|From the outset, Arlington House has always provided accommodation for men irrespective of their creed, class, colour or nationality. It has, however, always held an especial importance for the Irish. The poet Patrick Kavanagh, from Co. Monaghan, stayed in the [then Rowton] House in the 1930s, and later wrote in his autobiography, The Green Fool:
" Many Irish boys made Rowton House, Camden Town, first stop from Mayo. The soft voices of Mayo and Galway sounding in that gaunt, impersonal place fell like warm rain on the arid patches of my imagination. These boys were true peasants. They walked with an awkward gait and were shy. To me they looked up as to a learned man and asked me questions I couldn't answer."1.
The importance of Arlington House to the Irish is linked to the past history of the hostel as a provider of low-cost housing for working men, particularly in the construction industry. Camden was an important centre for this industry, up until its contraction in the late seventies and eighties. In addition, Camden with its many pubs and dancehalls, was the focus of much social activity for the Irish; building workers from all over the South of England would travel to Camden for their weekends off, and use Arlington House for temporary lodgings. As the generation of Irishmen who migrated to work in the post-war reconstruction of London and the South-east, got older, and as work got harder to get, these men have remained in the hostel, and have grown to depend on the resident Irish community as they lost contact with friends and family in Ireland.
|Research into the Irishmen of Arlington House in 1995-97 demonstrated that they were a distinct community, disparate from other ethnic groups, with their own particular problems and care needs. The Irish, who at that time, comprised 41 per cent of the total hostel population 2. [nearly as numerous as the 43 per cent UK/European residents] were different from other residents because of their age, and their length of time in the hostel. On average, these Irishmen were more than nine years older than other tenants, and had been resident in the hostel for more than twice as long [on average, more than eight years].
|In addition, the research discovered that:|
However, it should be remembered that those most satisfied with their accommodation were those who had already lived there for many years, who considered the hostel their 'home', and who were very reluctant to consider a move elsewhere. Younger migrants, and those who had stayed in the hostel for only a short period, were much more likely to be unsatisfied with their accommodation.
|History||Interviews||The Aisling |
1. Kavanagh, P., The Green Fool, Penguin Books, London, 1984. p.254.
2. This was a huge over-representation for the Irish. In the London Borough of Camden, the Irish represent around 8 per cent of the population.
3. As specified by the Health Education Authority, 1994.