ON St Valentine's Day 50 years ago, 190 recruits marched through the Co Tipperary town of Templemore.
They were heading towards a former army barracks that had been converted into the force's new training centre.
The first two classes all enjoyed the time they spent there – but discipline was strict and socialising was very limited, as many of them recalled yesterday as they returned to the college to celebrate the 50th anniversary.
Among those recruits were Noel Conroy, who went on to become commissioner of the garda force, and retired superintendent Frank Gunter. They were both sent to Finglas on the northside of Dublin as their first station.
They both recalled that the recruits were allowed to attend a nearby dancehall, but they had to be back in barracks by 11pm.
"Life was very simple back then and discipline was pretty severe. But almost every one of the class enjoyed our time there.
"Fifty members of my class walked into Templemore that day and 49 passed out as fully-fledged gardai".
Both men recalled the rule that stipulated they had to get their hair cut every week and, during the rule of one chief superintendent, twice a week.
Frank Gunter pointed out that when they were sent out to their stations after graduating they had little time off, and at weekends were often deployed at sporting and other major events for crowd control.
After a distinguished career that brought him to half a dozen counties, Frank Gunter ended up as superintendent at Ballinasloe, not far from where he grew up in Loughrea.
During Noel Conroy's service in the detective branch he was involved in solving several major crimes, and he was the officer who arrested the infamous murderer Malcolm Macarthur in the home of the then Attorney General, Patrick Connolly at Pilot View in Killiney, Co Dublin.