Mosney was one of the pillars of modern Irish society from its inception in 1945 until it shut it’s gates to the Irish at the turn of the century. In his new book, Mosney Memories – Confronting a Painful Past, local historian Walter B. Crummey takes a look at the holiday centre’s troubled history from her dark beginnings as a refugee camp in the wake of the 1940-45 Meath Occupation of Drogheda up until this morning, where asylum seekers continue her traditions of misery tarted up with a hopeful smile.
A Dark Past
For some, Mosney is the physical embodiment of Ireland’s parochial past. For others, it represented a slightly less brutal break from a life patching up stabbed family members and fencing stolen goods. The Mosney camp is situated south of Drogheda but far enough into Meath so as not to be a blight on the town. Established under the guise of a holiday camp in the wake of the 1940-45 Meath occupation of Drogheda, Butlins as it was then known, housed upward of two thousand refugees from the failed ‘Royal’ plantations in and around Drogheda.
By 1956, Meath’s opportunist land grabbers had been resettled in Ráth Cairn and forced to speak Irish as dictated by the terms of the unconditional surrender that signalled the end of hostilities. Mosney then entered a period of flux, accepting seasonal refugees from Dublin’s inner city ghettos before cashing in on the Troubles and the flood of IRA families eager to escape the marching season and the collusion. Closing to Irish refugees in 2000, Mosney has continued her charitable work by welcoming asylum seekers from around the globe. Local opposition to the move was led by a straight faced Cllr. Shanks Godfrey who was ‘incensed’ and feared the camp would become a ‘ghetto’.
“From the mid 1950s onwards Mosney served a purpose in modern Ireland in that it gave Dublin’s inner city ghettos a break from crime and violence for a few weeks every summer. This lull in criminal activity gave Dublin City Council time to hose down the streets and renail furniture to the floor of all northside pubs.” – Diarmud Ferriter, historian, UCD.
At least two governments in the 1970s tried to wall the camp after crime stats showed 91% of all crime was centred around Mosney from June to September. Records released from the National Archives show that wall and moat building contracts were put out to tender but never finalised with Ireland’s ascension to the European Economic Community preventing the containing wall from ever being built. Politicians blamed human rights stipulations.
In an excerpt from the book, survivors of Mosney recall what camp life was like.
“Me and Deckie useid to stash our bikes in the woods there and hop the fence. I suppose it was a bit like that film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, us trying to get in! It was a piece of piss too. The security guards weren’t the sharpest. We’d play the slots til we’d enough money to pay in the pool. Mam’d always give us some sambos and a bottle of bleach to clean ourselves with after. There were all sorts of submersibles lurking about.” – Philby McGuirk, ex-truant.
“You’d your U-boats which were solid enough and you could tip them away to attack your mates. But the ones from the poorer malnourished kids we callt ‘Kamikazis’ cos’ they’d disintegrate when they touched you.” – Deckie Rogers, Philby’s easily led friend.
“There was that much jizz floating about in the tank that I’m pretty sure a few new species emerged from it. The conditions were perfect, just the right blend of bacteria, warm moisture and random chemicals.” – Dr. Alison Moynihan, Evolutionary Biologist, Navan Institute of the Marine.
“Your one Chantelle what’s her face got pregnant after spending too long in Funtropica. It was her first time there too. Her Da went spastic. Think the twins are in a borstal now. That Jacuzzi was lethal for young ones.” – Brother Keith McConnon, Collon monk.
“I remember someone put razors on the dragon slide. I think four poor bollixes from the north were slashed to bits before they even realised what was going on. But they were always fighting with knives anyhow so it was hard to tell what really happent.” Sham Reilly, ex-Funtropica pool attendant.
“The vainest shower of attention seeking hoors Irelant ever seen, forcing fun on good decent people like that. I know for a fact that most of the last batch became Celtic Tiger recruitment agents. Dignity?! Sure you have to have shame before you have dignity.” – Melissa Thornton, survivor.
“A lot of the blokes went on to become bar men. You still see some of them in McPhails, living the dream.” – Christy Brown, former Trabolgan spy.
“You’d know an ex-redcoat if you seen one. They’ve the glaze of a failed inter-county porn actor who never made the big time yet doesn’t know how to stop.” – Charlie Murphy, Charlie’s Angels Talent Agency, Ardee.
“There’s been plenty of Red Coats who’ve gone on to have successful careers in entertainment. Who do you think they get to read out the special offers in Dunnes and Supervalu?” – Caroline Grennan, ex-Red Coat, Dunnes checkout girl.
Chalets & nightlife
“Hygiene standards were laxer back then. You’d have to flip your mattress at least seven times before you got a side what didn’t have a big manky stain on it. But lookit? Did it do us any harm? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? And sure the alcohol on your parents’ breath acted as a sort of air born disinfectant anyhow.” – Martina Coyle, proprietor of The Only Titty Bar in Town, Termonfeckin.
“You’d be frykend of your life especially around the 12th (of July). There’d. Be. Murders. I seen tellys flung through windows and anyone who can separate two brawling northern women deserves a medal. Animals.” – Crotchet Byrne, survivor.
“I’ve fierce fond memories of the Lyons Club. I won the Death Sweepstakes there one summer when I correctly identified the four codgers what dieid. I was working in the kitchens at the time so I could tell who wasn’t going to make it out of there and speed up the process if necessary.” – Dessie McCole, silent partner, Bettystown Nursing Home.
“Dan’s (Dan Lowry’s bar, under Funtropica) was the place to be. All the greats played there… Bagatelle, Elvis, Johnny Logan, Led Zeppelin and Johnny McEvoy.” – Aonghus McAnally, RTE.
“It was a meat market. Everyone worked their way through everyone, married or not. I even had a fling with a fella with a funny accent from somewhere that wasn’t Finglas.” – Julie Delahan, Finglas East.
Next week sees part two of Mosney Memories. Excerpts include The Community Games, Mosney Celebrities, The Mosney Cult and Asylum Seeking – Mosney in the New Millenium.