Smell Memories

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Stock image.

The following three stories by students of Ringsend Adult Education Service were inspired by smell memories.

Orange Zest and Horses’ Sweat
By Frances Parnell
My grandmother lived in Pembroke Mews, Baggot Street, and childhood memories of times I stayed with her go way back. One of the first memories of smell was when she was peeling an orange for me, and watching the zest coming from the peel, and the juice splashing me as I stood waiting for my orange. It’s still one of my favourite smells.

She lived next door to a man who kept pigs. You would seldom see them; they lived behind a big green gate. Only when they were coming and going in a trailer did you get a glimpse of their little pink bodies and eyes. But whether they were there or not, you always got the smell.

Further down the road was Sonny Wilders’s garage. I loved going into his yard; the ground was littered with bits of cars, and you walked in a kind of mud made of grease and oil that glistened in the sunshine. Sonny had very white teeth; he seemed to always smile. His face was black from grease; maybe that’s why his teeth looked so white. Even though I was only five, I liked Sonny’s looks and the smell of petrol and grease in his yard.

Then out to the main road, Baggot Street, on Aga Khan day during the Dublin Horse Show, held in the RDS. If Ireland won, and they did quite often, the Irish team would ride through Baggot Street with the Trophy, from the RDS to the Iris Kellett Stables, which were on Pembroke Road. As they passed me by, I could smell warmth coming from their hot bodies.

Then back to Gran’s, to the smell of hot buttered scones for tea.

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Back in the Day in George Reynolds House
By Paddy Murphy
I remember my father putting some fish in the bath at home because he could not take the fish to the market until Monday. Then he would take me and my brothers to the Plots, to bring home the vegetables he had growing.

While we were gone, my mother would bake some bread and cakes. The smell of baking was always very nice.

When the neighbours used to ask my mother to bake some tarts for them, my mates used to ‘box the fox’, that was robbing orchards, for the apples to make the tarts.

The neighbours loved them.

My father would share the vegetables out between the people in the flats. They were delighted with them. That’s the way it was back in the day in George Reynolds House. Everybody helped each other in those days.

Lipstick and Apple Tarts
By Mary O’Neill
Like most people, I love nice smells. As a child, I was no different. In my house, my mother’s lipstick was a scent I loved. I would hold the tube and inhale the rosy smell from the pretty pink colour – that was my mother. Avon was popular in the Seventies, and she would buy various perfumes and creams that I would help myself to on a regular basis.

She was a kind, loving woman and never gave out to me for this. I think it amused her to watch me dab a little of this one and that behind my ears and on my wrists, the way I had seen the ladies on the telly do it.

Baking smells were also big in my childhood. Apple tarts were my favourites. My mam and Lizzie Deegan, who was my adopted grandmother and lived right next door, would bake apples, bread and all sorts of tarts every Saturday morning. I loved being part of this girlie ritual, listening to their chats as they got the table ready, rolling back the tablecloth and laying an oilcloth on which all three of us would knead, mix and roll out pastry with a wooden rolling pin, cut out round shapes for scones with a glass tumbler, and trim the pastry with a sharp knife. The house would fill up with beautiful mouth-watering smells that made me feel so secure in our own little world, safe and happy. I could barely wait and would ask over and over, are they ready yet? My mam would smile and tell me to have patience.

While they both drank coffee, even making me one in a little cup and saucer (it was mostly milk), I thought I was so grown up, baking and drinking coffee with two women who meant the world to me. There are so many stories from my childhood that involve these two wonderful ladies. This is just one small snippet from my memories that never fails to make me smile.