Bartle George Lanham was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 12th September, 1876. Almost 76 years later he died in Athy, Co. Kildare, known to his neighbours and friends as George Lamon. The transformation in his surname was not due to any conscious decision on his part or that of his parents, but probably reflected an Irish persons transcription of a geordies name. To the unpracticed ear Lanham had all the intonation and resonance of the name Lamon and so it was that the Lanham family which came to Ireland sometime after 1876 came to be known as Lamon. George’s parents were William Lanham and Sarah Kennedy. They lived at Gun Terrace, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and why and when they came to Ireland we cannot as yet say. Their youngest son John was born in Mountrath, Co. Laois and they also had a daughter Mary, but her place of birth is not known. What we do know is that when the Lanham children were still young the family moved to Athy where the parents William and Sarah died within a few years.
Their young daughter Mary was then brought out to America and she was never again to see her two brothers. A photo of her in a Nurse’s uniform taken sometime around the turn of the century is the only record of her that has survived. It was a photograph taken in Belview Hospital, New York and by then her name was changed to Mary Lamon Dockery. This may be a clue to the name of her adopted parents.
Her brothers George and John were fostered by a Mrs. Byrne of the Flags just over the bridge at Upper William Street. She was obviously very kind and good to them and provided for them in every way until they were old enough to fend for themselves. First to go was George who had enlisted in the British Army and served in South Africa during the Boer War. He returned unscathed to Athy where he married Lizzy Mulhall, an Aunt of “Cuddy” Chanders. Lizzy was to die while still a young woman, leaving George with their young son Paddy. Paddy was in time to train as a carpenter in Doyle Brothers where he had as his master Paddy Keogh of Woodstock Street. He subsequently took up employment with the Board of Works and died in 1971.
George who by now was employed by Athy District Council later married Mary Quinn and they had two children, George who recently retired from Tegral Building Products and Mary who is married and living in London since 1951.
George’s brother John enlisted in the British Army during the Great War and afterwards returned to Athy where he was to die in the 1930’s from the after affects of Malaria. He had five children, Paddy, Christy, John, Mary and Elizabeth.
In the meantime George became a leading member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. A non-smoker and a non-drinker from his middle years onwards he developed an abiding interest in fishing and was regarded locally as a superb master of that craft.
Employed by the local Urban District Council he regularly featured in minutes of that Body where many references can be found to George Lamon who was employed as a weigh man in the Market in Emily Square. Each year George and his colleague John Farrell were supplied with what was referred to in the Minutes as “sleeved vests”. In later years George was responsible for the water supply to the town and was the nominated “key man” with special responsibility for turning on and off the water as required. George continued working with the Urban District Council until 1951 when he died.
His son George Lamon who now lives in Pairc Bhride has a unique position in the annals of industrial employment in Athy. Just recently retired after 50 years service in the Asbestos and Tegral factories, George is the longest serving member of that factory since it opened in 1936. The explanation for this lies in the “subterfuge” exercised by George when in 1947 he first applied to join the Asbestos factory as a juvenile worker. In those days and indeed I understand up to the early 1960’s the Asbestos factory took on workers aged fifteen years upwards. Termed “juvenile workers” they worked less hours and received less pay than their adult colleagues. On reaching eighteen years of age they worked the same hours but for less pay and only achieved parity with adult employees on attaining twenty-one years of age.
George who attended Athy Christian Brothers School with Mossy Reilly, John Anderson, Stan Mullery, Hugh Kerrigan and Jackie Hayes left in the middle of his first year in Secondary School when aged thirteen and a half years to join the Asbestos factory. He told his prospective employers that he was fifteen years of age and was put into the moulding section where he worked under foreman Frank Gibbons and chargehand Dan Meaney. His true age was not known to his employers until he had to go out on sick leave in 1966. In his long period in the Asbestos factory he worked under all of the Managers, including the Welshman Ned Cornish, his successor Charlie Stephens, Jens Preisler, Brian Taylor and the present Manager, Denis Mullins. When he retired in August of this year George did so as chargehand, to which position he had been appointed in 1969.
George is married to Betty McCormack, originally from Dun Laoghaire whom he met at a marquee dance in Naas in the early 1960’s. Married in July 1966 they have six children, all of whom I understand spell their name with a double “M”. Their eldest son George is in America, while Frank and Gerard are working locally with son Paul, a legal student in UCD. Their eldest daughter Teresa is in Cathal Brugha College in Dublin while Ann is presently in the Leaving Certificate class in Scoil Mhuire.
George who was reared in Upper William Street has lived in Pairc Bhride since marrying. His leisure time was devoted to Athy Soccer Club with whom he played for the seconds and occasionally the first team in the early 1950’s. Local men on the soccer teams in those days included “Cha” Chanders, Ger “Scratch” Robinson, Jimmy O’Donnell, “Onie” Walsh and occasionally Danny Flood who was to win a Leinster Senior Championship medal with Kildare in 1956. Two men who also played with George in those days were Tom Bohana and T.J. Byrne, both of whom cycled from Carlow to Athy for the soccer games. T.J. Byrne went on in later years to manage the Royal Show Band in the 1960’s.
George and Betty are a delightful couple to meet and the soft-spoken woman from Dun Laoghaire speaks warmly of the kind and neighbourly people she has met in Athy over the last 30 years. “Athy people are always friendly and will always speak to you” she says. For George Lamon the journey from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Athy is part of his family history. As he looks back on a lifetime spent in Athy, George the third generation Lanham, knows that for himself and his own children Athy is the place which they will always call home.