Thursday, March 13, 2008

The fate of the Leinster Arms

Apart from White’s Castle, the Leinster Arms Hotel was once the most visible landmark in the town of Athy. The ongoing reconstruction of the building and it’s conversion into a number of outlets brings an end to the century’s old history of providing food and shelter for travellers in this one time coaching inn. For a long time the Leinster Arms was the premier inn in Athy, where other smaller establishments such as the Hibernian Hotel and the Railway Hotel, both on Leinster Street, competed for the travellers’ business. Named after the Anglo Norman family which once owned a substantial part of the property which made up the town, the Leinster Arms has been owned by many different people over the years. The last people to operate the premises as a hotel providing accommodation were the business men who employed Miss Darcy as manager of the premises during the 1950’s. Thereafter the increasing popularity of motor traffic led to a fall off in bed occupancy by commercial travellers who up to then formed the bulk of the hotel’s business. The fate of the Leinster Arms as a hotel was determined both by the rise of the motor car and the subsequent fall off in the commercial trade, as well as the raising of hotel standards by the Irish Tourist Board. It’s time had passed and sadly the hotel which we had all come to know so well had to close it’s doors for the last time.
The photo this week shows the Leinster Arms, I suspect sometime in the 1940’s. The absence of motor traffic probably suggests a time during the 2nd World War when petrol shortages kept the few cars in private ownership by and large off the roads.
The 2nd photo is of three men on a local street against the backdrop of a local shop. I haven’t been able to identify the location but the men are well remembered as Jimmy Leonard of Plewman’s Terrace, Peter Germaine, known as ‘Zeter’, and his brother ‘Golly’ Germaine. ‘Golly’ was known by no other name and his proper first name is not known to me. These men will be remembered by everyone who lived in Athy up to the late 1960’s.

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