It’s strange how historical memory works.
One of the largest and most expensive civic memorials of the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations, the Anna Livia Fountain (a.k.a. ‘The Floozie in the Jacuzzi’), now lies forlorn and unloved in the Croppies Acre Memorial Park on Benburb Street. And yet, every couple of years the Internet will indulge in a frenzy of nostalgia over what was the smallest and cheapest memento of the 1988 celebrations – the humble Millennium Milk Bottle (‘MMB’).
In the late 1980’s, when the majority of people in Dublin still had doorstep milk deliveries, Premier Dairies discovered that the standard Irish Glass milk bottle could be covered in shrink-wrapped plastic allowing it to be over-printed with various adverts such as ‘Do you know you can buy orange juice from your Milkman?‘ etc.
In addition to the adverts, there were a couple of forays into commemorative subjects – Italia ’90 being one example – but the most famous, of course, was the Dublin Millennium in 1988. Even at the time, people were stashing them away as ‘heirlooms’ and it is still said that the definition of true Dubliner is someone who has a Millennium Milk Bottle or two hidden in the attic.
The hype around the bottles took hold fairly early-on. I remember irate listeners phoning in to The Gay Byrne Show complaining that they hadn’t been given their fair quota of MMBs and this included people who didn’t even live in Dublin!
There was a craze for converting them into table lamps for a while and I distinctly remember Rory’s Fishing Tackle in Temple Bar having one on display behind the counter sitting on a finely-turned bespoke wooden plinth. It seems that Dubliners are still holding on to their MMBs in the hope that they will become the Fabergé eggs of the future although the price on the web seems to have peaked at a lofty €10 as of March 2017.
In 2013, Premier Dairies decided to cash-in on the nostalgia-tripping and reissued the ‘25th anniversary edition‘ Millennium Milk Bottle in a bespoke cardboard case. There was some concern online at the time that this would somehow ‘devalue’ the originals as judging by the images in the press release, the reissue seemed to be virtually identical.
Thankfully, by comparing the 25th anniversary reissue bottles currently on sale at adverts.ie with the precious original in my possession, I can confirm that the commemorative inscriptions on the back are completely different so there’s no danger that they could be accidentally confused with each other.
Perversely, the number of people taking doorstep milk deliveries in 2013 would be a fraction of those in 1988 – so I imagine the reissued bottle is much, much rarer.
Milk bottle collectors take note.