The sweets of our childhood

A sweet is defined as having a taste of sugar or honey. It is not bitter or sour, but is pleasingly fragrant and agreeable. It is strange that while the taste never lingers too long, the memory of that taste can stay with you for life, particularly if it was one of the favourite sweets of your childhood. The sweet shops of yesteryear had a special smell, an aroma of temptation which you got as you went through the door. Even to look in the shop window was to make an imaginative journey of the various tastes that were on display. Our photograph today, which was taken about 40 years ago by Marja Van Kampen, will tick memory boxes for many people. The mouthwatering display was in Miko Cunningham’s shop window in Upper Abbeygate Street.

His shop was a grocery, as you can see from the goods at the bottom of the window — salt, tea, beans and peas, etc — but what most will remember it for was the array of flavours and melt-in-the-mouth sweet temptations on display. You can see Bull’s Eyes, Lucky Lumps, Sherbet Lemons, Sharp’s Bon Bons, Jelly Babies, Hedge Hogs, Fizz Bombs, Mint Cakes, and Peggy’s Leg (two Cosgrave sisters who lived nearby used to make Peggy’s Leg on their premises ) all waiting to be savoured, to be sucked and chewed and rolled around the mouth.

In addition to those treats visible in the window, the viewer could be left salivating at the thought of some of the taste sensations that might be available inside the shop — Liquorice Pipes and Liquorice Allsorts; sweet cigarettes that you thought made you look cool; Sugar Sticks; Coconut Balls; Sherbet Lemons; Humbugs; Clove Rock; Lemon Drops; Fox’s Glacier Mints; Iced Caramels — the hard icing would slowly melt and gradually introduce one to the soft caramel centre; Refreshers; Love Hearts, which had messages like “Be my Valentine” (mostly for girls ); Baby Cola Bottles, made of a hard jelly and designed for sucking slowly; Lucky Bags, they never made you feel really lucky; Gob Stoppers (for the children ); Fizz Bags, a small toffee lollipop which you dipped into a sherbet bag. The sherbet had different flavours; Skittles; fudge; chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. The loose sweets were weighed on to a scale and then the shopkeeper would magically roll a piece of brown paper into the shape of a cone for you to carry the sweets in. Sometimes, tiny bits of paper stuck to the sweets.

Cleeve’s Toffee, also known as Clixo, was a slab of toffee that came in cubes. It cost a halfpenny a cube, which the shopkeeper would break off for you. It lasted a long time and could leave your teeth and lips stuck together. You can still buy them loose in Aunt Nellie’s in High Street.

Some sweets came in packets so they might last longer and could be shared (if one was so inclined ) – pastilles (if you didn’t chew them, they could last you a long time ), Wine Gums, Smarties, Rolo, etc. There were penny bars like the Black Jack which was a liquorice flavoured toffee; Flakes, Macaroon bars (to give one a taste of sunshine ), Crunchies, Trigger bars cost tuppence and were chocolate covered toffees; nougat, white chocolate bars, Cadbury’s chocolate bars (if you had money, they cost a tanner or a bob ). Can anyone remember the name of the golden syrup bar wrapped in tinfoil? There was a variety of lollipops and wrapped sweets like Emeralds, Yorkshire Toffees, and various boiled sweets. If you were lucky, you might have an occasional marshmallow experience, and on a rare occasion a toffee apple. Then there were the chewing gums and later bubblegum (which generated many a competition as to who could blow the biggest bubble ), the ice pops (especially the Fat Frog ), and of course the ice cream where the vendor placed a metal device on top of the block of ice cream which showed you the measurements for the twopenny or the sixpenny, etc. These came with wafers, you needed real money to buy cones.

For those who went to the Bish, Caulfield’s in Dominick Street was the Mecca. When they graduated to real cigarettes, they moved up the street to Heffernan’s. A lot of the Bish boys used to buy dates there. Very posh!

For the Mercy girls, their source was Kirwan’s shop, opposite the Town Hall, which was run by two elderly sisters.

The Presentation girls went to Kielty’s Shop on Mill Street and occasionally Glennon’s on Nuns Island (which was also a regular for some Bish lads ).

The Jes boys used Keogh’s which was next door to the school (where Kai is now ). In that small shop, as they grew older, they graduated on to cigarettes, usually a single Woodbine, and often cut in half to be shared.

The Taylor’s Hill girls did their buying in Mitchell’s at the entrance to Devon Park, or Molloy’s which was a few doors away.

All of these shops are remembered with great affection and nostalgia.

My mouth is watering, I’d better stop!


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