Irish Society of East Anglia
Founded in 1891
Céad Míle Fáilte
We are a based in Norwich, Norfolk, England. Our aim is to promote all things Irish. Below you will find a short history of the society.
A Short History of The Irish Society of East Anglia.
The Society was formed on St Patrick’s Day 1891 by a small body of Irishmen who assembled at the old Central Café on Orford Hill, Norwich. Membership at that time was confined to ‘Gentlemen of Irish birth’and the Society’s objectives were:-
- the cultivation of a fraternal spirit among its members
- the relief of any person of Irish birth or parentage reduced to a state of need
- the holding of an annual dinner on St Patrick’s Day each year.
Their first dinner was held at The Maid’s Head Hotel, Norwich on St. Patrick’s Day 1892, when twenty-five gentlemen attended. Since then the society continued with varying success until 1914 during which time many men, notable in various walks of East Anglian life – Clergymen, Lawyers Doctors, Officers and Members of parliament were among its members.
At the outbreak of the war in 1914 all the Society’s members – with the exception of the old and incapacitated – took up war service; thus the society became dormant and (for the first time in 25 years) no annual dinner was held on St. Patrick’s Day 1915.
Following the Great War very few of the original members were left and it wasn’t until 1926 before the Society was successfully re-established. Since that date, despite the heavy toll of members lost in the Second World War steady progress has been maintained.
Archive records (we still have the minutes of every committee meeting – a rich resource on the influence of Irish culture in Norfolk life…) show that in the late thirties debate took place over an application from ‘The Norwich Society of Saint Patrick’ for a merger of the two societies. It was noted that this latter body was more of a ‘working class’ organisation and their application was defeated!
NOTE: The Norwich Society of Saint Patrick ceased to exist shortly thereafter.
During the Second World War the ordinary activities of the Society were suspended but in the years 1940- 1943 dances were held in ‘The Samson & Hercules’ in support of various war charities. As a result the British Red Cross Society, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Norfolk War Charities and the Prisoners War Fund each received sums of money…. and thus began our tradition of raising money for charity.
Full activities were resumed in 1948 and since then the St. Patrick’s Day annual dinner and dance has become a notable event – but no longer just for ‘gentlemen of Irish descent’. In moving with the times membership was gradually changing and soon women were allowed to join, then it was families, then for a while there was a category for ‘friends’. Nowadays anyone in East Anglia who has an interest in things Irish – our music and culture, can join The Irish Society of East Anglia.
Today our Society has around 130 families in membership at any one time. We organise and celebrate our culture through many events including Ceilidh’s, Traditional Nights, Cultural Nights, Irish Dancing classes for children, Set Dancing classes for adults, Golf outings, Horse Racing, Bar-Be-Cues and of course celebrating the big day itself – St Patrick’s Day, with luncheon on the day itself and the Annual Dinner and Dance on the nearest Saturday to the 17th March.