Thursday, April 17, 1997

Jimmy Roycroft & Charlie Moore

Two deaths last weekend reawakened memories for a lot of local people. Jimmy Roycroft, doyen of the Roycroft family passed away at the age of 85 years, just 8 years after the death of his wife Teresa. Charlie Moore died at 75 years of age, less than a year after his wife had passed away.

The quiet self effacing man who carried on business as a Chemist in Duke Street gave little hint of the sporting successes in which he shared almost 50 years ago. Charlie was a very good table tennis player and a member of the Social Club team which won the Kildare and District League on four or five occasions in the early 1940's. Others on that team included his brother Eddie, Frank O'Brien, Kevin and Stephen Timmons, Finbar Purcell and Brendan O'Flaherty. The ladies were ably represented by May and Dympna Ward, Betty May, Jo Lawler and Kay O'Brien.

It was Charlie Moore and Frank O'Brien who teamed up to win the Wicklow Open Doubles table tennis tournament around the same time. Badminton was another sport in which the young "blades" of the time participated. They played in the same hall in St. John's Lane where 20 years previously World War I veterans from Athy had socialised. Fifty years ago participation in sport was the norm for every young person, and the crackling sounds of
2 RN coming over the Athlone wavelength did not divert attention as does television today.

It was young men like Charlie Moore, joining the various societies and clubs in native towns who ensured a vibrant social life in rural Ireland in the '40s and '50s. When we look back over 50 years of our local social history we cannot but notice the multiplicity of organisations operating in the town, all geared to providing social outlets for the talents and sporting skills of its members. Who can forget the Tennis Club at Chanterlands with it's eight grass courts all carefully tended by Jack Mitchell of Ardreigh. Everyone will recall the Social Club in St. John's Lane where the billiard tables, the badminton court, the table tennis tables and the card games provided a variety of outlets for young and old, male and female. There was also of course the drama section of the same Club where the members provided a veritable feast of the latest stage offerings for local audiences. This was also the time when a hurling revival was witnessed in Athy following the arrival of Brother Farrell to the local Christian Brothers School. Charlie Moore was a member of the school team which played in College Hurling Championships and with his brother Eddie, shared in the Town's victory in the Junior Hurling Championship of 1945.

The quiet man who set up his chemist business in the former bookies office operated by his father in Duke Street, later moved into the premises which once housed the drapery business of the legendry M.G. Nolan.

Jimmy Roycroft was a link with another and perhaps different element of the towns past. He was from Sligo and while stationed at the Curragh Camp as a member of the Irish Army, met and married Teresa Cummins of Athy. The young married couple went to Sligo where Jimmy worked as a member of the local Fire Brigade before returning to Athy in or around 1954. Living firstly in Shrewleen Lane the Roycroft family next moved to Janeville Lane, then a lane of small two roomed houses which had been built 80 years previously by Mark Cross, builder of Emily Square. I was then living in Offaly Street and recall some of the families who live in the back lane. The Doody family were a large family whose numbers were exceeded only by the Roycrofts whose final family count was an impressive twenty-one. Sadly, only eleven of those children are today alive, nine of whom are living in Athy and two in Carlow. Teresa Roycroft, the mother of the family, was an exceptionally good singer of local balads and I must acknowledge my regret that I never had the opportunity of recording her singing some of those ballads before she passed away.

Jimmy worked for some time with the local Council, and the family moved from Janeville to St. Joseph's Terrace long before I had left Offaly Street. Coincidentally Jimmy's sister Dotty, also from Sligo, married an Athy man and she is now living in the town where last week her brother died.

Jimmy Roycroft and Charlie Moore were part of a local community where history reaches out to us from the very stones of the buildings we pass every day. The men and women who people those buildings do so for a time which in the order of things is extremely short. However short the time, it is those local men and women who give an immediacy and a vitality to local history. Both Charlie Moore and Jimmy Roycroft were part of the rich tapestry of life here in Athy and each in their own way left a mark on the community in which they lived.

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