Friends across the Divide

Charlie and Arthur both lived and worked in Waterford before they left Ireland for pastures new on the other side of the equator.

They were work buddies as well as close friends, as were their respective wives, Eleanor and Ruby. Arthur was the first to leave Ireland in 1945. His choice, a mill in Brazil.

Letters from William Street, Waterford:

July 1946

Dear Arthur,
“you would hardly know the mill now, the new bloke, Nicholls, got the gang to wash the floor and every machine, spout and conveyor; after which he brought in a squad of painters, who painted and varnished everything. The old test room is going to be turned into a proper dining room for shift workers, with none of the wheat gang allowed. The roller floor is now lit by those long lights with daylight effect (I forget the name).

Nicholls got the firm to supply the staff with a suit of overalls and a pair of soft shoes for £2-5, but at a cost to us of 6 pence a week. At least Johnny Barry is no longer going around with half a pants on him!”

“Oh and tell Ruby, I took the fire screen away from the Hope Galleries (not selling)and intended giving it to Eleanor’s sister Violet as a wedding present, who is getting married next September.

I want to send Ruby her share on to you. Not sure how, English bank notes?”

June 1947

Dear Arthur,
“I answered an advert in ‘Milling’ (as I am always doing) this time for a job in Kenya, Africa. I thought little more about it as I have been so often disappointed. However came off shift one morning and found a letter from ‘Simons’ telling me they were sorry that the job was filled but would I consider a job in South Africa. They invited me to an interview in England, which took a while as I had to apply for a passport. My interview was successful and the salary £11 per week. They wanted me to go immediately on my own, and let Eleanor and Pat follow, but I said no.”

“Paddy O Niell is already in Johannesburg and wrote to me; the facts of the job are, one white man controls the shift, and one in the screen house. He says it’s hard work, he paints rather a poor picture, but he was never used to work; it shouldn’t give me too much trouble, and as the company has mills all over the country, there is a good chance of promotion.”

“next bit of strange news is that Mam and Nell no longer live in Kilmacow and are about to sell out and go to live in England near brother John who by the way is getting married to a Yorkshire lass. Pat is able to walk and talk now! Eleanor is in Cork this week as her sister Annie is very sick.”

September 1947

Dear Arthur,
“I thought of writing sooner, but said I would wait until things came more to a head, it is as hard to get a passage to South Africa as it is to get one to heaven!”

“by the way, my contract says nothing about them standing the fare home at the end of the three years. I reckon with£47 per month, I should be able to put aside about £150 per year.”

“Simons have written that they cannot get us a passage till end of October and that will be too late. Reason (which I didn’t tell you yet) that we are expecting another young Finlay about November, so there is nothing we can do but wait and maybe it will all be for the best in the end.”

“the new leaders of the study circle, when I go, will be Frank Fennesey and believe it or not Flanagan!”
All the best,


About liz2you

Life just happens when you plan something else. 50 years spent in Africa and relevant stories.
This entry was posted in History, Irish Immigrants, nostalgia, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Friends across the Divide

  1. Sheelagh Hansen-Violets Daughter for those that don't know says:

    Awesome Keep them coming. Have added portions of it to the family tree so people will remember that it was so difficult for them then to move so far away from family and friends. Keep well. Sheelagh

  2. Charlotte says:

    I have just re-read this one again.
    They are soooo lovely !

  3. liz2you says:

    Glad you like them.
    I too get great pleasure out of writing. It is like being back in those times when I had so few responsibilities and could listen to the lovely Irish accents telling me when to go to bed and when to behave myself!
    The enormous worry of how to get out of tennis practise and not get caught;finding yet another excuse why I was late for school yet again. Yes school days are really the best days of your life, we sometimes made them too complicated back then.
    We were never bad kids really. Just properly brought up! Thanks to them for that.

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