1. Mass was a place to be seen.
Going to mass was just another social outing for those of us from the countryside. Missing the weekly pilgrimage to Sunday mass was not to be heard in your household, because then it would have the other families gossiping. You and your siblings would have a great time messing, while your parents prayed as hard as they could for the Lord to grant them at least one lotto win, even the local parish one!
As the years progressed, you’d hope to make eye contact with the girl you fancied. Every last minute of your attendance would have to be perfect, from your genuflection to your walk up to the altar for communion. You’d leave mass hoping she noticed, and maybe she’d be stopping at the filling station for sweets too!
2. You shared teachers with other classes.
Depending on how country your hometown was, chances are your primary school was the size of a chicken coop filled with demonic children. Consequently the teacher-per-child ratio was abysmal, which led Miss O’Hagan to jump from 4th classes’ lesson on Ancient Egypt to singing “Let’s Pull Together” with the puberty-bound 6th-class students, guaranteeing you the sort of well-rounded education only denominational schools can!
3. You were involved in many Townies vs. Culchies debates.
Dubliners would class any person abiding in a county other than their own as “culchies.” Rural Ireland then subdivided that into those who live “where mammy does the shopping” as “townies” and those who have an acre of empty field within walking distance of their home as “culchies.” The two groups made fitting rivals in all kinds of sporting contests, with tempers flaring over who was the undoubted ruler of The Pale!
4. You learnt how to drive on the worst possible roads.
Unimaginable bends, narrow spacing, potholes, and wandering elderly pedestrians were just a few of the hazards you had to cope with while taking your licence. While you’re stuck in traffic on the way to the office this morning, think back nostalgically of being stuck behind two types of tractor drivers: those that would move Heaven and Earth to allow you to pass, or the Gandalfs of the road who would take unashamed pride in keeping you stuck behind them until the nearest turn four miles away!
5. You had the parish priest come in to pray for big GAA games.
The definition of “big game” went anywhere from an under-14 blitz to a Minor A Championship Final. All your hard work and dedication comes down to the biggest 60 minutes of your teenage life. The coaches in charge of all this preparation needed something to tip the scale in your team’s favour and have asked Father Cleary to come in and offer a prayer to God. The Big Man has hung up on the elderly clinging to life and convicts on death row because something more important has popped up. It’s about time God picked a side, because even the local butcher had to decide what colour flag to hang on his shop window!
6. Mitching school was rarely successful.
Dossing off school became a real possibility when you realised that you were surrounded by miles upon miles of empty fields. With the vast countryside at your disposal, there was no way you could ever get caught. Unfortunately there was always one teacher assigned to hunting down those who strayed and bringing them to the principal’s office like a dog goes to the pound. You may have missed the entire term’s worth of lessons on guerrilla warfare tactics in history, but you did make it in to watch The Wind that Shakes the Barley, so now you possess everything you need to know to remain undetected in the Irish wilderness.
7. “Down the field” was your favourite venue.
Fights, underage drinking, teenage angst-driven sexual activity all took place “down the field.” You may consider this to be an ambiguous location, but anyone who grew up in the countryside knows exactly where you were talking about.
8. Imagination ruled.
Before playgrounds started popping up in every corner of Ireland, you and your friends had absolutely nothing around to entertain yourselves, but this didn’t stop you from having an incredible childhood. You used your imagination to create castles from heaps of rolled hay or you went exploring every inch of the canal walkways. You and your friends were The Hardy Boys of the Parish!
9. Going to another county town for a “day out” was your idea of a treat.
The 25-minute train journey to Athlone was all you and your friends needed to know you made it in this world at the tender age of 15. Wandering the streets of this foreign town, you would finally see your destination on the horizon; for the space of a single day you’d spend your hard-earned pocket money at the Golden Island Shopping Centre. Splurging all of your cash on slush puppies, accessories from Claire’s, and the odd CD meant that the day out was an astounding success. Reading the liner notes on the journey home filled you with longing for the next time the bus driver stopped at Liffey Valley on your next school excursion!