Heroes – at Butlin’s Mosney

Bob Mosney

Mosney, on the narrow tongue of Meath that  licks the Irish sea, was chosen as the site for Butlin’s first holiday camp outside the UK. It was opened in 1948 and operated as a Butlin’s camp for thirty five years. Throughout the eighties and nineties after Butlin’s pulled out it operated as the Mosney Holiday Centre. Since the turn of the century, with the holdliday camp thing becoming a thing of the past, it has been put into use as a centre for asylum seekers.

I holidayed at Mosney a couple of times, first in the seventies with my then girlfriend whose family had been regulars. Later, we took our own family, parking our caravan on site. Even back in the nineties, it was something of a blast from the past. There was a joke poster at the time for Butlitz holiday camp, a pun on Colditz. There were always jokes about forming an escape committee, and tunnelling out. But it was fun. Working class people in chalet accommodation, the swimming pool and underwater viewing saloon, ballroom dancing and music hall entertainment, bars and restaurants, the eversmiling redcoats determinedly dragooning kids and adults in bouts of organised fun. Yeah, we all loved it too. 

I remember on my first visit, in the mid seventies, where we weren’t satisfied with our chalet. We went to the complaints counter and joined the queue. Who should we be queued with only Bernadette McAliskey (nee Devlin). She was complaining too. I kid you not. In truth, she was very pleasant, and no doubt relaxed to be out of the cauldron of Northern Ireland. This was only ten or so years after the eruption of the troubles and her enfant terrible days and the Battle of the Bogside. We had a laugh, and were accommodated in our demands. Would that life were always so simple.

I drink a whiskey drink, I drink a vodka drink, I drink a lager drink, I drink a cider drink.

I sing the songs that reminds me of the good times, I sing the songs that remind me of the best times

(Oh, Danny Boy, Danny Boy …) 

This view in acrylics captures a tableau in the swimming pool. John Hinde made a famous photographic image with the vast interior caught in all its sun-blasted glory. The massive glass wall letting in the light on a feast of visual exuberance, and also conveying the everpresent cacophony of noise and motion.

My source is from a private photographic image and, I hope, captures both the crowded mayhem, and the personal intimacy at its heart. The central figure here is my father-in-law, Robert Osborne. One of life’s gentlemen, he was hewn of the old world granite of Wicklow and the grit and grime of Dublin. A Guinness man, a decent man and a family man. There is something heroic in his pose as he helps his kids into the intimidating world of the swimming pool. We can all be heroes in the most ordinary of moments.

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down

Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. 1997.

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