Thursday, January 23, 1997

Eamon Malone I.R.A. Commander and the Naming of Estates in Athy

"Three Volleys were fired by Members of the Old I.R.A. over the grave of Mr. Eamon Malone (45) late of Dunbrin, Athy after his burial in Barrowhouse Cemetery, Athy on Monday". The Nationalist Newspaper Report of his funeral is the only written account I have come across of the man who formed in Athy in 1917 a Branch of the Irish Volunteers. I have written previously in this series of Eamon Malone. Indeed, my article of the 7th January 1994 evoked an interesting response from a wide area, not least from a reader in Belfast whose allegiances were all too obvious. What prompts this further mention of a local man from our past whose courageous exploits are all but forgotten is a recent momentous decision by the local Urban District Council to call its latest Housing Scheme Malone Terrace. The honour falls to the houses in Woodstock Street directly opposite St. Martin's Terrace and occupying in part the site of the former thatched residence of successive Curates of the Parish of St. Michael's.

Eamon Malone died a relatively young man at his residence in Sutton, Co. Dublin and was survived by his Widow, two daughters and one son. His importance to the national struggle for Independence during the early part of this Century was readily recognised by his colleagues when he was put in charge of the I.R.A. Prisoners in Mountjoy during the Hunger strike of 1920. Married to Kathleen Dooley a sister of Mrs. Hester May and daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Michael Dooley of Duke Street, Athy, he was to spend some time in Mayo and Wicklow as a Republican Organiser following his release from Mountjoy.

I described the decision of the local Council as momentous because it is the first occasion that Athy has officially recognised any person connected with the struggle for Independence. The principal streets of our town are all named after members of the extended families of successive Duke's of Leinster. The old laneways, some no longer recognisable were generally named after the owners of the small houses which to be found there before the slum clearance programmes of the 1930's. Butler's Row, Connolly's Lane, Higginson's Lane, Kirwan's Lane, Kelly's Court and Porter's Row are but a few examples of the many Landlord names which were carried down to this Century.

It was the housing programmes of the local Council commenced in 1913 which gave the Town Father's their first opportunity to name and in some cases to re-name older parts of the Town. The names of Saints were especially favoured at a time when the affairs of Church and State seemed inextricably linked. St. Michael's Terrace an obvious reference to the Parish of the same name in which Athy is located and St. Martin's Terrace were two of the first names chosen by the local Council.

Pairc Bhride officially opened in the early 1950's continued the Saintly connection but with a difference. The Gaelic version was for the first and only time used in connection with an Athy place name. Around the same time, McDonnell Drive was named after the local Parish Priest, Archdeacon McDonnell whom I remember well. It was he who drove me out of his temporary Confession box by shaking his walking stick after I had forgot ten the words of the Act of Contrition. I could well be excused since I was about seven years of age at the time. The subsequent tearful journey home ended in joy when I was made aware of the arrival that morning of an American Parcel from a Cousin in New York who thoughtfully sent on much treasured goods and foodstuffs which in those post-war years were otherwise denied to those living in Ireland. I later served Mass for Canon McDonnell on the side-altar of St. Michael's, always keeping a careful eye on the infamous walking stick in case he felt a further assault on my person was warranted.

During the slum clearance programmes of 60 years ago, the Council embarked on an extensive building programme which saw houses built on McHugh's field in Woodstock Street, Plewman's field on the Kilkenny Road, Dooley's field at Townspark and Holland's field at Geraldine Road. When it came to naming the new housing estates, the then Council showed an independent streak by ignoring the precedents set by the previous Council. Michael Dooley's Terrace was named after Michael Dooley of 41 Duke's Street, the man earlier referred to in this article whose daughters married Eamon Malone and Joe May. His Shop and House in Duke Street was a meeting place for Republicans in the post 1916 period. Whether this was the reason the very last houses built of Athy brick were named after him I cannot say. I am sure some of my readers can perhaps help me on this as the relevant Council Minute Book dealing with Dooley's Terrace cannot be traced.

Minch's Terrace built in what was McHugh's field in Woodstock Street was so named "in recognition of the long and honoured connection of the Minch Family with the Industrial and Commercial life of Athy". So it was recorded in the Minutes of the local Council on the 18th January 1937. In the following month the new houses on the Kilkenny road were officially named Plewman's Terrace "as a slight recognition of the long services which the late Thomas Plewman gave to the benefit of his native town both as Chairman and Member of this Council and in his private capacity". When the time came to name the houses on Holland's site, the Council fell back on the Townland name of Geraldine.

Local private developers in recent years have given extraordinary inappropriate names to their Housing Schemes. These names which have no connection with the ancient place names of the area and less with the Irish countryside give rise to the thought that perhaps the local Urban Council on taking over such estates might consider in conjunction with the local residents giving them names more appropriate for an Irish Town.

All of this by way of measuring my pleasure as the decision to name our most recent housing scheme after a truly great local man who like so many of his colleagues was in danger of been forgotten by the present generation.

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