Friday, June 3, 1994

Ger Moriarty

He first came to Athy in 1934 with M.G. Nolan who was opening a new drapery shop in Duke Street. Coming from Sheerans Drapery in Mountrath where he had been apprenticed after a Christian Brothers education in Mullingar Ger Moriarty was completing a journey which had first started in Lisscannor, Co. Clare. Born in that West Clare village his family settled in Ballinaleck, Co. Westmeath after his father resigned from the RIC in 1921.

Apprenticed to a general drapery in Mountrath in the late 1920's he lived in with no pay for two and a half years. Indeed for that apprenticeship he paid the shop owner £50, a huge sum in the 1920's from which you can gauge how highly prized drapery apprenticeships were in those postwar days. When he came out of his time he received a wage of £18 a year and as he says himself he felt like a millionaire. The hours were long with the shop opening at 8.30 a.m. and closing at 7.00 p.m. except on a Saturday when it was a 10.00 p.m. finish.

Next door was Nolans drapery shop of Mountrath and when M.G. Nolan decided to buy Jacksons shop in Duke Street, Athy, for his new drapery business he asked Ger to join him. M.G. Nolans which was to become an institution in the town was a general drapery with ladies wear upstairs. Initially the staff consisted of M.G., Ger and Kitty Nolan who was later to leave and be replaced by a Miss Hall and Mary Walton. Tommy Walsh later joined the staff as indeed did local girl Mary Harrington who with her friend, Breda Kennedy, died tragically in a traffic accident on the Dublin Road in 1959.

Ger remembers his former boss and friend M.G. with affection. He describes him as a man willing to help everyone and anyone but who as a salesman would be incapable of selling ice cream in hell. M.G. served for many years as a County Councillor and an Urban Councillor and was the father figure of the Fianna Fail party in Athy during the 1950's and the 1960's. Ger, very soon after his arrival in Athy, got involved with the Social Club players. In the early 1930's the Club had premises on the Carlow road where the tennis courts were located and at St. John's hall which they had acquired from the British Legion. With Bill Ryan, Tadgh Brennan, Tommy Walsh, Ken Reynolds, David Walsh, Paddy Flynn, Florrie and Jo Lawler, Kitty McLoughlin, Freddie and Molly Moore, May and Francis Fenlon and others, Ger spent many happy years with the Social Club players, an amateur drama group of considerable talent and skill.

The male members of the Club did not confine their socialising to the hall in St. John's Lane but over time found that they were repairing to the back room of Mulhall's public house adjoining Whites Castle. There they met on a few nights a week but especially on Friday nights when the affairs of State and town were discussed and analysed at length, good conversation and debate prevailing. Ger recalls the local curate who although a non-drinker always sat on a stool in the corner each Friday soaking in the atmosphere while enjoying the convivial surroundings and the craic.

Marrying a local girl, Lottie Brophy, daughter of a local publican in 1944 Ger continued working in M.G. Nolans for 30 years. He was a member of the local LDF during the second World War with local publican Tom Flood of Leinster Street in charge. Other officers of the LDF included Tim McCarthy of St. Patrick's Avenue, Norman Plewman and John Stafford then living in Emily Square. Stories of wartime escapades and Tom Flood's baby Ford car are recounted with relish and no doubt relief that not a single shot was fired in anger. However there was an occasion when a firearm was accidentally discharged in the local Garda barracks in Duke Street which then served as the headquarters of the LDF causing consternation amongst the ranks and no little concern as to how the incident could pass unnoticed by the superior officers. Apparently that difficulty was got over.

Ger opened his own drapery business in 1964 after acquiring a premises in Leinster Street from Mrs. Blanchfield. He retired from the business in 1992 and spends his well earned leisure in listening to music, a past-time which he shares with his son, Gerard, who is a teacher in Dublin. His daughter Fionnola is a nurse in London. 83 years of age on the 2nd of June Ger is a familiar figure at Ceoltas sessions in Clancys each Thursday night.

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