1969 Theft of Leaving Cert Papers

Leaving Certificate students may rightfully be feeling hard done. I’m sure they’re fatigued with the isolation, the new ways of distance teaching and learning and the exam timetable uncertainty. I feel so sorry for them, especially the more disadvantaged ones who without either home or school support might just give up now. Four months is a LONG WAY OFF.


With the news of the extension of restriction because of COVID-19 and the rescheduling of the LC to late July or August, I tried to remember my Leaving Cert. I was part of the cohort of Leaving Cert students in 1969, the last year exam events were taken into state control when an almost complete set of Leaving Certificate papers was stolen from De La Salle School, Churchtown, on June 12th, 1969. (Naturally, the principal at De La Salle said he was “absolutely certain” that none of the boys from his school had anything to do with it.)


Because of the theft and to guarantee the authenticity of exam results, I was one if those unfortunate students who had to take their English and Maths exams twice. Amazing that with no such thing as twittering at the time, the papers made their way into other students’ hands at a rapid pace. About 250 students purchased the papers for between £1 and £20 at monied schools all over Dublin before the matter came to the attention of authorities. Goldenbridge did not have a privileged school population and the first we heard was when Sr Anne Philomena announced that the English and Maths exams would be retaken and, to allow supplemental papers to be written for all examinations, there would also be a delay in the middle of the timetable. I remember the tone of “how lucky you are to get extra studying time!!!!”


And so when we all expected to be finished and starting summer jobs we were hauled back in to examination halls on Friday, June 27th, and Saturday, June 28th to sit 2 papers each day. I’m not sure how much sympathy was either given or expected. It was a time when you put your head down and ‘got on with it’. For those of us doing the University matriculation exams, there was a further delay as they had to be postponed because of the late completion of the exams.
In an era when very few asked WHY? we had little need for Nietzsche and the context of why. Maybe we were as well off!!!!


And we had very particular supports: teachers telling us (gleefully) that our results would be in line with our efforts, early morning mass on the day if each exam (having also attended each Lenten morning as a kinda deposit or guarantee of being recognised by the Lord), mothers’ prayers and daily 10 o’clock mass and as the first grandchild to hit this crossroads in life, a grandmother’s prayers and masses. Who needed Nietzsche?


Shops that are gone but not forgotten

Last week Pricewatch in The Irish Times asked about the shops which have closed that people missed the most.

The response was reportedly “enormous” as people remembered book shops, supermarkets, corner-shop institutions, …. Reading the report I could not believe how many of them were my favourites and had featured very strongly in my life.


The hours I spent in Xtra-Vision with the lads choosing “our weekend movie” always age appropriate, costing £3 fbor 24 hours, risking a massive fine if late – gone forever.


Pat Quinn opened his first supermarket in Stillorgan in December 1966 and very shortly after 3 more stores were opened – leading to the above ad. Our Quinsworth was in the Crumlin Shopping Centre. As the nearest bank to my workplace was also there, at least once a month it provided for some retail therapy.


We also had Superquinn on the Walkinsyown Road, a bit more expensive than Quinsworth but with far better quality. Jim’s friend worked there – in the fruit and veg department I think. They had an amazing bakery and when I started to do my own household shopping – it was a great place to stock up for a party! Posh food!

Roches Stores

Roches Stores was the shop for buying Wedding Presents – as you could bring almost anything back and exchange it for what you wanted. In an era when you might get 5 toasters and 6 kettles as presents, that was a great service. No wedding lists in those days.


Woolworth’s on Grafton Street – an array of sweets inside the door that was second to none! On a school tour to Limerick, Woolworth’s was the shop of choice – all sorts of souvenirs, goodies and impractical gifts could be purchased there!


OMG – the memories of our Christmas visit to town to see the lights! Switzers elaborate Christmas windows full of fairytale winter/snow scenes.

Peats World of Electronics

When we first started to go “into town” alone, we usually hit for Henry Street. Parallel to Henry Street was Parnell Street and any sort of odd electrical device that might be needed “was only available” in Peats. Later it was the shop of choice for TVs, stereos, cameras.

Boyers & Co

Boyers was the Arnotts of the working classes. It was the “sensible/reasonable” shop of our parents and the shop I dreaded; it became a war between fashion and sense, style and bargain. It was the shop where you bought “a good coat”.

Clerys & Co

Although I cannot remember shopping in Clerys as a child, I remember the romantic stories my mother told of the ballroom at Clerys which hosted dances every night of the week with a full-time orchestra” and she could name the many couples who had met there. In my teens “under the clock at Clery’s” was almost an institutional part of Dublin culture, a meeting place for couples. I can still remember arriving there and waiting with hoards of others, hoping that “he” would arrive and “not stand you up”.

Guineys & Co

Guineys and Boyers were two of a kind as far as I was concerned, one at the top, the other at the end of Earl Street- bargain basement for parents when money was tight. It’s only when you have to do your own budgeting and refusing your own kids luxuries that you realise the importance of such shops.

Greene’s Bookshop

Greene’s book shop had to be my favourite book shop in Dublin. It was actually my yardstick for “good” bookshops and one that was almost impossible to better. Maybe I knew it had a special place in James Joyce’s heart because it was where Nora Barnacle worked, – but something made it old old school and wonderful.
There was the book-lined staircase, leading up to rooms crammed with old tomes. And the glass canopy and the tables of books left outside come rain or shine in summer and winter.
It started out as a book shop and lending library in 1843 and given its name by the then owner John Greene.

The Irish Yeast Company

My mother was a confectioner. She baked and decorated the most exquisite cakes for wedding, christenings, jubilees, Christmas. I can remember accompanying her to this shop for the many intricate decorations that were used to adorn the cakes. With a history stretching back to the 1750, this small building with a most memorable facade was one of the oldest shops in Dublin. It sold yeast – obviously – and all manner of cake-decorating paraphernalia and stepping through its doors was as close to time travel as anyone lucky enough to visit before the doors closed for the last time was likely to get.
I just have to write a bit of the history it was so special: The business first opened in 1894 in what had been the foyer of the George Hotel, which later became a bank and later still the Westin Hotel.
The Moreland family took over the business in the 1930s and John Moreland started work there when he left school at 16 in the early 1940s. He was still behind the counter, aged 91, in 2015. After he died, the shop closed and the building was eventually sold and is currently being redeveloped.