Last week the Newspapers featured a claim by a spokesman for the Vintners Association that Athy, described as a typical provincial Irish town, was well provided with Public Houses. It was stated that the town now has 26 Public Houses and at one time in the distant past had 32 Pubs, one for each County in Ireland. Indeed, Athy has always held a somewhat unenviable record in terms of the high number of Public Houses in the town, but today we have considerably less licensed premises than we had in 1924. Would you believe that Athy then boasted no less than 40 local hostelries, all of which were open for business. As you can imagine many changes have taken place in the personnel involved in the Public House business in the intervening 77 years. See how many of the Proprietors of that year you can recall and how many of them are represented today in the same premises by their direct descendants.
Myles Whelan, Duke Street. Joseph Whelan, Offaly Street.
Thomas Whelan, William Street. David Walsh, Leinster Street,
Annie O’Brien, Emily Square. Mary Reid, Leinster Street.
Patrick O’Brien, 78 Leinster Street. John Anderson, Emily Square.
Michael O’Brien, Leinster Street. James McLaughlin, Leinster Street.
Fintan Dowling, 16 William Street. Michael Hughes, William Street.
John Joseph Phelan, Market Square. Mary Doyle, Barrack Street.
Michael O’Meara, 67 Leinster Street. Mary Josephine Timmons, William St.
Eileen Butler, Leinster Street. E.T. Mulhall, Leinster Street.
Michael Malone, 4 Woodstock St. Edward Lawler, 3 Woodstock St.
Jacob Purcell, William St. John P. Dillon, Barrow Quay.
Thomas F. Bergin, Duke St. James McEvoy, Leinster St.
Thomas O’Gorman, Duke St. S. G. Glynn, Duke St.
John Maher, 23 Leinster St. Michael Kavanagh, 18 Duke St.
Matthew Cunningham, Duke St. Patrick Smith, Stanhope St.
Michael McCauley, Leinster St. William Scully, Leinster St.
Patrick Kelly, Leinster St. Michael Crawley, Barrack St.
Martin Brophy, William St. Mary Ann Kelly, William St.
Katherine Conlan, Duke St. Henry Sylvester, The Square.
Myles Whelan, Leinster St. Michael Lawlor, Leinster St.
In those early days of the Irish Free State, Pubs either had a six day or a seven day Licence, the latter Licence entitling its holder to open for a limited number of hours each Sunday. Some of the local Pubs had Special Exemptions allowing them to open between 6.00 a.m. and 9.00 a.m. on the morning of fairs and markets in the town. Only a few of the pubs had names other than the proprietor’s names over their doors. These included the Railway Bar operated by Patrick O’Brien of Leinster Street and the Nag’s Head where Michael O’Brien was the Proprietor. Incidentally, the Nag’s Head was once a Hotel although I can’t say if it operated as such in 1924. The Dublin Bar at 18 Duke Street was owned by Michael Kavanagh while Henry Sylvester operated The Shamrock Bar at Emily Square in what was later Miss Dallon’s Off Licence. Sylvester then had a seven day Licence and his premises was located immediately next to the Leinster Arms Hotel which in 1924 was owned by Myles Whelan. Some years ago I was told of what was claimed to be Ireland’s longest trade dispute which took place in the late 1920’s extending into the 1930’s in Athy and involved employees of Henry Sylvester’s Public House in the Square. Can anyone give me any information concerning this strike which I am led to understand went on for six or seven years.
Eileen Butler’s Public House in Leinster Street was the only Licenced Premises which had a name in Irish over the door. This was the Pub which Tom Flood bought in 1926. Patrick Smith had bought John J. Bailey’s premises in Stanhope Street in 1923 having sold his old premises in Leinster Street to Michael McCauley.
I cannot accurately identify the Pubs owned by Thomas Bergin, Thomas O’Gorman and S.G. Glynn all in Duke Street but I am sure somebody out there will do so for me.
Before 1924 had ended, Mary Ann Kelly who operated a Grocer and Spirits Store in William Street gave up the business and it was the first of the Public Houses listed to close down. Several more have closed in the intervening years but despite this, Athy can still claim to be one of the most “Licenced” towns in Ireland today.