Fireworks were banned in Ireland in the 70s and 80s. We regarded them as foreign treasure. Exotic, beautiful and exciting, but always belonging to other luckier countries. Terrorist organisations were using the gunpowder to blow up society in the North of Ireland, so we grew up deprived. Before The Troubles, they were available north of the border but that door shut when people began to get explosively creative.
Smuggled fireworks were a delicacy to be savoured.
One Halloween, all of the neighbourhood children huddled in O’Connor’s back garden, wide-eyed with expectation and wrapped in scarves, hats and gloves. Breath clouded in the cold air and parents pushed reluctant smaller kids to the front of the group.
Each firework’s name was ceremoniously announced before lighting. Foouuuish; up it would shoot, a pyrotechnic arrow piercing the blackness of the night sky. Clapping and cheering celebrated each multicoloured starburst. There was the disappointment of the nailed-in-too-hard catherine wheel which spat sparks in ever decreasing circles as it burnt to its demise.
Patricia O’Connor was the youngest of us and burst into tears at the first loud bang and had to be taken into the kitchen to watch from behind the safety of the window.
Our fascination with fireworks meant we had to go to extremes to lay our hands on them. Bangers were our favourite; six inch sticks which fizzed and then exploded. We used throw them at each other or poke them into the Technical College’s metal letter box. We sellotaped them to the top of Dinky cars and set them off on rocket powered loop the loops before they crashed in a massive explosion. Lego houses met their Danish maker with the insertion of a banger through the front door. The plastic bricks didn’t like this treatment, curling up into blackened blobs, rendering them useless for future building projects.
The big problem was obtaining a supply of bangers as they were only available on the Black Market. We caught the 48A bus into Dublin and made our way to the fruit and veg market on Moore Street. ‘Two bob bananas, two bob bananas; do ye want some bangers son?’ was the cry of the old women. They would open their coats to reveal secret pockets stuffed with bangers. The packs were marked 2/6 but we had to pay 10 bob. Savings were ransacked and all spent on bangers.
Deal done, we ran down O’Connell Street chased by skinheads who terrified us. They worked in tandem with the old hags and stabbed us with compasses to intimidate us into handing the bangers back. At O’Connell Bridge, I pointed into the distance and shouted, ‘There’s my Dad, and he is going to kill you’. The skinheads weren’t the cleverest and hesitated momentarily. This gave us the break we needed and we sprinted around the corner into D’Olier Street and back on to the southside safety of the 48A.