A Glimpse Back into an Ireland we Deny Knowing

Declan Varley who grew up and went to schoold here in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo
The Galway Advertiser

Declan, a multiple award winning journalist, has painted a graphic picture of what life was really like for many in Ireland, not only in the 80’s but also in 50’, 60’s ad 70’s too [my own timeline!].

This article was in response to the recent scandal of the treatment of Joanne Hayes, a Kerry girl who was wrongly, we suspected and now know, accused of murdering a baby. To see the full article see www.advertiser.ie

Declan, who grew up and went to the CBS school in Ballinrobe writes:

“The Ireland of the eighties was not a pleasant place. For many, the era is defined as the sunny weekend when Ray Houghton scored against England in Stuttgart, but that flash of colour was but a glimpse at the end of an era we now barely recognise.

I remember those days as being permanently wet, lived in black and white in a time where there was not scope for the individual to stand aside from the crowd. The masonic camaraderie of the old boy’s club governed not only in State and Church, but in the condensation-covered shop windows in every small town and village in Ireland; in places where the maintenance of the status quo was paramount.

It was a place where everyone had to know their place and keep to it. Every community we knew had its order, its pecking list, the priest, the guard, the postmaster the princes of commerce, the sons of the princes of commerce, the sleeveens on the corner making sure that everyone stayed in their place, behaved; the squinting windows used to police us all, like the paopticon of old.

Thinking back now, it was a suffocating nauseating place of permanent rain and sodden duffle coats, handed down from child to child. A place where school was terrifying, where you learned the lesson through fear of the physical retribution the leather and the stick and the harsh tongue of humiliation all used to keep you in your place for fear you’d have notions.

I remember on a rare occasion when a teacher was proffered to us for career guidance. The lads from one side of town were in there longer than most for they had laid before them the a wider choice for where life would bring them. I recall being asked what I wanted to do with my life. When I told her that I’d like to write or be a photographer or something like that, she looked at me and said ‘hmmm, your father’s the bank porter, isn’t he? Would it be more in your line now to be thinking about something like that and less of yer notions about writing?

This was the world in which the small people of Ireland were kept small. Because you knew the odds were against you whatever way you went…”

Thank you Declan [declan@galwayadvertiser.ie]

I’m sure many, many people concur with your memories and thankfully young people of this decade have so much encouragement and options open to them. This is a very different Ireland to those crushing decades.

Editor, Historical Ballinrobe


Comments about this page

  • Averil have you a link to the full article. Whilst I recognise some of the sentiments expressed by Declan I don’t fully agree that the period was as dark as that portrayed. I am an ex CBS student, a bit older than Declan.

    Hi Joe, you can contact Declan at the https://www.advertiser.ie/galway

    By Joseph Gibbons (18/05/2020)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *