With St. Patrick’s Day celebrations everywhere this week I have had a look back at what was happening in South Kildare as reported in the Kildare Observer on Saturday, 21st March 1891. “The Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser”, to give the paper its full title, claimed it was “published at Naas, Athy, Baltinglass, Blessington, Dunlavin, Kilcullen, Newbridge, Kildare, etc.”, meaning I presume that it had reports from each of those locations. The front page of the weekly newspaper which incidentally was printed in Naas consisted of advertisements. Of interest to Athy readers was the advertisement for “Taits New Farm Seeds”, Taits being seed merchants in Capel Street, Dublin whose agents in Athy and district were M. Minch & Son of Canal Harbour, Athy. Michael Lawler, Grocer of Athy, was local agent for The Breadalbane, a highland Whiskey produced by Ferguson & Co. of Glasgow.
Lawlers and Minches are no longer part of the business scene in Athy but three Naas firms mentioned in the Page 1 advertisement are, or were up to quite recently, still in business in Naas. Dowlings, Gogartys and Grehans were names familiar in Naas as far back as 1891.
The Newspaper’s report on the Co. Kildare Spring Assizes had a number of Athy references. Charles Cameron, Public Analyst for County Kildare and Public Health Officer for Dublin reported on a number of samples sent to him from Athy for analysis during the previous nine months. For instance on July 17th he received two samples of buttermilk from Sergeant Griffin of Athy which he described as poor, but not sufficiently so as to warrant prosecuting the seller. Three days previously he was sent water samples from the Guardians of Athy Union. Two samples contained excessive quantities of dissolved matter as well as nitric acid and one sample was regarded as polluted. On October 29th another water sample was analysed for the Athy Guardians and found to be heavily polluted.
The water supply for the town of Athy came from a number of water pumps which more often than not were polluted due to ground seepage and lack of a proper sewerage system in the town. Death resulting from drinking polluted water was a regular feature of life in Athy during the last decade of the 20th century and indeed was to remain so until the town water supply from Modubeagh was inaugurated in 1913.
At the Spring Assizes John La Touche made a malicious injury claim in respect of damage caused to a vacant farmhouse in November of the previous year. La Touch gave evidence of evicting tenants from two farms in Narraghmore which were subsequently re-let, but the new tenants were boycotted following a resolution passed by the Narraghmore branch of the National League. La Touche’s vacant farmhouse at Ballymount was broken into and damaged as a result of which he got a Decree for £20 and costs which was levied on the local barony.
The Jurors at the Spring Assizes adjourned an application for compensation for injuries suffered by local constabulary in a riot in Athy on 24th August 1890. Apparently there was a meeting of labourers held in Athy on that Sunday afternoon and after the meeting some of the men tried to get into a public house claiming they were bona fide travellers. [Anyone who travelled more than three miles from his home on a Sunday was a bona fide traveller and as such was entitled to drink in a public house on the way]. The publican, knowing that many of the men were locals and fearing the loss of his licence if he allowed them to drink, refused them entrance. A row broke out, the publican was attacked and the local R.I.C. were called to the scene. The mob in turn set upon the police and what was later described as “the riot in Athy” occupied much of that Sunday afternoon as it was later to occupy many days of the Irish Court system and pages of the local newspapers for weeks thereafter.
Three of the injured Constables applied for compensation and one of them, Constable Patrick Hickey, whose injuries necessitated his retirement from the force, was subsequently awarded £350. His companions, Constables Joseph Redding and Ahern received compensation of £15 each, all of which compensation was levied on the local barony of West Narragh. There was much consternation at judicial level when at the trial of the Athy rioters the Wicklow town jury found the men guilty only of common assault, thereby limiting a possible prison sentence to 12 months. Evidence was given of the Constables having been knocked to the ground and kicked, struck with stones and with their own batons and in the circumstances the presiding Judge was not happy that following the finding of the Jury he could only impose a prison sentence of 12 months.
A husband and wife team charged with stealing ready-made clothing from the shop of James Moore, Athy draper, were tried before Mr. Justice O’Brien at the Spring Assizes. The modus operandi was apparently to steal the clothes from the local shop and then pawn them with James Doyle, the local pawn broker. The presiding Justice when sentencing the female prisoner to two months imprisonment felt obliged to say that it would not have been beyond the duty of the pawn broker to enquire where those new clothes were found by a poor person like the female defendant before taking them in pawn.
The ongoing dispute between the supporters of Parnell and the anti-Parnellites was evidenced in a report headed “Anti-Parnellite meeting in Athy”. Those opposed to Parnell were termed “McCarthytes” and the Town Hall, Athy was the venue for their meeting on the previous Monday night when only about “a score turned up for the purpose of establishing a branch of the National Federation”. Given Parnell’s difficulties with the Catholic clergy following the Kitty O’Shea affair, its not surprising to find in the newspaper account of that meeting of the presence of some local clergy. Those in attendance included “Reverend J. Carroll, C.C., Rev. Father Rowan C.C., Ms. D. Kilbride, M.P., M. Murphy, P. Knowles, R. Clandillon, J.J. Reid, S. O’Brien, D. Carbery, S. Flynn, C. Timmons, J. Moran, P. Moore and D. Walsh.”
A report from the County Kildare Gaelic Committee indicated that at a meeting held in Newbridge on the previous Sunday it was agreed to reduce teams from 21 to 16 players for the playing of that years County Championship. The rest of the country followed suit a year later when the central Council of the G.A.A. reduced teams sizes from 21 to 17 at the same time deciding that a goal scored would thereafter be equal to 5 points. The draw for the 1891 County Kildare championship for which 17 teams entered included Naas v. Athy and Narraghmore v. Moorefield, both matches which were to be played at Kildare on Sunday, April 12th.
Narraghmore lost to Moorefield, while Athy overcame Naas to advance to the semi-finals where they played a draw against Kildare. Kildare got a walkover in the replay and went on to lose the County Final to Mountrice. Athy did not enter a team for the 1892 championship. I haven’t found out what caused the Athy team to boycott the 1891 semi-final replay and the following year’s county football championship. Perhaps it had something to do with the Parnell split which had ramifications extending far beyond politics of the day.
St. Patrick’s Day in 1891 passed off without mention, but then St. Patrick’s Day 113 years ago was not a National holiday.