Heatwave nostalgia: Ireland’s sizzling summer of 1976
Shutters, fans and tepid baths: How country coped with record heat 42 years ago
In time, young people of today will look back and talk about “the summer of 2018” in the same way that an older generation has been reminiscing about the summer of 1976.
Back then, the heatwave in Ireland and the UK happened in June, not July: beer and lager went into short supply, chocolate melted; and sharks came closer than ever before to beaches.
Temperatures in Offaly hit 32.5 degrees in Boora on June 29th , making it the hottest June day on record – although Ireland’s record remains the 33.3 degrees recorded at Kilkenny Castle on June 26th, 1887.
By the time it ended, the three-month heatwave had caused the worst drought in 150 years, while the temperature recorded in Boora on July 29th marked the fifth day in a row when the mercury had breached 32 degrees.
The summer drought was heightened by the lack of rainfall during the previous two winters, which placed extraordinary demands on supplies and led to restrictions being put in place a year later to rebuild stocks.
Reporting on the heatwave, The Irish Times noted the changes in people’s habits that began to be noticed throughout June, as people grew more accustomed to the new Mediterranean climate.
In Ireland, on June 29th, people mulled buying shutters for windows to let the air in, and keep the sun out as temperatures hit 27.5 degrees in the Midlands and 26 degrees at Armagh Observatory – the warmest June day there since 1870.
Despite the endless sunshine, RTÉ’s Colm Connolly reported the concerns on July 2nd of a consultant dermatologist about people who were taking photo-sensitising drugs to boost tanning speeds.
Meanwhile, drought-sensitive beech trees suffered badly, and the growth of many of them in Ireland and the UK still showed after-effects three decades later, though ones in the UK suffered worst.
Sales on electric fans continued to rise while some families opted to stay indoors completely and cool off in “tepid baths”, though the authorities urged people to keep levels below five inches.
Meanwhile, The Irish Times pondered about the effects of the heatwave on men’s sexual interest, fearing that the high temperatures were causing “a love drought”.
“It seems the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak when temperatures soar into the 80 and 90s,” the newspaper reported, before interviewing a clinical psychologist who explained that men still felt “sexually aroused but don’t feel inclined to initiate any activity”.