Sunday, 17th June will witness the re-enactment of a timeless journey whose origin is lost in time, when we set out for the Holy Well of Tubberara. Last year the Pattern Day or more properly the Patron’s Day was revived after the lapse of almost 175 years. The Patron was St. John, under whose patronage the Well at Tubberara was revered by the Catholics of this area for generations past. St. John’s Day falls on June 24th but I am reliably told that matters of religious commemoration, no matter how historic, play second fiddle to the demands of Gaelic football. I gather the Lillywhites will (hopefully) be contesting the Leinster Semi-final on Sunday, 24th June and so it was that the Tubberara Pattern Day must step back a week to the previous Sunday. As I am writing this piece in advance of the forthcoming game against Carlow, you will understand my indecisiveness in relation to whether or not Kildare will be involved on St. John’s Day.
Last years outing to Tubberara was marked with wonderful weather and it was great to see so many local people, young and old, coming together in a celebration, as people of Athy and District had done centuries ago. In this, the first year of the 21st century, the Tubberara Pattern Day will start with everybody congregating at the roadside entrance near Bert Bridge at 3.00pm. This is a change from last year when the grounds of St. Vincent’s Hospital played welcome host to the hundreds who had foregathered ready for the journey to the Holy Well. It is planned to hold a number of stations between the entrance gate and the Well itself where the principal ceremonies of the Pattern Day will take place, hopefully again with the benefit of glorious sunshine and in the glow of a resounding victory over our neighbours Carlow on the previous Sunday!
Unfortunately I will miss the official opening of the Credit Union new offices on June 8th. The new offices, opened for the past year or so, occupy what in my days in Offaly Street were two private houses. Indeed the entire length of Emily Row had only one shop which was on the far side of that narrow street, and owned by Mona Sylvester. Now Sylvester’s shop has reverted to residential use, while the Credit Union office has been joined by Kings shop, which like it, now occupies what was once a private house.
The Credit Union was established in Athy following a meeting in No. 82 Leinster Street on St. Patrick’s night, 1968. That night the locals who attended the meeting having listened to an address by Michael O’Doherty of the Irish League of Credit Unions agreed unanimously to establish a Credit Union in the town. The first Board of Directors were Donal Murphy, Jim O’Flaherty, Pat Fay, Richard Mulhall, Patsy O’Neill, Chris McMahon, Paddy Keane, Dermot Griffin, Jim McEvoy and John Quirke. Jim O’Flaherty who worked in the local Post Office was elected first President of the new Credit Union, with Donal Murphy of Sunnyside as Vice-President. Paddy Keane, who with Donal Murphy was an employee of Minch Nortons, was elected Secretary, with Jim McEvoy of Leinster Street as Treasurer and Patsy O’Neill, also of Leinster Street, as Assistant Treasurer.
Quite a lot of time was spent by the Officers and Committee, all of whom were volunteers, in learning the practices and procedures relating to the Credit Union business. When the necessary skills and knowledge had been acquired Athy Credit Union opened for business at precisely 8.00pm on Friday, 31st May, 1969. A room in the Courthouse in Emily Square was from the start and for some years thereafter, the offices of the local Credit Union largely due to the generosity of Tadgh Brennan, then County Registrar based in Naas and formerly a Solicitor practising in the town. The expansion of the Credit Union business later prompted the purchase of premises at the corner of Emily Row next to what was anciently called “Prestons Gate”.
It’s a coincidence that the new Credit Union offices are to be officially opened less than two weeks before the refurbished Courthouse is itself scheduled to have its own official opening. The one time Corn Exchange has gone through several reconstructions and refurbishments since it was first opened for business nearly 150 years ago. Here’s hoping that the Credit Union office in Emily Row and the Credit Union movement generally will prosper in Athy in the years ahead.
I was delighted to meet last week the daughter of a man whose name will forever be recalled in the name of one of our local housing estates. Tom Carbery was his name, hers is now Mrs. Delia Kenny and the estate is Carbery Park which was so called to honour one of Athy’s most famous public representatives. Tom Carbery was a member of Athy Urban District Council and Kildare County Council who died in 1972, just two years before his wife Nora and some 23 years after the death of his only son Joseph. Delia was on a short visit to Athy from her New York home and gave me the opportunity to get first hand information on a man whom I have always regarded as one of the bravest public representatives this ancient town of ours has ever had. More about Tom Carbery and the Carbery family next week.