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The Dark Years

By the age of sixteen Matt was a confirmed alcoholic and all his money went to buy drink. He moved from the bonded warehouse to work in a construction company called Pembertons. It was at this time that he along with his father and brothers Phil and Joe were drinking regularly in O'Meara's on the North Strand. Matt's only interest in life was drink and the more he could get the better. When his wages ran out he would go down to Rosie Plunkett's the washer woman to turn the mangle, in payment he'd get a pig's head which he would sell for 6d and go back to the pub for more drink, sometimes he would pawn his coat or boots for money to buy drink and walk barefootRosie Plunkett in the streets while people laughed at him but Matt didn't care as long as he had the money for drink. He would even walk to Baldoyle or Clontarf to Carolan's on the Howth Road to hold horses outside the pubs for money for drink.

It was the custom at that time for workmen to be paid usually on Saturdays in public houses, either in cash or by cheque or a written order to be cashed by the publican, it being understood that men obliged in this way would spend most of their earnings on the premises.

A niece of Matt Talbot recalled hearing her grandmother, Matt's mother, relate how Matt would come home on Saturdays, hand his mother a shilling, all that remained of his week's wages, and say, 'Here, mother. Is that any good to you?' Mrs Talbot a very patient woman would reply, 'God forgive you, Matt! Is that the way to treat your mother?'

Matt himself recalls how his addiction to alcohol reached its lowest point when he and his brothers stole a fiddle from a blind street player and sold it for the price of a drink.

It was now 1882 and by this time Matt had reached the darkest period of his life, he had ceased going to the sacraments, but continued to attend Mass on Sundays. On the few occasions in later life when he referred to his youth Matt admitted that from his early teens until his late twenties his only aim in life was heavy drinking.


O`Mearas