Ceilis, cholera and the Children of Lir

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row of dancing girls in colourful traditional costume

George Ferguson School of Irish Dance put their best foot forward

Visitors to World Museum Liverpool over the last couple of days will have noticed a distinctly Irish flavour to the events. Our very own leprechaun from the learning department, Ann-marie McGaughey, explains what was going on:


 "This weekend World Museum Liverpool played host to the Liverpool Irish Festival. The festival takes place every year and celebrates the special connection between Liverpool and Ireland. This year the festival runs from 17 October – 2 November.

This year, we had a number of events including drama workshops, singing workshops and traditional storytelling, using the tale of The Children of Lir. George Ferguson School of Irish Dance returned for a second year running and treated us to a fabulous display of Irish dancing, before getting us all up to join in with the Ceili!

This weekend we also learned about a very special lady called Kitty Wilkinson, who was brought vividly to life by a roleplayer. Kitty was born in Derry, Ireland and came over to Liverpool in the late 1700s when she was still a child. Kitty settled in Liverpool in later life and lived here around the time of the cholera epidemic of 1832. At this time a lot of people in Liverpool were living in poor squalid conditions, with a lot of overcrowding in houses. Kitty was fortunate enough to live in a house with a hot water boiler (the only one in her street at the time) and she worked out that if people boil-washed their clothes and bed linen, they would be less likely to catch cholera, as the disease could not spread so easily. She invited families in the street to use her boiler to wash their clothes and as word spread, she eventually ended up with 80 families using her boiler! She began to charge families a penny to use the boiler and was able to set up the first public wash house in Liverpool. Kitty’s work played a massive role in stemming the cholera epidemic in Liverpool at the time and she is commemorated with a stained glass window in the lady chapel of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool."