Through rock, swing, and pop music; through putting man on the moon, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the first release of the iPhone; through JFK, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama – the pages of Ireland’s oldest student newspaper, established in 1953, have detailed many fascinating stories published throughout the decades. With everything from 1953 to 1970 available online on Trinity News Archives, I delved into these archives to discover the tales that constituted breaking news throughout the decades.
Although it might be unimaginable in the mind of students today, there was no Lavazza lurking around every corner – the possibility of a new “student coffee bar” in the wake of a freshly elected council made front page news in November of 1955. Eleven years later, controversy was abound at the news of a potential coffee machine in the Science block.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t greeted entirely warmly. Since science students had previously needed to make the trek from East Campus to the Buttery for coffee, some people were worried that Science students would become completely isolated from the rest of campus if they no longer had to emerge from hibernation in the Hamilton for sustenance. Others were simply appalled at the idea of drinking coffee out of a paper cup.
The pages of TN have long reported on Trinity’s tackling of the most crucial issues on campus, whether it be around examinations, timetables – or male students stripping during the summer, as was the case in 1959. Ireland was hit with a once-in-a-blue-moon heat wave and as a result, students began to take their shirts off while lounging on the grass and watching cricket. The article, leading with the line “Gentlemen, did you know you were not allowed to strip in College Park?”, reported the Junior Dean’s tendency to patrol the park with an eagle eye, reprimanding these miscreants. The students were advised by Trinity News to either move to a more private location or to simply keep their clothes on “however hot the sun or however manly your physique.”
In all universities, students often find themselves without a seat in the library, especially in the run up to exam season. However, the current seating situation seems far more palatable when contrasted with the dilemma detailed by TN in 1961.
After a closure of Regent House, there remained only a single Reading Room for undergraduates. The room contained a paltry 250 seats to cater for 2,800 students – one seat for every 11.2 students. Each morning before the room opened the queue could be 100 strong, with anyone arriving later than half an hour after opening highly unlikely to nab a seat. Students were forced to make a snap decision on whether to join the queue for books they needed or the queue for a seat – getting books first meant almost certainly losing their claim to a seat, while taking a seat without their required books somewhat defeated the purpose.
TN thus encouraged undergrads to pair up in teams of two to nab both books and seats. TN also made several suggestions to College authorities. It urged that funds for a potential extension were put towards extending the Reading Room, rather than the library itself. It also recommended that the room should be equipped with fluorescent lighting and air conditioning and should open at 9am rather than 10am – suggestions which have for the most part been taken on board.
One issue of 1966 provided a more humourous article when people were approached on the street and asked what they thought of Trinity College. The answers were brutally honest.
Those who held positive views, despite being in the minority, were certainly generous in their praise, giving responses like: “a little bit of Heaven in Holy Ireland” and “Great, best in the world!”. One reviewer even remarked that: “It doesn’t have enough influence in Ireland. We ought to have a bloody government from it, instead of that crew in Leinster House.”
However, some views weren’t quite so enthused about the university. Several were negative on political grounds: “You get an Irishman going there and coming out talking with an English accent. It’s still a symbol of British rule,” and more simply: ‘’I don’t like it. I’m a Socialist”.
Others were critical of the students themselves, commenting that: “It’s a breeding ground for affectation and social snobbery” and “”There’s a lot more ambition in there than ability.” One person said regretfully that “Trinity’s getting tamer. Students don’t do the wild things they used to do. It’s a pity.”
“TN discovered that only 10 out of 600 landladies on Trinity’s list would provide board to students of colour, with 98% refusing to take in anyone who wasn’t white”
In that same year however, TN discovered that only 10 out of 600 landladies on Trinity’s list would provide board to students of colour, with 98% refusing to take in anyone who wasn’t white. In response, College authorities set aside rooms in College specifically for students of colour in their Freshman year.
Later in the year, a group of eight women stormed the Hist, which was rigid in its exclusive acceptance of male members. The women, led by June Rodgers, invaded the room in the middle of a debate after June secured a number of tickets to the event. They were assisted by a Hist member whom they identified only as “M”. After a prearranged wave from M at the door of the GMB, the women sneaked into the building.
Two of the women placed themselves within the debating chamber and went unnoticed for some time. When their presence became known, the room descended into chaos, with shouts of “Out!” filling the air. At this, the remaining six women burst into the room. Their plan was to “fan out and seize seats or knees.” Rodgers ran to the committee bench to speak, and although the women were promptly removed, they later stated proudly that “The plan went off excellently. There was not a hitch in organisation.”
“On Wednesday, the premises housing Trinity’s printers was burnt out. This was immediately followed on Thursday by a bomb in the basement of House 6, where the offices of various publications were located”
Publishing hasn’t always ran as smoothly in Trinity as it does today. In 1970, the publication of a May issue of the magazine “TCD Miscellany” was prevented by a bomb attack in Trinity, which TN duly reported the following week once systems resumed as normal. Two incidents in a single week resulted in the offices used by “TCD Miscellany” being heavily damaged.
On Wednesday, the premises housing Trinity’s printers was burnt out. This was immediately followed on Thursday by a bomb in the basement of House 6, where the offices of various publications were located. An IBM electric typewriter of paramount importance to the publication of the newspaper was destroyed. No one was in the office at the time of the explosion – a stroke of fortune considering that it was determined, judging by the pieces of copper lodged in the wooden beams of the office, that had anyone been in the office during the explosion they would likely have met their end. Gardaí were called in to investigate the conclusion but had not found a perpetrator at the time of publication.
Recent campus history is both rich and exciting. In my short exploration, the wide range of stories that cropped up were varied and diverse. From coffee crazes to panicked libraries and Hist invasions to explosions, a unique history of Trinity lies within these archives.