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Summer Holidays, 1950's style

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Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day sang I, as I sat in our back garden appreciating the wonder of nature, the greenness of our grass, the height of the sunflowers as they stretched higher than the garden wall, the roses in bloom displaying their petals in shades of white and yellow and the fuschia bush showing promise of a colourful display of blooms.

As I sat, I thought back on the garden of my childhood where cabbage, potatoes, lettuce and other vegetables were planted and nursed to grace our table and assist my father's weekly wage in providing for our family needs. The Ireland of the 1950's was a different entity to the Ireland we know today. My father was a fitter with CIE, serving his apprenticeship in Broadstone Railway before Inchicore became the hub for CIE Railway works. A perk of being an employee of CIE Railway was that you received special passes and reduced fares, known as privileges, for you and your family to travel. My father had a 2 week holiday every year and it was then that our family took full advantage of the travel perks. We became day-trippers, making journeys to Ireland’s cities and towns using our passes and visiting beaches using our privileges.

Among the cities we visited were Galway, Cork, Waterford, Belfast, Sligo and Limerick. It was an early start for all of us, leaving our house to catch the 22 bus into Dublin around 7am and making our way to Kingsbridge (Heuston) Station if we were travelling to Cork, Limerick or Waterford, Amiens Street (Connolly) Station for Belfast or Drogheda and Westland Row (Pearse) Station for Galway, Mullingar or Athlone.

On these journeys we would wear our Sunday best and bring light refreshments for the train journey. We chatted, played games and window gazed out on the green fields, the cows, sheep grazing and the hinterland of Ireland. We ooh'd and aah'd as we crossed the Shannon in Athlone, marvelled at Donnelly's Hollow and the Devil's Bit, while we formed a sense of the Ireland that lay beyond our own home patch and parish.

The train journey that we looked forward to most of all was our visit to Aunty Madge in Enniscorthy. My Aunty Madge was a telegraphist with CIE and following postings in Kingsbridge and Ballinasloe Train Stations she was sent to Enniscorthy. Here my Aunty Madge married a local man Kevin Sheehan and thus Enniscorthy became her forever home. We, the Kenny children, were delighted to have country cousins, thus our annual train journey and visit to Enniscorthy was the highlight of our summer holiday.

The Wexford train departed from Westland Row (Pearse) Station. We knew all the stations along the route, stopping first in Dun Laoghaire and then Bray before we got clearance to travel onwards through the tunnels to Greystones. The journey through all three tunnels was dark and scary but yet it was a highlight of our trip. We knew all the stations we passed through, becoming familiar with Avoca and the Meeting of the Waters. In those days we passed through Camolin and Ferns before arriving in Enniscorthy Station, where my cousins were waiting, like a guard of honour, to meet us. My cousins are Anne, Gerard, Patricia, Mary, Delores, Martin, Finola, Terence, Gráinne and Sinéad. Then we walked up St Senan’s Road to their house in the foothills of Vinegar Hill where Aunty Madge and Uncle Kevin and the hens waited to greet us.

Our seaside trips were when the privileges were used, these privileges allowed us travel for a reduced fare. Our favourite seaside was Claremont Strand, Howth. A different type of planning was needed for these excursions.

The night before we set out, sandwiches were made and bags were packed which included all the picnic requirements including cups, milk, tea and sugar. Then the swimming togs (describing 1950's swimming togs is best left to the imagination) and towels, a bat and ball, raincoats, calamine lotion and plasters were added and we were all set to go. Once again an early start was made, usually we arrived in Howth around 11am and headed for the beach intent on getting a good spot in the shelter of the sand dunes. We started with a dip in the sea, followed by our picnic which included sandy sandwiches and Marietta biscuits. On a point of information there was a hut on the beach where you could purchase a Teapot of boiling water for 6d (pence) and a deposit of 6d, the deposit was refunded when you returned the Teapot.

Rounders, Queenie Eye O and Red Rover were some of the games we played, while making sandcastles and burying feet in the sand were also part of our seaside adventure. Come 4 o'clock we were all rounded up and bags packed for our return journey to Dingle Road. Often we would walk down the Howth quayside to check the fishing boats, where my mother bought fresh fish straight from the fishermen, before boarding the train for Amiens St (Connolly) Station.

Pleasantly tired after our day at the seaside, is how I would describe the Kenny children, on our journey home. We knew we could look forward to more weekday adventures before my father's holiday was over and he returned to Inchicore works and the Wagon Shop.

mgm July 2023