From the Irish Independent on Bank Holiday Monday (natch)...
CHILDHOOD SUMMER MEMORIES
THEY say the past is a foreign country. That’s the closest most Irish people over the age of 30 got to a trip abroad in the summers of their childhood.
The quintessential Irish summer holiday was one of simple pleasures. A caravan in a field, a two-week stay with country cousins, a hormone-awakening trip to the Gaeltacht. Few kids of the ’80s, ’70s and beyond ever made it onto an airplane – a ferry to visit emigrant aunts in England was about as glamorous as it got.
We asked a number of well-known Irish faces to recount their childhood summer memories. Ice-cream, eternal sunshine, mobile homes and saving hay all figure strongly in their recollections….
DEREK DAVIS, 4FM radio presenter
“My mother was from Bray, Co Wicklow and we would spend two weeks south of the border every year. She would meet with old buddies to go to the Theatre Royal or the Dublin Horse Show.
I was born in 1948, and rationing continued in the North until 1953, so we thought of the South as a place of indulgence and comfort. Ice-creams were always twice the size south of the Border.
I have very fond memories of going to a beach called the Silver Strand; just the clarity and warmth of the water, little mackerel fry swimming around in it.
In Bray, there was a swimming pool under Bray Head and a funicular railway ran up Bray Head. These were marvels to kids. Relatives would give you five shillings to buy flippers and snorkels from the kiosks and ice-creams from the Italian ice-cream parlours. I also remember the wonderful taste of sausages and puddings made by German families like Caprani and Haffner; we couldn’t go back up North without the boot of the car groaning with the weight of them at the end of the holiday!”
KAREN KOSTER, TV3 Xpose presenter
“We went to Kelly’s Resort in Wexford because it was so child-friendly. There was a ten-year age gap between me and my older brother and sister so I think my parents liked that there were plenty of kids for me to play with.
There was proper crazy golf and these massive chess pieces and chess board painted onto the tarmac. The ballroom had a mural of seaside and deckchairs if I remember.
Kelly’s has gone a bit fancy in recent years, with the new spa and so on. It felt strange to go back when they started to refurbish it. I felt a bit like they were changing my home!”
DAVY CARTON, Lead singer with the Saw Doctors
“I get flashbacks from that episode of Fr Ted where they are all stuffed into a caravan. We ended up in one in Ballybunion in Co Clare - and that would have been exotic! I remember my father, God love him, trying to set up a camping gas stove on the beach with methylated spirits. He almost set fire to the whole bush surrounding the beach.
When we grew up a bit, we were let loose in the Gaeltacht for a couple of weeks. It was great fun, the chance to go daft, but as for ‘firsts’ all I was interested in at the time was football and drink!”
TANYA AIREY, MD of Sunway Holidays
“My father was involved in the travel business but my mother wasn’t keen on going abroad. We had a mobile home in Carn in Wexford, where we went for six weeks. That was in the ’70s, and I think summers were different then, weren’t they? We felt like the sun was shining all the time.
It was about that sense of independence. Riding your bicycle everywhere, eating outside. Freedom!
I did go to Majorca once as a child and I have strong memories of the excitement of such a different place, the heat, the colours. It was really great.”
DEREK MOONEY, RTE radio and TV broadcaster
“I remember my first holiday out of Dublin for a reason. It was Galway and I went with my parents, my brother Mike, my sister and her husband and we were staying out in Salthill.
I was still in short trousers so I could have been anything from 8, 9, 10 up and we were walking down a country lane. There was a big black bull in a field and the next thing I knew, I fell off the stone wall and into the field. I will never forget the fright I got that day – I had fallen in a big bunch of nettles and I was crying my eyes out while my brother tried to fish me out.
We went into the centre of Galway later that day and I was put sitting on the knee of that Padraig O Conaire statue. I remember thinking, ‘Here I am sitting with Padraig O Conaire who used to write about the black donkey, and there I was today with a black bull’.”
LINDA MARTIN, singer and TV personality
“We used to spend a few weeks every year in the Bray/Dun Laoghaire area with my grandmother’s cousin Grace Tobin. We used to decamp from Belfast by train every summer. Her house used to seem huge to me – everything seemed to be made of wood, and there was this enormous staircase going right up the middle of it.
Grace had live-in help and she used to take my sister and me to the carnival. Of course all I can remember is sunshine and how we would spend all day on the beach in Bray with no sun oil on. I remember the promenade, the beach and ice-cream: just glorious memories. Grace turned 90 last year and we’re still in contact.”
Actress DAWN BRADFIELD
“Our holidays were spent at my granny’s in Galway, doing the hay, taking the cows out. I had a few posh girls in my class in Cork and they would be heading off to Disneyland but I didn’t feel like I was missing out.
I have a lot of English cousins who used to come to Granny’s too and they made it very glamorous with their English accents! I had one cousin who was a year older than me. She had lovely trendy clothes, long hair (when I had short) and perfect eyesight (I wore glasses!) I thought she was the most divine creature!”
“Both my parents were from west Cork so we 12 children were dispensed to the countryside to farms of family members. I absolutely loved it. I remember distinctly sitting on my uncle Jack’s cart with his beautiful big red horse, bringing in the loose cocks of hay.
We did have one big family trip and it was hilarious. My father had a big old red and cream Mercedes that he got cheap and he rented this monstrosity of a ten-berth caravan. On day one, we went to Dublin Zoo and Malahide. I sprained my ankle at the zoo and we all got sunburnt at Malahide beach so by night-time my mother nursing a caravan full of kids!
But the best bit of organisation was when they timed our arrival in Belfast for the Twelfth of July. It would have been the summer of ’69, the Troubles were breaking out and as we entered Belfast the sky was darkened with smoke. My mom and dad were anxious about being recognised as Catholics from the south but they were looking for the field where all the bands were amassed.
The next thing, my dad lowered the window, put on his ‘best’ Belfast accent and asked an RUC man where the field was. The officer looked in the back at the rake of kids, pushed back his cap and asked, ‘Are ye from Cork or from Kerry?’
My parents were both great, colourful characters. If life is a lottery, then my numbers came up with them.”
Ballydung Manor bachelors PODGE and RODGE
“There was a burnt out double decker bus in the field opposite us, and Mammy used to rent our bedroom out for the August bank holiday every year and make us camp in it.
She said it was a holiday but then Rodge’s lungs nearly collapsed due to the asbestos roof we’d used to keep the rain out, so that was the end of that.
One year, when Daddy had won a few bob at an illegal gambling night, he said he’d take us all up to Bundoran. The problem was we had to walk, so by the time we got there we had to turn around and come home. Which was just as well as he hadn’t booked anywhere to stay.”
• This August Bank Holiday Monday, Derek Mooney and John Creedon will be manning their shows on RTE Radio 1 as usual, and The Saw Doctors will be releasing their new single, She Loves Me, on CD and iTunes. Derek Davis will be relaxing after presenting his Sunday show, Davis on 4 from 10am-noon.
- Susan Daly