Thursday, December 4, 1997

Annual Review of Articles

Another year has come and gone. It is time to look back on 1997 and some of the topics carried in past Eyes on the Past.

Kilkea born Ernest Shackleton was featured in the first article of the New Year. Twice during the year I made trips to the London auction house of Sothebys in an attempt to acquire Shackleton memorabilia and artifacts for Athy’s new Heritage Centre. On both occasions material was purchased and when the centre opens in March 1998 Ernest Shackleton the South Kildare man who conquered the world of polar exploration will be suitably commemorated.

At different times during the year I wrote of Eamon Malone local commander of the old IRA and of William Connor and James Lacey who were shot at Barrowhouse on the 15th May 1921. The local Urban District Council honoured Michael Malone by having its new housing scheme at Woodstock Street named after him. Malone Terrace will keep alive the memory of that brave man who lead by example during the War of Independence. Perhaps Connor and Lacy will also be suitably honoured in the not too distant future.

The visit of Archbishop Walter Empey to Athy on 2nd March for a confirmation ceremony in St. Michael’s Church was the occasion of a civic reception by the local Urban District Council and an Eye on the Past article. Archbishop Empey was generous of his time on the day of his visit and one delightful moment was captured when Tom “Tanner” Bracken met the Archbishop and the two reminisced of the days when the Brackens and the Empeys worked together as painters.

The closure of Herterichs pork shop on 29th March afforded an opportunity to write of Ernest Herterich and his family who came to Athy in 1942. The delights of Herterich’s home cooked ham are no more, a victim of the one stop shopping culture developed by the supermarket chains. Jack Murphy of Convent View at 94 years of age and one of Athy’s oldest residents passed away early in the year. He and his wife Margaret were good friends of Eye on the Past and the story of Jack’s long working life encompassed so much of Athy’s commercial history since the 1920’s.

St. John’s Cemetery was the focus of a training scheme during the summer which resulted in a general clean up of this most historic site. It also afforded me an opportunity to delve into its history and its many interesting reminders of Athy’s past. Soon afterwards St. Michael’s Cemetery and its interesting collection of headstones was featured in an Eye on the Past. Apart from the local men killed in World Wars I and II many other historic connections where found in the cemetery. A distant kinsman of Irish parliamentarian Henry Grattan is buried in a quiet corner of St. Michael’s. William Grattan was a lieutenant in the Connaught Rangers and fought in the Peninsular War. Another more recent find in St. Michael’s of which I have yet to write is the grave of a former Captain of the Scottish International Soccer team. More about that in a future article.

Another sport, boxing, featured in an article on St. Michael’s Boxing Club. The first full international boxing match involving Ireland and Canada held outside of Dublin was in the Grove Theatre on the 13th July. The Boxing Club is still going strong but sadly the Grove has closed its doors again.

Some of my travels during the year were remembered particularly two trips made during the 1400th anniversary of the death of St. Colmcille. A summer trip to Iona in the Inner Hebrides off the Isle of Mull brought me for the first time to this most historic and religious of places. A later trip to Derry to visit the sites associated with the Irish Saint before he departed these shores completed the pilgrimage.

Betty May and her family came back to Athy for holidays in the summer. In America since 1949 Betty formerly of St. Martin’s Terrace remembered life in Athy after the War and her friends in the Social Club. The emigration story of the Bradley Brothers who left Athy in the 1920’s for America to be followed by the members of the May family in the 1940’s and 1950’s was typical of those difficult times in Ireland.

A two part article on the first tenants of St. Plewman’s Terrace in 1936 drew an enormous response as did the later article on Ned Ward. The occasion of the article on the legendary Ned was the closure of his daughter’s betting shop in Duke Street. The Ward family had carried on business in Athy since the early 1920’s and the Ward name still manages to conjure up memories of times long past in Athy.

The story of George Lammon who holds a unique record as the longest serving employee of Tegral unfolded the most interesting tale of immigration from Newcastle Upon Tyne and how a Geordie name was transformed. As usual November 11th and the ending of World War I was remembered but sadly Mae Vagts whom I mentioned in that article as a daughter of Edward Stafford of Butlers Row has since died.

A Happy New Year to all.

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