I was in The Pav watching a movie the day it flooded!

Imagine watching a movie when water starts lapping round your feet! A Corkman shares that memory with JO KERRIGAN, who also recalls the old telephone system
I was in The Pav watching a movie the day it flooded!

Flooding in Patrick Street in October, 1961.

REMEMBER those features back a bit, when you all contributed your great memories of the Pavilion and long-ago days of cinema-going?

Well, Tom Harding discovered those for the first time online just a few days ago and is now a committed fan of Throwback Thursday.

“Pure coincidence. I just came across this site, and what do you know, the very first article I attempt to read (about The Pav) has references to both my dad and my younger brother in it!” says Tom.

Flooding in Patrick Street in October, 1961.
Flooding in Patrick Street in October, 1961.

Taken aback, he went on reading avidly, and as he did, his own memories began to surface.

“Apropos my own Pav story: I was there one afternoon in the early 1960s with two friends, watching a film, when we noticed the people in the front rows were vacating their seats and moving back to us. Soon we had water lapping around our feet.

“At the end of the performance, we encountered a tide so high that it came right up to the top step of the cinema in Patrick Street.

“The shop window across the street caved in just then from the weight of water. Joey Kerrigan was paddling up and down the street rescuing people.”

Tom adds: “We divested ourselves of shoes and socks, rolled up our trouser legs, and waded off to get home.

“The floodwaters did not abate until we reached Barrack Street. 

"An old lady standing in the doorway of a pub (later The Flying Enterprise), seeing our bedraggled state, invited us in to dry off by the fire. We explained that we had no money left. She pooh-poohed the very concept, and insisted, so in we went, and gratefully too.

“We sat in front of a roaring fire, drank creamy pints washed down with hot whisky, had beef n’onion delicious door-stopper sandwiches, and didn’t pay a penny.

“After we had dried off, we went on our very merry way, with only gratitude to pay for our good fortune.

“I went to live in London shortly after and never got to go back to that pub to thank that lovely old lady adequately.”

POPULAR SPOT: The Pavilion Cinema in Patrick Street, Cork city, which opened 100 years ago this year and closed in 1989
POPULAR SPOT: The Pavilion Cinema in Patrick Street, Cork city, which opened 100 years ago this year and closed in 1989

Well, Tom, that particular pub has always had a great reputation for hospitality and friendliness. We don’t know if that old lady was related to the present owner, Finbarr O’Shea, but he certainly continues the tradition. He even gets a mention on Trip Advisor from a grateful group of Florida visitors who came by in 2017: “Our group of nine ducked in to the Flying Enterprise Pub to escape a brief rain shower and were greeted by proprietor Finbarr O’Shea. His hospitality made us feel at home, and the service and food were outstanding.

“He gave us advice about what to see in the city, and helped a member of our party search for information about his great grandparents who left Ireland from ‘Heartbreak Pier’ in Cove and immigrated to the U.S in the early 1900’s. Thanks, Finbarr, for a great day!”

And if it was your mother who looked after Tom Harding and his friends, Finbarr, will you pass on his sincere if belated thanks to her in your prayers tonight?

Frank Desmond contacted us about the old telephone system in Cork back in the day, which we discussed in last week’s Throwback Thursday, to point out an important aspect: “You omit something that, in retrospect, is now even more amazing than the lack of technology, and that is the ‘system’ for getting a phone at ALL.

“To put it at its simplest, you could not just walk into a shop and buy a telephone. In fact, it was a nightmare of government bureaucracy since, first, the phone system was under the control of a government department (Posts & Telegraphs ). 

"You had to apply formally to that department to get one, and it could literally take years. People used to contact TDs to help them. (In practice, TDs could not help at all.)”

Frank adds: “My mother applied for a phone in 1977 and finally got it in 1981. At least once it was finally plugged in, we never had any trouble with it, and it was working till a few years ago with its rotary dial. It was made in Ireland by Northern Telecom, a Canadian company. The number originally had six digits until Telecom Eireann added a seventh ( ‘4’ ).”

We can add to that, Frank: back a decade earlier, they had five digits, with a sixth, ‘O’ inserted at some point when the number of landlines proliferated, and if we really delve into the past, you could have double-figure numbers in outlying regions (‘Goleen 34, who’s that ringing at this time of night?’)

The funny thing, comments Frank, is that the person who ended up rescuing us from all that complexity was Margaret Thatcher.

“After she privatised British Telecom in 1984, lawyers and legislators from the Irish government got a copy of the Bill she used. Since the legal basis of the Irish telephone system was directly modelled on the British version, it was a simple case of replacing every occurrence of a British term with the corresponding Irish term. So where her bill said ‘General Post Office’ the Irish bill said ‘Dept. of Posts & Telegraphs’ and so on.”

You know, Frank muses, when his mother finally got that phone in 1981, up in Hollyhill Apple were busy making Apple IIs.

“But it was a quarter of a century before Steve Jobs reinvented the phone!”

Alice Taylor, in The Village, (O’Brien Press), her wonderfully bitter-sweet memories of younger days, recreates vividly the world of local telephone exchanges and the town of Bandon in the late 1950s.

“There were not enough trunk lines to give instant service to the telephone subscribers at peak times, so we had to rotate calls. Sometimes a high-handed individual would demand to speak to the supervisor and insist on being put through immediately, irrespective of the fact that other people had been waiting longer…

“We also dealt with calls from smaller post offices: they passed their telephone calls on to us and we then connected them up.

“It all worked by numbers and nobody mentioned names, but a little old lady in one of the offices had the delightful habit of coming on when her parish priest wanted to make a call and announcing in a voice loaded with reverence: ‘Hold on for Fr O’Hara!’ The tone of her voice suggested that we ought to genuflect in homage, and I always felt that her announcement should have been accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets.”

Annie Hourigan remembers moving to Dublin in pursuit of her banking career back in 1971. 

“We were preparing for computerisation in banking, which was a pretty big thing. Great teams, great times, travelling branch to branch.

“I had a colleague called Johnny and in one branch was this phone system that looked like a load of laces on a board to me at the time. 

"Sometimes, when there were too many calls coming in together, he used to say ‘city morgue here’, and you would hear the phone banging down! Ah we were young and carefree back then.” 

Now and then, recalls Annie, when they were up to date on the computerisation and waiting for the next phase, she would be put on customer service.

“I met some very interesting people that way. Once Benjy of The Riordans came in and wanted his statement, and I couldn’t remember his real name! I opened the door to a glass surround room and asked for ‘Benjy’s statement please.’ There was a roar of laughter, and I knew from his reaction that he enjoyed it too. I took a quick look at the envelope when I got it, and was able to say politely ‘Thank-you, Mr. Hickey’ when I handed it to him, trying to keep as serious a face as I could.

“I met many of The Dubliners as well when they were the top singing group in the city.”

Annie has a priceless memory of less famous but significant others who used the bank where she was working. 

“I remember the ladies of the night in Dublin 4 coming in to deposit their earnings, mostly with foreign money, asking us how much it was worth. They might have huge bundles of Italian lira worth very little!”

Streetwalkers were a fact of life in the city, and taken for granted by the girls who worked in the bank.

“We walked home from work, Baggot Street and Burlington Road, free as a bird, and often spoke about the poor souls down there after dark! A digs mate of mine, Mary from Kilkenny, was standing at a bus stop near Leeson Street one night, and being pushed right and left until, in the end, she copped that she was among the ladies of the night because one of them who kept pushing her said ‘You are on my patch!’ I presume each one had her own exact spot. Needless to say, Mary went on standing right at the bus stop, as she was the only one really waiting for a bus!”

Working in Dublin was great fun in the early 1970s, says Annie. 

“Being an all-rounder might have meant stamping envelopes for the post, and writing names and addresses in a ledger, but the craic was mighty. 

Any girl who was asked out on a Monday or Thursday night only was definitely playing second fiddle. We had a friend, Eileen, and those were the only dates she got until we told her to cop on, the fella had someone else.

“Many’s the romance died back then too as a phone number might get lost, or a call missed. Fast forward to today’s mobile world, I have seen a colleague dumped by text!”

By 2015, Annie says, work was progressing inexorably towards Cloud, with thousands of items processed by her daily. “It was like playing the piano to me. Two monitors on the desk, and not a pen or piece of paper or notebook to be seen! But I am glad to have been part of that great experience. Now, during Covid, it has been a UCC short course by Zoom from my sitting room at home on the banks of the Lee. Doesn’t life change?”

Email your memories to jokerrigan1@gmail.com

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