The Times We Lived In – A rest between rides on Sandymount Strand
Published: August 4th, 1970; Photograph: John McGarth
The scene at Sandymount Strand, Dublin, on August 4th, 1970. Photograph: John McGarth
When we think of horseriding on beaches nowadays, we have a mental picture of punters cantering along the misty shoreline of the Wild Atlantic Way – or indeed Ireland’s Ancient East – with the wind in their hair and the world at their feet.
Half a century ago it was a much more down-to-earth affair. A boy, a pony or a donkey, and a rope. That was your lot. If you were lucky there might even be a saddle.
Though not, by the looks of it, in this case. Our photo from the summer of 1970 shows a young man and his four-legged friend, braving the sun and scanning the horizon for potential customers.
They’re a pair from another era, and no mistake. But the real eye-opener in this photograph is the location, as revealed in the caption, which reads: “The rest between rides: a scene at Sandymount Strand yesterday”.
Excuse me? Sandymount? But look at all those families, swimsuits, buckets, spades, towels and sandwiches, camped out on the sand for a proper day at the beach. Can you imagine it happening now? Not in a million years.
The photographer has blurred out the background, but if you look carefully you can see a couple of daredevils sitting atop the sea wall – which, before its outer perimeter was lined with “rock armour” to help prevent flooding of the streets beyond, was impressively high.
You can also see the Martello Tower. Its door is open, suggesting that its popular cafe – long since closed down – was also doing a brisk trade. For those who required more salty sustenance, there was a pit-stop on the beach itself (just behind the pony), where a crisp-seller is perched on an upturned wooden crate. Judging by the height of the pile of boxes inscribed with the legend “Tayto”, this, too, was a popular seaside institution.
Bondi, eat your heart out. Sandymount Strand. Who knew?
These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, ‘The Times We Lived In’, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.