by Jon Kavanagh
On a sunny Saturday in the late 1960’s, my father returns home from work at lunchtime. As a farm labourer he works a five-and-a-half-day week and today is the day I have been looking forward to all week. Rejecting any attempt to display table manners. he hurriedly downs his spuds, bacon and cabbage before announcing “We’re going to the Big Smoke!”. I am precariously perched on the cross bar of his three speed Hercules bicycle as we wobble out of Oldtown. The bike remains stubbornly stuck in one gear. causing my father to pepper our journey with a generous helping of expletives, as we embark on stage one of our expedition. We take a less travelled route down the Wrens’s Nest Lane to Rolerstown. Here, we place said bike in dry dock at a friend’s house and climb aboard the open back 41B double decker. I’m enjoying stage two of our journey as the navy and cream Leyland splutters and belches its way along the Ashbourne Road, contributing generously to the destruction of the ozone whilst producing more decibels than a Rolling Stones concert. Deafened by the roar of the engine and perfumed by diesel fumes we reach our destination, the town of Swords or as my father calls it “Swurds”. The Main Street (one of the widest in Ireland) forms part of the Dublin Belfast Road. Traffic is bumper to bumper. Parking is a free for all, as Morris Minors, Minis,Volkswagen Beetles, Ford Anglias and the odd Mercedes double and even sometimes triple park. Swords Castle lies unloved as pigs rummage on its grounds. Local shops include Taylor’s Hardware and Drapery where the owners and staff are on first name terms with the customers, a cake shop run by Maggie Kenny where we buy iced buns for our tea and Mrs Heavey’s newsagents. She is ahead of her time and has a sit-down area where I enjoy a packet of Tayto and a bottle of red lemonade as my father chats and buys an Irish Sweepstake ticket. Paddy Weston, a former ship’s radio operator, has a television repair and rental shop where we pay the monthly charge for a black and white set with rabbit’s ears. No trip to Swords is complete without a visit to Clarke’s Stores – an Aladdin’s Cave of toys, comics, ice cream and sweets. The day passes all too quickly and soon, clutching the Beano, a toy machine gun, and a bag of liquorice allsorts I once again climb aboard the 41B and embrace the journey home for tea and Maggie Kenny’s buns. A perfect day still remembered all these years later.