Bobby Moran: Growing Up in the Barracks.

Bobby Moran : Growing up in the Barracks





My earliest memory of the Barracks is living up on the back block of verandas playing on a three wheel bike.

What unlocked that memory was looking at an old photo of our front room and a pair of delph/clay dogs on the mantelpiece. I think most people had them. Da had won them at a carnival; now they could have been a “peace token” seeing as it was a Sunday afternoon.

Sometime later we moved to the front block, this time down stairs, I imagine for the safety of us as there would have been four of us then. Ma & Da remained in the Barracks until their death in 2005/2006.

The Barracks was what the young people called a “cool” place to live.


Obviously, there were no computer games, Nintendo or Play stations then, or telly in many cases.  The nearest we got to see futuristic games was reading “Dan Dare”.  Our fun was in where you could play. Places like the green, an area between Liffey View and the verandas, the football pitch and Buckley’s garden.

If you were lucky you could get a chase from Tich Maher. The Stables (the piece of ground facing the watering gates) was where many a great games of rounder’s was played. The park and watering gates area was another place we would play.

Then we would put up jumps or play ball, set up tents (if you had a tent!). Charlie Maguire, our local vegetable man, washed the carrots at the watering gate and we would watch for the small ones that escaped between the large stones. 

Across from the park was, and still is, a place called “The Island”; this was a great place to play, and crossing on to the island was a thrill in itself. I can still recall the lovely fresh smell when you first stepped on to the island. The damp but soft lush feeling on the soles of your feet. Pulling the smaller trees together to make a makeshift camp.  You would never wear shoes on the island, a very unmanly thing to do!


When I think about those times and the lads who played there: Reggie, Aidan and James Doody, Brian Tinsley, Gerry Moran, Andy Roach, Hicky Dunne, Sam Brown, Joe Coogan, Joe Harrigan, Brian Boland, John Dempsey, Peadar and Keggy Brennan.  The older lads were referred to as the “Big Lads” - Frank Fagan, Bill Gamble, Sonny and Jack Dunne, Scrum Hall, Black King. God I’m getting older by the minute!

Also on the island were a great crop of reeds, and each reed had a black head of seed. You could soak it in paraffin and it made a great torch which added to the fun on the island.  Sometimes we would bring apples “acquired” in Partridge’s Orchard, light a fire and stew them. How we did not “run” home after eating them I don’t know.

You always had to watch out for the “Monnies” - a savage tribe who lived nearby. We were let to believe they would torture you if they caught you. They were better known as Jackie, Frank and Kevin Monahan, whom I never saw there. I am sure our Mothers put out that rumour to stop us crossing the river.


In summer, the Strand was the place to be, particularly during the school holidays. It would be thronged with people and divided into two areas, the womens’ area and the mens’ area, and never the twain should meet, it was amazing really. All the mothers, daughters and small babies would all gather on the left hand side of the Strand and all the lads on the right. Leading down to the Strand was a particular big tree which had a rope dangling from a long thick branch and you could swing out over the river.  I recall an incident when Marie Harrigan fell in and one the big lads saved her. That, of course, was the highlight of the gossip for that week. 

Apples were an important part of your diet growing up in the Barracks, and working out how to get them was more important.  We were spoilt for choice really. Partridge’s had a lovely orchard,  plus the added bonus of red and black currants in Flynn’s garden on your way in! Conservation was very important in the late 50’s - you only took what you could carry!!

Then there was Cox’s, where you had to make your own way along the river bank which all adding to the excitement. McAlmont’s was a different story.  This had to be planned; the best route was out to Kilbelin and across the fields at the pinking bridge towards a place called “The Jungle! This is now an area of Beechmount Estate. There you beat your way through thick undergrowth, wild beasts (wasps) until you came to this massive high wall (grossly exaggerated!) Now this was the Crème de la Mont of orchards as Del Boy would say, it also had pears in it. Somewhere we had heard that there were traps set near the wall. So one of us would get a stick to prod around before we advanced on our rich pickings (very military).


Another place was “Coffey’s the half”, I have no idea how the name came about. It was a long line of crab apple trees on the right of Pfizer at Old Connell. But somewhere along the way nature produced one tree with sweet apples. This was a great secret place to us, (half of Newbridge knew of it) it was a great day’s outing.


Another thing we had in the Barracks was gangs.  The “Black Arrow” and the “Super Six” , and where the latter gets its name I don’t know, but there was surely ten or twelve in it!! Great battles were fought on the green, at least up until six o’clock because that’s tea time. Everything stopped at six, if you were down swimming, playing in the park or looking for apples, once you heard the Angelus, home you went.

Marbles were very popular, also making a bow and arrow,  and concerts in Brennan’s shed - run by Mary Gamble, Ann Dempsey, Eileen Dempsey and Bernie Harrigan. It might cost you a penny if you had it, or by selling empty bottles to O’Connor’s (that you got in Kearns!) to raise your penny.

Some really lovely people lived in the Barracks such as Maura Hall where I often had my tea! Mrs Dillon, Mrs Rooney, Mrs Cox who always gave you sixpence for bringing home her groceries,  Mr & Mrs White,  and Jim Glasgow, every Friday. If Jim saw you playing on the green he would throw a hand full of pennies on to the grass. We never saw him do this, but eventually we would come across them and thought we found a fortune.  I should have mentioned earlier about the “suit case”. I think it was Willie Moran that brought it down to the strand. It was a great lump of a thing with timber lats around the side. Anyway, we decided that it would float. Everyone had a go - John Dempsey, Willie, myself and the Doody’s. It was brilliant. We got as far as the watering gates, some lads got to the Bridge. I wouldn’t mind but I couldn’t swim!


Another game, very popular on Sunday mornings for grown up’s only, was the Toss School.

For those that don’t know what a Toss School is, you required only four things. Two Half Pennies, “a feck” (a piece of stick required to toss the coins) and of course money.  Bets were placed on the fall of the coins, plenty of tips could be made picking up the coins for the pitcher and for some strange reason he was called a “boxer”.


The Toss School in the Barracks was beside Charlie Maguire’s house, just behind the Guards Barracks. Making go-carts was another great bit of fun. I think we called them box-carts, I am not sure. All you needed was two casters for the front and two pram wheels for the back, a long bolt and a broad board that you got from the Breadman (When he wasn’t looking). Put together and you were ready for Monte Carlo - well Harrigans Hill anyway!   Then there was the Hoop. Now there was a weight reducing machine, providing you have your stick. If you were well off you might have a tyre on it.

I don’t think there were winters when we were that young.  One thing I did do in the winter was to swap comics.  There were a certain number of fella's who were big into swapping comics and they were spread out from Pairc Mhuire, Piercetown, Roseberry, Old Connell, Athgarvan and of course the Barracks.  My god, we would walk miles and not come home until you had swapped them all.

I always remember Frank Fagan sitting out on the veranda playing the guitar and singing, he was a fine Country and Western singer. Another lovely old man was Pat Roache. He would tell us ghost stories. They lived upstairs and we would sit around and listen to him.  As I lived in the downstairs flats, it would mean going down the stairs and three doors down to our house, but having listened to Mr. Roache, I took the quickest way over the veranda at Wickham’s and down the pole and into the house like shot!


While I was writing, another thought came to mind. Can you remember how family pets got their full family title?  You had Patsi Murphy, Cap Hall, Bruno Hall and Dolly Brennan the horse.

Another past-time was making Jerry Bombs. You would push paper up the storm pipe, which did not go into the ground like todays, and you set fire to them which caused a great whistle. The neighbours went mental; I don’t blame them when I think of it!

The funny thing is, I can remember when all that came to an end. I met Bernie Harrigan one day, and she asked me if I was going down to the strand. All the gang played at the strand in summer, I said yes but I went over to Mex Murphy’s Laundry instead and got a job, and that was that.

Even today, when I pass by the “stables” I would say to my grandchildren “did I ever tell you about playing rounder’s there” and in unison from the back seat of the car came the reply “Yes Granddad, a hundred times”! Ah it was a lovely time, and in the words of my da....


“So when the Lord decides to call me,

I suppose I shall go with a frown,

but Ill thank him for his great blessings,

and for having made Newbridge my town”

Bobby Moran, September 2012