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Thursday 14 December 2017

Search for BBC's 1960s 'Irishmen'

Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

IRISH railway workers in Britain who were featured in a 1960s BBC documentary are being tracked down by the broadcaster.

'The Irishmen' was an hour-long documentary special made by Philip Donnellan in 1965 following Irish railway workers in London.

Irish immigrants described their horror at leaving home and travelling to urban Britain in the documentary.

BBC management refused to broadcast 'The Irishmen' after it was completed in 1965.

The daughter of acclaimed BBC documentary maker Donnellan, Philippa, who lives in Dublin, said her father was told at the time that the public "wouldn't be interested" in the work.

"They [the BBC] thought the English public wouldn't understand it and wouldn't be interested in seeing a film about people working," she said.

But Mr Donnellan remained working with the BBC to make more television documentaries on the lives of working-class people.

Following his death in 1999, the BBC began a reappraisal of Mr Donnellan's work and the broadcaster will travel to Dublin this week to interview his widow Jill and Philippa.

"I think the BBC are now recognising dad's work because times and attitudes have changed towards minority groups and the BBC are starting to see the historical and social importance of what he achieved," said Philippa.

A special edition of the BBC programme 'Inside Out', on Philip Donnellan, will be broadcast next month.

Anyone who has any kind of information about the lives of the characters who took part in the documentary 'The Irishmen' can send an email to

Irish Independent

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