15 Aug 2022

You know you grew up in Co Leitrim in the 80s if...

Oh the happy, happy memories

You know you grew up in Co Leitrim in the 80s if...

Bowls weren't just for jelly and ice cream in the 1980s.

Growing up in Co Leitrim in the 1980s was simple enough. You got up, ate the breakfast, walked/cycled to school, came home and ran riot around the countryside for every available hour of sunlight. Ah happy days.

So how do you know you grew up in Leitrim in the 80s? well.....

The mart was a magical place

You actually wanted to go to the mart for a bit of excitement - and the meal in the mart canteen. In reality you just got to play in cow dung and pretend that you had a clue what the auctioneer was saying, but you loved it. God the innocence of it.

The annual trip to 'The Bog' was marketed to you as a 'fabulous day out for the whole family'

Forget your family trips to villas in Portugal. In Co Leitrim the annual jaunt to the bog was talked up by parents to the point where you started to believe that you were actually enjoying yourself while being subjected to enforced child labour and eaten alive by insects. The truly brainwashed will still tell you today that a day on the bog is the 'best day out ever'. Avoid these people at all costs.

You cycled/walked everywhere and your legs didn't fall off

Anyone who grew up in rural Ireland, never mind Leitrim in the 80s really feels a tremendous sense of pity for the next generation who never knew the joys of cycling or walking off into the countryside with not a care in the world. General expectations were that you would be home in time for the next meal and that you wouldn't get yourself killed or, far worse, shame the family before the entire parish, during one of your rambles. Despite the lack of mobile phones our parents didn't worry obsessively as there was an early form of Irish social media  already in existence in rural Leitrim - the neighbours. They knew where you were, who you were with and what you were planning to do and they weren't afraid to kick you up the backside or tell your parents, as needed. Kind of like the Mafia, but not as formally dressed.

There was no such think as junk food...for kids

Blame it on the scarcity of money, or blame it on the fact that our mothers didn't believe children should be eating the 'good stuff' saved for the special guests, but we never had access to junk food as a result. Chocolate biscuits? We were lucky if we got to sniff the packet after the guests had gone home.

We were all dressed alike

Today there's Baby Gap and other specialist kids brands. In the 80s  there was Dunnes Stores and... that was pretty much it. So we all looked exactly the same, just in different colour variations. Jeans were just jeans, t-shirts were plain and they were available only the primary colours, no sparkly rubbish. Most Irish mothers, not just the ones in Leitrim, also worked on the principle that most jeans, jumpers, t-shirts were unisex, so they could be passed through an entire family of unfortunate children with ease. This may explain why the youngest children in any household always looked like they were dragged backwards through a hedge.

No child ever went to the hairdresser

Shocking as it may be to anyone under the age of 25, but in the 80s mammies cut hair - in most cases pretty badly. No self respecting Irish mammy brought their child to the hairdressers for a cut. That was only for people with notions of themselves. A bowl or saucepan on the head a pair of scissors were all that was needed. Look at the school class photos from national schools across Leitrim during the 80s if you don't believe us.

We were the remote control

Ignore the fact that most of us only had two channels, if you were lucky, there was also no such thing as a remote control. People had children just so they could sit there and bark 'change the channel' at their offspring instead of walking to the TV themselves. In another cruel twist of fate for the youngest, you inevitably became the channel changer for not just your parents, but every one of your older siblings - who would inflict terrible forms of torture on you if you dared to rebel.

Every night had a planned meal

Forget your a la carte dining, there was a strange sort of system in place in most Irish households in the 80s where each night was defined by the meal you were eating. For example Monday could be pork chops, Tuesday could be savoury mince (that would be mince and onion smothered in red sauce), etc etc. Friday was invariably fish day and Sunday was always the roast dinner. This menu did not change at any point in your childhood for fear that you would forget what day of the week it actually was.

Everyone learned to swim in a lake

Ok, this doesn't apply to every Leitrim child, but it does seem that an unnatural amount of us were thrown into freezing cold waters of the local lough, during what passed for Summer each year, all to learn the mystical art of swimming. This was largely an under-utilised talent because, for most of us, the only contact we had with any water deeper than a bathtub each year was during those few weeks of swimming lessons. 

There was no such thing as 7 seater cars

Every car in Ireland in the 80s had the potential to carry the equivalent of a small bus load of children depending on how you creatively stacked them. They may be known as a 5 seater station wagon or 2 seater van or whatever by the actual car salesperson, but these suggestions were duly ignored once the vehicle left the car sales yard. We are not going to admit it publicly, but there were quite a few of us consigned to the 'boot' area of a station wagon during family trips - where you were left to face the challenge of  stopping the suitcases from sliding around and squashing you on the bad turns. Even if you got the back seat you weren't safe and the torture of having to nurse your younger sister's boney backside on your knees to Athlone to visit the relations has probably left permanent divots in your thigh bones. Adding to the joy was the fact that seatbelts, if used at all, were regularly employed to fit two or even three - for the truly creative parents - children. In effect they were not really a safety aid but rather a method of pinning you and siblings in one area of the back seat so the rest of the family of 8 could squeeze into a space the size a wheelbarrow.

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