The oral tradition of storytelling is culturally significant to Irish literature and important for immigrant communities as a way to connect with their home culture and share stories without the necessity of literacy. This essay considers the motif of storytelling and the importance of voicing the community in much London-Irish literature. In Walsh’s The Walworth Farce, a play within a play, the main character obsesses over retelling the story of their emigration from Ireland but corrupts its purity as he pushes his narrative of innocence too far, and the cycle of storytelling begins again. Similarly, in Murphy’s Kings of the Kilburn High Road, workers create narratives of success to convince their families at home that they are doing well in London. However, again the narrative is unsustainable and the audience quickly sees that the men are not as happy and successful as they would like to be perceived. In MacAmhlaigh’s work, his eponymous character’s role as a voice and storyteller for his community is emphasized as Schnitzer O’Shea is encouraged by both the “literati” of Dublin and his fellow migrant workers to be a representative of Irish Navvies in Britain, but he rails against this enforced position. An important part of Irish culture and tradition, storytelling, when placed into the migrant context of the Irish in London, often becomes corrupted, whether it is used to hide the reality of life in London or to expose it.
MacGloin, Niamh. "Storytelling as a Cultural Context for London-Irish Writing in Donall MacAmhlaigh’s Schnitzer O’Shea, Jimmy Murphy’s Kings of the Kilburn High Road and Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce," Critical Inquiries Into Irish Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 2023, https://scholarship.shu.edu/ciiis/vol5/iss1/3.