There was a time in the 1990s where the sight of an empty telephone box would prompt me, my brother, my cousins and thousands of other children across Ireland (including a boy in Sligo I had yet to meet) to race into it and frantically search for discarded treasure. The treasure in question here was a rectangular piece of plastic with an embedded metallic chip and a blue stripe across the top. It was, of course, the Telecom Éireann callcard.
Callcard collecting had taken the country by storm. While my collection was proudly blu-tacked to my bedroom wall, the aforementioned boy in Sligo was infinitely more organised, with a far better array of cards, all neatly slotted into plastic sheets and kept in a folder. Seeing as my callcards are now gathering dust in a biscuit tin in an attic in Waterford and that organised boy is now grown up and my boyfriend, I’ve pilfered some of his impressive collection for the purposes of this post.
There was the mystical quartet of Irish folklore-inspired callcards, the fairly common Niamh from Tír na nÓg and the Children of Lir ones (while I was taking that picture I involuntarily burst into that song about Tír na nÓg from primary school, you know, the one that goes “Niamh Cínn Ór, SEA! As Tír na nÓg, SEA!” I couldn’t remember any more of it though, other than a bit where you’d shout “Cad a rinne siad!”). More elusive however, were Deirdre of the Sorrows and Oisín returning from Tír na nÓg, as they were the big guns at 50 and 100 units.
Annual competitions were held, where children could submit their designs and the winner would be granted the highest honour in the land and their picture would be made into an ACTUAL CALLCARD. I can’t remember if I ever entered it, but I do remember thinking to myself each time the winner was unveiled that I should have, because I had decided I could have TOTALLY beaten that. Although the one on the top right actually still holds up rather well.
Seasonal callcards were for the committed collectors, as you’d have to wait a full year for the next in a series. As such, there were of course Christmas callcards, which couldn’t quite seem to branch out all that much past their “Santa in a phone box” idea.
Limited edition cards marked particularly big gigs, where international superstars would grace The Point Depot with their sparkling presence, including Garth Brooks – around that time in the 90s when Ireland as a whole went a bit mad for Garth, his impressive shirts and line dancing. Also, it would seem that Blink were deemed important enough to get their own callcard. I have a vague memory of a song called “Cello” and I know that they’re the reason Blink 182 had to add the 182 to their name, but other than that I have no idea how the above happened.
It would seem that every so often, Telecom Éireann would get a little low on ideas for new callcards. So what do you do when you’re fresh out of children’s drawings and things to commemorate? Why you issue a callcard of callcards, of course! How very meta of them.
Then there were the RARE callcards. Rumours would abound of how there were only a certain amount printed, or there’d be a version with a misprint or slightly different text or some other tiny detail that would seem insignificant to the public at large. But not to the avid collector, OH NO. The picture above is a selection of the cards which my boyfriend reckons are among the rarer of his collection. Personally, I haven’t a breeze but I do like the Tia Maria one. You’ll notice that it and the Carrowmore Dolmens cards are STILL IN THE PLASTIC. That’s commitment.
And finally, I decided to share my favourite callcard in his collection. Which just had to be the one above, as the combination of Zig and Zag AND callcards make for the perfect storm of mid-Nineties Irish childhood. I also chose it because I remember the Yoplait ad campaign they fronted and used to love the TV ad for it. “I vant to speak to the yoghurt!” “To the yoghurt?” “Ja, the smooth, creamy yoghurt!”.
Anyone…? No? Oh it’s not just me and YOU KNOW IT.
(by Kitty Catastrophe)