OSCAR winning actress Brenda Fricker has spoken of the hardship she witnessed as a teenager when she was one of Britain’s forgotten Irish.
The actress spoke candidly about the struggles of her younger years as she was honoured with an award for her contribution to Irish Cultural Life in London.
Speaking at the Ireland Fund of Great Britain’s 25th anniversary Winter Ball Brenda spoke about her own experiences as one of the forgotten Irish – a campaign also run by the IFGB charity to help isolated and vulnerable Irish in Britain.
“My heart missed a beat and it brought back a flood of memories…I was one of the forgotten Irish for a short time a long time ago,” she said.
Brenda, who battled illness as a teenager, explained how her medical conditions left her family’s finances hanging by a thread.
This was what spurred the My Left Foot actress into coming to London with her sister where she found herself, aged 17, washing floors in a London hospital.
There she recalled being surrounded by a community of Irish staff, all of whom were doing menial jobs and sending money home.
Brenda herself was well known for her depiction of Irish nurse Megan Roche in the BBC series Casualty for many years – a part that highlighted the role that thousands of Irish nurses played in building the NHS in Britain.
“Many had become an exile rather than an emigrant,” she said. “It was like being part of a tribe.”
It was only when she returned to Ireland that her life turned a corner and her luck changed.
“It’s about putting out your hand and helping someone,” she said, adding that the Ireland Fund was the “luck” for the forgotten Irish.
Also showing their support at the Landmark Hotel event were IFGB Patrons Sir Peter Sutherland and Basil Geoghegan as well as long-term Ireland Fund supporters including entrepreneur Sarah Newman from RTE’s Dragons’ Den, actor Adrian Dunbar and designer Paul Costelloe.
Among the charities supported on the night were Console and Southwark Irish Pensioners Project.