In this extract Hugh Smullen vividly remembers his working life which started at aged 14. He remembers leaving school at 14 and starting work as a messenger boy for a Tailor Shop in the city centre. He remembers vividly working as a delivery boy and messenger carrier on a bike, he would cycle all over the city centre and the surrounding suburbs. He the recalls working for the construction corps as a teenager in the Curagh in Co. Kildare. His primary duties here were in the road making and cutting and loading turf. At 17 he began working for a flour mill, he delivered flour all around Dublin on a horse and cart.

Item Type

Moving Image


so that’s the way things were, like, it was very rough for my mother now, like you know and then when we … as time went on then eh when I was 15 I was working in Eason’s, I had started off in the Premier Tailors …

Was that when you were 14?

When I was 14, I left school then and I went to work in the Premier Tailors and that was at the end of Marlborough Street and Talbot Street, the corner of Talbot Street and Marlborough Street there, there was a shop there and I was a messenger boy and people, at that time you would deliver the suits, you know, you had a messenger bike and the thing and you’d be going around maybe Terenure and Rathfarnham and cycling out …

Cycling everywhere …

… and you'd cycle maybe one or two different houses, bring their suits and that was the job and then clean around and then I left that job because I’d a bit of a falling out with the manager, oh he wanted me to clean the toilet and I thought that was out of … that wasn’t part of my job... and being young and that, like, you know I didn’t … so I left and then a guy told me that I’d get a job in Eason’s so I got a job in Eason’s, I got a job no bother then in Eason’s …

And what were you doing there?

Back on the carrier bike again... but they had a huge big carrier bike with a big big box in the front, two wheels and one wheel at the back and you’d go along with the …

Two wheels at the front?

A type of box car, you know, bike, and two wheels on it and then just a saddle and …you'd be holding it, something like what you’d see in China! So I remember one day, like, I was going along on this thing delivering stuff around and I was coming around by College Green, you know there opposite Trinity, you know there? The policeman used to be on point duty there and he was calling and I tried to go and the next thing the whole thing fell off! I’d lost control!

So would you cycle literally all day?

All day you’d be cycling then and then, like em, I got a job in the Accounts department, you see then, I done little bits of exams and I got a job in the accounts and I was there for a good while and they wanted … they were a good firm, like, they em sent me up to Parnell Square to study business and commerce and I didn’t like that and I didn’t like being in, so I left! And I kind of didn’t like being at home either, like, where I was, I kinda … I was going on, I was 15 now at this stage and I changed me certificate and I went up and joined the Royal Air force, in Belfast you see but I was only … that was during … that was January or February 1944, you see,

Okay, so during the war

Yeah, during the war. And then I was in that and all and then this guy says to me ‘how old are you?’ and I said "I'm …" I then I let it out, "I’m 15!", I should have said I was 16 or 17, you know, but anyway he sent me back home, yeah I was on the train, sent back home and em I didn’t want to go home then, like, and so I had heard about what they called the construction corps in the national army and there was … more for boys my age you see from, say from 15-18, you know, so I went up to McKee Barracks and I joined that.

And what was that?

That was a non-combatant corps, it was in the army and it was … more for boys, yeah.

Okay and what did you do?

Well when I joined that then I was sent to the Curragh and down there then you’d be working in the fruit farm or you could be... working, making roads and working cutting the turf and loading the turf, you see there was no coal, you know, so they used turf for fuel at that time so they’d have you doing that, now, a lot of the guys that were in it, like, I didn’t know this but a lot of the guys that were in it apparently had a choice of … had committed misdemeanours, say, and had a choice of … had been before the court and had a choice of going into that or …

Rather than …

… rather than maybe going to a school they joined that so this was a lot of the … but they were okay then so I was in that then for two years and then after it then, after that, I came out of that and wondering about … there was no work in the country, there was nothing... so Mary was doing a line with this chap and his father had horses and he had a little business in the Dock Milling company doing the cart, the carrying for them, you know, the haulage of the flour to the rail head so I got a job and I was driving a horse, one of them big horses …

You were about 17 at this stage?

17, just gone 17, yeah, coming up for 18 type of thing and,, I’d started driving this horse and em....can’t think of the name nowadays … Shires, there were Shires, they were called, there were a big horse, big horse and eh a dray... a two wheeled dray, you’d put a tonne of flour on it and I … oh I was saying ‘what am I doing doing this?’ but anyway I done it and there was ten stone in the sack of flour and it took a while to learn how to carry these bags and … so I was going one day, going to Terenure and I said ‘how do I get there?’, says he ‘just point, I'll point ya in the general direction with the horse and he knows where to go!’’! Yeah and the horse went right to the place in Terenure and I didn’t know myself!

So the horse was driving you!

Yeah, it was a lovely animal and I went then and then I em I wasn’t able to back the horse up, there was a little … at the back of that there was a little bit of a hill, like, for the back and the horse was slipping and so I had to leave it and the entrance and carry the 16 bags up this thing meself, you know, but then I got a bag of cakes for doing that, you know, and then and the wages at the time was £2, £2, 10 shillings a week.


8:05.8 - 15:38.0



About this item


Childhood, Work



Date Added



"Hugh Smullen vividly recalls his working life which started at age 14.." Lifescapes: Mapping Dublin Lives, Item #131 (accessed February 21 2018, 7:23 am)