Last week I was wondering about the location of Tynan’s Row which was mentioned in the Roll books of the Christain Brothers School over 100 years ago. On Wednesday afternoon I got a number of phone calls only one of which I feel gave the answer to my question. George Lammon of Phairc Bhride said that his mother often referred to Tynan’s Row as the area generally known to old timers as Blackparks. For those not familiar with the local geography of the recent past, Blackparks were the houses on the left side of the Kilkenny road between the Bleach and the new estate known as Tonlegee Lawns. The single story houses which stood there were demolished approximately twenty years ago. Indeed, without checking I think I may have devoted an earlier Eye on the Past to the area. Certainly I can recall writing of what may have been the areas most memorable tenant in recent years, the redoubtable Dr. Don Roderique De Vere.
In last weeks article I mentioned Jerry Mulhall and Thomas Byrne young boys from Tynan’s Row who enrolled in the local Christain Brothers School in 1885. Other Tynan Row residents of that time included Patrick and John Lawler, Thomas Doyle, John Hogan and Patrick Bolger. I wonder if any of their descendants are still living in Athy?
The relatively slow pace of development in Athy since the beginning of this Century has served to preserve many of the old buildings as well as the placenames which were familiar to previous generations. Nevertheless, the slum clearance programme of the early 1930’s initiated by Athy Urban District Council caused whole streets of substandard houses to be razed to the ground. This was not always followed by new house construction on these cleared sites and so it was that some of the old laneways and courts were lost forever. Even into the late 1940’s and beyond small clusters of houses were demolished and never to be replaced. I can recall the small two roomed uses at the back of Offaly Street which were still occupied up to the 1950’s. Janeville Lane is now a vacant site when only a short few years ago it was home to several families. As one went down the lane with Joe Murphy’s house on the right hand side you came on two houses facing the rear of Murphy’s. The Hubbock Family lived in the corner house while the adjoining house was occupied by the Bennett’s. “Hack” Walsh a soldier in the Irish Army lived with his family in a two storey brick house to the rear of Hubbocks. Running the length of Bennett’s and Walsh’s house and between them and Sylvester’s garden was Tom McHugh’s foundry.
Walshe’s house faced the cul de sac which ran parallel to Offaly Street and on both sides of which were one storey, two roomed houses. This was the original Janeville Lane although the name was later to include the earlier mentioned areas as one exited from Offaly Street.
As one stood outside “Hack” Walsh’s front door and looked up Janeville Lane, the first house on the left corner was occupied by “Goggy Walsh”. He was an old man with no family who worked for the Board of Works. Next to him was Bobbie Ivors the Stonemason who lived with his sister. The last house on the left was occupied by the Boylan Family. Mr. Boylan was a retired British army soldier and his daughter later married Tom Fleming.
Directly opposite Boylan’s were Bill and Mary Brown. Bill was a painter and their daughter Alice Owens is still living in Athy. Molly Fox lived with her parents in an adjoining house and further down was the Whittaker Family. Next door to them was Matt Kane who once worked with Julia Mahon and in the last house in the corner directly opposite “Goggy” Walsh’s lived the Doody Family. Mrs. Doody is still hale and hearty and living in Convent View. I went to school with Paddy Doody who has lived in England for over thirty five years. Indeed, I believe most of his brothers and sisters now live in England with the exception of Ann Fenelon who lives near Ardscull. The Doody Family were gifted in many ways and I can still recall the may bush which every year Paddy Doody put on the pole at the top of Janeville Lane, keeping up a tradition which went back through the generations. I haven’t met Paddy for almost forty years but I can still recall his wonderful ability to improvise which saw him regale us other youngsters with the big band tunes years before Radio Luxembourg extended our musical tastes. Janeville lane is now deserted like so many other areas of the town where over fifty years ago families lived and children played.
Another area which disappeared from public notice is “The Pavements”. This was a row of two-storey houses which ran from the rere of Keyses (now Redmonds) on William Street to the Junction of Shrueleen Lane. Towards the end of the 1940’s, the first house was home to Tom Byrne whose next door neighbour was Tom Rowan who fought in the World War 1. Joe and Hinny Byrne were next door and then Joe Nolan and his family. Joe was also a former British army soldier. The second last house was occupied by Ciss Dunne who kept a lodging house while the legendary blind musician, Joe Lynch lived in the last house.
It’s surprising how quickly a townscape can change even in a town such as Athy where building development to date has been relatively subdued. Understandably, main street premises tend to remain a fairly constant reminder of what the town was in previous generations but its the side streets and especially the laneways which have borne the brunt of the demolition hammer. Whole communities have disappeared, their homes removed from the streetscape leaving no reminder of what once existed.
We can expect even greater changes in Athy over the next few years as the town prepares to take a ride on the “Celtic Tiger” to hopefully increased commercial and industrial activity. Would it be to much to expect that we will manage these changes in such a way that future generations will not curse our lack of foresight or bad judgment.