The classified ads ‘There was a time when I did a report on a monkey for sale in the Evening Echo classifieds…  In a way, a look back through the ads is something of a social history of the country’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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From long distance love to long-lost treasures, there’s no knowing what you’ll find people seeking or offering in the classified sections and Brian O’Connell continued his occasional series of stories behind the ads.  He joined Richard Curran on the Today programme to explain his mission.

“What I’m looking for really are the stories behind the small ads such as the wedding dress never worn, the engagement ring for sale, the people looking for love, maybe somebody looking for something sentimental that they have lost…  There was a time when I did a report on a monkey for sale in the Evening Echo classifieds, a 19th century horse-drawn hearse for sale on DoneDeal and in a way a look back through the ads is something of a social history of the country, everything from ads going back the decades from domestic maids in the 30’s and the 40’s to lonely farmers looking for love.”

Brian met with Shea Tomkins, Assistant Editor of ‘Ireland’s Own’ which has been in publication since 1902 to hear how these ads joined the dots for people looking to link up.

“By about 1945 the adults had realised that this pen pal thing is a great way to get in touch…  For example, September 1942 when it really took off, you had the likes of JFC in Co Louth and he was looking for a lady pen friend aged between 17 and 20 anywhere in Ireland but County Louth preferably.  Obviously, he didn’t want to travel too far in his bicycle, or another guy here, he’s TH in County Derry, he was away from home and feeling very lonely and was looking for a pen pal of average intelligence, Roman Catholic and aged between the ages of 20 and 26.”

The classified section in ‘Ireland’s Own’ still runs today, where you can find “everything from somebody looking to solve urine problems to musical gems to somebody looking for GAA programmes!”

Click here to listen to Brian’s report in full.

© The Listener 2018

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