Life, Living, Becoming...
Gerry Coughlan

 Hot off the Press

Did I ever tell you about when I used to sell the Sunday papers in the pubs on a Saturday night?

No? well when I was about 14, every Saturday night at about 9 o'clock myself and my mate Seán used to head off to this guy's house in Whitehall. We'd pick up about 400 newspapers and head off to the local. If this guy was in a good mood, he'd drop us off in his van, otherwise it was a mile to the pub.

We'd arrive and take a floor each. Seán'd go upstairs to the Ladies' bar where there were potentially more tips and I'd have downstairs with all the more stingy, men-only crowd. You see, it had been Seán's job first. It was his contact.

Now the papers were 8p each and most people were happy to let you keep the change from 10p. So instead of a penny a paper which the old guy paid us, it worked out to around 3p a paper with tips. By the time the price went up to 10p a paper, we both stopped. It just wasn't worth it. We were nobody's fools. We had a lifestyle to support.

A few memorable nights...
  • There was the night when Ireland won the Eurovision, just after Dana I think. Everybody was in a great mood and the tips flowed freely.

  • Once a month, a couple of guys in dark glasses would arrive at the pub selling the official IRA newspapers, An Phoblacht and The United Irishmen. Only the old guys, with their loyalties or the young and interested would buy a copy in support.

  • The place was packed. I reached across a table to hand someone a paper and... knocked over this old guy's beer. He was ready to smack me. The paper wasn't even for him. I apologised and made for the bar to replace his pint but thank god, some kind soul tapped me on the shoulder and bought it for me. That would have been 80 papers or so to buy the guy's drink. Myself and Seán swopped areas for the rest of the night!

  • We took a break outside and got called over by someone who pulled up at the traffic lights.

    Gis a Sunday World, there son
    There you go, mister
    W H O O S H ! ...
    like a bat out of hell the guy put his foot down and was gone... without paying!
    B A S T A R D ! we screamed.
    That was 8 papers we had to sell to pay for that eejit. How clever he must have felt to catch out two young fellas just trying to make a bit of pocket money.

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