Sad to relate that last week another two of our most senior citizens passed away. Kathy McHugh came of an old Athy family. She was the last of the Mullery family who lived in No. 12 William Street where her father, Patrick Mullery once had a bicycle shop. Patrick married Isobel Browne and Kathy, the second eldest of their ten children, would on her own marriage bring together two families with Athy connections going back a long way.
Kathy married Mick McHugh, whose father Matt with his brother Tom on coming to Athy opened forges/foundries. I well remember Tom McHugh’s foundry in Janeville Lane just a short distance from where he lived in No. 7 Offaly Street. His brother Matt opened a forge at the end of Connolly’s Lane off Meeting Lane before he moved across the road to open McHugh’s Foundry of Meeting Lane.
Kathy and Mick McHugh had six surviving children when Mick died in 1965 at the young age of 55 years. Kathy would survive her late husband by 44 years and during that time she suffered a most horrific loss when her eldest son Matt, his wife and child, her brother Stan and Stan’s fiancée all died tragically in a motoring accident at Gallowshill.
Her surviving children, her grandchildren and in time her great grandchildren would bring her great joy and happiness. Born the year before the Easter Rising she could recall the Black and Tans in Athy and how her father’s brothers Joe and Mick were involved in the revolutionary work of the I.R.A. during the War of Independence. Her uncle Joe was captured in Cavan and interned in Ballykinler Camp in County Down. Mick Mullery’s story is one of mystery, disappearing as he did in 1922 only to re-surface 44 years later in Athy unannounced and unexpected. He left Athy for a second time after meeting for the last time his niece Kathy and other members of the Mullery family, returning to Australia where he subsequently died.
Kathy had a unique distinction of attending in her youth Irish language classes given by Seamus Malone in his home at Stanhope Street in the early 1920s. Seamus Malone whom I have mentioned in previous articles was a legendary socialist republican who was interned by the British during the War of Independence. Kathy’s interests in matters Irish found expression in her love of Irish dancing and music and it was the tragic death of her eldest son Matt which brought to a premature end her regular attendance at events organised by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann. Nevertheless her interest in Irish music continued unabated and right to the end she gave her children, but especially her grandchildren and her great grandchildren the unswerving devotion and maternal attention of a well beloved family figure.
The funeral mass for Kathy McHugh was celebrated by Monsignor Wilson who spoke warmly of the mother, grandmother and great grandmother who instilled in her extended family respect for family and social values. How wonderful it is to reflect on how well a life as long and valued as Kathy’s can impinge on the family histories of so many other local families. The McHughs and the Mullerys would find links through marriage with other old Athy families such as the Aldridges and the Brackens whose connections with the town of Athy go back through the generations. She is survived by Lily, Aidan, Freda, Marie and Rene to whom we extend our sympathies.
Paddy Walsh’s whole life was immersed in Irish culture. A native Irish speaker from Ring in County Waterford, Pádraig Breathnach first came to the ‘garrison town’ of Athy in August 1950 to work on the cleaning of the water pipes which brought water from the hills at Modubeigh. In place since 1907 these same pipes had finally rid the town of Athy of the awful diseases which bedevilled the drinking wells from which the local people drew water each day. Paddy who was then a foreman with P.J. Walsh & Co. met local girl Nancy O’Rourke whose father Paddy was a local harness maker in Stanhope Street. Married in February 1953 the young couple lived in Athy from 1955 onwards.
Paddy worked for a while with Bord na Mona before spending 21 years in the Wallboard factory where he worked in the boiler room with Mick Doody. When Athy’s largest factory closed in 1977 Paddy joined Peerless Rugs, also since closed, before finishing his working life with Athy Urban District Council almost 19 years ago.
Paddy was very involved in the Irish language movement and was one of the principal promoters of the Gaelic League in Athy during the 1950s and the 1960s. He was also a founder member with the late Paddy Dooley, Principal of Kilberry National School and later a T.D. for this constituency of the Padraig Pearse Commemoration Committee. Vice-Chairman of the Care of the Elderly Committee for many years Paddy involved himself in a myriad of local activities, always striving to keep alive the community spirit which was such an important part of rural life in his native County Waterford. The establishment of the Guide Dog Association and the revival of Athy Dog Show were due to Paddy’s initiative.
I remember how justifiably proud Paddy was when a few short years ago his book of Irish poems ‘Ón Rinn Go Bearú’ was launched here in Athy. In the introduction to the booklet Paddy wrote:
‘Sna dánta símplí seo ar leanas tugtar pictiúr beo iontach dúinn den saol atá imithe, de na laethe a bhí – cois fharraige sa Rinn agus cois Bhearú inár mBaile Átha-İ féin.’
The following poem entitled ‘Iascaire Átha-İ’ was Paddy’s tribute to his adopted town.
‘Nach aoibhinn mo shaol
Ag deireadh an lae
Is an ghriain ag dul fé,
Níl scamall sa spéir
Ná scáil ar mo chroí
Is mé suite cois Bhearra
Our sympathies go to Mairead, Maurice, Colm and Helen.
The River Barrow continues to flow silently through the town of Athy as it did for centuries before the Anglo Normans founded a village on its west bank. Kathy McHugh and Paddy Walsh, one a native of Athy, the other an adopted son of the South Kildare town, will be remembered with fondness.
Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a nanamacha.