This time of the year I indulge myself in the yearly review of articles penned during the last twelve months. The first off the press this time last year dealt with the Pasley Glynn Cine Variety Company, one half of which was the late Ernest O'Rourke-Glynn. A two part article on Butlers Row in the 1930's evoked huge response which one particularly noteworthy phone call from a former resident now living in Dublin. Butler's Row came again to mind as I walked behind the recent funeral cortege of Christina Shaughnessy, granddaughter of Tom Langton, a one time resident of the lane. My school pal and one time neighbour from Butlers Row, Tom Webster, was also there and was very happy to see that the lane will soon again re-echo to the sounds of family life.
Convent Lane and its residents in the early 1930's also featured in an article as did the Mulhall family, long time barbers in Athy. My information for that latter article came courtesy of Jim Mulhall, himself a barber and a lover of history who sadly passed away during the year. Earlier in the year I had noticed the passing of Tosh Doyle who had opened the floodgates of memory for me and others when his own story was recounted in Eye on the Past.
Caught up in the football euphoria which envelopes every one in County Kildare at the beginning of the season, I penned a piece on the last occasion Kildare contested an All-Ireland Final. The year was 1935 and the human story behind the final was the dropping of Athy man "Cuddy" Chanders from the team. I often wondered whether Kildare is still being made to suffer by the Almighty for the injustice done to "Cuddy" on that September day 62 years ago. How else can be possibly explain the lack of success by the Lily Whites during the intervening years.
The social history of Athy was given more attention with a two part article on the residents of Leinster Street in the year of the Eucharistic Congress. The name of Bridget Darby, an Urban Councillor, Teacher and Gaelic speaker who lived where Conroys shop is today was mentioned in that and a subsequent article on the Gaelic League in Athy. I have come across several references to the formidable Miss Darby since then and maybe a further article on herself is called for.
The closing of Bryan Brothers afforded an opportunity for an article on the fine premises fronting on to Emily Square which had been a soap boilers shop in 1824. Later in the year the refurbishment of what was "Chopsie" Dillon's old premises in Barrow Quay revealed part of its past as a printing shop and was included in an article on printing in Athy.
The Duncans of Tonlegee House or Fortbarrington House as it was originally known featured in a piece on Elizabeth Coxhead's book "The House and the Heart". Some time afterwards I had a visit from a descendent of the Duncan family who very generously passed on to me copies of family papers relating to the late Alexander Duncan. The bi-centenary of the opening of Crom-a-Boo Bridge in May passed unnoticed by the authorities apart from my article on the Bridge which had replaced earlier more primitive methods of passing over the River Barrow. Unusually a father and son featured in separate articles during the year. Tadgh Brennan was the subject of a two part article early in 1996 and I later dealt with the early life of his father Fintan Brennan up to the time of his imprisonment during the troubles.
Sr. Xavier very generously gave of her time and of her memories during a pleasant evening spent with her and Sr. Paul in the Convent of Mercy. She was to pass away a few weeks later. Dr. George Cross from Christ Church, Dorset, met me in the summer and presented the local Museum with original plans of houses in Janeville Lane and Connolly Lane. This gave rise to another article on the two lanes where houses once busy with life are now long vacated. I later received from Dr. Cross a copy of a Diary kept by his ancestor Rev. Thomas Cross while a young man in Athy from 1847 onwards. The Diary entries gave much valuable information on a period long lost to memory and naturally enough formed the basis of another Eye on the Past.
Soon after that I was presented with a small Minute Book of the Gaelic League meetings held in Athy in the 1920's. It was here that Bridget Darby's name came up again and others mentioned included Joe May, Dick Candy and Ed Nolan amongst others. Athy Soccer Club was featured thanks largely to Johnny McEvoy, a former G.A.A. star of the 1930's and 1940's who now lives in Dublin. Johnny wrote me a most interesting letter which prompted that article and later in the year a civic reception was afforded by Athy Urban District Council to Johnny, Gerry Stynes and Paddy Joe Hughes. The occasion was the 57th anniversary of their leaving Athy to join the Garda Siochana.
Ex-Garda Michael Cunnane formerly stationed in Athy gave me much useful background information on the successful Athy hurling team of 1959 and the resultant article was well received especially by Mick "Cactus" Brennan who is now in Castlecomer. Jack Mitchell of the Coneyboro was as generous as ever with his extensive knowledge of Ardreigh in the old days and Hannon's Mill. The launch of John Minahan's book "Portrait of an Irish Town" was the subject of an article which ranged over the old residents of Athy now long forgotten. As another year comes to a close I remember some of those people who have been mentioned in articles during the past twelve months. George Robinson, Sr. Xavier, Tosh Doyle, Kevin Meaney, Matt Murray, Kitty McLaughlin, Maureen Clancy, all of whom had helped in no small way to make sense of the interlocking pieces which form the story of our town.
Towards the end of the year a visit to Rome prompted an article on the connection between the Eternal City and the South Kildare town and the names of Monsignor William Murphy and Fr. Raymond Dowdall provided the links. Another former Dominican priest, now long deceased, Fr. John O'Sullivan, was remembered in an article recalling the 14th of May 1993 when the Grotto to his memory was unveiled before a large attendance in the grounds of the Dominican Church, Athy.
To all the people who have contacted me personally, by phone or by letter during the past year with bits and pieces of information concerning Athy and its past I wish a very Happy Christmas. The same good wishes goes to readers of Eye on the Past.