This week another of my former school mates retires. Teddy Kelly was not just my class mate, he was my best friend as we grew up together in Offaly Street. We went to St Joseph’s Boys School together, Loy Hayden occasionally having the task of shepherding us across Leinster Street and then on to the safety of the old school at Rathstewart. We transferred at 7 or 8 years of age to the Christian Brothers Primary School and from there to the Secondary School. We were in the same class throughout and finished our second level education in 1960.
Teddy’s father, like my own, was a member of the Garda Siochana and for good measure Garda Mick Tuohy also lived in the same street. Offaly Street was then a wonderful mix of mostly young families with a few elderly couples making up the local community. It was a very happy place in which to live and the youthful exuberance and cheerful laughter of boys enjoying themselves was everywhere. The Kelly, Moore, Whyte, Webster and Taaffe families all had boys around the same age and the undisputed leader of the lot was Leo Kelly, Teddy’s older brother. Our youthful horizons were limited not by any lack of adventure on our part, but by the necessity of travelling everywhere on foot. Bummeries on the Carlow Road was in summertime the furthermost point south we ventured. We went there every year to swim in the cooling waters of the Grand Canal banked up against the weir, but if we did we never learned to swim. That for me at least, was a facility which came much later in my adult life. I can remember a number of us, including Teddy, hitching a lift to Bummeries on a hay bogey as it made its slow journey out the Carlow Road. The trip lasted for only a few hundred yards but for youthful townies it was an enjoyable experience and indeed memorable, given that I can recall it almost 50 years later.
Teddy and I played together every single day of our young lives. After school, the school bags were left aside, lunch was eaten and whoever finished first knocked on the others door. Our constant companion in those days was Toby, Teddy’s dog who for many years accompanied the Offaly Street youngsters wherever we went. The seasons determined where we went during the afternoon. In the height of summer the Park was the usual first place of call. We knew every tree, not by name but rather by reference to their sturdiness and ability to hold up under the pressure exerted by young fellows imitating circus trapeze artists. We were very agile young fellows who swung out of tree branches or hung out of them secured by our bent knees or even as I recall by precarious footholds. The only danger was from a local man for whom we had a nickname, which name affirmed our belief that his constant interference with our activities was unwarranted and none of his business. Looking back he was probably concerned that we would damage the trees, which we never did, but his appearance was always guaranteed to involve a shouted threat our retreat from the scene and eventual return once he had gone.
Summer days in the Park were particularly enjoyable when the Duke of Leinster’s agent had the grass cut. It was a once a year task and the meadowed grass once cut was left to lie thick on the ground for a few days. We seized the opportunity to let our imagination run wild as the sweet smelling meadowed grass was collected, heaped and shaped into forts in which we played our games of cowboys and Indians.
As we grew older the Cinema in Offaly Street became an important part of our lives. “Bobs”, so called after the cinema manager Bob Webster, another resident of Offaly Street, was a flea ridden picture palace, the tiny inhabitants of which fought, and obviously won, the weekly battle waged by Matty Brennan and his disinfectant spray. We didn’t mind the nauseating smell of disinfectant which always seemed to hang heavy in the picturehouse air. “Pictures” were our weekly insight into an exciting world which we could never hope to find in Offaly Street and Hopalong Cassidy never had a more faithful following than we youngsters in the street. You can imagine our dismay when Bob Webster felt it necessary to ban Teddy and the rest of us from going to the pictures. Bob took exception to being pelted with stones as he visited old Miss Hegarty who lived in a thatched and mud walled cottage at the end of what is now Beechgrove. The ban caused consternation amongst our ranks and recriminations flew thick and fast as each of us in turn blamed the other. In truth we all had taken pot shots at Bob, but of course some of us claimed that we didn’t hit him and sought to put all the blame on Teddy Kelly. All was forgiven after a few weeks spent in the wilderness when Bob relented at the behest of his good wife.
Teddy was an adventurous fearless young fellow, as I would like to imagine we all were in those days. Orchards were easy prey for the youthful marauders from Offaly Street and the temptation to sample the fruit even before it was ripe was overpowering. Thinking back on those days and the orchards surreptitiously visited by Teddy and myself I find that many have disappeared under the blocks and cement of latter day urban development. Mrs. Sylvester’s orchard has disappeared, as has Cyprian Hollands and even Mick Aldridges orchard at the top of Offaly Street is no more. A similar fate has befallen Keatley’s garden at the back of Offaly Street where I recall the most succulent gooseberries I ever tasted were to be had, if one took sufficient precaution not to be caught.
Teddy, like the rest of us youngsters in Offaly Street, graduated from sampling the forbidden fruits of local orchards when we discovered the delights of female company. The adult world beckoned and for Teddy it was to be sampled courtesy of a job in the wages office of the Asbestos cement factory. There he joined the Chief Wages Clerk, John Prendergast of St. Patrick’s Avenue and Ted Wynne, a classmate from William Street. Now after more than 40 years service and having enjoyed yet another birthday on the 17th of July he has decided to take early retirement and spend more time with his extended family which now includes grandchildren.
Thinking I was perhaps the last one of my class not to be retired I was going to allow myself the thought that I had to keep working and paying taxes just to keep all the pensioners in funds when I received an e-mail from Seamus Ryan in Australia. Dr. Seamus has recently moved from China with his wife and young child to start a new life in the southern hemisphere. He was a classmate of Teddy and myself at the Christian Brothers School. One retires, one emigrates and one continues on the daily treadmill of work. Its hard to know which to envy.
Best of luck to Teddy on his retirement and may the years ahead bring nothing but joy and happiness to my good friend from Offaly Street.