A treasured friendship from my years spent under the benevolent care of the Sisters of Mercy in St. Joseph’s Infants School was shared with John Mealy of Geraldine Road. It was a friendship which continued while we were both attending the Christian Brothers Primary School from where John left to enter into the workplace. Our paths did not cross for many years thereafter, especially during the 20 year period I spent out of Athy. Last year John was one of the many who joined in the Past Pupils Re-union which brought together men who as boys and teenagers once enjoyed the camaraderie of school days spent under the watchful gaze of teachers now long gone to their reward.
I was reminded of those days and particularly of John Mealy when I heard of the recent ordination to the priesthood of his nephew James, the son of John’s older brother George Mealy. George was the eldest of the four children of Pat and Margaret Mealy, formerly Moloney of 14 Geraldine Road. Many of my readers will recall Pat Mealy who worked in the Asbestos Factory and who served in the local security forces during the Second World War. Pat, like myself, was Kilkenny born and his home place was Clogh near Castlecomer. There were four children in the family of Pat and Margaret Mealy. Apart from the eldest, George, there was also Mary, John and Ann.
I have often written of the depressed post-war Irish economy and how young men deprived of job opportunities in their own towns and indeed anywhere else in their own country were forced to emigrate. George Mealy and his sister Ann were but two of the hundreds of young Athy people who took the emigrant trail to England. The first to go was George who travelled across to Birmingham to Ann Moloney, his mother’s sister where he was to find work in a local steel factory. His younger sister Ann was to join him several years later. George later became a bus driver and some time thereafter took up the management of a pub called “Bear Tavern” in Bearwood, Birmingham.
In the meantime John who was also expected to join his older brother in Birmingham found employment in Tom Bradbury’s bakery. The year was 1955 and John was just 14 years of age and for the next 33 years he would work as a baker in the most celebrated family bakery business in the whole of Leinster. I can recall the delight of sharing the exquisite small cakes which were produced by Bradbury’s in the 1950’s and for many years thereafter. Such was their popularity few persons travelling through Athy ever passed up the opportunity of acquiring a box of their favourite Bradbury’s assorted cakes. They were special and surprisingly nothing comparable is being produced today anywhere in Ireland.
The bakers, and they were all men so far as I know, started work very early in the morning producing the breads and cakes which would be sold in Bradbury’s shop or sold by the delivery men later that same day. Paddy Hayden of St. Patrick’s Avenue was the foreman baker and the bakers at different times included in addition to John Mealy, Paddy and Jack Murphy of St. Joseph’s Terrace, the Brennan Brothers of Cardenton, John Brennan of Dooley’s Terrace and Eugene and David “Boy” Prendergast of Milltown. Bradbury’s Bakery closed in 1989 and soon thereafter John Mealy embarked on a new career as a worker in Tegral Metal Forming, a factory headed up by two former classmates of his, Pat Flinter and Ted Wynne.
George Mealy married and settled down in Birmingham, as did his sister Ann. Back in Athy their father Pat passed away on 1st August, 1969 and sadly within two weeks of his death his wife Margaret also died. George and his wife Ann who hails from Emyvale in County Monaghan have five children and over the years they have been frequent visitors to Athy. The youngest son James has a special affinity for Athy because it was here in 1982, following the sudden death of John’s wife Teresa, that James after visiting the Dominican Church felt himself drawn to the Priesthood.
On 5th July last, friends and relatives of the extended Mealy family came together in St. Gregory’s Church, Bearwood, Birmingham to witness the ordination of the 27 year old James Mealy. It was a particularly proud day for the Mealy family and everyone in the home town of the young priests father rejoices in the tremendous honour accorded to the family on the ordination of James Mealy. My good friend and uncle of the ordinant, John Mealy of Geraldine was at the ordination, accompanied by his partner Sadie Carroll.
The latest addition to the English Catholic hierarchy will shortly be taking up a curacy at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Sutton, Coldfield in the English midlands. We wish him well and extend congratulations to his parents George and Ann on what must have been a great family occasion.
Before ending this week can I ask your help in getting some information on Harriett Haughton who was born in Athy in or around 1900. Any information on Harriett or her family will be very much appreciated by an overseas inquirer who is in urgent need of this information.