The Emergency

We didn’t call it the Second World War, we called it “The Emergency” and it was during this time that “RATIONING” was introduced in Ireland. Every family in Southern Ireland received a half yearly book of coupons which had different lettering for the individual items each household bought. In Northern Ireland the rationing was not as severe as Southern Ireland.

Items rationed were petrol, tea, flour, bread, clothes, footwear, cigarettes, soap, and sugar. I think the shortage of tea and the John Players or Sweet Afton cigarettes would have been difficult to cope with.

The foot peddled Singer sewing machine would have been busy patching clothes and knitting, darning, and sewing, would have been a way of helping to preserve clothes for longer, Socks were also knitted and darned when a hole appeared. The boots and shoes were repaired by the fathers in the home. If leather couldn’t be bought an old car tyre was cut to the shape of a sole and it was hammered to it using the studs. So the shoes would survive for a while longer.

People living near the border were very good at smuggling and I remember a story my mother told me about her adventures at this. Travelling on a bus from Drogheda to Newry with neighbours all wearing big wide coats and (knickers with elastic legs) which were great for hiding items they purchased. Coming back, the bus would be stopped by the British border officials who were not really strict about what the people were carrying but a short distance down the road were the Irish officials, and they were different, far stricter. Fear and silence would descend on the passengers as they approached the check points, and a double check was done to make sure nothing was visible. The official would enter and confiscate if anything they spotted that was on the list, like tea etc. On this particular occasion they had just got through the checkpoint when Tony a passenger shouted up the bus “Well Mary, did you wet the tea yet”?

Smuggling became a way of life in the border area.

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