Two songs a world apart, or are they?
“He blew his mind out in a car.”
The Beatles song A Day in The Life references the death of Tara Browne an Irish socialite, heir to the Guinness fortune, who had a house in Luggalo, County Wicklow and died in England in a car crash in 1966. Pat Brennan the Wicklow singer songwriter’s 40 years from home, speaks to the experience of so many men who left home in Ireland during the Second World War to work in England. Although it had won it’s independence a couple of decades earlier the economy of The Republic was still largely dependent on England, so for economic or social reasons the pull of the UK remained.
“The English Army had just won the war.”
The shortage of labour as men went off to fight in the Second World War meant there were jobs in Birmingham, Coventry, London and Liverpool. In Liverpool, these included many Irish sailors who arrived through or worked out of Garston docks, on coasters supplying coal, copper, timber etc. Some of these coasters operated out of Wicklow, that once boasted a fleet of vessels owned and operated from the town.
“4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire.” (in the road)
This need for workers continued after the war as modern-day navvies worked on the roads and motorways and helped to rebuild England’s shattered cities and infrastructure. Life could be difficult for these men, as they were preyed upon by unscrupulous landlords and foremen, but many worked hard, made some money, met wives, settled, and raised families.
My story The One Road has a character who worked on the coasters bringing copper from Amlych to Liverpool. Irish timber for the Bobbin works and later the Matchworks was also a staple of the docks and regularly brought Irish vessels into the port.
“Caught the bus in seconds flat.”
Little Wicklow as Garston was known, had emigres from the town early in the 1800s. Whatever links were built at that time lasted and were extended. Separate waves came across the Irish sea, no doubt during and after the famine years in the mid-1800s, through the early 1900s and then another distinct wave from the 1940s onwards. Many families who settled in Garston moved on to the new houses in Speke. The lines above written by Paul McCartney reference his school bus to town the 82, a bus route familiar to everyone from South Liverpool.
A day in the life is meant to be chaotic, scenes from a life, rather than a narrative. Pat sings of a young man who ‘finds a bed for the night in Garston. Where there’s plenty of work’ who finds work on the docks. Both songs different in style and composition reflect life in the postwar decades, not only, but especially for Liverpool.
Two songs separated by generation are joined in telling the same story.
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A Day in The Life
40 years from home
With kind permission of Pat Brennan.
For more from Pat Brennan