The front pages of The Irish Times from the St. Patrick’s Day past

A dig through the archives to see what was reported on the front page of The Irish Times on March 17 in previous decades surprisingly revealed topics that remain relevant today. These include housing, emigration, war and equality. And, of course, the misdeeds of the leprechaun.

1942

World War II was underway and the front page was dominated by related stories. Among them was a story saying, “There will be no gasoline for passenger cars in May, and in April the basic allowance will be halved from existing rates.

The anchor ad on the page was a photograph of a couple leaning over a handwritten letter, with the caption, “Mother is Delighted! The letter is from a mother to her apparently just-married daughter. “Father and I have been very lonely since you got married. We are delighted to know that you are so happy. Your house is definitely beautiful. We need Todd Burn’s. Your dad got the account and sent them a check for the full amount, and we hope you both live a long time to enjoy your comfortable home.

Todd Burn’s was a department store on Mary Street, where Penneys is now. Gasoline may have been rationed but, unlike today, newlywed couples clearly could afford to buy homes, and at least some had relatives footing the furnishing bill.

1952

Racial inequality in South Africa was the main story, which included occasional references to “coloured people” and the fact that white people would soon be celebrating the 300th anniversary of their “white colony”.

The report said: “The highest court in the land is due in days to rule on the legality of the law that curtails the voting rights of many people of color. The law has been challenged as unconstitutional.

“A judgment for the government will add fuel to the fire of resentment already simmering among non-whites, who are launching a national campaign to challenge the country’s racial laws on April 6. This day marks the 300th anniversary of white settlement in South Africa and is observed in national celebrations.

1962

Russia was in the news, with the “Russian Global Rocket Threat” being the main story. “Mr. Khrushchev announced yesterday that Russia has developed a ‘global rocket’.”

This weapon apparently differed from the intercontinental ballistic missile then in use. A global rocket “could strike a target from any direction, thus avoiding early warning systems put in place by the West on the shortest routes that Soviet rockets could take”.

Khrushchev reportedly spoke about these new rockets at a meeting in his Moscow constituency. The apparent range of these new weapons now meant, according to the report, that “the United States, which in the past had not directly suffered from war, was now also vulnerable”. Khrushchev added: “Like every other country in the world.”

President de Valera was in Rome, where he had just been decorated with the Supreme Order of Christ by the Pope’s representative. “It is the highest papal order of distinction. . . The order is very old, having been instituted in 1319 by Pope John XXIII. The composition of the order is extremely restricted and, apart from M. de Valera, it is held by nine living people.

President Eamon de Valera in Áras an Uachtaráin in December 1968. Photograph: Independent News And Media/Getty Images

These included General Franco of Spain, Charles de Gaulle, President of France, and King Baudouin of Belgium.

The main advertisement that day was for Odearest mattresses, in the form of a cartoon. It depicted a man in a loud suit, with a shamrock in his hat and a camera slung over his shoulder, who one could guess was supposed to be an American tourist. He was at a station in Garda, where the calendar showed March 17. He held the mythical pot of gold which we have been told since childhood is at the end of a rainbow. But he didn’t want it. Oh no. The American tourist wanted his mattress back, although how he was going to get it on the plane home was not explained in the accompanying Limerick.

“The visitor shouted ‘Say/Like I came here for St. Patrick’s Day/I was given this gold/By a bold leprechaun/But he took my Odearest.”

1972

The main story on the front page concerned Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community (EEC).

“A referendum on the French government’s approval of British membership of the Common Market was announced this afternoon by President Pompidou.” He said: “If we don’t build Europe, European nations will be eclipsed by the other big blocs.

An ad for the Educational Building Society (EBS) on the front page encouraged readers to “make more money with EBS.” It’s no secret that thousands of people are making money with EBS. The ad offered a tax-free return of 6% on regular savings, with 5.5% on investments.

Journalist John Healy reported on an exhausted Dáil, with – then as now – many high-ranking politicians traveling abroad for St. Patrick’s Day. For those who remained in the Dáil, Healy noted, “local government is always a popular topic. Fianna Fáil’s Sean Moore was there to plug in his minister who was “bringing a quiet revolution to housing”. Cavan’s Tom Fitzpatrick, however, was back to belt him out for letting municipalities build homes in 1972 without running water or sewers in some localities.

1982

A writ of marriage nullity has been issued by High Court Judge Rory O’Hanlon to a woman on grounds of duress. It was the first time an Irish court had granted such a nullity on the basis of a ‘forced marriage’.

The couple had met during the holidays, when the girl was still at school. They later “testified” that they had only had sex once. The girl got pregnant. The report said: ‘The daughter was told she should date or marry by her mother as her father was even more agitated. At the same time, stormy scenes were unfolding at her boyfriend’s house.

“His father wouldn’t talk to him and his mother told him he couldn’t stay in the house. He was told he should get married and there was no other option open to him. The situation was so bad that he had to leave and go live with a friend.

The front-page report went on to say that the two sets of parents met, in the absence of their son and daughter, and decided without consultation that the two should wed immediately. The girl had a miscarriage after the wedding. Three years later, the couple applied for a judicial annulment, which was granted.

Judge O’Hanlon told the court that the case “reflected an unfortunate situation which must have arisen in connection with very many marriages in this country where the moral code hitherto rested on a solid foundation of religious belief”.

1992

It has been reported that the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization will not participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York. A judge had refused to grant an injunction compelling the parade’s organizers, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, to allow them to participate, on the grounds that he had “committed himself to defending the Catholic faith, which considers homosexual activity as a sin”.

2002

A new record high for a Dublin property price was reported when former hotelier David Doyle paid over £10million for a house on Shrewsbury Road, “a record price for a Dublin house with no development potential on the ground”. The previous highest price was paid in 2000, for a house on Raglan Road.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wanted European leaders to guarantee that Irish military neutrality would not be affected by the signing of the Treaty of Nice.

It was reported that the Church of Ireland Dean of Clonmacnoise and Rector of Trim and Athboy had refused a request for his bishop to resign. The Very Reverend Andrew Furlong had declared that he no longer believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

2012

A poll found that 59% of people who had left Ireland since the 2008 recession had done so by choice. It also found that 72% of all those who emigrated intended to return to Ireland in the future. “The results appear to support Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s claim that emigration is a life choice for many who have left the country in recent times,” The Irish Times noted. “The Minister was widely criticized for making this comment in January.”

Calvin W. Soper