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Rationing has not been part of the experience of my generation in Ireland. I should qualify that. There was some rationing in Northern Ireland into the 1950s, and we came very close to petrol rationing during the oil crisis of 1973.

Northern Ireland

My mother took my sister and myself on holidays to Bangor (Co. Down) around 1950. We stayed in a guest house overlooking the Pickie Pool and were surprised, and outraged, to find our landlord proudly marching in the town's orange march on the "Twalfth" (12 July, commemorating the victory of King Billy at the Boyne in 1691). We suddenly realised that we were billeted in the middle of enemy territory.

It wasn't the only shock we got on that holiday.

When we arrived we were informed that chocolate was still rationed (after the war = WWII) and we were told to check in at the local office to get our ration coupons. Which we did. We used them up during the week and went back for our second week's allocation only to find that we had been given a fortnight's worth to start with and they were now all gone. The next week was a bit like lent but no doubt, with the benefit of medical hindsight, did us a power of good.

I think I showed a budding commercial flair at that time which, unfortunately, never developed properly in afterlife.

There was a stand at the Pool entrance where you could pick up maps of the town for free. These were heavily bordered with local advertising which presumably helped finance this public benevolence. I cut off the advertising and sold the maps in the street to passing tourists for a penny each.

Revenge of sorts!

The Republic

The 1973 oil crisis saw miles long queues of cars at filling stations. People turned up to queue from 4 and 5 am. Tempers were frayed and filling stations exercised their divine prerogative in favouring regular customers (or mere friends).

The Government, in its wisdom, eventually decided to impose some degree of fairness and national priorities on the distribution process and issued ration books [see illustration].

By the time this was organised, the crisis had subsided, at least as far as the initial panic was concerned, and the coupons were never used. They faded into history like the old gas-mask we had at home when I was young. Pure unto death.

I found the ration book in a recent attic clear-out. Maybe I should auction it on e-Bay and give the proceeds to Hamas.

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