Matt Talbot drank from the age of twelve until he was twenty seven and then did not take a drink again for the rest of his life.
'Tuesday Report' profiles the life of Dubliner Matt Talbot. This excerpt from the programme focuses on his early life, his problems with alcohol and his ultimate decision to give up the drink for good.
Born on 2 May 1856, Matt Talbot grew up in the famine poor, hungry tenements of north inner city Dublin. His basic elementary education with the Christian Brothers on North Richmond Street led him to his first job at the age of twelve at E & J Bourke's Bottling Store in North Lotts where he was able to sample Guinness to his heart's content.
The aftermath of the Crimean War had filled Dublin barracks up with undischarged soldiers, and pubs, brothels, and shebeens stood cheek by jowl with rotten dwellings. It was common enough for youngsters to drink porter.
From there he went on to the Dublin Port and Docks Board Bonded Warehouse on the North Wall, where his father worked and where Matt got a taste for whiskey. What he couldn't get free on the job, he'd spend all his money on in the pubs in the area. His sister said of him,
He'd sell his boots and his shirt to get money for drink.
From the Port and Docks Board, he went to become a builder's labourer on slack time with a firm called Pembertons. While working for them at the age of twenty-seven, at this stage penniless and out of credit with all the local bars, he suddenly gave up drink and took the pledge.
It's at this point that the legend of Matt Talbot really begins.
He took the pledge at Clonliffe College and kept it for the rest of his life.
From being a drunkard, possibly an alcoholic, he turned suddenly, almost dramatically to
religious observances of an extreme kind.
Cathal O'Shannon speaks to Matt Talbot biographer Mary Purcell, who comments on the events that led to Matt's decision to give up drink and how he turned to religion.
This episode of 'Tuesday Report' was broadcast on 3 May 1977. The reporter is Cathal O'Shannon.