By Lisa Marie Griffith
In the collected essays Love of the World John McGahern tells a story about how the phone box was such a powerful local communication tool that the site of the phone box in his local village, Fenagh, was indicative of the political party in power. The site of the phone box would change variously from outside a pub on one side of the road (to where the Fianna Gael supporters drank) and to the other (where Fianna Fail drank) depending on exactly who was in power. The story is a nice reminder of the importance of the phone box in twentieth century Ireland as a major communication point, a significance that it is all too easy to remember when everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket.
Aideen O’Sullivan and Ross Whitaker, the makers of an Irish short Bye Bye Now, set out in 2009 to capture and record the significance of the phone box in Irish life, a timely idea as phone boxes are de-commissioned and disappearing from our streets quickly! Phone boxes are a bit of a mystery to our younger generation and I have caught my niece looking at them in wonder (apparently it was the question from one of their daughters ‘why would people use a phone box?’ that prompted them to make the short). If only the writers of Dr. Who could have anticipated that the phone box would become an alien image on our streets and the Tardis was not a good cover!
Bye Bye Now features a number of Irish people re-counting their experience of the phone box and how it touched or shaped their lives. Read more