Thursday, January 10, 2008

You take the high road, I’ll take the low road

WHEN 2007 finally ran out, two men long associated with the town of Athy had also reached the end of their life spans. Frank Anderson, the bearer of a noble clan name from Scotland, was indeed a descendant of a Scottish immigrant family from Perthshire.

The Andersons, with the Frasers, Duthies, Duncans, Campbells, Hosies, Neills, Pennycooks and nine other Scottish families, came to Ireland in or around 1851 on the invitation of the Duke of Leinster to take up vacant farms in South Kildare. An interesting tradition associated with the Duncans, Campbells, Hosies and the Andersons related to me some years ago by Frank Anderson, had the four families drawing lots to decide on which side of the River Barrow they would settle. The Duncans and Campbells remained on the East Side, their fellow Scotsmen
crossed the River Barrow.

Frank Anderson was for many years a member and an officer of Athy’s Rugby Club and carried on an Anderson family tradition when he became club captain in 1949/50. The club was founded in the 1880s and among the founding members was R Anderson, who I believe was Robert Anderson of Castlemitchell, an ancestor of the late Frank. Indeed, the Anderson family has figured large in the annals of Athy Rugby Club, with Frank’s father Robert H Anderson as club captain from 1929 to 1931 and Frank as club president in 1967/68.

His brother Leslie occupied the same presidential position on several occasions from 1972
onwards. The Anderson family connection with the club was cemented with the presentation of the Anderson Cup in 1970 for competition between provincial third teams. Frank Anderson, who played junior inter-provincial rugby with Leinster, helped compile with the late Des McHugh, the centenary history of Athy Rugby Club, which for reasons not yet made clear was celebrated in 1980. Frank, who was a member of the dwindling Presbyterian community in Athy, will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

On Christmas Eve, my school friend Noel Scully died after a short illness. Noel, a well-liked figure in the town, was the subject of an Eye in this series early in the year (Eye on the Past no 747). Noel recalled the hardships of the early 1950s and the difficulties he had to overcome to become apprenticed to the butchers’ trade.

He had left school even before the school leaving age of 14 years had been reached and endured hardship and many disappointments before he overcame the disadvantages of economically depressed times to succeed in business. He took great pride in his trade and enjoyment in the pursuit of success on the dogracing track. And success did come his way courtesy of a wonderful greyhound named ‘Dilly don’t Dally’, who gave Noel many important wins as a dog breeder and owner.

I had left the town council before Noel was elected as an urban councillor so had no first-hand experience of dealing with him across the council chamber. However, it was clear from his public utterances that he worked assiduously to promote the town and nowhere was this seen to better effect than in the town twinning ceremony which he presided over during his year as chairman of Athy Town Council. A modest quiet man, Noel was universally liked, not only by his own townspeople but also by those with whom he came in contact, as was evidenced by the impressive attendance of Labour Party national politicians at his funeral. Our sympathies go
to Noel’s widow and family and to the family of the late Frank Anderson.

Christmas is a time for giving and receiving and this year there was a huge Taaffe family surprise with the unexpected arrival home for the holidays of my youngest daughter Carol. She travelled from China to spend a few days in Athy and it was a smashing surprise and undoubtedly the finest gift I could have expected this Christmas.

One other surprise that gave me enormous pleasure was the unexpected gift of papers given to me by Catherine Harrington in the car park of Pettitt’s over the Christmas holidays. It contained a photo of the Athy Social Club Players in April 1958 with the Fr Matthew Cup. The young lady sitting second from the right on the front row was tragically to die in a road traffic accident the following year. Mary Harrington with her friend Breda Kennedy were killed while walking on the Dublin Road near Geraldine Park. Also in that envelope were a number of programmes of the Athy Social Club Players dating from 1953, several of which were signed “Mary Harrington, PO House”.

They were obviously Mary’s own copies of some of the plays in which she took part, the earliest of which was the 1953 production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street. This coincidentally was the very first play I saw and it was the 1953 production in the town hall to which my brother Jack brought me over 50 years ago. The next year Mary Harrington featured in The Righteous are Bold, followed in 1955 with a part in Mary Mullan’s play The Clock Ticks Dusk. Later in the same year Mary played Trixie Trevelyn in John McCann’s play Twenty Years A-Wooing.

The final programme for 1956 was for My Wife’s Family, where Mary Harrington again joined on stage a host of Social Club Players, including my secondary school teacher Paddy O’Riordan.

The photograph which was given to me I am reproducing without naming the actors/actresses other than Mary Harrington as there are three persons in the group whom I cannot positively identify. A copy of volume 3 of Eye on Athy’s Past to the first person to give me all the correct names of the Social Club Players of 1958, together with the name of the play which won for them the Fr Matthew Cup that year. A happy New Year to all my readers.

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