3. Direct Action Gets The Goods

In conversation with a former UCDSU sabbitical officer, we tell the story of how The Trap and the Number 10 Bus Shelter really came about.

Over the years there have been various attempts by students in Belfield to take action for themselves rather than relying on the college authorities to get things done.

Two of the most celebrated incidents were the establishment of the Pool Hall known as ‘The Trap’ and the DIY building of a bus shelter at the No.10 terminus in Belfield, both of which happened in the mid 1970s.

In conversation with a former Students Officer at the time Billy McGrath[1] , we can learn a bit more about the background and circumstances of these events.

According to Billy, Belfield at the time was a “cold and concrete complex”. Basically “we had a pre-fab bar and a dance in the restaurant building every Saturday night” but apart from the wall outside the Arts Block, there was no place for students just to hang out and congregate.

After Billy received a B.A. in English and History and an H Dip in Education, he was then elected ‘Social, Cultural, Welfare and Travel Officer’, part of the first-ever elected UCD Students’ Union. The year was 1976. “Before that there was a Student Representative Council, (SRC) and only one full time officer – The President. Now there was three full time posts”, Billy explains.

The union believed that there no possibility of students caring about their rights, their Union or anything going on in or outside campus when there was, according to Billy “such miserable and non-existent facilities to congregate and meet – this is where the idea of The Trap came from”.

The Students’ Union formally asked and petitioned the college authorities for a students’ game room but their requests were ignored.

Undeterred, the Union got in touch with a pool table distributor. One quiet night when security was low, Billy and “a few of the Ents gang” smuggled three pool tables into the Arts Block and “plonked them in the big room beside LG1 (currently DramSoc’s Theatre) and closed the door”. Shocked to see that that they were still there the next morning, the Union quickly printed up posters and the word spread around campus.

Playing pool [Note: Picture not taken in UCD)

Billy was disappointed to find out that “someone” from the Admin Building had dropped down to the room but “had left before we could challenge them to a game”. Almost immediately, the authorities informed the Union that the vacant room beside the lockers could be used as a pool room provided they supplied a supervisor. Billy continues “the name escapes me but a lovely retired man took the job . . . a few years later I dropped down and discovered it was called The Trap … maybe whoever does the caretaker job now should be called Trapattoni?”

The DIY building of a bus shelter happened around the same time. The success of ‘The Trap’ showed that if you pushed the boundaries and rattled the authorities, you could get results. As Billy understood it – “if you wanted something done you first had to do it for yourself”.

The bus stop at the No.10 terminus was very exposed and was an irritation to many students. As there was no bus shelter, when it rained “students would shelter under the concrete walk ways and when the bus came would leg it through the showers”.

To make matters worse, the infrequency of the buses meant that there could be between 40 and 50 people at the one time running for the bus and queuing outside it waiting to get on. It was a bad situation that the authorities appeared to have no interest in resolving.

Billy explains that: “Over a few beers (17pence a pint!) with a couple of cool architect students from Earlsfort Terrace, the idea was floated of building DIY shelters”. The architects were totally up for it and one day the phone call came – “We’re coming this evening, have volunteers ready”. Just as it grew dark, a van pulled up at the bus stop and a crew jumped out with shovels, wooden poles and corrugated iron sheets. “It was all done in a matter of minutes, the poles went up, on went a roof, nails were hammered down and the van drove off”.

Number 10 Bus, Belfield Terminus (Picture from allaboutbuses.wordpress.com)

Number 10 Bus, Belfield Terminus (Picture from allaboutbuses.wordpress.com)

The next day, it stood tall but gradually the wind got stronger and stronger until the makeshift metal roof came flying off – nearly taking the head of some innocent student with it. The UCD Building Officer supervised the demolition of the shelter but “hey presto a week later Dublin Bus built not one, but two new shelters. It’s typical, you wait ages for one shelter than two come along at the same time”

[1] McGrath, Billy, 2008, email to author, 16 October 2008

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2 responses to “3. Direct Action Gets The Goods

  1. Absolutely fascinating stories- keep them coming. If you have Billys email could you pass it on. Enda Connolly -who was President the year Billy was Ents Officer came back last year but it would be great to get more past officers like Billy back now and then as the history is important.

  2. Well done on the blog man, very interesting stuff keep it coming!

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