As 2013 nears its end let’s look back one hundred years at what was happening in Athy as recorded in the minute books of Athy Urban District Council. The building of the first local authority houses in Athy was progressing satisfactorily. Eleven houses were under construction on the Matthew’s Lane site (later St. Michael’s Terrace), four houses in Meeting Lane and five houses on Keating’s field at Woodstock Street (later St. Martin’s Terrace).
At it’s February meeting the Council agreed to build an extra house at what the minutes noted was ‘the Pound field’. This was in fact part of the Matthew’s Lane development. At the same meeting it was agreed to plant twenty five trees in Woodstock Street.
In June 1913 Mr. Reade, civil engineer, prepared plans for the enlargement of the Town Hall. The following month Lord Frederick Fitzgerald agreed to install a new floor in the Town Hall provided Councillor Michael Malone who had sought this improvement ‘gave a ball at the opening of the hall’. Malone, a publican from Woodstock Street who was known as ‘Crutch’ Malone, deferred in favour of Dr. Jeremiah O’Neill as his Lordship, according to Malone, could scarcely be expected ‘to understand the storm of resentment which would be evinced by other members of the Council’ if he accepted the offer.
The waterworks caretaker was reprimanded for cutting off the town’s water supply in order to give a supply of water to Mr. Michael Knowles’ cattle. The Modubeagh Piped Water Scheme had been operational for the previous six years, replacing a number of wells in the town of Athy which had been shown to be contaminated.
By letter dated 30th June 1913 John O’Rourke of 5 Offaly Street applied for water supply to his house. Forty years later I would enjoy that tap water supply as a youngster growing up and living in the same house.
1913 was the year Athy Urban District Council appointed an inspector under the Shops Act. His function was to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Shop Act insofar as it related to the working conditions of shop assistants.
An extension to St. Michael’s Cemetery was made possible by the purchase from John Holland of 2 ¼ acres of land at a price of £80 per acre. The burial committee of the Council were in favour of having the entrance to the new cemetery, ‘through the present entrance into Old St. Michaels and through the old ruins, a new gateway to be erected and the entrance improved, the old ruins if possible not to be interfered with.’ Daniel Toomey of Leinster Street was appointed contractor to the cemetery extension scheme and work was scheduled to commence in the spring of 1914.
The Members of Athy Urban District Council with possibly the first indication of political partisanship passed a resolution in February congratulating John Redmond M.P. on the passing of the Home Rule Bill.
Another appointment made in 1913 by the local Council saw Miss Hall, the Relieving Officer, take up the position as the Council’s rent collector. I wonder was she the same Miss Hall from St. Patrick’s Avenue who in the 1950s collected rates or was it water rent? Her job in 1913 was to collect rents from the newly appointed Council tenants, ranging from five shillings per week for the houses in St. Michael’s Terrace to four shillings for the St. Martin’s Terrace houses and three shillings per week from the tenants of the Meeting Lane houses. Interestingly the Town Clerk reported to the Council members in the first month of 1914 that of the 22 houses comprising the Council’s first housing scheme ‘all were occupied by artisans, none of the tenants belong to the labouring classes.’
It was the same ‘labouring class’ who in 1914 and the following years answered the call for volunteers to fight in World War One. They would be paraded with enthusiasm and pride to the local railway station prior to embarking for the killing fields of France and Flanders.
1913 came to a close without any hint of what lay ahead for thousands of young Irish men, and in the minute book of Athy Urban District Council for 1913 there was no reference whatsoever to the Dublin Lockout.