I met the father-and-son Paddy and Paddy in St. Finbar's GAA Club in Cabra so they could tell me a few stories about Dublin in the rare auld times. They were full of great stories that I was unfortunately forced to edit down to 25 minutes.
Both gentlemen grew up in Dublin's inner city, and Paddy Sr. talks about the lives of his mother, father and grandparents, such that the stories give a unique perspective on Dublin that goes back well over 100 years.
Amongst the humorous stories, which feature some grave drinkers, one-legged bodies and army overcoat sleeping bags, there are also some sobering insights into life in Dublin in those times.
As an addition to these blogs, I will being adding a glossary of information supporting some of the topics in the stories, where I think it may help.
The Glen of Imaal Disaster
The Glen of Imaal is a remote glen in the western Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. Much of the glen is used by the Irish army as an artillery firing range, and hill walkers who use the glen are advised to observe the times of firing practice and to refrain from picking up strange objects.
On 16 September 1941, the Glen of Imaal was the site of the worst single incident involving loss of life in the history of the Irish Defence Forces. This incident, known as the Glen of Imaal Disaster, occurred during a training exercise involving 27 officers and men from the army's anti-aircraft battalion, artillery school, and corps of engineers. Sixteen soldiers were killed when an antitank mine unexpectedly exploded (15 dying immediately and 1 later succumbing to his wounds). Other injured soldiers were rushed to the Curragh military hospital where several received surgery. Three men were fully blinded in the accident, two more partially. One survivor later murdered two men in Dublin in 1947 but was found "guilty but insane."
"Strumpet City" is a 1969 historical novel by James Plunkett set in Dublin, around the time of the 1913 Dublin Lock-out. The novel is an epic, tracing the lives of a dozen characters as they are swept up in the tumultuous events that affected Dublin between 1907 and 1914.
In 1980, it was adapted into a successful TV drama by Hugh Leonard for RTÉ, Ireland's national broadcaster.
As a production it has stood the test of time, and I recommend you give it a look if you can find it!
Pitch and Toss / Throwing the Coins (as the Paddys refer to it)
Pitch-and-toss is a game that goes by many names depending on where you come from! You may know it as Pitching Pennies, Pigeon Toss, Quarters.
It is a simple game where players take turns to throw a coin at a wall, from some distance away, and the coin that lands closest to the wall is the winner.
Gambling Schools / (Pitch and) Toss Schools
Unlike what the scholarly name suggests, nobody went to the toss schools to learn anything. The gambling schools were a place for men to gather and bet on 'pitch and toss.' Players could bet on their own tossing, or that of another player, and the 'house' (although the schools were always outdoors) would take a cut of winnings.
Much like Paddy explains in the podcast, the schools were organized and controlled territorially by the families who ran them. Although Paddy mentions in the podcast that the churches wouldn't let them gamble while Mass was in session, he omits that many of the toss schools were operated conspicuously close to churches!
If you have any questions, or you would like me to add anything to the glossary, please let me know