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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 22 November, 2019
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WATCH: Relive a 1940s Irish Christmas with these magical archive videos

Snowball fights, the Christmas Day swim, and grown men acting like little children – more than 70 years ago.

Some of these clips are silent and without captions, and are lacking some information. If you recognise anyone, please email dan@thejournal.ie.

‘White Christmas – Maybe’ – 15 December 1949

Getting our hopes up for snow on 25 December is just one of those things we’ve always done, as this clip shows.

In 1949, they had an early fall in the season – enough to give us these nice shots of St Stephen’s Green blanketed in snow.

There are some beautiful images of a herd of deer in an all-white Phoenix Park:

deerphoenix Source: British Movietone via YouTube

But look out for two women in head scarves and coats avoiding the hi-jinx of some “medical students” having a snowball fight on the streets of Dublin.

output_VRfWcy Source: British Movietone via YouTube

In the end, 1949 was destined not to be a White Christmas, at least in Dublin, but the denizens of the capital only had to wait another 12 months for a snowy Christmas Day, in 1950.

Source: British Movietone/YouTube

Taking the plunge – 1941/42

These are two fantastic videos of the venerable Irish tradition of the Christmas Day swim, dating back more than 70 years.

The first, from 1941, shows us a couple of shots of Christmas Eve shoppers milling around on Henry Street and O’Connell Street, and outside the Central Meat Company, where women inspect the produce, while one girl has her head turned by what looks like toys.

centralmeat Source: British Movietone via YouTube

Then, we move to what appears to be the Clontarf Baths, on Christmas morning. The temperature is taken, and the races begin. First the men, and then the women.

There are trophies awarded, handshakes exchanged, and everyone looks suitably frozen, but completely full of joy.

baths Source: British Movietone via YouTube

Look out for: The stragglers, hit by the shock of the cold water, heading off in the wrong direction, but racing to the finish line anyway.

Source: British Movietone/YouTube

The second clip is from Christmas Day 1942, and is set exclusively at the Clontarf Baths. Although the footage is slightly blurrier, it gives a good sense of just how cold it must have been that year.

Even the dozens of spectators wearing coats and hats and scarves can be seen shivering.

Look out for: This timeless, classic, collective cheer at the end. Brilliant.

baths2 Source: British Movietone via YouTube

Here it is, in full:

Source: undefined via undefined

Slipping and sliding on the ice – 29 December 1938

This one is packed with magical moments.

First, there’s a wonderful, crystal-clear shot of the fields and hills surrounding Dublin, and blanketed in white.

Then, we see pedestrians avoiding cars and buses on a snowy O’Connell Street, while a guard directs traffic and groups of men shovel away the ice on O’Connell Bridge.

For a moment, a man riding a bicycle slips, almost into the path of a passing car, but manages to regain control.

output_Gky7AB Source: British Movietone via YouTube

And finally, we’re brought to St Stephen’s Green, where birds can be seen resting on top of the pond, which is frozen completely solid.

Near the bandstand, a crowd of delighted children slide across the ice, with varying degrees of success, while the adults look on.

Except one tall man, in a coat and hat, who can’t help himself, and joins in the fun.

output_wcdXMC Source: British Movietone via YouTube

Here’s the video, in full:

Source: British Movietone/YouTube

WATCH: A treasure trove of old Irish newsreels has gone online for the first time>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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