By Gerry Moran
Not many people know this but I was expelled from Trinity College Dublin. Actually I wasn’t. I couldn’t have been expelled because I wasn’t a registered student there. I was studying up the road in Earlsfort Terrace at UCD. Nor was I evicted from TCD as I didn’t reside there.
Some friends of mine did have rooms there but were never evicted even though they hosted some ‘wild parties’. By ‘parties’ I mean there were maybe two or three of us in the room and by ‘wild’ I mean we were smoking wizened looking cigarettes which, unlike Bill Clinton, we actually inhaled! So, I wasn’t expelled from TCD and I wasn’t evicted – I was, to put it bluntly, thrown out.
That was half a century ago but the ignominy of it still lingers (some things you never forget not least being turfed out of Trinity College Dublin) Here’s how it came about.
I am a student in UCD and I am going out with a Tipperary girl who was studying English in TCD. The end of the academic year was nigh, exams were looming on the horizon and it was time, high time, for us students to vacate the pubs, terminate the late-night, flatland parties, give up our licentious behaviour (if only) and do some serious studying (something we were meant to be doing throughout the year but which, bizarrely enough, we kept putting on the infamous ‘long finger’ which was now pointing ominously at us).
And so my girlfriend announced that she was heading to the library in TCD to do some study. “I’ll go with you,” I say; after all the couple who study together stay together, right? Not really but that’s another story. Anyway, off we trot to Trinity, she flashes her student card and I flash mine (my UCD one, note) none of which are given any attention by security and soon we’re sitting side by side in the library heads down, beavering away at the books.
After an hour I need to have a smoke; ah yes, I was a nicotine addict back then but I eventually (after numerous attempts) kicked the habit some 20 years later. And it never fails to amaze me how crazy smoking was back then. I mean you could smoke in the cinema, a bag of crisps, a coke and a fag (several fags) was a treat back then.
You could smoke just about anywhere really – and this is the craziest part – even in hospital! What in God’s name were the authorities, the medics thinking back then? What were we thinking?
I remember visiting my godfather in hospital, he was wearing an oxygen mask while on his bedside locker was a packet of 20 Carrol’s. And then, and this is gospel, he removed the oxygen mask, offered me a cigarette which I accepted, took one himself and the two of us smoked contentedly away! Mad isn’t the word for it. But I’ve digressed.
As I re-entered the library, or rather as I attempted to re-enter, I was asked for my student card by a far more conscientious security guard. “It’s upstairs in my jacket,” I tell him. Not a lie. “Haven’t seen you around before,” says my man looking long and hard into my, by now, slightly nervous eyes.
“I am a student,” I tell him. Not a lie, either. And now there’s a wee queue building up behind me as the interrogation continues. “Any of you know this guy?” security asks of no one in particular in the queue. And God bless each and every one of those students they all proclaimed to know me even though they’d never seen me in their entire lives! But my man was still not convinced. I have no idea why he’s focusing on me. Okay, so I have long unkempt hair, some facial hair masquerading as a beard and yes, I looked scruffy. Like just about every other male student. Scruffy was the student in-look back then.
“Go get your student card,” he commands almost Gestapo-like. And I did. Which he scrutinised. “You’re not a student here. I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
And there you have it – your’s truly unceremoniously thrown out of Trinity College! I’m still trying to come to terms with it!
PS: Next week (or the week after maybe) … On being ‘ejected’ from Spiddal in Co. Galway!