after that and said I was trying to find out the numbers of Irish people in the sort of broadcasting area of radio Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire ... and I don't know what ... just all the local counties. And anyway they sent me a chart which was, I can't remember what year the census was taken, a chart of the map of England, Scotland and Wales, and the numbers of Irish born people in each county, the counties that would be relevant to the programme. And when I added them up there was about 38,000 Irish-born people in this little group of counties that would actually be able to listen to the programme - and that didn't take in considerations second generation Irish. So I then rang Henry Elford again and I gave him this information. So he said well you know leave it with me etcetera, that was as I said June 1995.

September 1995 I went into work in Reading as usual on a Monday morning and manager there was lovely lady, she said to me, 'Anne, I heard a lovely Irish programme on the radio yesterday,' and I said, 'Oh yes,' and she started talking about it, and I suddenly thought well that's, that was my idea, the little devils, why didn't they tell me. But I was very excited at the same time so I thought 'I'll have to ring,' this is on Monday, 'I'll have to ring Henry Elford.' Didn't have time to ring him till the Wednesday, and I rang him on the Wednesday and he said, 'Anne, yes we lost your name, we lost all your details, and in fact if you looked in the Reading Chronicle this week you'll see a little piece.' He said, 'We contacted Jo Wise, who is a reporter, and he's done a little piece,' and the heading was, 'Hunt for Mystery Radio Critic.' Well Henry said we really wanted you in on the first programme. I said Henry, 'I will be there for the second.' [laughs]

So the second week the Irish programme went out. I went in. I was so nervous because obviously I'd never spoken on the radio before in my life. I was really nervous, I was very excited just in my own mind, that something I'd suggested had actually taken off. So I went in and the presenter of the programme then was Kieran McGeary, he's a Waterford lad, he was a professional journalist, lovely guy, and I went in and the programme then had started the week before, and it was programme that ran for four hours from six until ten on every Sunday and it was broadcast ... I was trying to think where the studio was ... it was down off near Richfield Avenue, down that direction, they had a studio.

So I went in and I used to answer the phones and I thoroughly enjoyed it. To be honest people say, 'Oh how could you do that without getting paid,' but life is not all about money; I know we all need money and its lovely and we could spend it on wonderful things, but some things you know we get such delight out of. The fact that you've made a difference to a lot of people's lives because they can hear this lovely music, it's something to listen to.

I really enjoyed it and so we were running for maybe a couple of months and at that time, there was a group of us in the process of setting up, in the process of discussing the lives of the older Irish people in the community, and so I had this idea I said to Kieran who was the presenter, I said, for an idea for the programme why don't we ask people to send in a favourite Irish recipe, I said it would be very interesting. And I said the plan would be we would collect them all and we'd put them in a book and then we could sell it and make money for our charity was called the Hibernian Society. So the aim really was that with these recipes we would compile a book and sell it, and the funds would go to the charity ... the aim of the charity being to really improve the quality of life of the older Irish people in the community.

So this charity is linked to the radio?

No, no, no; the charity as I said it is a separate thing. The radio was totally voluntary, I wasn't being paid, and obviously the radio wouldn't, wouldn't what would you say sponsor the charity, because this BBC is totally different. It was just with all these things in my mind, my mind, was to try and do something to improve the quality of life of the older Irish, the older people in the community. Now I've had comments, obviously everybody has different opinions, but some people have said to me why just for the Irish? And I said to them well the thing is, if we all did something for the people we understand, and for our own community, if we all did something to improve the quality of their lives, wouldn't it be a wonderful place. You know you can't expect, you know, the DSS or the government here to sort of take care of the world and its mother, I think it's up to all of us to do what we can and if we don't succeed, so what? At least we've tried. It's no good waiting 'till we're dead and then thinking I wish I'd done that. And I don't mind if I fail, because I think, you've got to go along, have the courage of your convictions, really, you know.

Then the idea was obviously, it would be a nice feature on the Irish programme if we had an Irish recipe every week, it would be interesting for the listeners, but then the idea with the material we'd get, we would compile a book. We called the book 'Broth and Blarney: The Irish Eye Cook Book.' The radio programme is called Irish Eye, so it was great publicity for them, and we did the recipes from mostly the listeners.

Have you got any famous people sponsoring recipes?

Oh the recipes, oh yes, we've got Val Doonican, and Gloria Honeyford, and Bishop Emms, the prime minister of Northern Ireland, you know, the Church of Ireland man. We've got loads of people. And ordinary people as well. Sometimes the ordinary people's are nicer, you know.

How long was the process from the idea ... ?

It took probably eighteen months, probably, I'm just trying to think, about eighteen months. But the thing is, my philosophy is, if you really believe strongly in it, you go for it, even if it doesn't succeed, at least you tried. It's great fun when it succeeds. So that's the story of the book. Meanwhile the Irish programme was running, doing very well, and it's been running now for, since 1995, the Irish Eye programme on local BBC, and of course people can pick it up now on the internet, and we have listeners all over the world, and people in Ireland, not just local people. It was great fun.

Getting back to our charity, our aim was to do something for the older people in the community. Now of course you can't do much without money, and it's very hard to raise money, I mean the book sells for just under a fiver, that doesn't make a huge difference to be honest, but we're very lucky in that we're supported by the Ireland Fund for Great Britain - they give grants out - we've had a grant from them for the last three years, and that helps.

The first thing we've done, and we're hoping to move on and do something more now, is three years ago, actually after I retired, is to set up a weekly lunch club. We hired a hall at the English Martyrs Church at Liebenrood Road. We hire that church there every Wednesday. We have a hot lunch, the first week we had it we thought we'd have a glass of sherry for everybody, it was so exciting to have this lunch. So we had a glass of sherry and juice and a hot meal, and then people had a raffle and then a game of bingo ... So obviously we do charge, we charge £2 for lunch, but after three years we've just put it up to £2.50, but for that you have a glass of sherry, a glass of orange juice, some lovely crusty bread, fresh flowers on the tables, proper table cloths, proper china. Somebody said to me one week, 'Why don't you use paper plates? I said, 'I wouldn't give my mother her dinner on a paper plate. Why would we use paper plates? Why shouldn't our generation have proper ... why should we settle for second best?' All these people have worked hard all their lives. I mean, I wouldn't want to eat my dinner off a paper plate. I always have this nice Irish CD in the background, nice music.

We then organise outings, we have trips to the theatre. It's more actually, it's not just the fact that people can have their lunches, it's really not about food or drink, it's more about people coming together, people of the same generation, and meeting their friends - that's really what it's all about. It's a bonus if you have a nice lunch on top. Why should they be forgotten, because, I think they are quality, they've worked hard, and they deserve the best.

And you said about your impressions, back a little bit, of England that was totally different, you were imagining grey and things ... What about the people? How was your impression of the people in England when you just arrived?

My impression of the people in England, I think they're so tolerant, and so polite. They are really, to me so tolerant. That's my general impression. Now other people say differently perhaps, but that is my impression.

And after you moved, have you ever considered coming back to Ireland, after you moved to England?

Well, my parents are both dead now and they died actually, well my father died in England, and then my mother moved back to Ireland, and she died in Ireland. For a long time, I used to think ... I think actually a lot of it is, certainly with me, I think, it's where your parents are, you sort of gravitate towards, and my parents were in Ireland, and, I mean, I still love going to Ireland. I go to Ireland quite a few times during the year. My mother is dead now so, I suppose the one thing about Ireland, it's a little bit different once your parents aren't there. Now for years, I used to think I'd love to go back and live in Ireland, and in fact my husband is English, he used to think the same, and we thought that for quite a long time. And I suppose three or four years ago we were in Ireland, and just, I thought to myself, well, no, because I have children now, and grandchildren, and they are in England, and I think home really is where your children, your family are. It's lovely, I still refer to 'going home,' to Ireland, and I still like to go home to Ireland, because it's lovely - lovely country, lovely people. But my family really are everything to me, as I said to somebody, probably they wish we were miles away, but I just, I think family is all important, is everything.

Okay, Anne, so would you like to say anything else about your immigration, contribution for the society, for Reading, for England, how do you see that? Anything you would like to comment?

Well, basically, I think, as I say, I think it's a very tolerant, this is a very, they are very, English people are a very tolerant nation. It's wonderful how, you know, people from different countries can come here, and they can, you know, you can ... there are opportunities there. I mean, you don't want to be too, shall we say pathetic, and expect people to roll the red carpet out for you, because after all, I think you're in a different country. That's how I see it. You're in somebody else's country, but the opportunities are there, and don't get all pathetic if people do make a comment, which, human nature being what it is, you will get some people that will make a derogatory comment about you. But so what? You've just got to have a life, haven't you? You're bound to, with the variety of people here. Not everybody is going to be welcoming and smiley, but I would say the majority of people are. And if you get on with your life, and work hard, you know, try and live a decent life, there's no reason why anybody can't prosper, if you don't mind work, and not get all fragile and pathetic. In the early days when Irish people came, in the early days, shall we say before we came, of course when I came I had my parents here, but it was very difficult to get accommodation. They used to have signs up, 'No Irish' or 'No blacks' 'No Chinese' and all this sort of stuff. That was a fact.

Where?

I know in Birmingham there was, and it was very difficult. I can't speak for other nationalities. I can't say I have ever had any derogatory ... I might have had maybe a few over the years, but it's no big deal. That's life, isn't it. There's all sorts of people. Human nature is such a mixed bag, isn't it. So I think, I'm quite happy here. And with the help of God, I shall continue to stay here, and enjoy what I am doing, as I said, my big thing is, is to try and make a difference. And I'm not being all pious and goody-goody, or anything like that, I feel, I think I just want to make a difference to other people's lives. If I don't succeed, I don't succeed. If you do, you know, life is short, isn't it. If we're given the gift of communication, whatever it is, and I think I've got a bit of a gift of communication, because I can talk for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. [laughs] So that's it really. Can't think of anything else to say.

What a fantastic story Anne. I enjoyed reading about your life experiences

isobel, 13 January 2011

We knew Anne well when we lived in Wokingham and listen to her show every Sunday afternoon on the internet. She is a truly lovely lady and we send her our best wishes also to her husband Keith and Henry Wymbs the show's host.

Robert and Elizabeth from Wokingham now North Wales, 5 December 2010

it was great to read your life story.

audrey gillas, 12 July 2009

what a fantastic story. Anne's story is inspirational to us all.

claire, 19 March 2008

What a fantastic account, - very inspirational. I have lived in Reading and found your commentary fasinating. You sound a lovely, natural lady and Ireland's loss is England's gain!

Angela Cairns-Sharp, 26 October 2007

Really enjoyed your story.It made me think of my own childhood growing up in Ireland and my shock arriving in london
anne,15th ocy

annemurphy, 15 October 2007

I really love your story. I'm doing project on ireland immigrants and story gave some ideals how I can write made up story on ireland immigrants.

cynthia , 30 August 2007

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