Summer Snaps: Beach babies in 1950s Youghal

For my two sisters and I, who had come south from the midlands, staying beside the seaside was wonderful

Sheelagh Coyle and her cousins, sisters and brother on the front strand in Youghal in the late 1950s

Sheelagh Coyle and her cousins, sisters and brother on the front strand in Youghal in the late 1950s


This photograph of myself with my cousins, sisters and brother was taken on the front strand in Youghal in the late 1950s.

At that time and throughout the 1960s my two sisters and I spent much of the summer at my Aunty Peg’s house in Youghal. Her house overlooked the strand. We crossed the road, climbed on to a grassy bank, went down steps and we were on the front strand. For us, who had come south from the midlands, this was wonderful.

Many mornings, my cousins Lou and Angela and my sisters Jean and Ursula would have a pre-breakfast swim. We would come back again in the afternoon. The beach was full of children with shovels filling buckets with sand and water to make castles and moats. Some days the sea would be calm, with no waves. Other days the waves were high.

I loved those days, and the exhilarating feeling of diving into the waves and letting all that water crash over my body. We would come out and lie on the sand. We would let the sun beat down on us, with painful consequences. I remember nights when my legs were so burned I had to carefully pull the sheet over me to avoid further pain.

People from Cork city arrived on trains on Sundays with bags of supplies for the day. Neighbours had signs at their houses saying “boiled water” for those who fancied a cup of tea.

Most evenings we would head up the road to the merries at Perks Fun Fair. Here there were bumpers, chair-o-planes, a ghost train, helter skelter and more.

My cousin Eugene worked on the ghost train. He would scream at us at corners to give us extra frights.

There was a machine for rolling in pennies. This had shelves of pennies that looked all ready to drop down just as soon as one more penny was rolled in. However, we soon learned that Perks weren’t giving away money as easily as that. We lost much of our precious cash waiting for those elusive pennies to fall. And all the time, the music from the jukebox played. There are songs that transport me back to Perks, the music of the 1960s, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, the Beatles, and especially the song Bobby’s Girl sung by Marcie Blane.

It was wonderful. Sadly Aunty Peg died last year, but I thanked her many times for minding and feeding us during all those summers and for the memories I still carry with me.


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