When We Were Kings and Queens of the Road: Alison Finn

My walk to school.

My walk was about twenty minutes from Valley Park in Finglas, to St. Dominics in Cabra. I usually walked with my sisters, but there was every possibility that we would meet others walking the same walk. The route has changed quite a lot over time. For the first couple of years, when we were taken to school by our Mam, we had to cross a small bridge that crossed the river. There was no footpath, but way fewer cars on the road!! The bridge is still there, incorporated into a beautiful walkway along the river that’s well used these days for long walks. It was bypassed by a much larger road with wide footpaths! There was a walkway under the large bridge, where we regularly sheltered from the Irish weather! The aroma of glue hung in the air, courtesy of the sellotape factory.* I can’t imagine it was very good for us to be inhaling, but I had bigger problems: I rarely did homework! Unless it was English. I spent quite a bit of the walk hoping someone was in early enough to let me copy their homework, changing it just enough to avoid an accusation of plagiarism!! There was one classmate in particular,  who saved my academic life, time and time again. Her name was Deborah. I still remember her exasperation as she handed over her copybook to me. 

Sisters Alison, Andrea, and Mandy

From the sellotape factory, the race was on to cross the train tracks before the gates closed. If I got caught on the wrong side, there was a good chance I’d be late for school. I have always been and still am anxious about timekeeping! 

Before reaching the tracks, I had to negotiate the humpback bridge, locally known as Campbells bridge, because Mr Campbells garage was right beside it! The footpath disappeared and I had to keep very close to the wall to avoid being hit by the cars coming over the bridge. Strictly single file!!! If I was caught behind the gate, there were two choices, climb the gate and run across the tracks, much to the chagrin of the gate keeper, who lived in a little hut on the tracks (at least we thought he lived there! Sure where else would he live!). He would roar if he caught us. Of course it was stupid and dangerous, but we were young and idiotic, and even an express train couldn’t harm us! 

The other choice was to just lean on the gate and watch the train go by. It was thrilling! Coach after coach rushing past, the squeal of the whistle, wondering where it had come from, and where it was going, who was on it and what adventures were in store for them. In all honesty, I think it was a goods train, but I wouldn’t have known that then!

From the tracks to the school was a path that ran along some farmland, owned by the nuns as far as I remember. We encountered the odd flasher running through the fields. If he was looking for a boost in confidence, he certainly didn’t get it. We mercilessly insulted his manhood, in the way only young teenage convent school girls can! In through the imposing gates and through the beautiful grounds.

Even then I realised and appreciated just how lovely our school was! There is a new flyover bridge above the old humpback bridge and tracks now, but I remember that walk like it was yesterday. It’s that lovely time where your mind prepares for the day ahead. You put to rights all the worlds problems, and your friends problems. I sang, laughed, argued – I was good at that! If I was in a play with Dublin Youth Theatre, I learned my lines, roping in a sister or friend to run the lines while walking. Good days.

– Alison Finn

Alison performing as Carol in Willie Russell’s ‘Our Day Out’ at the Project Arts Centre

Alison Finn attended St Catherine’s NS Cabra from 1973-1981 and St Dominics College from 1981-1986.

“I’m a Finglas native, a granddaughter of a theatre wigmaker, and a daughter of one of the most creative people I’ve ever known, an Irish dancing costume maker.”

Alison performing in Seán O’Casey’s ‘The Plough and The Stars.’ 1988

“I’m a former member of Dublin Youth Theatre, (the best way to spend your youth!) former actor, and present day costume designer for the Irish National Youth Ballet. I’m a wife of one, mother of two, fitness trainer, and former professional dancer, now stage tech.”

Alison and Brenda Fricker, in the film ‘My Left Foot’, 1989

*The old Sellotape factory building. “Where the word Ormond is now it used to have a Sellotape sign there!”