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A cheap suitcase that tells the story of Ireland in the 1950s

A cheap suitcase that was typical of those carried by Irish emigrants going to Britain in large numbers during the 1950s features in a new exhibition at the Museum of Country Life at Turlough, Castlebar. It’s part of the National Museum of Ireland’s “100 OBJECTS” collection that takes us through the history of people in Ireland over 7,000 years.

Of the 100 objects, 6 are from the NMI- Country Life’s National Folklife Collection. 4 of these can be viewed by taking the trail through the NMI-Country Life in Turlough Park, Castlebar.

Objects located in the Museum of Country Life:

• No. 81 EMPTY COOKING POT, 1845-9

• No. 82 EMIGRANT’S TEAPOT, 1850-1950

• No. 93 BOYNE CORACLE, 1928

• No. 95 EMIGRANT’S SUITCASE, the1950s

The cheap emigrant’s suitcase will bring back memories to many of our seniors who were forced to leave Ireland in the 1950s to search for work in England the USA.

The suitcase was typical of those carried by Irish emigrants going to Britain in large numbers during the 1950s. It demonstrates the small number of items that many emigrants actually carried with them.

They would usually wear their heaviest clothes and on arrival in various parts of Britain might have to source accommodation or stay in temporary lodgings for a while.

To travel light was an advantage, but in any event, the typical emigrant was not burdened by a wealth of personal possessions.

Such suitcases were a common sight for many years throughout post-war Europe as displaced people moved around looking for work and tried to put down new roots.

Our featured image above of the Kiltiamgh sculpture that commemorates Mayo’s sad history of emigration shows a man on his way to the railway station with his suitcase in hand. Photo: Anthony Hickey

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.