Whatever Happened to Dublin’s Wedding Grushys?

“Oh there’d be killings at the grushys,” says Noel Merton, a retiree from Cabra, now living in Donegal.

He chuckles at the other end of the phone line. “Everyone jumping on the money, kicking you out of the way.”

Merton remembers grushys well, an old tradition when members of a wedding party would throw coins out to kids.

“There was always a grushy in Cabra in the 50s. I would’ve been the age where you’d be tough enough to get into it, you know?” he says.

He even had one at his own wedding in Ringsend Church in 1967. With pennies, and ha’pennies, and threepenny bits.

“It was the done thing at the time, you had to do it,” he says. It’s been a long time, though, since Merton witnessed one.

It’s been a while since Terry Fagan of the North Inner City Folklore Project has seen one too. Not since the 60s, he says.

As a kid, Fagan would gather with friends by the old tin church on Sean MacDermott Street and wait for the bride and groom to arrive, he says.

“Not to see the bride or the groom, mind, just to see the money coming out,” he says.

But that’s decades back. “Times moved on, Ireland was changing, and all these traditions started to die off,” says Fagan.

There are theories around why, though, the tradition has – almost – disappeared.

In The Beginning

“The word grushy can be spelled a couple of ways: grushie, grushy, grushee,” says Cathy Scuffil, a Dublin City Council historian-in-residence.

The word roots back to Scots Gaelic, she says. “It’s a catch-all word, meaning health, prosperity, thriving, good fortune.”

The grushy traces back to Scotland too, she says.

“Irish Celts migrated to Scotland and formed the Scottish Celts, and eventually you have this cross migration where Scottish people come back to Ireland,” she says.

The Victorian era in the 1800s was a key time for the spread of grushys, a time when Scottish engineers jumped across to Ireland to build the railways, she says.

There was a big Scottish community in Dublin, she says. “All around Ringsend, it would have been huge because you would have had railway building and the canals, the ports, and shipbuilding.”

Orla Shelvin remembers the grushys in Ringsend in the late 70s and early 80s.

“You’d be pushing people out of the way, grabbing 50ps. You’d think you were absolutely rich,” she says.

“Back then, you wouldn’t have a lot of money so I was able to get things I wouldn’t normally have because my parents wouldn’t have it,” Shelvin says.

In some parts of Dublin, the grushy took place at the door of the bride’s house, says Scuffil, “It’s meant to represent that the bride is well-off, she’s not leaving the house with nothing, you know that type of thing?”

Fagan thinks that there was a dose of peacocking in the tradition on the groomsmen’s side.

They’d go up to the amusement arcade and get three or four quid worth of pennies to throw before the ceremony, he says. “And that also impressed the woman you were with, that you were able to throw money.”

Scuffil agrees. “The groom, or anyone from his party, in parts of Dublin throws coinage, to show we’re well off. ‘We have it to throw away.’”

Fagan thinks the tradition was more an inner-city or working-class Dublin ritual.

“I’ve talked to people who lived in other parts of the city, like Donnybrook and places like that and they don’t remember them at all,” he said.

Scattering coins may also have been a way to distract the children while the wedding party moved to its next location, says Scuffil.

Susan Lally, remembers her wedding, 31 years ago in Ringsend, when her father threw coins from his top hat to the local children.

“He saved a few coppers and threw some silver in, because that got the extra attention with the kids,” she says.

Scoor-Oot

“One way of understanding what’s going on I think is to cycle back to how people got married in the past,” says Neill Martin, senior lecturer in Scottish ethnology, Celtic and Scottish studies at the University of Edinburgh.

In his hometown of Fife, the tradition was called a rushy.

Elsewhere in Scotland, he says, it’s known as a scoor-oot. That translates from Scottish as to scatter out, or poor-oot, which means pouring out.

Traditionally, marriages weren’t love matches but were arranged between two families, he says.

They were about the movement of people and property, the transfer of ownership, and shifts in local power and influence.

“In a patriarchal system, the female side always loses,” he says. “The young woman would go to live with the groom’s family and she would often take over the role of head of the household.”

The tradition of scattering money was related to the idea of paying a fine to allow the bride to be moved to the man’s house, he says.

One reason for the disappearance of the tradition could be due to religious control, he says. “Because the church conflates hospitality and money giving with begging.”

Over time, the tradition became about children, he says, although that wasn’t the original intent.

“It wouldn’t make any sense to do so unless it’s seen as a way to alleviate poverty in the community, “ he says.

Reviving the Tradition

Caroline Murphy, from Macken Street near Grand Canal Dock, had a grushy at her front door in 2015.

“I always had it in my memory to do a grushy on my wedding day,” she says.

She changed €75 into small coins in the bank and split it in half with her now-husband, who also had one at his front door.

The children didn’t know what to do, she says.

“My mother had to say, ‘Quick, quick grab the money’. They’d never seen a grushy before,” she says, laughing.

Her husband didn’t even get a chance to throw his coins, though. “He didn’t throw it in the end because there was no one outside to run for it,” she says.

For Murphy, it was important to keep up the tradition that she loved as a child.

Scuffil says she thinks people are looking for traditions to cherish.

“Sometimes they just need to be reminded that the tradition exists and that they are worth keeping,” she says.

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Stephanie Costello: Stephanie Costello is the managing editor and general reporter at Dublin Inquirer. To get in contact with her, you can email her on [email protected]

Reader responses

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Brian Mc
at 3 September at 09:37

It was always pronounced 'gushy' where I grew up in Dublin 12. I never saw it at a wedding, but it was frequent if you had a bag of sweets (usually belonging to someone else), and you threw them all in the air.

Linda Garrigan
at 4 September at 07:04

I remember the grushys well. I was living in Ballyfermot and every Saturday we would go to the church in the hope of getting a few coppers we would kill each other for pennies. When I got married in 1982 my own Dad threw a grushy as we were leaving the house. He did this for a few of the weddings in the 80s he has 8 daughters and he loved doing it.

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