Swing when you’re winning (a history of wife swapping in Stameen)

Stameen - the birthplace of Drogheda Swinging

Originally developed in the 1970’s by the Murphy property dynasty, nestled in the leafy no man’s land between Louth and Meath, Stameen has always been an estate in flux. Ever to the forefront of middle class experimentation, what started with the homemade wine making craze of the mid 1980’s inevitably led to the rise of localised wife-swapping.

It is thought Swiss hotelier Willi Widmer (self-confessed foreigner), and then owner of the Boyne Valley Hotel, was an early pioneer and evangelist of the practice. His tennis club social nights naturally progressed from mixed couple doubles to car keys in glass fruit bowls.

 “Those early days were pure wild like, sure we were just kids messing looking back at it…haven’t had so much action since first year in Templemore…” Pockets O’Brien (Garda & Landlord, now retired)

 However in an age before the internet and Tinder, clandestine communication was a challenge, and for a time it remained a niche local interest concentrated in the Forest Edge corner of the estate. To broaden their catchment area the Stameen residents’ association (Swinging Club) came up with a revolutionary and “disruptive” solution.

 Designated safe houses planted papyrus grass in their front lawns letting passers-by know the house was “swing friendly”. This now internationally accepted signal brought Stameen to the major leagues. Word spread to neighbouring towns and counties in what is seen as the golden age of the Stameen swinging story. This sleepy little housing estate was a beacon for swinging on the east coast, a sirens call to plateaued couples seeking an open alternative and “a bit of strange” in a controlled setting.

 “That’s when it really kicked off. There were all sorts turning up – twin sisters from Ballyjamesduff, albinos from Moate, even the Protestants!… An enlightened and decadent time…” Bridie McMahon (Gaelscoil Principal & anti-water charges activist, now retired)

 However, the harder and higher they swung, the harder and sharper they were to fall. And how they fell. As with Nero’s Rome and Bertie’s tiger, the denouemont was as sudden as it was brutal…

Truth be told, things got too big too soon. And like a house made of cards (sex cards), one dodgy queen was all it took to collapse the whole sordid affair. The Laytown Doggers (from the football team of the same name), came into existence following a post-match shower incident after a Drawda & District League game between the Laytown Doggers and the Mornington Glorys.

Dogging found a natural home in Laytown and quickly took off. It was now cutting a wide swath on the scene, actively recruiting from Stameen Swingers core membership, leading to moral panic and bitter schism. This clash between the establishment of the Stameen Swingers and the seedy upstarts of the Laytown Doggers took its toll on both sides as they retreated to within their original borders; the Laytown Doggers exiled to the lonely car parks of Laytown and Duleek and the Stameen Swingers back in Forest Edge. This was a low ebb in the annals of Stameen.


“I was there that day after the Laytown vs Mornington game, we all knew afterwards that everything had changed forever, nothing would be the same, for some this new direction was too much and for others it was just the start… sometimes I bump into the lads that were there that day, we never talk about it but there’s always a look, a glance, a moment, instantly you’re back there, the smell of chlorine, the noise of the eels in the bucket, the ecstasy of shame… Even now, less than 10 years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Julianstown and look East, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back…” – Swifty Brennan (Ice-cream man and DKIT Lecturer)

In one last twist to the story there was to be a renaissance of sorts. The empty nesters of Stameen found a fertile furrow in the new baby boomers of Grangerath and the spirit of polygamy and voyeurism was rekindled. The mix of Dublin exiles caught in the commuting cycle and aspirational south Drogheda couples living out the Dublin road dream, injected new blood to a flat-lining swinging scene. With the highs of their statutory year in Australia long behind them, weeknights full of box-sets and Aldi wine and weekends looking at the same grim joyless faces in the Blackbull/McPhails circuit, this new negative equity generation embraced swinging with renewed vigour.

Now in its 30th year the Stameen Swinging club is at an all-time high. Open nights for new members are held in the Blackbull back bar “The China Shop” on the first Wednesday of the month. Single males are not excepted without referral from an existing member. As they say in Stameen “keep her Swinging!”…

By Ged Maxwell for the Faa Side.

Ged Maxwell is a freelance undercover investigative journalist. He spent seven years infiltrating and exposing the now defunct illegal bingo dens of Bettystown, which won him his first Leddy, the Pulitzer Prize of northeast journalism. Trained by the Jesuits, Maxwell has since gone rogue and retreated to the underground of the dark net, going by the handle Kinch.