VOICES FROM THE NORTH INNER CITY

Food


“Things were bad when I was growing up. With kids’ fathers not working, the only bit of meat we regularly saw was in Frank the butcher’s window.”

“You could get a big lump of fruitcake or snowcake for tuppence and a bottle of milk for a penny.”

“While they were waiting for the turf to be delivered, they would take out the big shovel, put it on top of the fire and they would fry their eggs and rashers on the shovel – it was spotless.

Me and my father would sit down with them and have some tea.”

MICKSER KAVANAGH

“My mother was a very soft woman.

When she made the dinner (we only got one meal a day) she would go into the scullery and she’d tell the oldest girl, ‘serve out the bit of coddle or a bit of stew’.  My father would have a plate, but we’d only have saucers.

We had stews and coddles a lot, and bread and butter.   We used to get sixpence worth of jam in the cup.  You would have bread and jam for your tea and maybe a few broken biscuits.”

TRISHA FARRINGTON NÉE CONNOR

“There was six in the family, four brothers and two sisters.

My father was a docker. My mother looked after the house. She always made sure we had food on the table. She was also very strict on us. When my father got work on the docks we always had plenty of food.  When the work was bad and he did not get a job, the food we got was not all that good. But if my mother had the price of a sheep’s head and a few potatoes she would be happy.

She would make lovely soup from the sheep’s head.

I can remember looking into the big pot boiling on the open fire and the sheep’s head with his eyes still in would be staring out at me!

When it was cooked, the soup was given out to all the family and we were given lots of bread. Sometimes it was hard bread but it filled us up and whatever soup was left over was kept till the next day. If my father got a job, my mother would cook something different for us.

Those days were hard.”

MAGGIE 'JOLLY' HANLON - BORN 1924, ELLIOT PLACE
Tea time
Tenement interior
Tea time

“We used to have pigs’ cheeks and cabbage and potatoes for dinner. Sometimes, my mother would get a sheep’s head and make lovely soup.”

ESTHER ‘ESSIE’ BROGAN - BORN 1912, RAILWAY STREET

“There was eight in my family. I remember when we were living in the Buildings my mother would send me to the shops.

She would give me a shilling to get a penny packet of tea, a half-pound of margarine for tuppence, a loaf of bread for tuppence, a pint of milk for a penny and I would have change for her. Sometimes she would send me up to Kennedy’s bakery in Parnell Street and I would get a big bag of bread for a shilling, and O’Rourke’s bakery the same in Store Street.

I used to go over to Olhausen’s butchers in Talbot Street. The man that owned it, his wife was very kind to them and she would always give them a little bit more than she should. Her husband found out and told her to stop helping the people, but she still did not stop.

She helped a lot of poor people from the neighbourhood, she did.”

BILLY DUNLEAVY - BORN 1907, CORPORATION BUILDINGS

“The tea was made on an open fire.

I would go to the shop in the street, buy a packet of tea for a penny and bring it back to the granny, who would have the water boiling in the can. We had no teapots. The tea from the snuff can was lovely. The granny would leave the tea on the big open range to keep it warm, then it was poured out into jam jars. There were no cups you drank the tea from the jam jar.

The granny had a saying, “The best cup of tea comes from a jam jar.”

MAY MARNEY - BORN 1922, RAILWAY STREET

“Most children had to be in by tea time (when you were given bread with brown dripping spread on it)

– and when you came in for your tea, you just could not walk up and sit at the table and help yourself if your mother and father were having their tea.  We had to sit down on a long bench that was in the house and, when they were finished their tea, you were then called over to sit at the table and given your tea.”

BRIDGET HEFFERNAN NEÉ WHITTY - BORN 1910, MERCHANTS ROAD
Tenement interior
Two women

"Before going to school in the morning, I had to take a clean pillow case and cut through Portland Docks over to O’Rourke’s bakery, beside the police station, and queue with my 1/6d to get the fancy (yesterday’s) bread."

BIDDY HEFFERNAN - COMMONS STREET

“My mother cooked on the open fire like everyone else in the street. She used to be giving out when the pot would topple over onto the fire and the fire would go out on her.

She would be trying to balance the pot on the coal when she would be making a coddle. I used to hear her scream and I would say, “What’s wrong, Mammy?” She would answer, “The soot from the chimney has fallen down into the pot again.” More times we had a black coddle to eat thanks to the soot from the chimney.

Then one day she was told that a man by the name of Barney McCluskey, who was living in Lower Gloucester Place, was moving out and he was selling a fire range. Barney was after getting a new flat in Liberty House.  So she bought the fire range off him and had it installed in our house. My mother was delighted with it. At last she could cook without the pot spilling over on her.”

MAY MARNEY - BORN 1922, RAILWAY STREET

“My mother, when she would be short of milk for breakfast, used to call me and hand me a big jug and tell me to go over to Muckser Coyle and ask him to fill it up for me.

Muckser was the man in charge of the cattle yard so I used to run to the yard, which was just a short distance from the front door of the house.

When I got there, Muckser would go over to one the big milk churns and dip in the jug into it and fill it up.  My mother would take it off me and put a big piece of gauze over the jug to act as a strainer and she would start pouring the milk out onto the porridge.

JACK O’REILLY - FIRST HOLY COMMUNION 1941/42

“We used to cook the potatoes and put them in their jackets.

We used to get porridge and salt on it, no sugar.  It’d be like cake.  I used to love peas, pea soup and cabbage water.  My mother used to give us a mugful every Sunday.  It was as good as medicine.  It was great.  Years ago, they lived on it.”

BRIDIE EAGER - ST. BRIGID’S GARDENS
Tenement interior

Tenement interior, Longford Street, Dublin City, Co. Dublin. © The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

Man & child on Railway Street

"At Cuddy’s the Butchers, Joe Cuddy’s father, beside Spencer Avenue, for 1/6d, you got a bit of mince and some bones for the dogs, but we put the bones into the stew and boiled them for ourselves."

WILLIE MOONEY - SHERIFF STREET

“When I would finish school at 2.30, I had to rush home to have tea and bread ready for my four brothers

–  who were also in school, as my mother would be gone to work, and my father would be hanging around the docks looking for work.  After we had our tea, I then peeled the potatoes and got them ready for the dinner.

When they were boiled, I put an oxtail soup in on top of them and that’s all we would have for our dinner.”

MAY MARNEY - BORN 1922, RAILWAY STREET

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