Last week Jack Murphy passed away at the age of 94 years. He had been a bicycle mechanic all of his working life. The heyday of the bicycle has long gone and with it the skill of the bicycle mechanic. Indeed, the motor mechanic who succeeded the bicycle mechanic is himself in danger of extinction with the new fangled diagnostic machinery now being built for the cars of today.
Jack first started work in 1919 with Duthie Larges in Leinster Street and about eight years later moved up the street to Jackson Brothers when they started a motor and bicycle business. Both Duthie Larges and Jacksons have since disappeared from the commercial life of Athy.
The first Jackson to come to the town was Francis Robert Jackson who was the local station master employed by the Great Southern Railway Company. A man with apparent entrepreneurial flair, he became involved in the sale of grain waste from Guinesses Brewery in Dublin. He rented the yard at the rear of McEvoy's Public House in Leinster Street from where he carried on business under another persons name while at the same time remaining on as Station Master in Athy. The Railway Company disapproved of his commercial activities and this ultimately led to him resigning his position and purchasing a shop in Leinster Street where he lived with his family for a number of years. He developed a hardware and general merchants business on the premises which was later to grow into the most substantial business outlet of its kind in Athy.
The older generations will remember Jacksons which was always referred to as Jackson Brothers. This was a hark back to the days when the developing business was carried on by the original proprietor Robert Francis, with his two brothers John and William. The prospering business activities of the brothers were brought to a temporary halt in 1907 when their two storied
shop premises was destroyed by fire. The local newspaper reported the disaster as follows :-
"A few minutes before three o clock this morning a fire was discovered on the premises of Jackson Bros. Athy, hardware and general merchants. The residential portion of the premises consists of a two-storey house facing Leinster Street, and a wing at the back or north side...................... The newly formed fire brigade was summoned, and soon arrived as did a large force of police, under Head-Constable Blessing. The efforts of the brigade were principally directed towards keeping the flames from spreading to the adjoining buildings, and in this they were successful. So fierce however, were the flames that within half an hour the roof of the building fell in, and subsequently the walls collapsed. The extensive stores at the back were also burned to the ground."
The shop was re-built and the opportunity was taken to purchase adjoining premises. The hardware and grocery extended over a very large premises which are now occupied by Perrys Supermarket and the adjoining Goggin Hardware Shop. The man who started the business, the former Station Master Francis Robert Jackson died in 1916 and his interests were assumed by his eldest surviving son and namesake, Francis Robert. Before his death Francis Jackson, the elder, had been living in Kilkea House and previously in Shamrock Lodge, Kildare Road where he had moved with his family from the living quarters over the original shop in Leinster Street. It was the second Francis Robert Jackson who in the early 1920'2 opened the garage to cater for the then developing motor business. He obtained permission from Athy Urban District Council to install petrol pumps on Leinster Street and it was to join the newly opened garage that Jack Murphy left Duthie Larges in 1927. Jackson Brothers prospered over the years and it was Francis Robert Jackson, the son of the founder of the firm who purchased Farmhill on the Carlow Road as the family residence. He was also to buy out the interest of his
uncles John Jackson and William Jackson in the family business
which however continued to be known as Jackson Brothers.
Francis Robert Jackson died in October 1949 and was succeeded by his son Francis Kenneth whom locals will recall lived in Farm Hill, the house first purchased by his father. Francis Kenneth, known locally as Ken, worked in the Leinster Street Shop before serving in Italy during World War II where he attained the rank of Major. On his return to Athy he continued the business first set up by his Grandfather improving and expanding it over the years. It was a coincidence that in Leinster Street were to be found two thriving businesses, one managed by Major Jackson while the other was controlled by Colonel Hosie, both of whom served overseas during World War II. Jackson Brothers continued in business until 1963 when a Receiver was appointed and the business was eventually sold. Quinns opened their hardware business in one part of the premises while Byrnes had a supermarket in that portion of the property now occupied by Perrys.
Jack Murphy had left Jacksons long before Francis Robert Jackson had taken over the business. Injured at work he lost a finger and his job in Jacksons Garage, but was fortunately able to rejoin his old employers, Duthie Larges where he was to remain until 1979. As I wrote in a previous Eye on the Past on Jack Murphy when he retired at 78 years of age, Leinster Street no longer had a Duthie or a Large or a Jackson in business.