'You might get to hold hands and possibly a kiss on the cheek in extenuating circumstances'

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'You might get to hold hands and possibly a kiss on the cheek in extenuating circumstances'


Billy Gallagher remembers the customs and conventions around courting when he was a young man. In particular, he notes the presence of religion in shaping attitudes towards the opposite sex.


Billy Gallagher


Trinity College Dublin




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Billy Gallagher

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Adolescence and Early Adulthood


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Finding a wife was a difficult business for me. I was super-sensitive and a denial hurt greatly. So pre-occupied were we all between the Boys' Club and the flat where we lived, talked, and partied, however innocently. I couldn't be frivolous, didn't drink but spent long periods in pubs. Somehow girls were for a later time. Although there might be a girlfriend from time to time I was too apprehensive to make any progress. No physical relationship was possible as it was 'a sin' and we were all fed full of shit. You might get to hold hands and possibly a kiss on the cheek in extenuating circumstances. I don't even remember this 'celibacy' being a problem to any of us. I have no recollection of any of us in the flat ever having a bird sleep over and to the best of my knowledge no one was sexually active. As an example of that there was one chap who used come in after a date with a dreadful conscience. He on occasion roused someone to say the Rosary with him at 3 a.m. if he was feeling guilty. Whereas it would be normal to think that in fact he had 'done the business' I discovered only about 3 years ago when we had his lady of that time to dinner. She is a social worker in Dublin and never married. She explained that she had a client recently who shared his sexual experiences with her and then asked her had she any children. She explained that she never married and never had a full sexual experience. I have been trying to figure out ever since what was on my friend's conscience. Whatever it was it was certainly trivial, but such was the sexual guilt we carried at the time. There was a phrase 'knee to elastic; venial, thereafter; mortal.'




Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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