Irish Teddy Boys: Scoundrels or the Scapegoats of the Nation?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the famous American Sitcom How I Met Your Mother the Canadian protagonist states that ‘the eighties didn’t come to Canada until ‘93’. A comparable delay can be observed when looking at the Teddy Boys movement in Ireland. Whereas the first indices of the Teds were reported as early as 1948 in London, the trend did not seem to catch Ireland before 1954. The first Teddy Boys-related incidents occurred in Belfast, which might be explained by its stronger political and cultural connection to the United Kingdom than the rest of the island. Up to that point (and even beyond) the Irish news coverage on this matter almost exclusively dealt with portraying the situation in Greater London, which was – albeit with some delay – joined by reports by the Connacht Sentinel’s special correspondent in Dublin.

The name ‘Teddy Boys’ derives from their reference to the Edwardian Period, and was shortened from 1954 onwards. The youth of the early fifties picked up the fashion of their (grand-) fathers’ generation. Although it was initially limited to the upper classes, it was soon picked up by the working population thus creating the first lower class youth movement. This shift simultaneously implied a decline of reputation, as after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II no self-respecting gentleman would risk to be spotted in ‘Ted regalia’.

The Teddy Boys were by no means innocent, as they are some reports on fights between their gangs, for example in Limerick. However, they were blamed or used as an excuse for crimes that they most likely had no connection to. In March 1962 the actress Maureen Toal (famous for her role in Glenroe) was accused of being a hit-and-run-driver while under the influence of alcohol. She testified that she was attacked by Teddy Boys and was too afraid to leave her car. Keeping in mind that the Teds hardly ever got involved with outsiders, her account seems highly unlikely. About a year later the Connacht Sentinel announced the end of the movement.

– Annika Stendebach

One response to “Irish Teddy Boys: Scoundrels or the Scapegoats of the Nation?

  1. Pingback: NUI Galway summer internship leads to Teddy Boys radio interview and more! | History at Galway

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