No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs - no facts?

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,243
South of the barcodes
#1
The subject came up in the black Britsh thread again and it got me thinking. How much truth is there to this story of signs up in guest house windows.

Its an accepted fact of modern life that these signs were in existence in the 50s and 60s, but is there actual proof that they existed. A quick google search produces many modern politically inspired versions extolling the users left wing and liberal or poor boy made good credentials, sometimes adding no jews or no gays to the ever expanding list. John Lydon and Ian Dury have both used it as album art for example.

But is there genuine evidence it ever existed in the first place? You obviously couldnt have used it in Liverpool, Manchester or any of the east coast port cities, similarly London had a huge Irish population and a ready supply of stones and dark nights.

I'm not saying there wasnt discrimination and that people of the aforementioned groups wouldnt be turned round and driven off by the more bigoted or socially intolerant end of the boarding house market but there are always intolerant people.

So lets see if we can find any evidence for its existence?

And was it racist or simple good sense? (I'll explain that one later)

 
Last edited:
May 2011
13,683
Navan, Ireland
#3
Haven't got much time to post at length , I read this book


[ame="http://www.amazon.co.uk/That-Neutral-Island-Clair-Wills/dp/0571221068"]That Neutral Island: Amazon.co.uk: Clair Wills: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51W0GEISltL.@@AMEPARAM@@51W0GEISltL[/ame]

and If I recall correctly she mentions the issue.

As far as the Irish are concerned I think she said it happened 'sort of' but not in the way its often portrayed today.


History Ireland
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,243
South of the barcodes
#5
Lets give you some context.
Back in the days before budget hotels and the welfare state if you were short of cash and had a spare roomthe obvious thing to do was rent it out to the various travelling workers and newcomers who made up a city economy.
Obviously these people become part of your household so people are going to have opinions on the sort of people they let in. Fair enough.
After WW2 we had a sizeable number of war widows with no discernable income and few job skills, the domestic servant market had crashed and many people were too status driven to do that so for respectable women of little means opening their house up to boarders was an obvious business idea.
Unfortunately while their wallet says they needed to do it their personalities didn’t always go with the job, many business travellers from the era remember women who were bitter at their lot, ferociously authoritarian in defence of their fading respectability, bullying, nagging or generally determined that it was their house and things would be run their way. Its practically a stereotype of 60s humour.
With many people bombed out of their houses and rebuilding limited by economy and rationing problems there were too many people for too few houses so young couples were an obvious initial market.
By the 50s and 60s though things were changing. The building boom was on, the NHS was expanding and we were short of workers, especially on the new motorways which is where the Irish come in. DeValeras economic miracle is a subject in itself, either way the Irish were used to moving abroad for jobs especially as navvies and the jobs were there, the money was good and they were having some of it.
Similarly Caribbeans were moving into the factories and other manual jobs, the bus dispute getting the publicity but of course also getting in on nursing and other toeholds into higher professional circles.
The problem is of course that to use one quote
[FONT=&quot]Cyrus said... [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]A neighbour of mine (Labour, Glasgow Irish, working class) has always claimed 'No Irish' signs existed.

As far as she was concerned this was sensible policy. The Irish she knew were mostly young, dumb, male, employed in construction and tended towards heavy drinking. She thought that landlords simply didn't want the hassle of dealing with big angry drunks.
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]And there we have the big problem. Irish road gangs were young working class men away from home with cash in their pockets, no family connections in the locality and nothing to do. The stories are still fairly common[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Going round doing a bit of google-fu[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]http://beatroot.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/no-irish.html[/FONT]
Further to Penry's speculation that the "No Irish" signs might be urban legend, I can drive 10 miles up the road to have a cup of tea with my dad (he's 81 now), who left Ireland in the 1950s to work in England. He will attest that, yes, there were signs saying "No blacks, no Irish, no dogs" aplenty. Unfortunately, he didn't see fit to take photos as he was busy trying to make enough money to feed and clothe his wife and 3 kids back home.

He even gave me the context. The signs were typically in the windows of landlady-owned bed & breakfast establishments. The Irish tenants (or 'lodgers', as they were more typically called at the time) were often labourers on the railways or building sites. As such, they were, ahem, rum characters. My dad was a ganger (a.k.a. foreman) on a railway maintenance crew and the reputation of the Irish labourers amongst the landladies was bad enough that he had a divil of a job finding digs for them all. Often, he'd get some lads into digs, they'd go out of a night and get scuttered, before rolling back to their lodgings. Somewhere between entering the front door and going to bed, various breakages (cups, chairs etc) would happen.

The next morning, the lads would find their small suitcases sitting on the front step. They'd then turn up at my dad's lodgings, saying "Mick, we got thrown out. Can you get us fresh digs." It was my dad's considered opinion that it was 50% prejudice and 50% personal experience that lead to Irish people being refused digs.

As for physical evidence, what you mean apart from the physical evidence on this very page? Yes, that's a typical sign from a small town B&B in England, probably late 50s/early 60s.

The reason Penry never saw the signs - like him, I was born in England in the early 60s - is precisely because the Race Relations Act of 1964 made such signs illegal. And the Race Relations Act expressly forbade them, because such signs were real and widespread. There was also another practice at time of putting it into legal documents that a particular property couldn't be sold to a non-white or non-British person - another real issue that had to be addressed by legislation. If you were born in 1960, you would have had to have been a very socially aware 4 year old to notice the "No Irish...etc" signs before their disappearance in 1964.

But they were there and there were literally thousands of them.
So that’s a couple of opinions on its existence at least.
 
Dec 2011
2,800
Late Cretaceous
#6
Dave Allen, always a winner :D
When I saw that picture, I couldn't resist posting it.

On a more serious note:


Cover of his book
I began by asking Lord Taylor why he has called his autobiography, “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs,” and he replied, “The title comes from the early experiences of my Jamaican-born mother who was homeless and penniless in 1952 in London. She was looking for somewhere to live and in all the windows it were signs which said, ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No dogs.’”

Lord Taylor explained that his mother had come to Britain to marry a famous West Indian cricketer called Derief Taylor who had joined Warwickshire County Cricket Club in Birmingham, but sadly things didn’t work out. “My mother came to inherit the dream she had heard about -- that the streets of London were paved with gold but she soon discovered that London is not paved with gold neither was Birmingham, where she then moved,” he said. “Actually Birmingham was very cold, not just in temperature, but cold in terms of being a black immigrant in Britain. It really wasn't very welcoming to her and so she had to adapt, but still she felt very alone but she had God in her life and she began to pray that her young son, John, would one day become a ‘somebody’ in Britain.
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,243
South of the barcodes
#7
yes but again that is a 1990s man telling a story that he was told happened to somebody in the 1960s.

Its an anecdote not witness testimony.

You have to think that like the Irish labourers i mentioned above, Caribbean immigrants were usually young men in the 20-30 age range working manual jobs with a weekly pay packet and no families or dependents.
It was earned hard and spent hard.

It gets different as you move into the 70s and 80s when theyre older, more mature and the various black cultures have families and dependents, properties of their own and first generation anglo-caribbean kids are having discrimination problems.

My point is that discrimination in the early postwar years was obviously real, first there wasnt much work, housing or space so people were looking after their own, then there was an influx of immigrants which caused the normal social tensions, some of its bigotry and some of it based on experience.

The point i'm trying to find evidence of is the actual existence of 'no blacks, irish or dogs' signs.

there is one picture of unknown provenance with no context or evidence that is used everywhere and there is plenty of hearsay stories and modern reproductions but is there genuine evidence in existence?

A court case say, where Jim Murphy of Donegal was up before the Magistrate for criminal damage after bricking the window of Mrs Perkins boarding house?
A newspaper story from the radical press of the time, Irish republicans or or any socialists would have loved to use it as a cause to knock the old guard.

There must be something other than a cultural meme that says we know it existed therefore it must have existed therefore it is proved.
 

Similar History Discussions