In Liverpool, it is estimated that three-quarters of the city’s population has Irish roots: some locals even refer to it as ‘the second capital of Ireland’. Each year there is a festival of music, theatre, literature, dance, performance and film to celebrate Liverpool’s Irish connection.
Dispelling the Myth
Many people say that the reason for the Irish connection in Liverpool is down to the Great Famine of the 1840s. Whilst this is partly true, there was already a well established Irish community in Liverpool prior to the famine.
Liverpool was a ‘staging post’ for migrants travelling to North America. Even then, according to records, the Irish made up around 17 percent of the population of Liverpool.
Then came the famine years, when over 1.5 million Irish citizens fled to Liverpool. To put Enthat into perspective, that is almost the same amount of people as the entire population of Northern Ireland in 1968.
Liverpudlians have the Irish to thank for their distinctive scouse accents. The accent has developed over time due to the large influx of Irish migrants who arrived in the city during the 19th century.
There are many variations of the accent, some adopting a softer tone while some sound more rough and gritty usually in inner-city areas. A unique sound that stands out in the Scouse accent is the letter ‘K’ becoming a ‘Keh’ sound, which is similar to that of pronunciations in Irish Gaelic.
However, we can’t be sure the Irish were the sole originators as there were hundreds of different nationalities constantly coming and going on the docks and railways which could have had an equal impact.
English Land, Gaelic Roots
Liverpool, similarly to Ireland, has a rich and strong cultural identity and people are proud to be from there. This is part of the reason for the Scouse accent’s resistance to national changes.
For example, dialects in the rest of the UK are constantly evolving due to emigration and national trends such as slang. The people of Liverpool generally ignore these national trends and linguistically keep themselves to themselves.
A huge part of the culture in the city of Liverpool is its world-famous football team, Liverpool Football Club. Historically, the club has a strong Irish connection which is a very important facet of the club.
The first-ever manager of Liverpool was John McKenna, an Irish emigrant. In 1912, McKenna, when serving as Liverpool FC Chairman, made one of the clubs greatest signings.
He was made aware of the precocious goalkeeping abilities of young Ulsterman Elisha Scott. The Belfast-born youngster was deemed too young to sign for neighbouring Merseyside club Everton FC and McKenna showed faith in him by signing him at such an age.
Scott went on to become the club’s longest-serving player (1912-1934). Other notable Irish figures to play for Liverpool are Ray Houghton; John Aldridge, Jim Beglin, Steve Staunton, Mark Kennedy and Robbie Keane.
Thousands of Irish Liverpool supporters make the journey across the Irish Sea each week to support their team. From Coleraine to Cork and Belfast to Ballyshannon, they all carry the same hopes and aspirations that their club can win football’s ultimate prize: the UEFA Champions League, which they have won an English record of 6 times.
Another huge club, whose stadium is a stones-throw away from Anfield, is Everton Football Club. They also have a strong Irish connection. Some notable former players from Ireland include James McCarthy; Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson, Shane Duffy, Seamus Coleman, Kevin Kilbane and Richard Dunne.
The most famous Liverpudlians of them all, The Beatles, claim to have Irish roots. George Harrison had an Irish mother and Sir Paul McCartney had an Irish grandfather. John Lennon’s family were also believed to have emigrated from Ireland in the 19th Century.
The city also has a history of links to unionism in Northern Ireland and is the only English city to have a significant membership within the Orange Order. In 1999 former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Ian Paisley attempted but failed to establish a branch of the DUP in Liverpool.
In terms of historical architecture, Liverpool has one extremely important link to the city of Belfast. The White Star Line headquarters were based on James Street, Liverpool when their famous ship, The Titanic, sank on her maiden voyage. The news of the disaster was read out from the balcony of this building in 1912, as mentioned in the video below.
Liverpool today still very much feels like an Irish city. Walking through Liverpool City Centre you will find dozens of Irish bars playing traditional Irish music and serving up traditional Irish food and beverages. The most popular Irish bar in Liverpool is McCooley’s who have two establishments: one in Concert Square and one in Matthew Street.
Credit: Twitter – @McCooleys
What do you think about Liverpool’s Irish connection? Have you visited Liverpool or Ireland before? Let us know by posting a comment below!