Yet Another Ireland

There I was making a cup of tea with a tea bag and I got to thinking of all the things, of my lifetime,  that have vanished apart from fleeting memories of them. Here’s a few that might or might not jog a memory, draw a smile, a sigh or …

#1. Green public telephone boxes with button A and button B. (I saw one in a garden out in the middle of nowhere the other day.)

#2. The Riordans on RTE television

#3. Making a ‘trunk call’ and having to dial the operator.

#4. A time when there were no mobile phones and not all that many houses with telephones.

#5. Wooden tennis rackets

#6. The coming of the ‘hole in the wall’ that gave out money and how you’d say ‘Thank You’ ’til you realised what an eejit you were talking to a machine.

#7. The move to decimalisation

#8. When shops were shut on Sundays and from 1-2 for lunch.

#9. When you went to the chemist to collect your photos and get a new film.

#10. The doctor who dropped in after tea to check on ‘the patient.’

#12. Telegrams

#13. Butlins Mosney by the Sea

#14. Bedsits

#15. The border posts between the Republic and Northern Ireland

#16. When 99.99% of people in Ireland were white

#17. Days before Funeral Homes

#18. When JFK was revered in Ireland

#19. Showbands coming to town

#20.45s and LPs

#21. The washing-up ritual

#22. Talk of joining the Common Market

#23. Charles Mitchell reading the News on RTE

Charles Mitchell on RTE ~ Photo: Wikipedia

#24. That first big green car wash when you forgot to close the window

#25. Jim Figgerty


#26. The Catholic Church ban on its adherents attending Trinity College, Dublin without special dispensation.

#27. Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls

#28. When Sunday Mass included the priest reading out a list of who had given a donation to the church and how much it was.

#29. The first moon walk

#30. Listening to Radio Luxemburg under the blankets (no duvets then!)

Maybe you have a few or hundreds to add to the list?

Quick Wit and the Ireland I Love

As I was dashing into the supermarket a few hours back there was a little exchange that made me slow down and think to myself: This is one of the things I love most about Ireland and Irish people. 

A woman in her 40s or so called across the car park to a man in his 70s, I’d say, who was just leaving with his bag of groceries:

Hello Tom, how are you? 

Marian, good to see you. Grand thanks and you?

As she came a little closer, Marian spoke again to the man:

Oh sorry, I was mixing you up with your son.

And his retort:

Sure I’m much younger looking than him!

Yes, it’s these little things ~ the way people  come back so fluently with answers that you associate with the likes of Oscar Wilde or Brendan Behan.




On Being a Culchie

I don’t know how widespread the term ‘culchie’ is but it is certainly alive and well here in Ireland where it grew up.

Just in case you’ve never heard of a culchie, it’s a term used to describe ‘an unsophisticated country person,’ and it is thought to derive from the name of a village in Co. Mayo called Kiltimagh (or Coillte Mach in the Irish language.) Let me say that Kiltimagh is a lovely village where I happened to spend a good bit of time working back in the 1980s.

I would define myself as a bit of a culchie and that’s because ‘home’ has always been in towns, rather than cities. You really get to realise how much of a culchie you are when you leave home and go to Dublin, in particular. All of a sudden, you realise that your accent isn’t Dublinesque ( and I must emphasise that there are very different kinds of Dublin accents.)

Part of being a culchie relates to the to-ing and fro-ing from the city. Young culchies tend to ‘go home’ at weekends ~ a return to the land, to townlands, parishes, villages, towns ~ on trains or buses.

Maeve Binchy, the great Irish writer, wrote about the culchie syndrome in her book The Lilac Bus. My Lilac Bus was called The Princess Bus and it brought us culchies up and back and up and back … from Clonmel to Dublin every weekend. It departed Clonmel at 6am on a Monday morning so you can imagine the levels of concentration at 9am lectures.

Culchies were the ones who lived in flats so in ways we had a lot more independence than the crowd from Dublin who tended to live with their parents while they were in College.

I think it’s fair to say that there are levels of ‘culchieism.’ A true culchie is someone who hardly ever sets foot in a city and stands out like an alien when he/she hits the ‘Big Smoke.’ Then there’s people like me who have lived in big cities but who have always had strong roots in the country. Lots of us, who are a ‘bit of a culchie’ eventually flee the city and settle back in our natural habitats. This tends to mean that the the level of culchieism rises again and there is quite a culture shock when one arrives in Dublin.

Then there are culchies who settle permanently in cities, like my brother and sister who have lived in Dublin since their college days. Their kids have been born and reared in Dublin so they are one step removed from culchieism.

I have no qualms about calling myself a culchie because I feel that I am one; I know that I am one. However, there are definitely people who live outside Dublin who would focus more on the sophistication aspect of the definition of a culchie than the country part.

The question I have for the rest of the world is whether the term ‘culchie’ has travelled and, if not, is there a distinction drawn between people people from big cities and those from country areas ~ sophisticated or not!

My Culchieland in Co. Waterford.




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!’ 




Another Ireland

There are times when I love to look through my late father’s collection of photographs which span the years from the mid 1940s to around 2005.

It is a very mixed collection and I suppose that’s what makes it such a treasure. I never know what will turn up, especially when I go to boxes that he had marked as ‘duds.’

Today, I came across an unusual looking pouch in one of the tin boxes in which he stored the photos. It’s black leather or fake leather but is clearly intended for photographs. It’s the only one I’ve come across so far and I was intrigued to see what he had put into it.

It turned out to be a set of photographs that go to the heart of the Ireland that Dad really loved. I’m not sure of the exact location but we are certainly talking about the West of Ireland. Dad was from West Co. Clare and, even though he moved around the country a lot, he never, ever lost his sense of being from the West and from West Clare, in particular.

Cottages and outhouses always caught his eye so this photograph of an old thatched cottage is exactly what I’d expect. What took me by surprise, though, is the way in which the thatch is so different to that which I am familiar with in present day Co. Waterford. I just love the simplicity of this cottage and the character it exudes.

Photo: Frank Tubridy

We get some sense of the context within which the cottage is located from other photos in the pouch. Dad was always drawn to places where sea and mountains came together and this photograph  brought me back to many of the beaches in the West that we holidayed near when we were kids. (I’m as sure as I possibly can be that the child in this shot is not one of us. He liked to take photos that included people who were part of particular places.)

Photo: Frank Tubridy

Dad was an out and out perfectionist about lots of things and knew exactly where all his stuff was. It’s quite paradoxical that for one so perfectionistic that he didn’t throw away photographs that he actually labelled as ‘duds.’  I feel so fortunate that he didn’t as the ‘duds’ give us such a glimpse of an Ireland that belonged to other eyes and another time.



Raw Talent ~ Austin Gleeson

I’ve been fortunate enough to see many, many great sportsmen and women from a host of different types of sporting endeavour as my father did everything in his power to bring us see those who had reached the very top of their game. I’m talking here of people like Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Seve Ballesteros, Sonia O’Sullivan and I have huge admiration for that glorious combination of raw talent, hard work and determination.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been watching the blossoming of Waterford hurler, Austin Gleeson, who is raw talent personified and am absolutely thrilled that, at the tender age of 21, he has been designated Hurler of the Year in Ireland and well as Young Hurler of the Year.

Just take a look at this photograph of Austin Gleeson which I took at the homecoming of the victorious Waterford Under 21 All-Ireland winning team this year.

A Happy Austin Gleeson

It’s hard to imagine that one so young could have the skill and talent that this guy displays on the field of play. When the sliotar (ball) comes near him the crowd becomes electrified because he has such touch and pure athleticism:

Austin Gleeson is Mr. Humility and never, ever fails to make the point that his team mates are every bit as important as he is to the teams on which he plays. He’s right, of course, but there is a recognition in the world of Gaelic games and beyond that we are looking at one of those rare talents that we may only see  a handful of times in our lives: hurlers like Christy Ring, Jimmy Doyle, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Nicky English, D.J Carey, Henry Shefflin, Ken McGrath and John Mullane.

Jubilation after Waterford’s Win in the Under 21-All Ireland

So, it’s a night when the Waterford Hurling Anthem is echoing all around me and I simply can’t stop smiling and hoping that we’ll have many, many more happy days cheering Aussie and the lads on the great hurling pitches of Ireland.