A Kildare man in London: The Godfather on a bus and sandwich toaster steaks

Robert Mulhern looks back at college culture in Kildare 20 years ago

Robert Mulhern


Robert Mulhern



A Kildare man in London: The Godfather on a bus and sandwich toaster steaks

The Godfather

It’s 21-years since I waited for a CAO college offer and I don't know where people are going now and why, but these were the popular college destinations and where they fit in south Kildare's student culture in the’90s.


What I remember most from the UCD career night is the cigarette-fuelled mini-bus journey up the N7. Paddy Haughian was the Guidance Councillor. Hemmed in on all sides in the driver’s seat, he demanded to know “who was smoking in the back?”

It was a hazy mist, or grey uniforms and bluish smoke, and I don’t know why I was on the bus to be honest? I would have been short the points needed to go to UCD. So it must have been the same reason most everybody else was there - to skip the CBS two-hour evening study block. By the time the bus thundered back through Newland's Cross, Paddy had made peace with the smoke, and the majority of us, with the fact we were on an excursion more than some academic awakening.


Engineering courses in Bolton Street were popular, but for the life of me I still can't understand why. Then at least, these courses bled painful complex maths equations and the curriculum ran to the same clock as the working week.

This meant you were always on the bus at peak times! When the duel carriageway was down to one lane! Pretending to be asleep so no one would talk to you.

The opportunities to stay up were few and far between and there was a real chance of getting mugged with a needle - the then weapon of choice - when crossing Ha'penny Bridge.

Getting to DIT's other satellites: Mountjoy Square, Cathal Brugha Street and Aungier Street felt like a trip through Comanche country. No one championed going to DIT. It was for stoics and maths suckers.

Carlow RTC

Scores, possibly, hundreds of people went to Carlow RTC. It would be wrong to say students ended up there because the term ‘ending up’ suggests some kind of permanency and no one seemed capable of settling in Carlow.

People used to return at the weekends with reports from The Foundry Nightclub and long nights to the soundtrack of 2 Unlimited and Pantera.

If there was a universal commitment, then it was to stick out the experience until ‘Rag Week’ and then pull out of town with a killer hangover and a loose commitment to join the tax-paying tier of society.


It did feel like a poor man’s Oxford or Cambridge but a world away from Carlow at the same time.

In popular culture we knew it as the place people went to join the priesthood. But it was only when you got into the Glenroyal on a week night, that you realised the place was more sin than saint.

Anyone we knew who made a late start as a student in Maynooth, we clung onto like a lifeline, even after we’d joined the workforce ourselves.

It did feel elitist. Because most people who went to Maynooth had to drive, or persuade someone who with a car to come to their house in Naas and pick them up. Petrol money hadn’t yet been invented then either.

Waterford RTC

Half the town seemed to do a turn in the Deise accumulating knowledge and experiences in local hot spots like Club LA, The Roxy and Preachers.

Now, like then, those experiences feel more important that the curriculum. I studied some nondescript business course, cooked steak on sandwich makers, battled being embezzled by a landlord from Limerick and collected old bits of wood to burn in the fireplace.

The Kavanaghs’coach service piled everyone on outside the Gem on a Sunday evening and then restocked outside the Hideout in Kilcullen.

The Godfather was the in-bus entertainment one night and passing through Thomastown and Mullinavat we watched as Micheal took over the family.

By the time we arrived in Waterford, the end had yet to play out and no-one wanted off the bus.

These memories are vivid and funny, I don't have too many memories of being in class.

Probably like the few others, who went there and might be reading this column.