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Growing up in The Liberties: 'We thought we were posh because we had our own hall door'

There have been some great characters in The Liberties over the years, writes Josie Sheehan.

Josie Sheehan The Liberties

I HAVE NOTHING but fond memories of growing up in The Liberties. At the age of 10, not long after the birth of my younger brother Pat, we moved to a two-bedroom house on Gray Street, where I still live now.

There were eight of us living in the house and it was fairly cramped, especially when it came to sleeping arrangements. At night I would go up the road to sleep in my Granny O’Neill’s and my older sister would sleep in my Granny Kelly’s.

My mother and father slept downstairs and that left the two bedrooms upstairs for my brother and my other three sisters.

We thought we were posh

I always remember it was freezing going to bed at night in the winter. We’d use the irons that you heat on the gas to iron the bed to make it warm. TB was also rampant back then because everyone was living so close together.

We were classed as being the lucky ones because we didn’t live in a tenement house. We thought we were posh because we had our own hall door. That was a great saying years ago: “oh she has her own hall door”. That meant you had a house.

My mother was very quiet but she was the strong character. If my father came in from the pub talking, she’d declare “no pub talk in this house” and that would be the end of it. She was the boss of the house and she ruled the roost.

Bang Bnag

There have been some great characters in The Liberties over the years. Everyone knows we had Bang Bang. He used to go around with a big key roaring “Bang Bang”.

You would often see him on the bus and he’d hang out of the bar at the back screaming. You’d also see him at the cowboy movies in the cinema where he would try to join in the action.

We had Mary-Wallpaper, who used to carry rolls of paper about the place with her. And we had Jonny-40-Coats, who would wear layers of coats for God knows what reason. We also had Mary-Made-of-Money who would hand you a ha’penny any time you would say something nice to her.

And there was Jembo-No-Toes, who would chase you when you called him by that name. Sure we all knew he had all his toes.

Great stories

I don’t think people sit around together as much for meals these days as we did as kids. That’s when there would be great stories told. I always regret not writing down the stories that Granny O’Neill would tell about the Black and Tans and about having to put a black shawl across the window because you couldn’t have light in the house.

She’d keep an eye on them through a little hole. They’d be on the street with their guns. She had great stories about the “troubled times”, as she called them.

At Christmas we didn’t get a lot, but we didn’t feel left out. We used to go to the Tivoli picture house on Francis Street. It was four pence to get in. We would go around collecting glass bottles and jam jars to sell, to make up the four pence to get into the cinema. We used to call it the ‘four penny rush’.

Dublin 8

I love Dublin 8. I think there’s great community spirit here. I still meet friends every Tuesday that I was raised with and we love to talk about those stories from growing up. It was a happy place to live, and still is.

I have witnessed lots of change in The Liberties over the years, with different people moving here to live and work but I’m proud of the strong welcome those living here have given to those who are now making The Liberties their home. I think that the community spirit remains strong with residents of all ages and backgrounds.

It’s that community spirit that plays such an important part of The Liberties Festival. It has been part of my life for nearly 50 years. The involvement of local community groups and businesses in the festival programme every year makes it a very special celebration that we all look forward to.

There are opportunities to dress up, reminisce, laugh with friends and try new things. I am very proud to be from The Liberties, and to be involved in The Liberties Festival. It really showcases the uniqueness of Dublin 8.

Josie Sheehan was born in The Liberties and has spent her whole life in the area. She is passionate about the community and is an ambassador for this year’s Liberties Festival, which takes place in over 20 venues across the Dublin 8 area from Wednesday, 18th July to Sunday 22nd July. More than 25 events are planned for this year’s festival, including an Outdoor Cinema, Opera in the Open, Stories for Breakfast at Tasty8, Liberties Laughs at the Tivoli and a Free Family Fun Day. See libertiesfestival2018.com for the full programme of events.

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Josie Sheehan  / The Liberties

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