People in History: An old person describing change in Ireland

An elderly man living in rural Ireland in the 1990s.
Main Page: Social Change in 20th Century Ireland Exam Questions

This is the only type of People in History question to do with the Social Change in 20th Century Ireland section, but it can be asked a few different ways which can trick people out.

The most recent questions which have appeared are these two:

An old person talking about changes that have taken place in Ireland in the countryside or in the cities since 1900.
(2013 OL, 2012 OL, 2010 OL)

An old person talks about changes in entertainment, housing, transport and communications that have taken place in Ireland since 1950.
(2014 OL, 2009 OL) 

Because they are considered a difficult question to answer, instead of writing tips as I usually do I will give sample answers to these two questions, with the "So, in short" tips underneath them.


An old person talking about changes that have taken place in Ireland in the countryside or in the cities since 1900.

You must choose either rural life or urban life in this question. It is always good to write as a woman for this question, as you can talk about how the changes in the role of women affected you.

I grew up in the countryside in Co. Cork. My parents had a small farm and we lived in small, single-storey houses. Life in the countryside was difficult sometimes, there was a lot of poverty. All our water came from a well, and we had no electricity. My father would work on the land and my brothers would help him, while my sisters and I would help our mother cooking, washing and cleaning. Everyone needed to help as everything was done by manual labour.

Things started to improve in the 1950s when the government introduced rural electrification, which meant that electricity would be supplied to homes in rural areas for the first time. We bought an electric cooker and after a while we bought a washing machine too. This made work easier for my mother. I married another farmer in the 1970s, around the same time Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC). This brought more money into the countryside, which allowed my husband and I to buy a modern bungalow to live in on our own farms. We also bought powerful machinery such as milking machines, silage cutters and combine harvesters, which make the work much easier for my husband than it was for my father.

Social life has changed a lot. When I was young, the whole family would sit by the fire and talk or sing songs. We bought a television for our house and our children grew up watching that. Before I got married I used to enjoy going to dance halls and seeing showbands. By the time my children were teenagers, they were going to discos instead.

My daughter moved to Dublin in the 1980s. She went to university there and works as a lawyer. I never had that opportunity when I was young. Women today are able to do so much more than they were when I was young. When I was very young, my mother wasn't even allowed to vote. There are very few young people in rural areas anymore. A lot of them have either emigrated or moved to urban areas. Cities such as Dublin are getting bigger and holding more people, while rural communities are getting smaller. I wonder what the future will bring.

So, in short...

  1. Introduce yourself and give your background. (small farmer, etc.)
  2. Living conditions when you grew up: size of house, poverty, no electricity, water in well.
  3. Working conditions when you grew up: manual labour etc.
  4. Social life and entertainment: families by the fire, how that's changed.
  5. Women: your daughter's way of life compared to your mother's way of life.
  6. Finish up with the decline in population in rural Ireland.



An old person talks about changes in entertainment, housing, transport and communications that have taken place in Ireland since 1950.

This one is more straightforward, and you can bring both rural and urban Ireland into it. It's very easy to write too much for this answer though, so how can you keep it concise?

I can remember my grandparents living in a small, single-storey house in the countryside in Co. Cork, but I live in a Dublin city housing estate. I moved here because I wanted to go to university and get a good job, which my parents never had the opportunity to do. My parents grew up in small, thatched cottages with no electricity and no running water. They lived without electricity until the 1950s, when the government brought in rural electrification. That means electricity was supplied to rural areas which didn't have it before. Ireland's membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) meant that more money could go to rural areas and improve the conditions there. My mother and father bought a modern bungalow when they married, with an electric cooker and washing machine to make their work easier.

When I was growing up, I remember seeing some people still using a horse and cart to get around. I also remember visiting Dublin once when I was very small and seeing the trams. Now, it seems like nearly everyone has their own car. When I was young, people only went on ships to emigrate. Now, people can go on foreign holidays by ferry, or by plane.

I remember my mother telling me about the dance halls and showbands she would go to see when she was younger. They were very popular back then, but by the time I was a teenager we preferred to go to discos and concerts. There was a small cinema in the nearest town which we sometimes went to if the film seemed interesting, but nowadays I can go to the cineplex in the city centre and choose from a list of films.

There was no television in Ireland when my mother was growing up, but in 1961 RTÉ was set up and my mother told me that when someone in the area bought a television, they were the only people there who had one for years. When I bought my own house when I was older, I had a television, and so did nearly everyone else. She also didn't have a phone growing up, but I did and now I even own a mobile phone. Teenagers today use the Internet, which seems to be the next big communications invention. I wonder what the future will bring.

So, in short...

  1. Introduction and Background (your own grandparents' house compared to yours, why you moved)
  2. Housing: rural electrification, effects of the EEC.
  3. Transport: Horse and cart, trams... now cars, ferries, planes.
  4. Entertainment: Dance halls and showbands... then discos and concerts. Cinemas and cineplexes.
  5. Communications: RTÉ, telephones, the internet. Can also mention newspapers here.

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