As part of our Amble around the Garden Quarter I was pleased to spend an hour talking to local resident and Author, JP Rodgers, in Garden Lane’s new micro pub, Goat and Munch. John Hails from Williamstown in County Galway and has moved to Chester to be closer to his family. John’s Book “For the Love of My Mother,” tells the story of John’s forced separation from his mother, Bridie. Bridie who was taken from her son at Tuam Mother and Children’s Home, was sent to one of Ireland’s Notorious Magdalene Laundries where she was detained for 15 years before her escape. All this was due to the fact that she was an unmarried mother in an exceptionally socially conservative society.
“For the Love of my Mother,” recounts the story of John and Bridie’s eventual reunion. It is now some years since I read John’s book, but I remain astonished by the hopeful and uplifting tone of a story which could so understandably be filled with hatred and anger, at the cruel injustices which prevailed under the auspices of the church for many years.
After separation from Bridie, John was left alone at the Tuam Mother and Children’s home, before being fostered. The terrible news, which broke in May of this year, about the discovery of mass graves containing the remains of many babies and young children at the (now closed) home resulted in a fresh wave of interest in John’s story. Tuam was accurately described by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as a ‘Chamber of Horrors’, making the absence of bitterness in John’s book all the more remarkable. After this terrible news emerged John was interviewed by the Washington Post. This resulted in a call from Hollywood. Discussions around the production of a TV adaptation of John’s story are ongoing. It is also expected that “For the Love of My Mother,” will shortly be reprinted.
John is enjoying life in Chester. This is not his first stay in England, and he reflects on how our increasingly multicultural society “a League of Nations,” as he terms it, is a great change for the better compared to the attitudes he encountered over here in the sixties and seventies, when uninhibited racial prejudice was rife. Yes, Hotels and B&Bs really did display the notorious signs, appallingly and shamelessly stating, “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.” More Happily John recounts visiting one place where Irishmen were certainly highly welcome; he has happy memories of visiting Old Trafford and seeing the great George Best, playing at his prime.
When I ask John what he values about living in the Garden Quarter his reply focuses on a natural spectacle and draws an interesting parallel with life in Ireland:
“I particularly like where I’m living as I have a wonderful view of the canal and the Welsh countryside. This time of the year is particularly fantastic, as thousands of Brent Geese fly directly over the Garden Quarter on their way to their favourite breeding grounds. So, I’m always keen to get a good photograph of their arrival. That might mean having to spend a few chilly hours in the great outdoors. But then I can always balance that out by spending a cosy hour or two in my favourite watering hole the Goat and Munch pub. I love this place as it reminds me of a Shebeen, which was an illicit bar where excisable liquor was sold without a licence. They originated in Ireland over a hundred years ago and the word Shebeen is now in common usage in England, Scotland, Canada, Australia and the United States. In the old days Shebeens were very popular because they were small, compact and cosy. Our local replica, the Goat and Munch is a little paradise where there’s no television or jukebox and everyone talks with one another.”
You can find out more about John’s book, “For the Love of My Mother,” and purchase a copy here.