Cork man recreates photo half a century on from when female gardaí hit the streets

When the first female gardaí in Cork hit the streets in 1961, local kid Tony Daly was there to see history made — and he recreated the photo almost half a century later, reveals JO KERRIGAN
Cork man recreates photo half a century on from when female gardaí hit the streets

Tony Daly, who was living on the North Mall at the time, was driving his scooter through Cork when he met these female members of the gardaí as they started duties outside the Bridewell Garda Station in the city on May 19, 1961 — from left, Sgt Helen Hayden, Margaret Lohan and Mary Molloy.

EVERY picture tells a story — but what are the odds of getting exactly the same picture recreated 48 years on?

This is the story of how Tony Daly, born on the North Mall and a staunch Corkonian all his life, took centre stage in a photo as a boy, when the first female gardaí in Cork took to the streets in May, 1961 — and did so again to recreate that photo 48 years later.

Tony recalls that day in 1961 well. He had been sent down to Cornmarket Street on a message to a friend of his mother’s, utilising his preferred mode of transport, his trusty scooter.

“I must have been about seven or eight. I saw the crowds outside the Bridewell and of course, being me, I went straight over to see what was going on. 

"The photographers were there, and lots of people fascinated to see women in garda uniform.”

The arrival of Tony proved an ideal opportunity for the photographers. “I was photographed with the ladies and with my scooter, and well pleased I was. I’ll have you know I was well dressed. I had me lovely Aran sweater on me. I had an aunt used to do a bit of knitting. I was only handsome!”

Tony was pictured with ban gardaí Sgt Helen Hayden, Margaret Lohan and Mary Molloy.

Later, the picture was framed and hung upstairs in a committee room in the Bridewell station, and that proved useful to Tony many decades later.

“I needed to get a form signed and I brought it into the police station. The chap on duty demanded some form of identity. I told him he could see my identity upstairs over the fireplace anytime. ‘Oh, are you ‘Scooter?’ he asked. ‘Oh right, so.’ And he signed the form!”

In 2009, the gardaí decided to hold an anniversary party for the first ban gardaí and of course, with that framed picture to remind them, they thought of ‘Scooter’. Then started the big hunt. Questions were asked all along the North Mall, and eventually they found somebody who knew somebody who had known Tony...

“I was travelling all over Ireland at that time, working as a sales rep,” says Tony, “and I was up in Ennis trying to persuade this fella to buy something, and I was rung up by a friend in Cork who said the gardaí were looking for me, and could he give them my number?

“I didn’t know what it was about, but I had a fairly clear conscience so I said go ahead. Then I got a call from this chap and I was a bit impatient because I was working, but then I realised it was the sergeant from the Bridewell, so I had to tone it down a bit.

“He said they wanted me there for the new photograph to recreate the 1961 scene and I said alright, I’d do it, but they would have to find me a scooter since mine was long gone. 

"He said no problem, he’d get his own daughter’s one, so that was arranged.”

On the day, the original ban gardaí — now named Sgt Helen Sparrow, Margaret Power and Mary O’Mahony — assembled, a speech was made recalling their first appearance in Cork, and then the sergeant said: “Now, look who’s here,” and in whizzed Tony on the scooter.

The photo was recreated 48 years later, in 2009, with Tony still on his faithful scooter, as he was reunited with former ban gardaí Sgt Helen Sparrow, nee Hayden, Margaret Power, nee Lohan, and Mary O’Mahony, nee Molloy.
The photo was recreated 48 years later, in 2009, with Tony still on his faithful scooter, as he was reunited with former ban gardaí Sgt Helen Sparrow, nee Hayden, Margaret Power, nee Lohan, and Mary O’Mahony, nee Molloy.

“They all clapped and cheered. It was great only the scooter was pink and a bit modern, but at least it was a scooter!” recalls Tony with a smile.

He harks back to a different time in Cork city, when a small boy could run up and down laneways and call greetings to everyone, when the bread was delivered by horse and cart, and when innocent dancegoers eagerly looked forward to milk and cakes in a late opening shop before going home to bed at midnight.

Tony has a store of wonderful stories and recollections from childhood which, one day soon, he is going to put into a book. However, he agreed to share a few of them with Echo readers.

“Don’t be publishing everything now, or there’ll be nothing left for me to write,” he warns me with a grin. Keep these articles, we advise. Keep them safe, and then you’ll have the bones of the book there already when you do get started!

Tony was born off the North Mall. “Not exactly on it — our house was behind the Distillery, which is now taken over by UCC. It was owned by the company. Back then, the other local kids scornfully said I must be important because of where I lived. The Distillery used to have a guard on the gate, you see, and he would open it to let me in and out. ‘You’re like gentry, boy,’ the lads would laugh.”

That old house has long disappeared, but its image is still vivid in Tony’s mind. 

“Do you know, I couldn’t bear to go past there for ever so many years. It hurt too much. It was where I was born and where I was a child. I knew everybody in the Distillery from the lorry drivers to the bottlers.”

You could say he was born on the river really, he reflects. “At any rate, if you ran out the front door too fast, you could find yourself in the Lee pretty quick!”

He now lives in Grange, but remembers the long, sunlit hours of his childhood as if they were yesterday. “Every laneway, every paving stone, all the scents of the city on a fine morning. And all the tricks we used to get up to!”

Everyone knew everyone, back then, he says nostalgically. The shopkeepers, delivery men, even the gardaí at the local station knew him by name. He remembers Thompson’s delivering his mother’s bread order by horse and cart.

“There were so many bread companies, and most of them used those high-wheeled horse drawn vans.”

And he is absolutely certain that Nosey’s shop, at the bottom of Shandon Street, was one of the first in Cork to sell ice cream cones. Before that it was the good old wafer. Remember those?

Every Cork child knew which shops cut miserly thin wafers, and which were the most generous (Cold Storage on the South Mall wins that accolade by a mile).

“Then there was Mrs Hayden’s fish and chip shop on Blarney Street. Oh, she made beautiful potato pies. Her husband was a bus driver, I think, or maybe a bus conductor in the days when it was still known as CIE. She was a hard-working woman, so she was. I wonder did her nephew open a fish and chip shop out by the Fox & Hounds?”

Tony was only three when his father died, and his mother took in college students to support herself and her two young children. “It was a big, old three-storey house, and we’d have 16 or 20 students boarding there, from Cork, Kerry, all over. When I came home from school I’d be given a big sack of potatoes and I’d be peeling them and carrots and turnips and whatever. It was what you did.”

In between, Tony would earn money by selling conkers to school pals, collecting newspaper and cardboard to sell to the Cork Waste Paper Company, and any other schemes he could think up. “I used to roast the chestnuts up the chimney at night and they would be rock hard.”

Dermot O’Riordan had a tiny shop on Adelaide Street, he recalls. “And it was tiny, only two people could fit into it at a time, and they’d have to be small!”

While most shops did the majority of their business in the morning and afternoon, O’Riordan’s trade was in the evening and at night. “People going to the Arcadia or, later, the Stardust — there were no bars in these places of course — would be in afterwards. He would do a great trade in milk and cakes after the dances finished. There would be a tray of Thompson’s cakes on the counter and they would go pretty quickly.”

Tony recalls a dual pricing system too. “If you drank your milk and ate your cake outside the door, it was one price, but if you wanted to have it in the shop, it cost more, because Dermot would say you were taking up space!”

Tony’s older sister worked in the Munster Arcade and he remembers the fascination that the vacuum system of tubes for money and change held for a small boy.

“It would whiz up to the floor above, then come back with the change and the receipt. I loved watching it!”

On Patrick Street — or indeed any city street — you could walk down and meet a dozen people you knew back then,” he observes. “Lately I went in with a friend and stood outside what used to be the Munster Arcade (now Penney’s) for half an hour, just watching the crowds going past. Do you know, I didn’t recognise one person I knew. Bit sad, that.”

He remembers his mother would go into town with the family cocker spaniel to do the shopping.

“They would walk everywhere, and of course the dog would go off here and there, and he’d lose touch with my mother. But no bother to him, he would go into the butcher, Flynn’s in North Main Street, and they knew him of course, and they’d say she’s gone, and so he’d be off to Laurence McCarthy’s bread shop to check there. He knew her route, you see.

“If he didn’t find her, that dog used to get the bus home from outside Eason’s. He knew the right one, going to Sunday’s Well. And the bus conductor knew him too, and what’s more, he knew where to get off!”

The Echo published a special Year of the 1s supplement today, December 29.

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