'Asking a girl out on a date was a tricky proposition if you did not know where she lived '

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'Asking a girl out on a date was a tricky proposition if you did not know where she lived '


Harry Browne remembers courting and dating when he was a young man.


Harry Browne


Trinity College Dublin




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Harry Browne

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Adolescence and Early Adulthood


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Dating was a much more innocent affair in those days. No 'Good' girl would allow even the most chaste kiss on a first date and sex, a word which was not allowed in decent company, was reserved for after marriage. All the expenses in relation to the date (modest as they were) were paid for by the boy. Payment for a dance if one went with a date and for the Pictures were the responsibility of the man, though the cost of going home afterwards was very little, being the price of the bus fare, if they were still running. If the date ran later than the last bus it was quite normal to walk home hand in hand if one had arrived at that stage of the relationship. Asking a girl out on a date was a tricky proposition if you did not know where she lived. In the first place one had to ask to see her home first and she might live somewhere diametrically opposite in the city to ones own home. Therefore one was committed to a long walk to her house, followed by a much longer, solitary walk back home again. Further dates involved similar exercise subsequently so you would need to be seriously interested before venturing the first move. Dress dances were very expensive, involving, as they did, the price of two tickets, the hire of a dinner suit, chocolates and flowers. Needles to state they only took place once a year or thereabouts. They were, however, great occasions. Dance halls included the Crystal, Clery's, the Metropole, where Jack Flahive had a residency, the Four Provinces, the Olympic, the National at the top of Parnell Square, and for Irish Dancing the Irish Club. Across Parnell Square from the Irish Club was the Teachers Hall, not a very popular place for my crowd, I am not sure why. Dancing was a serious business then. Jiving, or Jitterbugging was severely discouraged and one could be thrown out and barred for indulging in it. Rock and Roll was in its infancy and the Orchestras emphatically did not play Rock tunes. Propriety had to be observed at all costs and floor walkers were employed to ensure that couples did not get too close to each other in the slow dances, one would receive a tap on the shoulder and be told to keep ones distance. Continued misbehaviour of this type also led to one being ejected. The only dancing allowed was ballroom dancing. Steps included slow waltz, quickstep, foxtrot and some latin american numbers like sambas, tangos etc. It boggles the mind to imagine how the latter dances could be carried out without close contact but somehow we managed it. These steps had to be learned and there were a number of dance academies where one could learn them. I attended the Morosini - Whelan school of dance which is still in existence having started in 1912, a considerable commercial success given the astronomical changes in Dublin's social character in 99 years. I used to dance regularly in Clery's Ballroom on the top floor of the current department store in O'Connell Street. There was a girl there whom I was anxious to impress. I had just that week learned to turn a corner whilst waltzing, an intricate maneuver in itself. I asked the girl up to dance and eagerly awaited our approach to the corner so that I might demonstrate my new found ability. Sadly I had not informed her of my acrobatic intentions, the result was that in the middle of the maneuver I went one way and she went the other. I tripped over my own feet and fell flat on the floor. I rose mortified and swiftly fled the scene of my embarrassment. I never returned to Clery's Ballroom and soon afterwards it was closed down.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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