Jul 05 2011

The Meath Street Experience

Published by at 9:11 am under News

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Most every Saturday morning the Ma’ and Da’ would be up early. They never stayed in bed for a ‘lie-on’ as we called it. Orders for the day were given out. In our house we had Spring Cleaning every Saturday. All the beds had to be made and each room swept and dusted. The stairs had to be swept down as well and the lino on each step had to be washed and polished. Everything brass on the hall door had to be sparkling using an old sock and a tin of Brasso, even the little brass roller under the weather board at the bottom of the hall door had to be done. ‘But Ma’ no one will see it’. ‘God knows it’s there, now clean it’. The Da’ would head out on his bicycle because back then he had to work a half day every Saturday. By nine o’clock us younger ones were fed, washed and smelling of carbolic soap. If you missed a bit of dirt on your face the Ma’ would spit on the corner of her apron and wipe your face clean with it.

Then it was off to town with the Ma’. She’d take four or five of us younger ones with her every time. She always had a bit of lipstick on and the ould scarf on her head. Sometimes her poor old head would be full of things to do or kids to watch that she’d forget to take off her apron and wouldn’t realise it ’til we were half ways into town. We never got the bus because the Ma’ said she knew a short cut and would take us walking down along Prussia Street, into Manor Street and around into Queen Street. Every now and then she’d stop to have a yap with some ould one or other that she knew. She was great on the history of Dublin and would tell us all sorts of stories about each street we walked along. ‘At one time…‘ she says ‘Manor Street was one of the oldest highways in Europe because the High King of Ireland travelled along it to get to the Liffey’. And she knew all about Arbour Hill and the Vikings that settled there and when we’d finally arrive in Thomas Street she knew the story of Robert Emmett and Lord Norbury.

She’d give a quick glance into Frawley’s to see if there were any bargains there she could afford and then we’d go dodging in and out between the dealers on Thomas Street who were selling all sorts of things. Her favourite place of course was the indoor Iveagh Market in Francis Street. She knew all the stallholders by name and got some great bargains in secondhand clothes for us. ‘Try them shoes on and see if they’ll fit yeah’. ‘But Ma’ they’re girls shoes’. ‘I’ll get your Da’ to dye them, now try them on’. The hustle and bustle, the noise and smells, the stench from the fish market next door, the roars of the women, the mugs of tea, the laughing and joking, sure isn’t this what Dublin was all about back then? Then we’d head off to do some serious shopping along the length of Meath Street where once again the Ma’ was a familiar face to all the shopkeepers and stall holders. During her life time my mother spent more time on this street than any other street in Dublin. And all the time us kids were trailing behind her and the new secondhand shoes cutting the heels off me. I had to wear them to break them in you see. We’d eventually head home loaded down with heads of cabbage, bags of shopping (mostly out of date stuff) and a lump of toffee in our gobs to shut us up moaning. The whole Meath Street experience was forever stamped into our memories because it played such an important role in our young lives. Looking back now they seem like great times but I don’t know if my ould heels would agree with me., ouch!


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