Powerful images of Irish in Britain to go on display in Newcastle
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Powerful images of Irish in Britain to go on display in Newcastle

IN a home in the north east of England, 10 children were raised in an Irish household in the 1960s.

This was not unusual for the time. The influx of Irish immigrants meant that large families were being born into working class backgrounds.

One of those 10 children was Tish Murtha, who would go on to make a name for herself in the world of photography.

Tish sadly passed away at the age of 56 in 2013 from an aneurism, but her sister Eileen spoke to The Irish Post about Tish’s life and work, which all began in Elswick, Newcastle – which was known as ‘The Square Mile’.

“For us, it was a fantastic place to grow up,” Eileen explains. “It was a place where freedom and spirit could come out.”

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The area was known as a hotspot for the Irish and those of Irish heritage at the time – much like the Murthas, whose paternal grandmother came from Co. Monaghan.

Their Irish background was very evident in the Murtha children’s formative years. Growing up, the family attended the Tyneside Irish Centre, where they used to meet up with other locals.

It was here where Tish picked up one of her first jobs as a photographer.

She captured some publicity shots for a then unknown Declan Donnelly, who went on to become half of television duo Ant and Dec. Donnelly’s parents ran the Tyneside Irish Centre at the time.

The family was always “very artistic”, as Eileen says, so it is perhaps no surprise that Tish’s talents soon emerged.

Studying under the guidance of renowned Welsh photographer David Hurn at a photography college in Newport, Tish eventually returned to her native area for work.

It was here where she captured he 'youth unemployment' series.

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"She was only 22 years old at the time and not long finished college," Eileen remembers.

Tish was commissioned by the arts council in her native Newcastle for a series of pictures that would capture the problem of youth unemployment in the area - the results are these stunning images.

Tish’s talent was evident from an early stage - these images from her early career capture a glimpse at the historic Irish communities in Britain of the 1970s.

Some of the pictures feature her siblings and friends, while many of the people in the pictures died young, Eileen says, because of social circumstances.

When Tish passed away in April 2013, her daughter Ella and extended family decided to donate her organs. In the two years since, they have had no less than four women contact them to thank Tish for saving their lives.

While she may be gone from this life, Tish Murtha lives on not only in these women but also in the countless and timeless photographs she has left behind for generations to enjoy.

Tish's work will be on display at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle as part of the For Ever Amber Retrospective from Saturday, June 27 until September 19

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