Spotlighting the Irish Centre
Posted on: 29 November 2023 by Louise Coyne in 2023 posts
Recently, we met with Irish Studies PhD student, Louise Coyne, to talk about Liverpool’s Irish Centre. In this blog she discusses the history of the Irish Centre and its cultural importance in our society today.
History of the Irish Centre
In the early 1960s, the Irish community in Liverpool discussed the necessity of an Irish Centre: a place to promote Irish culture and activities. The Irish Centre Building Fund Committee organised céilís, dances and concerts to raise money for a building. In May 1964, the Wellington Rooms (127 Mount Pleasant) was chosen for the premises and the Irish Centre officially opened on St Brigid’s Day, 1965.
The Irish Centre interior when it was at 127 Mount Pleasant
The Irish Centre was an important hub for the community. It was home to different organisations: Bolger Irish Dancers, John Mitchels GAA club, Liverpool Pipe Band, Finn Harps Soccer Club and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Liverpool Branch. The Centre supported the Irish community, setting up a social care branch called Irish Community Care, which is now a separate organisation still supporting the Irish community in Merseyside. There were many memories and friends made in the Irish Centre at 127 Mount Pleasant.
A new home
Unfortunately, the Centre closed during the 1990s. However, in 1999 St Michael’s Parish Club in Everton was offered to the Irish community and the Irish Centre has remained at this premises since then. 2024 will mark 25 years of the Irish Centre at its current premises: 6 Boundary Lane, L6 5JG.
Events across the year at the Irish Centre
The Liverpool Irish Centre is still home to many of those same organisations and has carried on traditions from the old Irish Centre. Crib Sunday, a nativity with a real baby born within the community that year, and St Patrick’s Day Mass, a mass held at the Irish Centre the Sunday before St Patrick’s Day, are just two examples of this. Some of these traditions are being added to such as the Christmas Grottos held on the first three Sundays of December. The Centre also continues to support the Irish community and the wider community. The fortnightly tea dances and bingo sessions are an opportunity for some of the older members of the community to enjoy themselves, have a dance and drink endless cups of tea and coffee! The Irish shop ensures no one is without home comforts such as Barry’s Tea, Kimberly biscuits, Tayto crisps or Clonakilty sausages! There is something on at the Irish Centre every day of the week: from weekday Irish language lessons or Irish dancing classes to concerts, quizzes and sessions at the weekend. The Irish Centre provides a space to promote and enjoy Irish culture and to celebrate the history of the Irish community in Merseyside.
Guests enjoying the Tea Dance which takes place fortnightly
What the Irish Centre means to me
To me, the Liverpool Irish Centre has always been a second home. When I was younger, I attended Irish dancing lessons and Irish music classes there every weekend. I began working in the shop when I was sixteen and have continued to work there, working behind the bar when I returned from university, and now I am currently working in an admin role. The people there are like family to me- I’m honoured to have known them most of my life and to have celebrated important events with them like birthdays, anniversaries, Holy Communions, etc. They have supported me and always been there for me and we have had so many laughs along the way! One of my favourite events to work has been the pensioner meals. Some of the older members of the community who support us all year are invited for a three-course meal twice a year: one around Christmas, and the other around St Patrick’s Day. We get to celebrate with the pensioners, and it is amazing to see them enjoy themselves especially when the sing song begins. We also often dress up, especially at Christmas, and have great fun! I am so lucky to know these people and to have been part of the Irish Centre.
Alongside Lousie Coyne’s experience working at the Irish Centre, we met lots of friendly regulars who attend the Irish Centre and asked them what the Irish Centre meant to them:
“I arrived in Liverpool from County Cavan in the early 1950’s and have been attending the Irish Centre since it opened in 1964. I regularly attend the music events and tea dances and love to sit back and catch up with my friends here. You’ll always find me with a pint of Guiness, or a baby Guiness now that they exist! The centre is my second home – if you don’t see me sat here at every event there is a problem!” Phil, County Cavan
“I arrived in Liverpool from County Wexford in 1961 and found a family here in the Irish Centre. I’m a dancer and you’ll often find me on the dancefloor with my friends at the tea dance! I advise anyone to come to the Irish centre, we are open to making new friends and I truly believe that life is for us to enjoy ourselves as much as possible.” Margaret, County Wexford
Phil and Fran who attend the Liverpool Irish Centre
The Irish Centre is a second home for those living away from the emerald isle, but also serves the wider community of Liverpool in bringing people of all backgrounds together. For more information about the Irish Centre, visit their website here.