Nicky Rossiter shares special memories of the toys that occupied us during our childhood days

Without a doubt the most important toy for boys when I was young was the gun. These ranged from silver-plated six shooters through Derringers and rifles to Lugers.

The rifle that I remember best was about three-feet long with a white plastic stock, a black barrel and a silver inset where the roll of caps was inserted. Like most exotic weapons this was a Christmas present, in that season of peace and goodwill to all mankind.

Another weapon was the German Luger pistol with the black metal and the brown grip.
We didn’t make any value judgements on the original wielders of such guns. To us they were fun toys and looked and felt great.

Most of us would have started off with the little tin cap gun. These weighed little or nothing and probably cost a few pennies. They often appeared in Christmas stockings. More often than not they were so out of line that they failed to hit the little bubble in the roll of caps and so were useless. Quite often if we got fed up with this useless gun we took out the roll of caps, placed it on a rock and bashed it with another rock (or hammer if one was available) to produce a tremendous bang.

In later years, fancier replicas became available. These looked just like the snub-nosed guns the private eye used in the films or the little derringer favoured by the gamblers in the old West. These usually took a different type of explosive force in the shape of a single tab of powder encased in paper. They usually made even louder noise.
Cork guns were popular for younger children. These worked on some sort of pneumatic principle. They were ‘cocked’ by bending. This pulled back a lever and a mechanism in the barrel. The cork came attached to a piece of string secured to the gun.

When you pulled the trigger it shot out all of two feet until the string activated. That was not very exciting so we usually severed the string or else used these guns to shot pebbles, bits of cardboard or some other missiles that mothers always warned would ‘cut the eye out of someone’.

Another gun that was common was the spud gun. This also gave us the rudiments of physics and pneumatic pressure. It was ‘cocked’ and the nozzle plunged into a raw potato.

A piece of the potato wedged in the barrel and on firing it flew towards the target, person or thing we aimed at.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own