Friday 23 August 2019

1975: Bay City Rollers and the Herrema siege

The house in which the Herrema kidnap gang was cornered
The house in which the Herrema kidnap gang was cornered

If they were forced for some reason to wear a tie, the fashion dictated that it should be tied in a huge knot. The Bay City Rollers, a Scottish band that wore tartan bell-bottoms, were the One Direction of that era, attracting adulation from teenage girls.

The Irish charts had a country feel with Glen Campbell occupying the number-one slot that autumn with 'Rhinestone Cowboy'.

Workers had to get by on average industrial wage equivalent to just €2,500 per year, but they could get a house for under €13,000 and a pint of beer for 27p.

Then, as now, the cost of putting a roof over your head was a big issue. Interest rates were a staggering 12.5pc.

There were many things that you could not do in the Ireland of 1975: get divorced; access legal contraception; buy Playboy magazine; engage in "homosexual acts".

On the day of Enda Kenny's election, the Irish Independent carried a report of a speech by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Ryan, warning of the dangers of sex education.

On the face of it, the Catholic church seemed to hold sway over the population with weekly Mass attendance at more than 80pc, but in reality many young people disregarded their diktats.

The mood of change was attributed to influence of the media, and television in particular.

In November 1975, there was just one RTÉ channel south of the border, and on a typical day kids were watching Sesame Street and Wanderly Wagon. Adults enjoyed Garda Patrol, Upstairs Downstairs and The Late, Late Show.

In Dublin and in border areas, many TV viewers watched the BBC and UTV. On a Saturday night the popular programmes were Parkinson and the Dick Emery Show.

The Gay Byrne Hour was the popular show on radio.

In the cinema, movie-goers were being scared out of their wits by Steven Spielberg's shark flick Jaws.

For anyone growing up in that era, the Troubles were a horrific backdrop.

Shootings and bombings were routine. On the day of the by-election, two people were killed in a republican feud. A bomb also went off in the London restaurant Scott's, killing one and injuring 10.

As the by-election took place, the big story on the news was the kidnapping of Dutch industrialist and Limerick factory owner Tiede Herrema by the IRA.

After he was located in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, a siege finally ended on November 18.

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