Lewisham’s Migration Museum celebrates Ireland on St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day Tour at the Migration Museum, Lewisham. Pic: Molly Smith

The Migration Museum in Lewisham celebrated St Patrick’s Day by taking visitors on a story-telling tour of the museum.

People were invited to gather and toast St Patrick with a cup of tea and celebrate the Irish in Britain by telling stories and learning about individuals who made their home in Lewisham.

The tour guide, Frances Ewings, was born in London to Irish parents and told East London Lines: “We have been such a prominent migrant community in Britain for so long – here in such large numbers, yet often overlooked. It is important to acknowledge the contributions of previous generations so that stories are not forgotten.

“The fantastic turnout shows that the community is still here and thriving. Events like this are still relevant today, even with 2nd and 3rd generation Irish migrants, and those of mixed heritage.”

Ewings spoke of traditional Irish dance halls in London, referencing iconic music venues including The Forum, which began its life as a 1930s Art Deco Cinema, then got a second lease of life after World War II when it became an Irish Dance Hall.

Members of the tour remembered their own experiences at Irish dance halls in the 50s, where men and women were seated on opposite sides of the room and had to formally ask one another to dance.

The group then paused in the museum’s restaurant to pay homage to local hero, Maggie, who opened a traditional Irish eatery with her husband, Mazid Khondoker, in the heart of Lewisham, back in 1983. To this day, Maggie’s is popular with both Irish and non-Irish folk in the borough.

Maggie’s Cafe. Pic: Molly Smith

The tour also honoured Robert Dyas who emigrated to England and opened his first hardware shop in London is 1872, celebrated Irish designer Orla Kiely, OBE, famous for her use of colour and functional designs and Irish construction workers who have contributed largely to British building work over the years.

The Migration Museum explores how the movement of people from all over the world, to and from Britain, across the ages has shaped the nation and will be based in Lewisham Shopping Centre until at least the end of 2023.

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