Monday, January 05, 2009

No Irish?


Now here is an historical twist! Signs are apparently appearing on ‘employment wanted’ signs outside Polish building sites - “No Irish Need Apply”!

The Belfast Telegraph tells us:

Trade union official Michael Kilcoyne - also president of the Consumers Association of Ireland - said it had recently been brought to his attention that the 'No Irish' signs had appeared on a couple of Polish building sites where workers were being sought.

Mr Kilcoyne said: "The reality is that our international reputation as employers has been sullied. Many foreign people who have worked here, especially during our boom years, have had bad experiences.

Labour tribunals in Ireland have been hearing cases of discrimination and exploitation of Poles and other central and eastern Europeans, against ruthless employers, squeezing the last euro out of vulnerable immigrants.

Quite where this story comes from originally is anyone’s guess and I can’t find out who actually saw these signs in the first place. Maybe someone can help? Onet.pl says the story came from the portal for Poles in the British Isles, mojawyspa.co.uk, although the story there brings us back to the Belfast Telegraph.

But if this is true, then…oh, what irony! My mum is from the Belfast area and she claims she saw, when she moved to Manchester in the 1950s, signs similar to the archetypal “No dogs, no blacks, no Irish…” in windows of houses with rooms to let - as in the photo above. That was before legislation making that kind of nonsense illegal.

It’s illegal, of course, to put signs like that up in Poland. Although, a good post here suggests that this story maybe a bad Irish joke. The beatroot will investigate.

UPDATE – So the nice lady at the Irish Consumer Ass. gave me Michael Kilcoyne’s number and I talked to him about where he got this story from. He said that he heard about it after a “caller to a phone-in programme on the local radio station in County Mayo said he had seen the advert…”. And that’s the source of this story.

Michael is a nice man and conscientious trade unionist, but one caller to a phone-in show is not usually enough evidence to make a story out of. To my knowledge, there is no such advert and never was. Unless, you know better…

26 comments:

Mark said...

No blacks, no dogs, no irish.

So, as Dave Allen pointed out, if you were a black irish wolfhound you were buggered.

One of my favourite jokes....

beatroot said...

ah...dave Allen...I was made to watch him when I was a kid by my mum...love him!

black-irish-dog said...

A symbolic gesture really. I doubt there will be any Irish heading to Poland anyway!!!
It’s funny how things change alright though. There are more British people living and working in Ireland than any other non-Irish group.

beatroot said...

Colonialists!

ge'ez said...

Are there any Ajrysz or Britisz football players on Polish teams?

Martin said...

Beatroot,

Any idea where the photo on the post came frm? You might remember that a couple of years ago we went ten rounds about the existence of such signs ever having appeared on the UK. It would be interesting to know its source.

jannowak57 said...

As a consequence of a single phone in to a talk show and repeating the comment in an article another so-called journalist felt comfortable in writing the followings:

“'No Irish need apply' - the signs are already going up on building sites abroad in a throwback to the grim days of the last century. But this time they are starting to appear in Poland ” ………….Belfast Telegraph

With what appears to be without an effort to research and verify the validity of the information. At present I understand no one has found a jobsite in Poland with such a sign. Notwithstanding such professional incompetence there are consequence of such articles that go far beyond just lamenting the state of journalism.

In a world were economic opportunities are shrinking such journalism can make things very uncomfortable for Polish workers in Ireland. To add icing on the cake one of Irelands leading employers has substantively transferred production to Poland.

beatroot said...

Wel...that is the point I was making, Jan.and this is a process where "news stories" are made. the irish politician hears a story that fits with his trade unionist agenda. And his motives for doing that were good, I am sure since talking to him. But then some desperate journo picks it up and a sub editor writes a nice headline...and all the time it's just bullshit. It makes you wonder how much of what we read as "news" smells of cow poo...

ge'ez said...

BR wrote: "My mum is from the Belfast area and she claims she saw, when she moved to Manchester in the 1950s, signs similar to the archetypal “No dogs, no blacks, no Irish…” in windows of houses with rooms to let - as in the photo above. That was before legislation making that kind of nonsense illegal."

--> What did the "similar" signs actually read? What was the legislation that was enacted?

beatroot said...

The legislation was anti-discrimination law, which dates back only to 1963/4...and the similar signs meaning anything that discriminates a particular group...

It may seem starnge that a country didn;t used to have such legislation, but well..the US had segregation not so long ago...

ge'ez said...

Seriously, what did the signs actually read? Are there photos of these signs (the one you had in your post strikes me as something from the US). It's not that long ago.

beatroot said...

No blacks, no dogs, no Irish is the classic, Geez. And I think that the photo is from somewhere in England. BWT, Jonny Rotten/Lydon, lead singer of the Sex Pistol's autobiography is called No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish...

ge'ez said...

Ah, so it came from merry ol' England and was transplanted in the US:

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/When_and_why_did_the_term_'No_Irish_need_apply'_originate

When did blacks in large numbers start arriving in England?

beatroot said...

1950s...so that fits with my mum coming to Manchester and then London in the 1950s too...UK doesn't sound a very attractive place back then, does it?

ge'ez said...

Hmmm, so it came from the US in the mid to late 1800s and was transplated back to the UK?

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Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the "No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs" signs, do seem to be an urban myth.
I was born in London in 1960 to Irish parents. I, them and none of their friends ever saw the signs, although we all knew OF them and as a teenager I very much wanted to believe them.
I heard it told about the 1950's and 60's and in my lifetime heard it repeated again about the 70's and 80's. Is it going to be repeated again about the 90's and 00's in another 20 years?
The only evidence I've seen is the same photograph provided by Jonny Rotten. He and Malcom McClaren can hardly be said to be reliable sources.
As for America - this is a very interesting article from Richard J Jensen, an American Irish Catholic academic, who points out how the (apparent) myth has been exploited by politicians. http://tigger.uic.edu/~rjensen/no-irish.htm
Please note, I am not claiming discrimination does not exist, however there are easier ways of being discriminatory than openly inviting a member of the very large Irish community to put a brick through your window (which I was dying to do as a willing to be offended teenager).
Penry

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the "No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs" signs, do seem to be an urban myth.
I was born in London in 1960 to Irish parents. I, them and none of their friends ever saw the signs, although we all knew OF them and as a teenager I very much wanted to believe them.
I heard it told about the 1950's and 60's and in my lifetime heard it repeated again about the 70's and 80's. Is it going to be repeated again about the 90's and 00's in another 20 years?
The only evidence I've seen is the same photograph provided by Jonny Rotten. He and Malcom McClaren can hardly be said to be reliable sources.
As for America - this is a very interesting article from Richard J Jensen, an American Irish Catholic academic, who points out how the (apparent) myth has been exploited by politicians. http://tigger.uic.edu/~rjensen/no-irish.htm
Please note, I am not claiming discrimination does not exist, however there are easier ways of being discriminatory than openly inviting a member of the very large Irish community to put a brick through your window (which I was dying to do as a willing to be offended teenager).
Penry

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the double post

Penry

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Anonymous said...

Penry,

Jensen found loads of great facts, but I'm somewhat turned off by his guessing and persuading. I agree with his point that the signs weren't ubiquitous, but they certainly did exist, were well known, and still exist.

Yes, I've seen a real one myself. But more on that later.

When Jensen finds evidence of NINA he seems seems to dismiss it as too little evidence. He dismisses eyewitness accounts as imaginary.

His searches are weak. I did an easy search for "No Irish need apply" at Google news archive and got 367 hits between the 1840s and 1920s.
If anyone has a few days to read through them all, please let us know the gist.
They appear to me to be mostly people talking about the ads and the song. But I also found 8 genuine NINA ads:

Chicago Tribune issues with "no Irish need apply" in classified ads:
October 20, 1866
December 12, 1867
June 18, 1876
November 3 1878
November 2, 1879

Wanted, a general servant. Apply to the Southland Times office. No Irish need apply.
Southland Times , 9 September 1870

Wanted--- A good reliable woman to take care of a boy 2 years old... Positively no Irish need apply. ...
Boston Daily Evening Transcript - Jul 29, 1868

Wanted, a wife: ...Scotch preferred, English will do, Irish need not apply.
Daily Southern Cross, 14 July 1866

Many more ads asked for only Scottish or English applicants, a much more delicate way of filtering out undesired nationalities.

"Wanted... laundress... Protestant; English or Scotch."

There are hundreds of these. Search google news archive for
' wanted "english or scotch" '.

These ads were criticized for being a thinly veiled "No Irish". (sorry, I lost the citation for this )

While visiting England in the 1990s I saw a sign on a pub door: "No travelers". I asked my friend if that meant me, and he said "No it means Irish travellers".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Traveller

Search Google images for very recent photos of "No travelers signs".

But these signs are all around if you look.

I also saw this clever pub sign: "No Dirty Workboots". That keeps an entire class of human from visiting your pub after work.

Ever seen one of these signs?
"DRESS CODE
No hooded sweatshirts.
No baseball caps.
No baggy trousers.
No sneakers."

cheers,
Hawthorne Erskine

Anonymous said...

Penry,

I've been thinking, this such a depressing subject.
This short video is right on-topic,
but it'll make you smile if you watch it to the end:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YM9Ereg2Zo

Punch, 1964 Volume 247‎ - Page 235 has a mention of a "No blacks no Irish" sign.

Études irlandaises, 1972, Volumes 31-32, page 172 mentions "No blacks. No dogs. No Irish."

The importance of being Irish 1969, by Alan Bestic mentions a sign "No coloureds. No Irish. No children. No dogs."

Yes I can: the story of Sammy Davis, Jr, 1965:
"The sign on the hotel said "No n*****s---No dogs"

Spare rib, Issues 90-101‎ - Page 54- 1980
"When I first came to England in '67 I remember signs that said 'No N*****s, No Paddies'."

Życie po amerykańsku, 1966, By Władysław B. Pawlak appears to mention a sign in an El Paso restaurant reading: "No Mexicans, no N*****s, no dogs"

cheers,
Hawthorne Erskine

Anonymous said...

Further to Penry's speculation that the "No Irish" signs might be urban legend, I can drive 10 miles up the road to have a cup of tea with my dad (he's 81 now), who left Ireland in the 1950s to work in England. He will attest that, yes, there were signs saying "No blacks, no Irish, no dogs" aplenty. Unfortunately, he didn't see fit to take photos as he was busy trying to make enough money to feed and clothe his wife and 3 kids back home.

He even gave me the context. The signs were typically in the windows of landlady-owned bed & breakfast establishments. The Irish tenants (or 'lodgers', as they were more typically called at the time) were often labourers on the railways or building sites. As such, they were, ahem, rum characters. My dad was a ganger (a.k.a. foreman) on a railway maintenance crew and the reputation of the Irish labourers amongst the landladies was bad enough that he had a divil of a job finding digs for them all. Often, he'd get some lads into digs, they'd go out of a night and get scuttered, before rolling back to their lodgings. Somewhere between entering the front door and going to bed, various breakages (cups, chairs etc) would happen.

The next morning, the lads would find their small suitcases sitting on the front step. They'd then turn up at my dad's lodgings, saying "Mick, we got thrown out. Can you get us fresh digs." It was my dad's considered opinion that it was 50% prejudice and 50% personal experience that lead to Irish people being refused digs.

As for physical evidence, what you mean apart from the physical evidence on this very page? Yes, that's a typical sign from a small town B&B in England, probably late 50s/early 60s.

The reason Penry never saw the signs - like him, I was born in England in the early 60s - is precisely because the Race Relations Act of 1964 made such signs illegal. And the Race Relations Act expressly forbade them, because such signs were real and widespread. There was also another practice at time of putting it into legal documents that a particular property couldn't be sold to a non-white or non-British person - another real issue that had to be addressed by legislation. If you were born in 1960, you would have had to have been a very socially aware 4 year old to notice the "No Irish...etc" signs before their disappearance in 1964.

But they were there and there were literally thousands of them.

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