Blast from the past: The dying art of thumbing a lift

It used to be common sight on country roads - people thumbing a lift from town to town, or, indeed, townland to townland.

When fewer people had cars, and bus services weren’t reliable or non-existent, many relied on the kindness of strangeness as they stood by the side of the road solely reliant on the power of their thumb.

It was a regular enough sight in rural parts to see someone who’d thumbed a lift sitting in a tractor’s linkbox beside a regulation collie dog and bale of hay, or riding upfront beside a friendly farmer.

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Some hitchhikers going long distances had elaborate or quirky signs (‘I’m an axe murderer’, doesn’t count), while others worked the road in small groups, some of them hiding behind bushes revealing themselves only after a car had stopped.

The flashy cars with smug looking drivers would whizz past anyone thumbing a lift; but lorry drivers were seen as the hitchhiker’s main ally, the siren call of brakes signalling a lift was theirs.

Hitchhikers on roads these days are a rare species, perhaps due to fear, insurance issues or improved road networks. Undoubtedly it is an unpredictable and risky mode of transport. Many will talk of narrow escapes; but others of unexpected generosities, and that surely deserves a thumbs up.

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