In 1961 I was part of the local diaspora which each year saw the towns young men and women leave Athy to find work. That same year a young man from Belmullet, Co. Mayo, just six years out of the Garda Training College, was transferred to Athy. Joe Carty, who had previously served briefly in Carlow, Ballytore and Carrickmacross in Co. Monaghan was to spend the remainder of his Garda service in South Kildare.
When Joe arrived in Athy he reported to the local Barracks, then located in Duke Street in the premises now owned by Kavanaghs. The local Station Sergeant was my late father who had transferred from Castlecomer in 1945 so that his five young sons could attend the local Christian Brothers Secondary School in Athy.
Joe Carty joined in Athy a group of men, each of them with a record of service in the force which amply justified Joe's description as "the Station's young fella". Amongst the long serving members were Johnny McMahon, Jim Kelly and Mick Tuohy, all of whom spent practically their entire Garda service in Athy. Johnny McMahon was the doyen of traffic control in Athy and he is fondly remembered for his energetic direction of traffic as he stood in the centre of what we called Dallon's corner, perilously close to passing cars and lorries. Traffic lights have long since been installed at that point but somehow they seem less efficient and certainly less colourful than the well-liked Mayo man who retired in 1965. Jim Kelly and Mick Tuohy retired a few years after Joe Carty's arrival in Athy. In those days of course one never referred to the local members other than by their rank of Garda or Sergeant and even today as I head off into my second half century I am still referred to by the older residents of the town as Sergeant Taaffe's son. Other men serving when Joe Carty arrived in Athy were Maurice Shortt, now retired and living in Clane, Co. Kildare and Mick Cullinane, also retired and living in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin.
Those were the days of what we now almost nostalgically refer to as the old style Gardai who seemed to be on duty 24 hours a day. All night foot patrols were a feature of the early 1960's as they had been since the establishment of the Garda Siochana. Members also did Barrack orderly duty in their turn which of course meant that there was a Garda presence in the Barracks 24 hours a day.
It was the implementation of the Conroy Report of 1968 which radically changed the working conditions of the Gardai. Like most other workers they were thereafter to work eight hour shifts. An off-duty Garda was no longer required to be on call, thus putting an end to the practice well-known in every Garda home in the country of asking "Are you in?" before answering a knock at the front door.
Joe has served as a member of the Garda Siochana since November 1955 and in his time he has seen the transition from the days when members had to live in the town where they were stationed giving 24 hour coverage. Nowadays patrol cars and a relaxation of the rule relating to where Gardai can live has resulted in a marked change insofar as Garda presence is covered.
Joe who retired last week was the longest serving member in Athy and the last link with Johnny McMahon, Jim Kelly, Mick Tuohy and John Taaffe, the old timers who had welcomed the young Joe Carty to Athy in 1961.
Joe, a native of Co. Mayo, has made his home in Athy with his Cahirciveen born wife Margaret. They have two sons, Joseph who is a teacher and Christopher who graduates from Maynooth College later this year. In his 33 years in Athy Joe Carty has upheld the good name of the Garda Siochana and has served the community with honour and integrity. The quiet spoken Mayo man can truly say that he has performed his duties "without fear, favour, malice or ill-will".
I understand that Joe and Margaret will continue to live in Athy and to both of them is extended the good wishes of everyone in Athy and South Kildare for a long and happy retirement.