Gone to the dogs (the rise & fall of Laytown’s dogging scene)

The morning after and Seafield is just like any other seaside car park; puddled potholes fringed by dunes with grassy, windswept hair.  Gnawed remains of chicken wings and the lipsticked butts of discarded Silk Cut 100s lie strewn amongst the gravelled ridges of tyre marks, the only clue to the presence of Bacchus mere hours before.

In truth, Laytown is the unloved stepchild in the bold corner of Meath; shunned to the north by Bettystown’s tennis playing aristocracy and a recently gentrified Mornington; checked to the west by the economic and cultural hubs of Navan and Duleek. Laytown’s role has long been that of Meath’s very own Mezzogiorno. So perhaps it was no surprise when locals cast their eyes to Drogheda for recreational release. And like teenage runaways in the summer of love, Laytowners happened upon an ebullient sexual revolution in full swing, centred on the pampas grassed housing estate of Stameen.

While dogging is now synonymous with Laytown, it wasn’t always so. This

Wikipedia entry on dogging specifically highlights Laytown as a hotspot.
Wikipedia entry on dogging specifically highlights Laytown as a hotspot.

localised phenomenon only entered wider public consciousness after the practice was evangelised by the local football team, Laytown Doggers FC. The decision to use the local team as the physical embodiment of Laytown dogging culture was a bold one, a move that for many, is still ahead of its time.

If you go out to the Seafield car park of a Tuesday night, it’s a good idea to have a chat to Doggers coach Gisty Cummins. He pinpoints the moment Laytown’s slumbering sexuality erupted.

“You can trace it back to the filming of the carnival scene of The Crying Game just over there [points to the estuary]. There was just this buzz about. All sorts of free spirits roaming around that wouldn’t normally bat us an eyelid. There was a man with a willy who was a woman, though we didn’t know that then…I mean how innocent were we? Perhaps that’s why Neil Jordan chose Laytown. He could sense a village ripe for sexual awakening.” – Gisty Cummins (Laytown Doggers coach)

The carnival scene employed most of the village as extras with many

Forrest Whitaker, Stephen Rea & Mirand Richardson on the Crying Game set at Laytown. Photo: Pat Burns/http://www.patburnsphotography.net/
Forrest Whitaker, Stephen Rea & Mirand Richardson on the Crying Game set at Laytown. Photo: Pat Burns http://www.patburnsphotography.net/

children getting off school to participate. On its release, a cottage industry sprung up around video vans distributing pirated copies of the film. Parents, swept up in the wave of Laytown/Hollywood gossip, chose not to heed the 18s rating when organising family viewings. The confused sobs of scared children soon eeked onto the streets as bowls of ice cream and jelly were dropped on lino floors along with ruined childhoods. After the kids had been comforted and put to bed, the video van men were called. But far from being harangued, they were asked “Have you any more of this kind of stuff?”

As with previous local crises, villagers assembled at the Alverno House Hotel to discuss their options. Sick of the slurs and smutty remarks from Bettystown following the movies release, a defiant Laytown council decided to embrace its inherent deviancy and wear it as a badge of honour. With so many now in a perpetual state of arousal, it was decided that this was the safest way to defuse the mounting sexual tension.

But veteran dogger and Doggers coach Gisty Cummins now looks back on the decision with regret.

“We decided to go on the offensive and entered the Drawda and District League. After away games we’d roll up behind the Rossnaree Hotel, circle the Hi-Aces and dog with our supporters. Little did we know it would be our downfall. Maybe if we’d dogged over the faa side we’d never have attracted the Stameen crowd.”

Though unawares at the time, the Doggers had strayed into Drogheda’s nascent swinging catchment area. And curious only attracts curiouser still. Within weeks the low hum of company cars and sports hatchbacks could be heard winding their way in convoy to the Seafield. Within months, even toga themed Caligula nights in Forest Edge couldn’t stem the tide as the Stameen swinging scene began to haemorrhage. Unsurprisingly, the Doggers league challenge collapsed, several of their top players suffering from acute physical exhaustion.

“We’d been on the Stameen circuit for a few years and felt we’d exhausted it. So Gordon and I thought we’d try a bit of rough. Meeting up with moustached men who brought cased snooker cues to the pub and played pitch & putt was like entering into a different world. And Gordon always had a thing for permed gum chewing barmaids so it worked out really well for us, at the beginning at least.  – Margaret Barrington (Rotary Club fund raiser)

But with so many of the Stameen crowd drifting in, existing dogging infrastructure was overwhelmed. Long established rutting rules were bent, liberties taken (and given), lives gobbled up. Something had to give. And it did. The morning of a Doggers v Mornington Glory game a Rubicon was crossed, and there would be no going back for either group.

Nowadays, Laytown’s doggers are a more close-knit bunch, though that too has its problems. Dogging meets have had to be colour coded to avoid awkward eye contact between family members, though in a place like Laytown, this is unavoidable. Over-subscribed nights have a spill over arrangement with Duleek’s burgeoning dogging community and familial cross referencing is now done by electronic thumb print on entry to Seafield car park. Enforced regulation has robbed Laytown’s doggers of the spontaneity and innovation that marked them out as trailblazers. But perhaps this is the price of progress.

Dogging challenge night
Dogging challenge night poster seen in Bellewstown, a sure sign of rebuilt confidence.