Old Habits

My father had quite fascination with nuns’ habits and he passed this on to my sister and me from when we were very young. He would take photographs of nuns on beaches, of all places, while Big Sis and I would do everything in our power to try and work out if nuns were bald or what they did with their hair.

The Nuns ~ early 1960s ~ Photo: Frank Tubridy

The mystery was at its most mysterious in the days before Vatican 11 in 1965 which gave nuns permission to relax their dress. It didn’t happen overnight, though, and some orders were quicker than others to answer our childish questions.

The old style nuns made for great subjects for one with a photographic eye and the photo above was always called The Nuns in our house.

Dad seemed to be able to spot nuns on beaches like no one I’ve ever known. I suppose they did stand out all garbed up on hot Summer days when the rest of us were running around in swimming togs and half nothings, by the standards of those days, anyway.

The hair question eventually got answered when the veils were moved back and hair appeared ~ black, brown, fair, red, mousy, grey or some combination of these.

Post 1965 ~ Photo: Frank Tubridy

The mere mention of nuns would send Dad back to a rhyme that was part of his youth:

I’ll tell the nuns who stole the tupenny buns ….

This was the first line … but there was more that I can’t remember now.  Dad had great fun regaling my son, Harry, with this when he was a child and the pair of them would be roaring laughing. One day when Harry was about seven, Dad told him to ‘Go and tell the nuns …’ so Harry, who was bursting to see inside a convent, went and banged on the door of the convent nearby and told them that his grandfather had told him to call. Dad had taken photos of the convent so when the nuns ascertained who Harry was, they were lovely to him and gave him sweets.

It’s easy knowing that neither Dad nor Harry ever went to a Convent school like my sister and me. We definitely wouldn’t have been knocking on convent doors with such abandon after all the years of discipline and ‘Yes Sister, No Sister!’ 




Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

17 thoughts on “Old Habits”

  1. Love this story..one of my uncles was terrified of the nuns as a boy..he was not going to the convent school with those ‘buddy black crows’.. Not sure how they eventually got him there, but he was always wary of them.
    I went to a state school, but did go to the convent for piano lessons.. Think I’ll leave those details for a future story.. 😇

  2. So lovely to have such wonderful photographs taken by your father. Usually family photographs are out of focus people relegated to specks in the distance because the photographer wanted to get the tips of everyones beehives and winkle pickers into the frame. Your father had a real eye for composition and interesting subjects.

    1. Another of our shared interests, Andrea. I think it was that Dad could spot them a mile away that got me thinking of them on beaches (and seeing them while with him). They always stood out with all the garb, that’s for sure. Sometimes, they’d go for swims and we’d be hiding to see if we could glean any more about what lay beneath the veils but they were soooooooooooooo modest in the way they dressed and undressed!

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