Thursday, June 13, 1996

Eaton family / Paddy Eaton

The Eaton and Ellard families have long associations with the town of Athy. Many will remember Pat Ellard who lived in a small house next door to the shop now owned by Bertie McDermott in Leinster Street. Pat drove the mail van for the Post Office and also had a side car for hire. His wife Beatrice Causer, an English woman first met Pat while on holidays in Athy. Pat died in 1959 and his wife in 1962. Their daughter Ellen married local painter Martin Eaton in the early 1930's bringing together two of the oldest families in the area. Martin Eaton worked with Newcombe Empey, House, Sign and Ornamental Painter and Gilder of Leinster Street whose grandson who is soon to be raised to the Archbishopric of Dublin. For the first few years of their married life Martin and Ellen Eaton lived in New Row, off Mount Hawkins before being appointed the first tenants of No. 19 Convent View. Their eldest son Paddy was born in New Row and now lives in Clonmullin within a stones throw of his old home.

Martin Eaton's half-brothers Lar, Pat, Mick and Charlie all served in France and Flanders during World War I and returned home unscathed in 1919 to their father Mick Eaton who lived in Meeting Lane. He worked in a brick yard in Castlecomer and every Saturday after finishing his weeks work he walked the 19 miles home to Athy. The return journey was made on Sunday nights again on foot, a trip he made for many years.

It was his son the earlier mentioned Martin Eaton who was the first family member to be apprenticed to the painting trade and he in turn passed on his skill and knowledge to his own son Paddy Eaton. Paddy who was born in 1934 started his apprenticeship in 1948 earning 7/6 per week. He served three and a half years before being recognised as "an improver" with a modest increase in his wages. Another four years were to pass before he became a qualified tradesman earning £3=5=0 per week.

Even before he had embarked on a career in painting and decorating Paddy had spent some time in Tom McHugh's foundry. He was then only 13 years of age but the illness of his father who was the only wage earner in the family necessitated Paddy's early entry into the workforce. He spent almost a year in the Janeville Lane foundry owned and operated by Tom McHugh, a resident of Offaly Street. He recalls working with Robbie Lynch of Shrewleen, Frankie Aldridge, Des Donaldson, Mannix Thompson, Pat Roche and Jim Carter both of Ballylinan. Tom McHugh he described as the best floor moulder in Ireland working with his "clearer", "boss lickers" and "harp and square", all moulders tools to help him shape in the sand boxes the intricate design he required. The red sand used in the Foundry came from Dan Neill's field on the Carlow Road which is now given over to Graysland and Kingsgrove housing estates. Paddy recalls with amusement and with no little awe the occasion a local Janeville Lane man called to Tom McHugh's foundry to have a tooth extracted which was troubling him. With a minimum of fuss and expertly using a pliers or pinchers, Tom soon had the offending tooth pulled.

Paddy Eaton's time in the foundry was generally spent breaking scrap metal or lining the furnace with bricks or clay prior to it being fired with coke. He also shovelled the sand and moved the sand boxes into place ready for the molten metal to be poured into the carefully prepared moulds. All of this was being done at a time when young Paddy should have been at school. Inevitably the long arm of the law caught up with him and he recalls Sergeant Taaffe calling to his home and gently encouraging his mother to get young Paddy into school "for a day now and then".

Paddy left the foundry to join his father in the painting trade and in 1956 after finishing his apprenticeship he emigrated to England. It was to Kettering, Northamptonshire, near the home town of his grandmother Beatrice that Paddy went to work for Wimpeys Building Contractors. Three years later Paddy returned to Ireland accepting for the second time in his young life responsibility for his family's welfare. His father had suffered serious injuries after falling from the roof of St. Vincent's Hospital while working for Kildare County Council. Paddy was to take up employment with the same Council for the next three years but when his father died in 1962 he returned to England, this time settling in Birmingham. He was soon followed by his younger brothers and sisters Frank, Tony, Christy, Martin and Nancy and his mother Ellen.

Recalling his young days in Athy in the early 1940's Paddy remembers with affection the efforts of "Skurt" Doyle, a legend in his own lifetime who trained the local young men in athletics and football. "Skurt" who had an illustrious career in the British Army, firstly in India and later during World War I lived in 18 Convent View. He was a noted athlete and sportsman who on retiring from the British Army became involved in training local teams of all codes including Gaelic football, soccer and rugby. He was one of the organisers of the football street leagues of the 1940's in which most of the young boys of Athy played. For Paddy Eaton there was the additional involvement in distance running again tutored by "Skurt" Doyle in what was known locally as Lawlers field in Clonmullin. Times were hard and two of Paddy's abiding memories of the 1940's was the weak cocoa made by Fran Lawler for the schoolboys lunch break in the local C.B. School and his daily chore of collecting sticks in Sawyerswood for the family fire.

Retired on health grounds Paddy is married to Mary Logan, formerly of Dublin and their two children Shirley and Patrick are living in Birmingham. The wheel of emigration has come full circle for this member of an old Athy family.

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