Millennials pride themselves on growing up in a sophisticated, multicultural Ireland.
Thirty years ago or so Ireland was a very different place. Some ten things the Irish generation today will never experience.
1. The ancient phone system…Press Button A or B
The dreadful old phone system belonged in the Neolithic era – actually it was first introduced in 1925 in Britain. You put your money into the public phone then when the person being called answered your pressed button A. If they didn’t you pressed button B to get your money back.
At least that was how it was supposed to work but rarely did so. You often saw irate people banging and swearing trying to get their money back after button B refused to dispense. A long way from the Apple iPhone 7!
2. The Riordans
The original Irish soap opera set on a Kilkenny farm that occupied every Irish house on Sunday evening when it played – and there were only a couple of channels back then. Gabriel Byrne started there with a bit part. Benjy and Maggie were the two main characters and Benji became a household word as in “Up the Yard Benji” which for some reason became a nationwide rallying cry.
3. A physical answering machine
An answering machine you actually had to plug in to retrieve messages quite complicated and often annoying when it cut in on your conversation.The 7th wonder when first invented though.
4. Mystery Tours
CIE, the national transportation company, offered them. You got on a bus and were driven somewhere exotic you never knew where – okay, usually to the seaside. Today GPS would spoil the surprise of course.
Shorthand for RTE national radio as in “switch on Athlone” which is where I guess the transmitter was and the name Athlone was on every dial.
6. “Spit on me Dickie”
Dickie Rock and the Miami Showband were the biggest draw. Legend had it one woman was so enamored of the handsome lead singer that she screamed “Spit on Me Dickie”. The phrase entered folklore.
7. The Border Fox
For decades the most wanted man in Ireland was Dessie O’Hare who started off in the South Armagh IRA but later went with a splinter group. Kidnapped a victim and cut off his two little fingers to show how serious he was about getting a ransom. Was captured after the biggest manhunt in Irish history in the late 80s with the world press swarming all over Ireland. Still alive but mostly forgotten.
The most famous horse in the world was captured by the IRA from his Kildare stud in 1983 but allegedly proved so out of control the kidnappers shot him. The hunt for Shergar was turned into numerous documentaries and movies. To this day there is no sign of his body.
9. The political phrase GUBU (meaning Grotesque Unbelievable Bizarre Unprecedented)
The term was first used by a leading Irish politician to cover the bizarre events in the summer of 1982 surrounding a double murderer and the Irish attorney general.
Mentally disturbed Malcolm McArthur killed two people, a young nurse sunbathing in Phoenix Park and a farmer he was buying a shotgun from in 1982. During the massive manhunt he was found living in the apartment of the Irish Attorney General who he knew personally in a twist that even a movie maker would hesitate to film. In the Dail the events were described as Grotesque Unbelievable Bizarre and Unprecedented hence the GUBU invention which lasts down to the present day.
10. Ordering a pint of plain, or a pint of porter
A pint of Guinness circa 1970 to 1980 was usually referred to as a pint of plain or a pint of porter. Today with all the craft beer nonsense the bartender would not have a clue what you are asking for.