Eddie Delahunt now in his 72nd year enjoys his retirement in St. Joseph’s Terrace after a most interesting and varied work career stretching back nearly sixty years. Son of local postman the late Patsy Delahunt and Kathleen Wright of Castledermot Eddie or ““Neddy”” as he is generally known took up his first job with Flemings sawmills after leaving school. Jim Fleming was a sawmiller whose timber yard and sawmills were located off Chapel Lane immediately to the rear of what was Hickey’s pub now known as Lanagan’s Well. He spent the first eight years of his long working life with Jim in what was one of the last sawmills in the town. How many people remember Blanchfields sawmills at the top of Leinster Street which in its time was one of the largest and most extensive in the area. It was Flemings sawmills however which is perhaps best remembered today as it remained in business up to the 1960’s.
“Neddy” had five brothers and sisters one of whom Paddy, died at a very young age. His sister Kathleen known to everybody as “Tal” married Paddy Davis of Plewman’s Terrace and they now live in Luton, England. His sister Bridie married Martin Short while Lila married Eamon Bambrick and lives in the adjoining County Laois. His remaining brother Billy is the well known caretaker of the Courthouse and lives in St. Patrick’s Avenue.
After eight years with Flemings sawmills “Neddy” crossed to the other side of Chapel Lane where he began to work with Duthie Large’s. They were very substantial employers in Athy with agricultural equipment sale and repairs, foundry works and bicycle sales and repairs. Spending three years with this old established firm “Neddy” next joined the Asbestos factory where another three years were to pass before a machinery shut down and cost him his job. In the years immediately following the second World War electricity cut backs were an inevitable consequence of the Nation’s limited fuel supplies. Manufacturing concerns such as the asbestos factory in Athy without adequate electricity supply had no option but to shut down a number of machines leaving men off with no real prospect of alternative employment.
Neddy was one of the lucky ones and was able to escape the beckoning emigrant ship which offered the only real escape for most of the unemployed local men and women of the time. He later started work in Bowaters newly opened factory in Barrowford and was to stay there until it closed down in the mid 1970’s. He eventually retired in 1990 on reaching his 65th year after working for eight years in Canada Dry.
Looking back over his working life it is remarkable to note that so many of his past employers no longer provide employment in Athy. Flemings sawmills is now long closed and the Wallboard factory as Bowaters was known closed down with devastating affect for the Athy people in 1977. Duthie Larges so long a landmark in Athy was to close in the mid 1980’s years after the foundry and repair shops had closed down. It is a salutary lesson to realise how inexorably and how quickly change is noted in the employment patterns of an Irish provincial town. The only constants on the employment scene in Athy over the last 60 years have been Minch Nortons and Tegral formerly the Asbestos factory. But even they have changed as increased mechanisation leads to greater productivity and fewer workers.
“Neddy” married Kathleen Walsh of Nelson Street in 1947 and they had eight children. Throughout his working life “Neddy” has been known for his unswerving loyalty to the Labour party whose political fortunes he has helped shape since the days of the late Bill Norton. His first involvement was on the day of his confirmation when he joined the welcoming party for Bill Norton then a local TD. “Neddy”’s father Patsy was secretary of the Labour party in Athy and at a very young age “Neddy” was pressed into service to deliver notices for party meetings. He was to formally join the Labour party on reaching his majority and has continued to play his part in the party which Bill Norton dominated for so many years in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
“Neddy” remembers the Labour party members in Athy who kept faith with their party through thick and thin. Jack and Mark Dalton and “Sticker” Ryan all of Foxhill, Jim Maher of Geraldine, Bill Cranny, Paddy Rowan, Lar Doyle, Bill Hoare, Mick Rowan and John McEvoy another postman like Patsy Delahunt who also lived in St. Joseph’s Terrace. Labour party public representatives recalled include Chevitt Doyle, UDC, Jim Fleming, UDC of sawmill fame, Tom Fleming, UDC, John Norman, UDC and possibly the most famous of all, the legendary Tom Carbery a member of the local Urban Council and a member of Kildare County Council. Tom did a lot of good work for the people of Athy and in the opinion of many people was one of the best public representatives in the Labour party.
Neddy’s involvement in politics paralleled his work for the local community. He was a member of the swimming pool committee which collected the local contribution required to build the swimming pool in the People’s park. In his younger days he was a useful gaelic footballer playing for Athy in the minor championship finals of 1942 and 1943. To his great regret Athy were beaten in both finals. He also played for St. Joseph’s in the street league competitions of the early 1940’s. St. Joseph’s had the unique record of playing at every final during the four years of the street league competition winning in the last two years but losing out in the previous years to Barrack Street and to Starlights.
Heavily committed to St. Joseph’s social club founded to help families living in the terrace “Neddy” was later to become a committee member of the group which built The Marian Shrine in 1954. In fact “Neddy” is the only surviving member of that committee. Strongly committed both in politics and to the community Neddy has made a major contribution over the years to the life of Athy where he was born 72 years ago.
Last Saturday Neddy and Kathleen were guests of honour at a surprise party held in the local GAA Centre to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. There was a huge attendance of friends and neighbours all gathered together to celebrate with the happy couple. It was a proud day for Neddy and Kathleen both of whom have lived all of their lives in Athy. There to join with their parents were their children Patrick, Katie who is married to Emmanuel Kennedy, Christy a former Urban Councillor, Christine married in Newbridge, Eamon, Bridie married and living in Ballina, Co. Mayo, Gerard and Caroline married to Colm Walsh.
May I add my congratulations and best wishes to Neddy and Kathleen.