I came across four torn pages of the Nationalist and Leinster Times for the 11th of March 1939 last week. Fifty six years have passed since they came off the press but still they managed to inform and delight with the minutiae of Irish provincial life which unfolded as I perused the now yellowing pages.
Advertisements in those days had none of the glitzy glamour of today and relied on straight- forward appeals to the public, as in the following advertisement which appeared for Shaw’s of Athy, Maryborough and Mountmellick :
“TO MEN WHO KNOW HOW MUCH APPEARANCE MATTERS -
A TAILORED SUIT IS THE ONLY ANSWER”
The advertisement continued:
“This may sound a sweeping assertion but our wide experience
of dressing men correctly has led us to the conclusion
that only through hand craftsmanship and careful measuring
can real smartness be achieved.”
Suits to measure were to be had from 50 shillings and the men planning to attend the Cinderella Dance in the local Town Hall advertised for Thursday 16th March would have been well advised to wear Shaws’ latest pattern. Admission to the dance was 2/6, tax 3d, with music by Alex Kelly and his Revellers Band.
If the suit was not up to cavorting around the Town Hall, then you had the option of going to the local cinema. Athy Picture Palace in Offaly Street had three shows on Sundays, a matinee at 3.00 o’clock and further shows at 6.15 p.m. and 8.45 p.m. The double feature programme advertised for the following Sunday was “St. Martin’s Lane” starring Charles Laughton and “Oh Boy” featuring Albert Burdon and Mary Lawson. The main feature film was described as “a romantic comedy with pathos set against the hurrying and scurrying background of the world’s greatest city, London’s Theatre Land with all its music, spectacle, hopes and heartbreaks.” The programme was repeated at 8.30 p.m. on Monday with a change of programme for Tuesday and Wednesday nights when “Break The News” with James Knight was on offer. On Thursday and Friday “The Emperor’s Candle Stick” came to town with a matinee on Friday afternoon. There was no mention of any programme for Saturday night, which might indicate the public’s preference for a more liquid form of pleasure on that night.
In case the local Picture Palace was not to your liking, you could always cycle out to Castledermot where the Castle Cinema was scheduled to open on St. Patrick’s Day 1939 with Raymond Navarro in “The Sheik Steps Out”. The Abbey Pavilion, we were told in a separate news item, had been enlarged and remodelled as a cinema in which there was comfortable seating for about 500. Admission prices for Athy’s Picture Palace were not stated, but in Castledermot they ranged from 1/4 to 1/8, with childrens Matinee prices at 4d. and 8d.
The election of Pope Pius XII was the subject of the papers Editorial, in which reference was made to the new breed of absolute nationalism then prevalent in Germany. The unfortunate Editor then unburdened himself of the following :
“Most of the howling about the treatment of German Jews is dishonest propaganda and those nations that now shriek loudest for papal denunciation of all Herr Hitler’s works and pomps were those same nations that rigidly excluded the Pope and his representatives from the infamous Peace Conference of Versailles.”
“Robert O’Neil” was the title of a play billed for the Town Hall, Athy on St. Patrick’s Night. The cast was to include Ernie and Nicholas Glynn, May Glynn, Jack Kelly of William Street, John Murphy of Russelstown, John Watchorn of Fortbarrington, Mary Ward of Duke Street and some local children.
The same paper announced that Athy man Patrick O’Rourke, saddler and harness maker, Stanhope Street, had been favoured with an order from the Land Commission for the supply of all harness and saddlery equipment for the new colonies set up in North Kildare and Westmeath for migrants from the Donegal Gaeltacht.
Confirmation outfits for boys and girls were advertised by Nolans of Mountrath, Athy and Maryborough, with boys suits ranging in price from 8/11d for a tweed suit in brown herring bone cloth to 13/6d for a heavy navy suit with fancy stripe. Boys shirts were to be had for 1/3d each while a pair of rubber-soled shoes were 8/11d with heavy leather shoes priced at 13/11d.
The local Urban Council agreed to send to the Gardai a letter of complaint received from Mrs. Meehan, Chemist of Emily Square, in which she brought to their attention “the vandalism that goes on here in the Square. On two occasions quite recently I had very serious damage done to my premises. The windows were smashed by stones and the actual woodwork outside kicked down through sheer hooliganism.”
The pages of the local newspaper just before the outbreak of World War II clearly demonstrates, how, in some ways at least, some things never change in Athy.