The Way We Were – Spot the Difference

Seamus from Cork
I was born in 1936 in No 9, Gouldings Terrace off Barrack Street. I was number five in line and our house was very small and in bad shape.
cork slums
The terrace was actually one of a maze of lanes surrounding the Old Desmonds Square and in 1939 all the houses in the area were condemned and we were given a Corporation house in Gurranabraher, no. 15 Mount Nebo Avenue a three bedroom terrace house which was like a palace compared to what we had vacated.

nebo avenue cork

There was no electricity in the house but we had a gas supply for light and cooking, and when the gas was rationed we cooked our meals on a sawdust drum in the backyard. The globe for the gas mantle was usually a two-pound jam jar with the bottom removed and sometimes when the globe became overheated it would break and come crashing down on the table.
We lived mainly on potatoes, bread, tripe, jam, and rice, and on a Sunday, if we were lucky we would have a pigs head and a pigs tail
Jam jars were also our drinking utensils. The pot of boiled potatoes was usually emptied on to the centre of the table and everyone just picked from the pile. Sliced pans had not been invented at that time
and the bread was baked in all shapes and sizes.Our table cloth was
newspaper as tablecloth
pages from either the Examiner or the Echo and of course they were disposable, but in some ways we were better off than others, we were the proud owners of two spoons, one big and one small and the rest of us used our fingers for eating except for soup which we drank and slurped to our hearts content. Around the table at meal times we sat on one chair, a small stool
that seated one, a big stool that seated two and three tea chests.
Due to the rationing, tea was very scarce so our main drinks were cocoa and coffee, a thick liquid that came in a bottle
Sugar was also very scarce so we used saccarine tablets as a substitute and in order to spare the milk, it was put into the pot with the tea, coffee or cocoa, and if milk was unavailable we used a milk substitute
belfast and lagan

Jim from Belfast

excise street boy

I remember wearing this jumper to the 46th Life Boys. Mum couldn’t afford a proper one at the time. I was wearing it when I had to do a Bible reading one Sunday
drew memorial
at the Drew Memorial on the Grosvenor Road. Remember storing bonfire wood over the wall at Grosvenor and climbing over to get it before the 11th night.
11 th night
Of course I was tiny and the memory of doing this with the ‘Big Boys’ has stayed with me. Do you remember the store between the Killens and Skelly houses (8 & 10 Excise Street)? It was used and owned by Jebb who used to own several properties in the area and he also had a timber store in Distillery Street.
pigs in yard
He also kept pigs in his Selby Street yard (back of Excise Street).
excise street 1973
Excise St 1973
Brendan from Belfast
I was born in 1948 and brought up in Blackwater St,
blackwater street
a Protestant area- the only Catholic house in the street. We didn’t have much furniture, one soft chair for my father – the rest were bamboo or
wooden chair
wooden chairs, an outside toilet with a cistern. For us to get a bath we went to
falls baths
the Falls Public Baths, sometimes once a week, once a fortnight. We had two bedrooms. A sitting-room downstairs, what we called the parlour, the room where my mother died. I remember my father, every Friday night he would come in and put the wage packet on the mantelpiece
and my job every Friday night was to go round and get what we called “the rations” – 3/4 lb of tea,3lb butter, 1 and 1/2 lb
hp sauce
6 lb
and two shillings worth of broken biscuits. In the summer we had a bit of fruit or fish out of Fusco’s (a local fish and chip shop).I remember one midweek, we had no money whatsoever, not even a loaf of bread
dublin and liffey
dublin slum
Jellybaby from Dublin:
Myself, born in 1952, I was married from a tenement flat in Dublin city in 1976. I remember the lack of privacy with the shared toilet on the landing above our flat. I remember the ‘toilet paper’ made from newspapers and hanging on string, the shared Belfast sink which would be worth a fortune today also on the landing,
The iron fireplace surrounds would also be worth a lot today. My mother dragging the messages, or a bag of coal up two flights of stairs,
tenement stairs and kneeling to scrub those same wooden stairs. We thankfully were not in very cramped conditions as there were only four in our family in two rooms, no bathroom.Another strong memory is the smell in the house, smells of
sunlight soap
which my mother used to scrub us with until we were raw,
jeyes fluid
Jeyes Fluid which mother used every day when cleaning the toilet (she always said if she didn’t clean the toilet it would never be done as the other tenants rarely bothered), and the other smell which is wafting in my memory
lavender polish
is that of Lavender Furniture (or Floor?) Polish. She used this on the lino which although worn bare when polished it came up a treat.The main thing I will say is, as a child, I was extremely happy. I personally can’t remember being cold or hungry although I do remember my mother spreading margarine onto a crust and I sucked it sitting on the floor in front of the fire, and I also remember
horsehair mattress
our mattress, filled with horsehair, and my mother ironing the sheet with the old iron (made of iron and heated on the gas cooker) to make it warm for us on a winter’s night. But I also remember
chamber pot
the slops bucket which she carried up the stairs to the toilet to empty every day. I remember
plastic on window
with plastic paper cellotaped to the window frame to keep out the cold in winter, and the flies in summer, and I remember fly papers covered in bluebottles and flies.
fly paper
There is no doubt my mother had it hard. She lived in that tenement flat until she died in 1984.

Pound St Belfast 1968
pound st 1968,25900.120.html
Ed Moloney, Voices From The Grave, Faber and Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-25368-1,25900.75.html,42031.45.html

12 thoughts on “The Way We Were – Spot the Difference

  1. What a small world Ireland is!!! I am happy you are so pleased about the story. The sources of the pictures are all in the links below. The pictures are used as illustrations and to reinforce the message. In this post it is that similar living conditions were found all over Ireland in the not too distant past. Hope that comes across!
    All the best


    • So the picture for Gouldings Terrace is not actually Gouldings Terrace? I stumbled across this page as I was doing research on my grandfather and his parents, who lied for a time at 5 Gouldings Terrace around 1911 (according to the census). Appreciate any clarification you could provide.
      Dan Twohig

      Liked by 1 person

      • hello Dan – welcome to the site. Hope you enjoy other posts.
        as far as regards the pictures in this post – they are what I was able to find ransacking various archives to illustrate the stories from people living in the individual cities.
        The pictures are genuine as you can check in the reference list
        Gouldings Terrace as pictured may or may not correspond timewise to your grandparents’ home as the stories refer to a later date (most are imediate pre , during and post-WWII).
        You can rest assured that Gouldings Terrace was a place like that. As shown in the picture.That is a genuine picture
        Just to clarify the differences in the images I used
        The picture of the Falls Baths, Belfast that i used to illustrate Brendan’s story is a real pic of what is (was?) a well-known Falls Road landmark in Belfast.
        On the other hand the staircase I used to illustrate the tenement in Dublin is a generic picture of a tenement staircase as obviously I did not know Jellybaby’s real address and wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to find it out, unless it was in the public domain ( as was Seamas’s story was on facebook). I hope the pic illustrates what she was describing but her reality may have been even worse than shown .
        if you want to know more about Gouldings Terrace Cork perhaps you should contact Seamas Linehan on facebook. I am sure he would be more than willing to help you with whatever information he has.He’s a native Corkman and has lived there all his life. His memoirs reveal a really lovely person, as is his son Pat


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