Hitch-hiker’s guide to the galaxy – or at least the old Galway road

Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

There was a time in Ireland – and it wasn’t all that long ago – when hitch-hiking wasn’t just a travel option; it was almost a way of life.

For those of us of a certain age who were domiciled during the week in Dublin, an abiding memory is of getting the 66 bus to Maynooth on a Friday evening and then finding your place in the ‘thumbing queue’ on the Galway side of town.

There could be 20 ahead of you, but that didn’t matter; drivers were well used to bringing the week-day migrants back home and you’d rarely wait more than an hour to get your journey started.

A great result was a lift to anywhere the far side of Athlone; a disaster was a short run that left you in Rochfortbridge or Tyrrellspass, so that you were too far to turn back and nowhere near far enough to feel close to home.

I can still remember darkness falling as I froze to the spot outside Kilbeggan, in sight of that water tower that still stands and still brings back this memory, from the comfort of a car on the motorway.

We hitched everywhere and there was no fear in it.

A group of us had a system whereby any number up to five or six of us would head off with a destination roughly in mind – but little knowledge of what we’d do when we got there.

However, the formula was always the same; given that we’d make the trip in relays and in twos and threes, the plan was always to meet in the pub nearest the biggest church in the town of our destination.

If you were lucky and got a clean run, you might have a night’s imbibing behind you before the stragglers made it. If you were out of luck, you might do well to make closing time.

I couldn’t begin to count the number of lifts I’ve been given over the years – almost always by complete strangers – but the awful thing is that there isn’t a way in the world that I’d stop my car for a hitch-hiker now.

Then again, how often do you see hitch-hikers in the first place?

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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