On the 28th of September 1939 two young men with suitcases in hand arrived at the Railway Station in Athy to catch the 9.04 a.m. train to Dublin. That same week petrol rationing had been introduced by the Irish Government just three weeks after Germany had invaded Poland, thereby precipitating the Second World War. The train services had been curtailed due to the need to conserve coal stocks but the young men waiting on the platform gave little thought to the events unfolding in Europe. With their friend Gerry Stynes who was to join the train at Kildangan they were travelling to Dublin's Kings Bridge and from there to the Garda Depot in the Phoenix Park. They were the latest recruits for the Garda Siochana and all were former pupils of Athy Christian Brothers School.
Fifty seven years later they will retrace the journey they made as young men when on Saturday 28th September they catch the 11.30 a.m. train from Heuston Station to Athy. This time they will be accompanied by their wives and a lifetime of memories. Theirs will be a nostalgic journey, revisiting the town they once knew so well and renewing acquaintances with neighbours and friends of long ago.
Johnny McEvoy, Paddy Joe Hughes and Gerry Stynes are now long retired from the Garda Siochana and all three live in Dublin. Johnny, was born in 1915 in Woodstock Street and his father John and his brother Mick, now in St. Joseph's Terrace were both Postmen. Prior to joining the Gardai he had worked as a Despatch Clerk with the local asbestos factory and was one of the stars of the G.A.A. football team for many years, winning a Championship medal with Athy in 1937. Indeed Johnny holds the distinction of also having won a Dublin Championship medal in 1948 when playing with the Garda team. An Inter-County player, Johnny played for Co. Kildare for five years but of all his trophies the most prized are a minor Street League medal won with Barrack Street in 1930 and a Midland Schools Championship medal won when playing for Athy Christian Brothers School.
Johnny's football prowess was rivalled by that of Gerry Stynes, a native of Kildangan who played with Athy Christian Brothers School. Gerry played in the 1931 Leinster College Junior Championships when Athy achieved notable victories over Knockbeg, Ballyfin, O'Connell's School and Westland Row before losing to St. Mel's College, Longford in the Croke Park final. Playing for Westland Row in opposition to Gerry was the legendary Jackie Carey who later captained Manchester United to an English F.A. Cup victory as well as captaining Ireland at International level. After leaving school Gerry worked as a Barman for Michael Lalor who carried on a grocery and bar business in what is now Ryans but was then known as Reid Lalors in Leinster Street. His brother was the late Tommy Stynes who had a Hackney and Undertaking business at Leinster Street in what is now O'Sullivan's video shop.
Paddy Joe Hughes was born on the 28th of March 1917, the eldest son of Michael Hughes of Whitebog and Mary Darcy formerly of Woodstock Street. A pupil of the local Christian Brothers School, he sat his Leaving Certificate exam in 1935 when Brother Peter O'Farrell was Superior. While awaiting a call for the Gardai he took up employment in the local asbestos factory where Johnny McEvoy was already working as a Despatch Clerk. P.J. played gaelic football with Athy C.B.S. and Castlemitchell and recalls "big Joe Bermingham" as a team mate. While serving in Stores Street Garda Station he won Junior League and Junior Championship medals in 1940 and 1941 with the Dublin Club Ard Craobh. A team mate of his on that team was the great Tommy Banks, later a Dublin County and Leinster Inter-Provincial Gaelic football player.
The three young men from Athy accompanied by 300 other recruits completed their training in the Phoenix Park after six weeks and were sent to Stations in the Dublin Metropolitan Area. Johnny and Gerry were transferred after a few years to the Detective Branch in Dublin Castle. Paddy Joe spent some years in Sun Drive Garda Station and in the Superintendent's Office in Green Street before transferring to the Assistant Commissioner's Office in Dublin Castle.
On Saturday 28th of September commencing at 12.30 p.m. Athy Town Council is hosting a Reception in the Council Chambers at Rathstewart for the three local men who together left Athy so many years ago to join the Gardai. It was be a unique occasion for Johnny, Paddy Joe and Gerry and I am sure they are looking forward to meeting old friends and many of their relatives on the 57th anniversary of their departure from Athy. The Reception is open to everyone and it is hoped that as many as possible will turn out to meet them on Saturday.