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Read: Kidnappings and lost cousins - amazing real-life transport stories

From mistaken identities to mysterious mittens – artist Theresa Nanigian collected these incredible, touching tales from drivers and passengers.

Image: Photocall Ireland

TRAINS, TRAMS, BUSES and taxis form their own little world. And we all find ourselves in it, whether we’re rich or poor, young or old, here to stay or just passing through.

Artist Theresa Nanigian set out to capture the untold stories from the world of public transport. She spent nine months speaking to drivers, conductors, ticket sellers and passengers and unearthed some incredible tales.

Stories from her project, called Travelogue, are currently on display on trains, trams and buses. Some are funny, some sad, some touching. You can read the full set at travelogue.ie – but here’s a taster:

Michael, taxi driver

Back when I was a hackney driver, I got this call to pick up a lady at St. Vincent’s Hospital. She came out wearing these slippers and seemed a bit upset. I brought her home to Bray. Coincidentally, about a week later I was in the same area and got a call to take her home again. Like before, she was wearing those slippers but dressed normally besides. I had to ask why she was wearing them.

She told me she wore the slippers for comfort because she was in the hospital the entire day, every day visiting her sick husband. This broke the ice and she then proceeded to tell me their story. She was British, her husband was of Irish descent, and they used to live in the UK. A while back, he had wanted to discover his roots and made some progress – a minister helped him research his baptism and he made a trip over here to gather more information. He had what he called his “Irish box” with a few precious keepsakes. One item was a photograph of him on the shoulders of his grandfather walking outside the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street.

The grandad had worked for Guinness as a cooper making those wooden barrels. His father had died very young in London. Anyway, they came to the end of the line and couldn’t get any more information. However, they bought a place in Ireland and eventually settled here. When I heard about how the grandad was a cooper, it struck me because I know there weren’t too many with that skill. So I told her, “Bear with me now. Don’t say a thing ‘til I ask you a few questions.”

First I asked her, “Is it possible your husband’s father was killed while fighting a fire during the blitz in London?” Then I asked, “Is it possible your husband’s name is Campbell?” Well, that stunned her. It turns out, her husband was my first cousin – the son of my mother’s only brother.

The very next day, I contacted all my brothers and sisters. Every single one of them, all four brothers and three sisters, and their children went up to St. Vincent’s Hospital – it was like rent-a-crowd. We had a big visit with him, we told her husband all kinds of stories and he showed us everything in his “Irish box”. He died three days later and was buried surrounded by family.

A Travelogue poster on display at a Luas stop (Photo: Theresa Nanigian)

Seán, customer service, Iarnród Éireann

This was many years ago. I was a ticket checker at the time, and working on the 2:30 to Galway. We arrived into Portarlington station, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s seeing a woman struggling with children and luggage, and no one offering to help her. I hated it then, and I hate it now. Maybe it’s because of my upbringing – if my mother saw me just standing around watching that, I’d have gotten a clip on the ear. This woman had two little children, a girl and a boy, maybe three and four years of age. I told her to hold on a minute, and I lifted the boy onto the train, then the girl and finally her bags. She thanked me, and the two were running around having a great time on the train all the way to Galway.

Next thing, we got the guards on the platform in Portarlington on the return journey. They asked us if we’d seen sign of a child on his own. We got into Kildare, and more guards. They asked the same question. The little fella was supposed to be on a tricycle. The next morning I was at home in the kitchen with my mother who was ironing my uniform for work. They announced on the radio that a little boy who’d gone missing the day before was found safe and sound – he’d been sitting on a very high wall with a huge drop on the other side in Galway station.

They gave a more detailed description of the boy, and then it clicked. I started panicking, almost crying My mother says “What’s wrong with ya?” I says, “I think I’m going to be arrested for kidnapping.” I was only 20 or 21 at the time. As it turns out, the little boy wasn’t with that woman at all, he was just playing with her daughter. But, the lady never said anything so I just assumed he was with her.

When I got into work, they were all taking the mickey out of me. The next day, there was a cartoon from the Daily Star taped on my locker. Every time I tore the cartoon off my locker, it was replaced with a fresh copy the following day. This went on for weeks!

Paddy, customer care, Luas

A woman rang the call centre one day. She was asking about a pair of lost white woolly mittens. I thought it was odd that she’d be calling about something like that. I said I’d keep an eye out and would give her a ring if anything turned up. The next day, I was checking out one of the trams and what did I find tucked behind one of the seats but a pair of small, white, Ralph Lauren mittens.

I phoned the lady and she rushed straight down to collect them. She was just a young girl about 30. She was so thankful. She tried to give me money, but I wouldn’t take it. She really wanted to give me a reward. She told me, “I’d be absolutely lost without them. These mittens are the last thing my daughter’s Da gave her before he died.”

Travelogue was created by Theresa Nanigian, an an American artist who has lived in Ireland for the last 13 years. Travelogue is a public art commission under the Per Cent for Art Scheme funded by the National Transport Authority in conjunction with Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin County Councils.

Poster design by Propeller, Galway. Website design by Claire Nidecker. To view the complete set of Travelogue entries, refer to www.travelogue.ie. For more information on the artist, refer to www.theresananigian.com.

About the author:

Michael Freeman

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