"Every man who has ever lived should show both love and pride to the country in which they were born and the flag they were born under. All of my life I have been proud to be an Irishman although I recall earlier years as a child in West Yorkshire, whenever in conflict with another neighbour, being taunted with the discriminatory jibe of 'Irish Tinker' and told, 'Go back to where you belong.'
Whenever our family experienced such a response, while my father would frequently get angry my mother would take a much more measured response. 'Don't worry about what they say, Billy. They're only words and as for the children, they don't know what they're saying. They're just copyng their parents.Once they get to know the Forde family, they'll get to like us and accept us.'
I recall that the initial response of our family, along with all the other Irish Catholic families on Windybank Estate was to become ever closer as a unit and to stick together through thick and thin. Consequently, every St Patricks Day, instead of hiding indoors, the Kennedy family from First Avenue along with the Donohoes from Third Avenue, the Fordes from Eighth Avenue, with others would have a St Patrick's do in one of their back gardens.
In time, most of our English neighbours would suddenly discover long lost relatives in their heritage cupboards who were of Irish decent and over the years, as the Irish families on the estate grew to be more accepted, it was the turn of the West Indian immigrant and then the Pakistani person to bear the brunt of being the British scapegoat.
I recall when I first married in 1968, that it was left to me and my wife to annually provide the St Patrick celebrations at our home for our Mirfield friends. For many years these parties continued unabated then, when the troubles blew up between the English and the Irish after Harold Wilson sent in British troops to occupy Northern Ireland and mainland bombings increased along with the carnage and senseless deaths of so many innocent people, everything Irish in my mouth tasted sour for a number of years to follow.
For a number of years I was a man of divided loyalities, but when the time eventually came to decide on which side my loyalties lay, I had no doubt. While it had been Ireland that had breathed life into me and given me soul, it had been England who'd provided my father with a job, my family with a house and all seven children with an education that has served us well and a livelihood thereafter, besides enabling us to exist as a family who was always able to follow their religion and beliefs without undue hindrance.
It has only been since the situation has settled down once more and that Northern Ireland is now jointly governed from Stormont that 'St Patrick's Day' has once again come back into its own in many countries across the world. Happy 'St Patrick's Day' to you all wherever you were born. Mine's a pint of Guinesss." William Forde: March 17th, 2015.