My earliest memory of my journey to school involved catching the bus – usually an 11 or a 16 – on Drumcondra Road to get to the Dominican Convent in Eccles Street, now long demolished and replaced with much of the Mater Hospital. In those days there was a stable yard close to the back gate of the school and I used to stop to have a look at the horses. They would pull big carts, delivering coal and other things around town. There would always be a big drum of food steaming away – it must have been grain of some sort, maybe a kind of “porridge” for horses. It had a sweet, very enticing smell.
The most bizarre memory dates from probably 1965 when I would have been just 6 years old and I was allowed to take the bus home on my own on one occasion. It was one of those old buses with an open platform at the back and two benches facing each other inside the door. This is where I was put to sit by a very kindly bus conductor (this was a man – always a man – whose job it was to collect fares from the passengers and give you a ticket). My memory must be faulty because I recall that the fare was a ha’penny (half an old penny) which seems very cheap even for those far off days. Maybe the conductor gave me a discount.
I also remember my mother being at the bus stop at the end of the journey and a horde of small boys (but much bigger than me) from the local national school swarming on to the bus as I was getting off, and an elderly lady saying in dismayed tones “My God, they’re like a pack of vultures!” That phrase entered my family’s language and is still occasionally used almost 60 years later!
Tom Doorley is a food and wine writer based on the Cork/Waterford border where he enjoys growing his own fruit and vegetables, and caring for his woodland. He has written for most Irish newspapers and is currently a columnist with The Sunday Times. He is perhaps best known, with his friend, the late Paolo Tullio, as the resident judges on The Restaurant on RTE television. He is the author of several books, including Grow & Cook, written with his wife, Johann.
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The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of the Museum of Childhood Ireland.