Thursday, September 11, 1997

Plewmans Terrace

Sixty-one years after the houses at Plewman’s Terrace were built it is surprising to find so many members of the original families of the Terrace still living there. The first tenant of No. 12 was Christy Rochford, who with his wife Katie had five children. Sons Paddy and Christy are still living there while their sisters Katie, Bridie and Ena are married and living in England.

Christy’s brother Jack lived next door, having also transferred in November 1936 from the small cottages at Canal Side. Jack was a footballer of note and was better known in Athy as “Bird Ratchie”. He was on the Athy team which won the Kildare Senior Football Championship in 1937 and 1942. The only surviving members of the 1937 team are Johnny McEvoy, formerly of St. Joseph’s Terrace now living in Dublin and Barney Dunne, still going strong in Duke Street. Jack played on the County Senior team in 1939 with two of his Club mates, Tommy Mulhall and Johnny McEvoy. He later went to live in Dublin, leaving in No. 13 his sister “Mame” who reared her nephew John Minahan. John, late of the Evening Standard, is a photographer of world renown whose most recent book of photographs “Shadows from the Pale” featured people and scenes from Athy.

Appointed tenant of No. 14 in 1936 was Billy Walsh who worked as an outdoor assistant for McHugh’s Chemist. He was married to Mary-Ann Chanders, a sister of Cuddy Chanders, whose name is still associated with the All Ireland Football Final of 1935. This was the last occasion Kildare featured in the Senior Football Final. Billy and Mary had three children, Noel recently retired from Minch Nortons and still living in No. 14, May who has since died and Ann married to Noel Wright who lives in No. 24.

The original tenant of No. 15 was C. Cummins of the Bleach. I don’t have any knowledge of him, but “Sconny” Connell lived there before Stephen Bolger was appointed tenant on transfer from Dooley’s Terrace. In his younger days Stephen was a boatman on the Grand Canal. When he was eleven years of age he was one of the crew of Jack Rooney’s Canal Boat which set off from the Canal basin in Athy for Dublin. Jack Rooney who lived in Woodstock Street steered the boat, while Stephen and another crewman took turns in leading the two horses, which traced together, pulled the boat on the journey from Athy to Dublin. The outbreak of the Easter Rising of 1916 coincided with the arrival of Rooney’s Boat at Inchicore where boat and crew were obliged to wait for a week until the Rebellion was over. Stephen died last year and the house is now occupied by his Grand-son, Sean Bolger.

William Day of Canal Side was allocated No. 16 Plewman’s Terrace in October 1936. What connection he had with the next tenant “Major” Toomey is uncertain. The “Major” was in the Irish Army and married Molly Day whom I understand was from James’ Place. Was she perhaps a daughter or a niece of the original tenant, William Day? Their two children are now believed to be in England. The house is now occupied by Mary Mulhall, the widow of Paddy “Whack” Mulhall.

Mary Brien of Canal Side was the original tenant of No. 17 and her niece Angela Brien is now in the house. Another Canal Side tenant Pat Morrin was given the key to No. 18. A canal boat worker, Pat who was married to Mary Nolan, a sister of Katie Kelly of The Bleach, later worked in England. Their daughter Winifred who married Jim Byrne of Leixlip now lives in her father’s house. The other six members of the family, John, May, Kathleen, June, Paddy and Sheila all emigrated to England. Kathleen and her husband, John Murphy, formerly of Offaly Street return each year to Athy.

Hannah Campion’s house at No. 19 is one of the few terraced houses which has not remained in the same family. Mick Kane and family now live there. Hannah’s daughter Molly married a Moran of Meeting Lane and her two sons emigrated to England.

Tom Holligan, a widower, lived in No. 20 with his daughter Nan, both of whom are now deceased. Catherine Byrne, daughter of Winifred Byrne of No. 18, now lives there with her husband, Patsy Campion. Next door was Matt Kennedy, another former Canal Side tenant who died unmarried and apparently unremembered. Paddy and Lil Murphy later lived there with Lil’s sister, but they too have passed on. It is now owned by Mrs. Redmond.

James Byrne, known locally as “Shopboy” lived in No. 22 and his daughter Agnes married Pat Carthy. The family nickname has passed down the generations to James’ Grand-son.

The second last terraced house in the area, previously known as Beggar’s End was given by Athy Urban Council to T. Power. The initial “T.” hides from us the knowledge of whether the tenant was male or female and now no-one can tell me of the Power family. Biddy Davis is remembered as living here with her daughter Maria who married Christy Donnelly of Rockfield and her son Paddy who married Patsy Delahunt’s daughter, “Tal”.

Another tenant allocated No. 24 and noted in the Council records simply as “J. Lambe” is not recalled. Winnie Ryan later lived there with her children Patsy, Johnny, Toss and Maire, the last of whom married one of the Keyes of William Street. Toss Ryan was a very good footballer who played in two County Championship Finals for Athy in 1941 and 1942, winning a senior medal in the latter year with his friend and neighbour, “Bird” Rochford. Toss was one of several Athy Club players who figured on the County Kildare Senior Team in the early 1940’s. He later emigrated to England where he died. Noel Wright, married to Ann Walsh, formerly of No. 14 now lives in the last house in the Terrace.
Family and kinship have been the focus of many scholarly sociological studies in the past. I have often felt that a similar study of Athy would be an interesting addition to the literature of the town I was reminded of this when recently reviewing the names of the first tenants appointed to the then newly built houses on the Kilkenny Road in November 1936. The twenty four house scheme was later called Plewman’s Terrace in recognition of the long service of Thomas Plewman as a Member and Chairman of Athy Urban District Council.. Plewman’s Terrace was one of several new housing schemes provided in the 1930’s specifically to accommodate families who required to be re-housed from the old lanes and alleyways of the town.

Once such area cleared of substandard housing was Canal Side from where twelve families were re-housed in Plewman’s Terrace. The previous year Mullery’s field bordering on the canal side houses was chosen as the site for the new asbestos factory. Presumably the demolition of these houses and the consequent site clearance facilitated the factory layout. Another area from where many of the new tenants were relocated was Blackparks.

The first tenants of Plewman’s Terrace moved into their houses before Christmas 1936. Martin Timpson of the Bleach was tenant of number 1. Nicknamed “Nashie”, he worked on Plewman’s farm and was married to “Polly” Byrne. Their son Martin worked as a Porter in the Hibernian Bank, another son Al in Minch’s Terrace and a daughter Julia was married in England. All are now dead and the house is now occupied by Kieran Bergin whose grandfather was one of the original tenants in Plewman’s Terrace.

Martin Doogue of Blackparks was appointed tenant of number 2 but apparently moved out in the early stage to number 11. “Essie” Power is remembered as living in number 2 and her daughter Kitty lives there today with her own daughter Eithne and son in law Johnny Moore. Kitty’s late husband, “Rambler” Byrne worked in Doyle’s pawn shop and other members of the family who lived in number 2 were her brothers Paddy who worked in Plewman’s and Andy both of whom have since died. Her sister May is married and living abroad.

Pat Leonard of Upper William Street was tenant of number 3 where he lived with his wife Katie and six children. Pat worked in Minch Nortons and of his six children, Mary who married Jack Murphy of St. Joseph’s Terrace is still happily with us. Jack, Stephen, Jimmy and Maggie died unmarried at relatively young ages while Paddy the only married son is also deceased. The house is now occupied by the Kelly family who have connections with the terrace but this is one of the few houses in Plewman’s Terrace where is there is no continuing link with the original tenant of 61 years ago.

The tenancy of number 4 went to Christopher Lammon of Blackparks who was married to Chrissie Kelly. Christopher worked in the Asbestos factory before emigrating to England. Their eldest son John, known locally as “Big John” also worked for a while in the Asbestos factory and has since died. Christopher married Lily Prendergast of Gouleyduff while Jim, Martin and “Sonny” emigrated to England. The remaining members of the family also took the emigrant boat but subsequently returned. Mary married John Neill of Offaly Street while Bridie married Jimmy O’Leary but later returned to live in number 4. In number 5 lived Elizabeth Lammon who was mother of Christopher her next door neighbour. Elizabeth’s other children included “Babe” Lammon who married Tom Morrin and their son Billy is now living in number 5. Another daughter was Lizzie who went to England to work and who is still remembered in the terrace for the wireless set she brought home for her mother. Everyone in Plewman’s Terrace crowded into number 5 to hear the news on Lizzie’s wireless, at a time when it was the only one on the terrace.

Darby Delaney of Blackparks was allocated number 6. He was a tailor who married Nanny Daly and their children included Paddy and Mary who went abroad, and Biddy who is now in Cork. Other family members included Annie Whelan of Pairc Bhride and Betty who now lives in the house in the Bleach to which the Delaney Family subsequently transferred. Kitty Scully, mother of Noel Scully now lives in number 6.

The Urban Council allocated number 7 Plewman’s Terrace to Charles Delaney although I am assured his correct name was Christy. A farm worker in Minch’s, Christy married “Mag” Bolger and their four children are all still living in the Athy area. Sarah who married Matt Davis lives in number 7 while her sister Mary who married P.J. O’Rourke lives in Geraldine. Nan married Mick Hopkins who worked in Cunninghams Pub in William Street and now lives in Ballylinan. Not far away is Christy who married Maura Maher from Monasterevin and after spending some years in England, they are now living in Gouleyduff.

The Urban Council’s Minute book discloses that J. Bolger junior was appointed tenant of number 8 Plewman’s Terrace. His full name was Johnny “Nailer” Bolger who worked for a while in England before joining D. & J. Carbery’s, Building Contractors. He married Molly Delaney of Ballylinan and of their eight children, all but three were living in Athy. Sadie who married Jim Moore of Dooley’s Terrace died last year, while Patsy, John and Kate are in England. Josie who recently retired from St. Vincent’s hospital still lives in number 8 while her brother Frank is in Forest Park and her sister Rita Ward lives in Castle Park.

James Grant of Blackparks lived next door and his son Peter is still living there today. James worked in Minch’s and he and his wife Bridget had five children, four of whom sadly were to die at a very young age in the 1940’s. James “Twinnie” Byrne lived next door to the Grants. Described as a small man and a dandy dresser, “Twinnie” married Marie Leonard who was a sister of Pat Leonard in number 3. Their daughter Julia married Paddy Rochford who worked in Minch Nortons and their only son Pat, today lives in number 10 and like his father is employed in Minch’s.

Number 11 Minch’s Terrace was originally allocated to Willie Holligan of the Bleach but for as long as anyone can remember Joseph Doogue lived there. Joseph had been appointed Tenant of number 2 but presumably he transferred to the higher numbered house at an early date. He worked with the Barrow Drainage and was married to Nan Timpson, sister of Martin Timpson who lived in number 1 Plewman’s Terrace. Their daughter, Sheila Bergin is now living in the house.

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