The story of Anne McLoone (nee Conry) is typical of the emigrant experience of many Irish people who have made Britain, or in her case, London, their home. A native of Tulsk, Anne has lived in London for the past forty-four years.
A proud Roscommon lady, Anne knows much about the emigrant experience. She has been lucky enough to make a home for herself in London, working in her chosen Nursing profession.
A committed community activist with a natural disposition to lead, Anne has thrown herself into life in her adopted city as a valued member of the Roscommon Association in London while remaining steadfast to her roots in Tulsk and county Roscommon.
Anne’s story is typical of the many emigrant stories of Irish men and women who have travelled to London to make that city their home. It has not been without its challenges – the huge transition of adapting to London life and the loss of her beloved husband Con in recent years has represented huge personal challenges.
Yet true to her dynamic and resilient nature, Anne McLoone remains dedicated to her family, her Nursing career, her support of all things Irish in London as well as her strong bonds of affection for Tulsk.
In her own words, Anne McLoone reveals her story of a life well lived to fellow Tulsk native and neighbour, Darragh Kelly, where she talks about her life, the challenges facing new emigrants to London and the impact of Brexit upon the Irish community…
“I was born in Tulsk the only girl and oldest of four; I have three brothers Michael, John and Joseph. I went to Tulsk National School, after to which I went to the Convent of Mercy in Elphin before transferring to boarding school in Tuam.
My parents, Phonsie and Kitty have remarkable faith. The rosary – with all its trimmings – was recited every night and still is! We had to help out at home from an early age, completing chores within the house and helping out on the farm. We never went away on a family holiday – our highlight of the year was our annual outing to Salthill for a day at the sea!
Looking back, my parents worked very hard, my father Phonsie came to work in London for a few years in the 1960’s. We would always look forward to him coming back home, as he’d arrive at the house with bags of new clothes for us – always from Marks and Spencer.
I remember my mother milking the cows and bringing the creamery cans up on a wheelbarrow to the top of the road to our neighbours, the Costello’s, whilst I was left minding my little brothers.
We always had a car, and would go to lots of football matches. I remember one particular game in Ballinasloe when Galway defeated Roscommon– my mother, a proud Galway woman, had the Galway flag out the window, but as soon as we crossed back into Roscommon, my father made sure the flag was brought in!
In the summers, I would stay with my grandfather in Ahascragh and as I got older I would work in my aunt’s shop and pub – Creaton’s in Loughglynn. I loved this, especially when the carnival was on, which was always a great occasion.
Our house in Tulsk was known as the rambling house, where the neighbours would gather to tell stories and play cards – usually 25, and they’d give analysis on the latest club and county football games.
Tulsk always had great community spirit, my father would direct and produce the plays at the Macra Hall, where I would have a small part – quite often we would have a few artistic differences, resulting in a few heated debates!
I came to London in March 1973 to commence my general nurse training at King’s College Hospital. This was a daunting step for a young country girl. My parents were not in favour of me coming to England, but the late Dr. Lyster in Strokestown convinced them I was very lucky to be accepted to a world renowned Hospital.
Upon arrival in London, I was met by the late Kathleen Owens, also from Tulsk, who escorted me to the hospital and helped me get my bearings. From walking around London it soon became clear I was a long way away from Tulsk. It was fast paced, everyone was in hurry and not one familiar face to stop and have a chat.
At the weekends many other Irish who made the big trip across the sea, could be found in the Harp nightclub in New Cross – now known as the Venue. Many friendships and relationships were started here. It was here where I met my husband Con, from Rosbeg, in Donegal. We married in October 1977 in Tulsk Church.
Following my nursing training at King’s Cross, I moved the Farnborough Hospital in Kent, where I trained to be a midwife. After two years, I transferred to the world renowned Guy’s Hospital to commence my intensive care training.
Following this, in 1986 I was given the opportunity to work with Professor Yacoub, a world renowned heart transplant surgeon in Saudi Arabia where a team of us set up an intensive care unit in Jeddah. This was a wonderful experience and really opened my eyes to a very different culture.
Between my nursing training and experiences in Saudi Arabia, I have two children – Daniel and Alana. I returned to work in the intensive care unit at King’s Cross before having my third child, Tara.
My husband Con and I always made sure the children maintained a strong relationship with home. Con and the children travelled home every Christmas, while I worked on the Hospital unit before joining them on St Stephen’s Day. The family would spend Christmas in Tulsk and New Years’ in Donegal.
The children to this day have a strong bond with Ireland and Tulsk, my daughter Alana moved to Ireland in 2011 and currently works as a music teacher in Athenry while living in Athlone.
Both Daniel and Tara have stayed in London, Daniel works as the first team video and performance analyst for Millwall football club (who recently caused a sensation, defeating Premier League champions Leicester City to advance to the last eight of the FA Cup). Tara has joined me at King’s Cross, working as a Physiotherapist.
Con worked in the building trade in many areas around London. He was a great man completing jobs for everyone, no matter how big or small, however any small job within our own home would always take a little longer!
Sadly Con became ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2013 passing away a mere eleven weeks after his diagnosis in December of that year. His passing left a great void not only within our family, but also within our community of friends in London, Tulsk and Donegal.
Currently I work as matron for the outreach critical care team and deteriorating patients at King’s College Hospital. This is a varied role which includes clinical and management responsibilities. I thrive on the busy environment within a large London hospital and being able to help make a difference to so many peoples’ lives.
I have been involved in the Roscommon Association London for the past 38 years. Not only does the association provide a social outlet, it also provides an opportunity to raise money for many worthy causes both in London and Ireland.
In the early years the association helped many people make the transition from life in Roscommon to London, however as the years have gone by, times have changed and greater social media dependency has helped to connect people.
I have been secretary of Dulwich Harps Underage Gaelic football club for the past twenty years. In the summer of 2000 the club set up a partnership with St. Paul’s Academy in Abbeywood, a school which holds a strong connection with Roscommon, as Principal Pat Winston’s family hail from Castlerea.
Harps have had many highlights over the years but games in Tulsk against are always a personal favourite. Tulsk people have always provided us with a generous welcome and a wonderful sporting experience on our tours of Ireland.
In relation to the vexed issue of Brexit, Irish citizens are not considered foreign in Britain. The British and Irish have travelled freely between each other’s shores for so long; it is hard to imagine things any other way. Irish Nurses play a key role and make a great contribution to the running of the National Health Service (NHS). There will always be a special relationship between Britain and Ireland and I don’t see that changing.
As Dr. Johnson used to say ‘when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life’. London is a city that never sleeps and I am truly grateful for the amazing opportunities the city has offered both my family and myself. I have met many great people here from all walks of life and all corners of the world.
London today is expensive with high rents. Networking is increasingly important for the young Irish community; Enterprise Ireland have structures in place to ease the transition for Irish people coming to London.
Transition from places such as Roscommon can be a difficult experience, you need to be prepared and have a supportive employer to help you set up your bank account, phone account and find suitable accommodation.
It’s important for young people intending to move to know that there are many professional networks which the Irish diaspora can tap into – the Irish International Business Network (IIBN) and the London Irish Business Society (LIBS) are two such examples. These networks try to find the right balance between social activities and professional events focused on career progression.
Tulsk and Ireland will always have a home in my heart, however I do not see myself retiring to Ireland permanently, it’s more likely I will continue to make regular visits as will my family. I don’t see that changing in the future!”