JUST a few short months after The Irish Post was founded, county Tipperary and Donegal natives John Joe and Anne Hayes welcomed a new addition to their family.
Their son John Paul Hayes was born in London on June 29, 1970.
He has spent the past 45 years navigating the complex experience of being Irish in Britain – a story The Irish Post has been telling for the same amount of time.
“Being born in London to Irish parents always gave you the problem of explaining to people why you were Irish and not English/British,” he explains.
“The Catholic church, as you would expect, was probably the central theme of life in the 70s,” he added, “with Communion and then Confirmation regarded as huge events, while Sunday mass was another focal point of the week.
“But possibly my most defining memory from those years was the annual pilgrimage to Ireland. Every year we took the trip via the slow train from Euston to some godforsaken place in Wales, followed by a three and a half hour ordeal on the Sealink cattle boat called the St. Columbia!”
Over the decades, while manoeuvring his personal experiences of childhood, adolescence and the ultimate emergence into adulthood – where Dollis Hill-based John Paul now works as a company director, he had a ringside view of the similarly changing attitudes towards the Irish in Britain.
“Attitudes to the Irish have changed hugely since the 1970s,” he claims.
“The violence across the water obviously had a knock-on effect for the Irish in Britain and made them an easy target for verbal and physical abuse.
“We were also seen as backward and a nation of drunks,” he adds. “But with the waves of new immigration to the UK, I personally believe we, the Irish, have dropped out of that negative spotlight somewhat and are no longer as obvious in Britain.
“Also the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland would have subconsciously made us less visible over the years.”
Across those years that journey has always been well documented by The Irish Post, according to John Paul, who is an active fan of all things Irish in London – following the GAA games, The
BibleCode Sundays and Irish music and theatre at venues across the capital.
“During the mid-1980s, long before the internet arrived, my whole life was based around the Irish Post’s gig listings,” he admits.
“As soon as it came out – which used to be on a Thursday morning – I was straight into the newsagent scanning the pages to see who was playing at the Shebeen in Acton that weekend.”
To date John Paul remains a reader of The Irish Post – both in print and online – and an engaged member of the Irish community in Britain.
“It’s still important to me to keep that Irish bond in place, which we unconsciously signed up for when we were born to Irish parents,” he admits.
“So I always keep an eye and an ear out for an Irish accent, to see if I can help them in any way, large or small.”