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Should Have Been Home by Noleen Bolger

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Noleen Bolger

Noleen Bolger

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17th May, 1974

Getting from Celbridge to Dublin City Centre is not easy, very few 67’s, and now a CIE Bus strike.

‘Luckily’ for me I had a second job, at The Capri in Dublin City; Marco and Maria agreed I could sleep in their home over the café, so I could do my real job in Lenehan’s. A 15-year-old, I hated school and agreed I could leave if I secured a job; it was easy then, no need for a CV, just the confidence to call in and ask for a start. I got two jobs, so adios Lucan Tech.

On this warm May morning in Dublin, I had an early start after serving fish and chips with tea, bread and butter – there was no ‘Coffee Culture’ in 70’s Ireland. Then a twenty-minute leisurely walk through Dublin, over the Liffey, to my real job.

Doors unlocked, lights on, background music, staff at their stations and customers, some choosing wallpaper others needed fuses and maybe extra keys cut.

A normal day, it’s Friday, tomorrow’s Saturday, my favourite trousers are in the dry cleaners, ready for collection after closing time, and I’ll look a million dollars.

Nearly time, but the husband couldn’t agree with her wallpaper choice. It’s only been an hour, I know you have to live with it, but we have to live too. Finally, he likes the yellow flowery one, at long last, it’s a sale.

It’s a minute to 5.30, doors are locked, no more customers. What blouse will I match with the bottoms? Life or death decision. We’re all waiting for Johnny to open the doors so we can escape and enjoy our free-time.

BANG!

Didn’t know we had earthquakes in Ireland,  pushed by my colleague, Denis, away from the door. Every window and bit of glass in the shop was shattered, the street outside was like a scene from the Blitz. Staff trying to get out, public pushing to get in. Eventually I got into Talbot Street.

Where’s Guiney’s gone? It was there earlier and there were no holes in the walls. Why are people covered in blood? Why are those people lying in the street and why are some bits of them missing? Why has that man got only one sleeve in his coat? Why is everyone crying?  Why is there so many Gardai around? Why can’t I hear any sound, I need Mam and Dad, I’m scared. What about the cleaners is it still open?

I need to get out of here, I’m SCARED, bet it’s OK in Celbridge, I’ll walk. I know that face down the street  – it’s Tom from our other shop, he’s running maybe to help me, I’m SAFE.

The Hospital is like a scene from a battlefield, but I’m not injured.

News is on RTE, Mam and Dad, no phone in the House. Do they know I’m OK?

Thanks for the lift to Celbridge, Tom. Out of the car into the arms of Mam and Dad. I’m safe. I’m home. I’m lucky. What about Denis!

(c) Noleen Bolger

About the author

Noleen went to Lucan Vocational school in the early 70’s. When she left school in 1973, she got two jobs: her main job was in Lenehans, Talbot Street, the site of the bombings in 1974, and she also worked in a “sit down cafe” in Wexford Street.
After the bomb in 1974, she went to Scotland to work.
She later married and had two further children. She received a Legal Separation and reared the family alone.
When her children were old enough she went alone to work in Spain for seven years.

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