Tuesday 6 December 2016

Mary Kenny: The landlady's return

How economic forces are reviving the days of the student digs

Published 14/08/2016 | 02:30

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

Digs! There was a time when all students - and nearly all young people migrating to the city - went to live in "digs". And now, to relieve the dire shortage of accommodation in Dublin and Galway, the college authorities are recommending that students return to the system whereby they became lodgers in a family house. Back in the day, digs were run by a bean an tí - the landlady - who usually exercised a matriarchal discipline on her young tenants. There were rules and regs, and certain guidelines about morals and decorum.

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Some might be strict, but some might be vague. We had lodgers when I was a teenager - young, male singletons - and my mother didn't lay down any particular rules that I recall, except that she expected a chap to be "a gentleman".

I wasn't quite sure what that entailed, but an episode illuminated it. On one occasion, one of the lodgers, a Trinity student, didn't sleep in his own bed overnight. Nothing was said, but later it was mentioned that, if he slept away, "a gentleman" should at least ruffle the sheets for the sake of appearance.

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