Poor Paddy: The Irish in
the Liverpool Labour Market
AS ECONOMIC MIGRANTS, the Irish in nineteenth-century Liverpool experienced the kind of occupational disadvantage identified by 'segmented' or 'dual' labour market theory, discrimination normally applied to workers marked out by phenotypic difference.1 The absence of any such marker notwithstanding, the Irish were labelled and stigmatised on arrival, victims of prejudice that hindered their prospects in the labour market. As 'poor Paddies' they were excluded from the 'primary sector' where relatively decent wages, labour conditions, job security and union membership applied, to be confined to a 'secondary sector' of low-paid, unprotected, dead-end jobs—on the docks, in adjacent processing and refining plants and on building sites. It was worse still for women, given the absence of textile factory employment in Liverpool and the general reluctance to employ the Irish as domestic servants, often advertised with the caveat, 'No Irish Need Apply'—in nineteenth-century Liverpool, with Welsh and country sources of supply for domestic labour, 'NINA' was a reality, not 'an urban myth of victimization'.2 To make ends meet, Irish women were forced into the lowly chip, grit and oakum trades, or some other form of down-market 'basket' selling in Liverpool's notorious 'secondary economy' of the streets, the point of income (and consumption) for the least advantaged. Generalising from the Liverpool experience, George Cornewall
1 Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American, p.7. See also R.D. Barron and G.M. Norris,
'Sexual divisions and the dual labour market', in D.L. Barker and S. Allen, Dependence and
Exploitation in Work and Marriage, New York, 1976.
2 'No Irish Need Apply! A servant's narrative', Porcupine 8 June 1861. See also the
Liverpool correspondent of the Drogheda Argus on how 'No Irish Need Apply' was sounded
from pulpit, platform and press, Irish People 12 Nov. 1864. In the United Sates, 'NINA'
was an enduring 'urban legend', see Richard Jensen, '“No Irish Need Apply”: A myth of
victimization', Journal of Social History, 36, 2002, pp.405–29.