Irish history, culture, and tradition has had an enduring impact on Britain. Often overlooked, it has had an even bigger impact on the towns and cities of the West Midlands. Intrigued? Let’s dive in.
Irish Influence in Modern British Culture
In the modern age, themes and motifs of traditional Irish mythology can be seen throughout many aspects of pop culture. In particular, Irish themes have long since been a popular theme for online casino games, with games such as Rainbow Riches Bingo putting a colourful twist on the classic game. More specifically, Rainbow Riches integrates Irish themes by making the digital bingo cards shaped like four-leaved clovers, bringing motifs of rainbows, pots of gold, and leprechauns in as principal aspects of the gameplay, and a soundtrack that riffs off traditional Irish-Celtic melodies, for an authentic and immersive gameplay.
Elsewhere in pop culture, another area with strong Irish roots is music. Many of the world’s biggest stars have Irish heritage, which can be clearly seen from their top hits. Not only this, but even those with no ties to Ireland have been seen to sing about the beauty of the land. But, whilst Ireland is a well-known influence is a key aspect of modern pop culture throughout Britain, the Irish influence on the very communities we live in throughout the West Midlands is often overlooked, especially when compared to areas like Tynside and the North East.
So, without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into some key aspects of Irish influence in the West Midlands.
It is said that 19th and early 20th century Birmingham had an Irish quarter or street in every district. In fact, for most inner-city areas, Irish-born people amounted to 20% of the populus. In the Park Street area of Digbeth, 55% of those living there were born in Ireland. By the 1990s, the number of Irish-born people living in Birmingham was estimated to be around 70,000 – and many more passed on their Irish heritage.
The first St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Birmingham were held in 1952. Today, Birmingham’s St Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in Britain, with over 80,000 people marching along the 3km route. According to Irish Central, this makes it the third biggest in the world after New York City and Dublin.
During the 1800s, many Irish people came over to Britain to build a new life, flocking to the country’s towns and cities. In Coventry in particular, between 1840 and 1860, the Irish-born population rose by 120%. By 1861, there were 704 documented Irish citizens – and potentially many more – living in Coventry. According to The Irish Times, a century later, in 1961, a UK census found that the number of Irish-born people living in Coventry had surpassed 20,000!
Due to this, and the persistent efforts of the Coventry Irish Society, the influence of these people on the city still exists to this day. From Gaelic sports teams to Irish social clubs, Catholic churches and Irish pubs, these elements became integrated into Coventry’s society, whilst also celebrating the history and traditions of Irish art, music, sport, and dance. Today, the Coventry Irish Society regularly celebrates Coventry-Irish culture with festivals and exhibitions.
And there you have it – just a few ways that the Irish influence on Britain, and specifically the West Midlands, can still be seen today.