Sunday Drives: 13 of us in the car, breaking all the rules

Family Fortunes: I have fond memories of that poky, smoky, packed little bus

Rulebreakers: Back: Uncle Eddie, Aunty Eileen, Aunty Molly, mother Maura. middle: cousin Eileen, cousin Fiona, sister Andrea, brother Gerard, brother Joe. front: David (me), brother Kenneth, cousin Eamon. Inset: dad Joe who took the photo.

In the late 1960s my father had a Ford Cortina: British racing green, bench seats, a family car although small by today’s standards. We were seven: my parents Joe, Maura and five children under 10. We went for a drive most Sundays. “Five [pounds] of your best please” my father would say to the garage lad. “Where are we going?”. “Looking at houses”. “Oh No.”

Our cousins lived on Mountjoy Square, on the third floor of a big old Georgian house. There was Eddie, Eileen and three children. Aunt Molly lived on the second floor. If the main door was locked, we would shout up and Eddie would throw a big black key out the window. We’d race up the stairs to our cousins’ door. Then we’d barge in – we never knocked. My mother was horrified when she eventually discovered this and lectured us about respecting others’ privacy. But we’d been barging in for years and always got a lovely welcome.

Dressed to impress

Both families would head off in the car. Molly came too – dressed to impress and wearing a fashionable hat everywhere, even in the car. We drove all over – all 13 of us. My father would say “Children, duck down”, if he spotted a Garda. I loved this subterfuge sanctioned by otherwise tenaciously law-abiding adults. We’d go to Dollymount beach and sit under my father’s homemade tent (rolls of plastic and homemade supports) and savour our sandwiches all the more, watching and hearing the rain pelting down and everyone else running for cover.

Sometimes we’d drive to Athy to visit our grandparents. That was a long drive then – especially sitting on the floor beside Eddie’s feet or on Molly’s lap. It wouldn’t be long into any trip before Molly would politely ask “D’you mind if I smoke Joe?” My father always replied: “No, go ahead.” I loved the smell of the match and the initial smell of the cigarette. I eagerly anticipated Molly popping that question and she never disappointed.


I have fond memories of that poky, smoky, packed little bus and the 13 who crammed into it – breaking so many rules that apply today. Eddie, Eileen, Molly and my brother Gerard are no longer with us. The remaining nine are still around, including my parents.

We reminisce about our trips and how once we were outlaws.