Any Irish childhood will be memorable but growing up in 80s Ireland was really special. Here are the top ten memories all Irish 80s kids will have.
A time before the Internet or mobile phones, all Irish 80s kids will remember when your parents rarely knew where you were, anything worthwhile took effort, and TV viewing was rigorously scheduled.
Irish 80s fashion was unique with Top of the Pops used as a guide by many an Irish teenager. Shoulder pads and waspie belts were staple items in the mother’s wardrobe.
Many Irish celebrities made an impression during the 80s with Bob Geldolf launching the first Band-Aid track in 1984, Stephen Roche smashing the cycling scene in 1987, and Johnny Logan winning Eurovision twice in the same decade.
Here are our top ten things Irish 80s kids may remember (or would rather forget) with the scariest fact being this was 40 years ago! How many of these things ring a bell for you?
10. Dallas – essential evening viewing
Any Irish 80s kid could probably still hum the tune to Dallas.
Most Irish parents followed the glitzy American series and will remember the iconic ‘Who shot J.R. Ewing?’ storyline in 1980.
Viewers had been glued to the screen for six years when it was finally revealed that it was all just a dream Pam had – and Bobby wasn’t dead either, he’d been in the shower all along.
Irish mothers found a new level of glamour with shoulder pads and trouser suits hitting the high street with a vengeance.
The iconic power dressing of female characters like Sue Ellen prompted 80’s Irish women to explore the world of fashion. And it only got more fabulous when Joan Collins appeared as Alexis in Dynasty.
9. Neon leg warmers – the height of fashion
There is nothing wrong with wearing leg warmers in the winter, I hear you say, but in 80s Ireland it was actually fashionable to wear them in a range of bright neon colours.
Wearing them over tights with a short skirt was deemed very cool, and to glam up the look, a pair of white high heels worked a treat.
For rebel girls, a sneaky pair of pink leg warmers under the school uniform really pushed the boundaries.
8. HB ice cream – the perfect treat on a sunny day
Irish summers are not known to be hot and sticky, but 80s HB ice creams made up for the rainy days.
The refreshing taste of a Fat Frog, the chocolate toe of a Freaky Foot, or the jelly inside a Wibbly Wobbly Wonder are just some of the delicious treats that were on offer.
That-aways and Scribblers were another two thirst quenchers, and the best thing was they were all about 20p each. Mind you; it was rare to have an extra 20p to splash out on ice cream in the 80s, making it even more of a treat.
7. Zig and Zag – the loveable furry twins
Furry twins Zig and Zag landed on RTE from planet Zog in 1987 and became firm fixtures on Dempsey’s Den.
Any Irish 80s kid would be familiar with the voices of these two characters bouncing out of the TV for two hours after school every day.
Other Irish 80s kids programmes that might bring a smile (or grimace) to your face are Bosco, He-Man, Bananaman, Thundercats, or The Smurfs. How many more can you remember?
6. Lolo ball – they don’t make toys like that anymore
Toys in the 80s were usually big, tricky to use, and quite dangerous – and the Lolo ball was no exception.
The Lolo ball comprised of a large oval ball with a plastic platform around it to stand on.
With a foot either side of the ball, the only way to stay standing was to bounce up and down. Getting the most bounces on a Lolo ball was a common achievement among Irish 80s kids.
Pogo balls and fun hoppers were similar alternatives, but little could beat the flash neon colours of the Lolo ball.
Space hoppers and boot skates were other popular options to break your neck on in the 80s. Good times!
5. Sleeping with rollers in your hair – the fancy curlers of today just don’t compare
Any Irish 80s kids who did Irish dancing will know the pain of (trying) to sleep with rollers in their hair.
They were not the soft spongy rollers we have today; they were big, hard plastic ones with metal pins to weld them to your head, all covered with an oversized scarf to hold it all together.
Lying on them was like trying to sleep on a pillow made entirely of nails making lying on the side of your face the only pain-free option. God forbid you complained though, as you were simply told it would all be worth it.
You would be up before the sun waiting patiently for the rollers to be taken out to reveal big beautiful bouncy curls, which your mother would immediately just brush out.
Ringlets were a whole other story.
4. The Big Snow – when Ireland came to a standstill
On 8th January 1982, Ireland came to a standstill when ‘The Big Snow’ hit the country.
Schools closed, fuel supplies crashed, public transport stopped, and workplaces shut. It was the worst winter storm Irish people had seen in years and caused chaos for many.
But for Irish 80s kids, it was the best winter ever!
Any outdoor space with a hint of a slope became toboggan heaven. Crowds gathered in Phoenix Park in Dublin with sledges, trays, plastic bags, old car seats, and anything else they could fling themselves down the snow on.
Three days later, thousands of Irish homes were still without power and food supplies began to dwindle with ‘bread riots’ reported in bakeries.
Up to 25cm of snow covered the roads during a 7-day period and, to this day, people still remember ‘The Big Snow’ of 1982.
3. Your first Walkman – the forerunner to the iPod
OMG! You knew you were one of the cool kids the day you received your first Walkman (mine was red!).
They played cassette tapes and were the best invention since Lights Alive. A lot of Irish 80s kids may have started gathering the Now That’s What I Call Music collection at this point with Now One being released in 1983.
The Walkman headphones usually sat cocooned in a sea of hair-sprayed mullet with orange sponges to cover each ear. It even had a cool clip to hang the Walkman off your jeans pocket.
It was a fantastic way to enjoy your music without getting shouted at to turn it down, and public transport became unbearable with your Walkman.
2. Making mixed tapes – the original Spotify playlist
Anyone with a Walkman in the 80s knew how to make the ultimate mixed tape.
Many hours were spent recording your favourite songs off the radio by pressing down hard on the play and record button simultaneously then abruptly stopping it at the end of the song to avoid any hint of talking from the DJ.
A playlist would be carefully written across the lines of the cassette cover with extra care taken should it be for a first best friend, second-best friend, or potential boyfriend/girlfriend.
If you were ever lucky enough to receive a mixed tape from someone, it would be cherished and played countless times on your Walkman. A unique soundtrack of your friendship… priceless.
1. Playing outside – ah, the good old days
Growing up in 80s Ireland wasn’t always easy. Winters were long, luxuries rare, and teachers were scary.
But it wasn’t all bad! Kids played outside with Kick the Can, Red Rover, British Bulldog, What’s the time Mr Wolf?, and Elastics being just some of the popular games to pass the hours.
Knees got grazed, and clothes got dirty, but laughs were loud, and friendships were solid.
The 80s is a decade that has been remembered and celebrated many times with its questionable fashion revamped many times over the years.
As an Irish 80s kid myself, I often reminisce on the pure bliss of heading out without a mobile phone and find myself getting nostalgic when I see a car with a cassette player.
I wish I’d kept hold of all those mixed tapes – and maybe just one pair of legwarmers!