Local newspapers are a ready source of fascinating news and as events and people slip from memory those same newspapers remain an accessible depository of information about a locality and its people. I have been perusing items salvaged over the years from the Nationalist and Leinster Times and other newspapers and give over this week’s Eye on the Past to some of those pieces.
The Nationalist and Leinster Times of 26th June 1937 reported ‘Ernie Glynn of Duke Street has arranged to make a gramophone record of his voice with the D’Olier Music Company Dublin. The song chosen by him for the recording is “The Legion of the Lost”. Mr. Glynn’s training for this accomplishment was in the capable hands of his father, the well known veteran actor Mr. N. O’Rourke Glynn. Another pupil of Mr. O’Rourke Glynns, Miss Josephine Pasley, a Dublin girl, will record on the opposite side of the disc.’ I have never come across a copy of this record and wonder if any of the readers of the Eye on the Past know if the record was made.
On the afternoon of Tuesday 15th February 1853 the paddle steamer Queen Victoria left Liverpool for Dublin with approximately 120 passengers on board. As the boat approached Dublin at 1.30 the following morning there was a heavy fall of snow resulting in poor visibility. Some minutes later the first mate saw the cliffs of Howth just yards away and shortly afterwards the boat crashed into the rocks near The Bailey. The Freeman’s Journal of 19th February reported: ‘the cabin passengers were in bed, and being awakened by the shock, rushed half dressed upon the deck, and to their horror, found the ship fast going down. The steerage passengers affrightened and dismayed were running in wild confusion about the deck.’ The ship’s captain and his first and second mates went down with the boat, as did about 80 passengers and crew. Amongst the dead was an Athy woman, Mrs. Walsh whose husband was saved.
The Nationalist and Leinster Times of 30th June 1934 reported on what was described as ‘serious disturbances’ in Athy on the Sunday before the Local Government elections which took place on 26th June. Apparently Sidney Minch T.D. was addressing a meeting in Emily Square on behalf of himself and other Fine Gael candidates before an audience which was described by the local newspaper as ‘composed mostly of blueshirts.’ The report continued: ‘rival crowds assembled all around the square and started to boo and raise cheers for prominent leaders of their party. Things looked very nasty when suddenly a rush was made and fierce fighting took place. The Guards were obliged to draw their batons and several members of both sides came in for “knocks”. After some time the Guards succeeded in separating the combatants and formed a cordon between them and the meeting proceeded. During the evening scuffles are reported to have taken place in many parts of the town.’ The following night at about 11.30 p.m. approximately 60 men gathered by prior arrangement in Emily Square and went about the town painting political slogans on the streets in advance of the local elections.
The first meeting of the newly elected Urban Council a few days later was reported as divided on political lines and ‘a certain tension in the atmosphere of the meeting was noted.’ No doubt the ‘rival crowd’ which attacked the meeting in Emily Square was comprised of Fianna Fáil supporters. Following the election results a large number of the same supporters gathered in Emily Square and led by two men playing melodeons marched to the various Fianna Fáil’s candidate’s houses where they raised cheers before returning to Emily Square to sing the National Anthem.
The fifteen members of the Urban Council elected on 26th June included Brigid Darby and Sarah Doyle. The other Councillors were Patrick Dooley, Francis McNeary, Joseph Reynolds, Thomas Flood, William Mahon, Laurence Doyle, Sidney Minch, Tom Carbery, John Norman, Michael Deegan, Jacob Purcell and William Mulhall.
Describing party political followers as Blueshirts seemed to have been a common and acceptable practice in the 1930s as evidenced by a number of news items in the Leinster Leader in the weeks after the 1936 local elections. Under the heading ‘Blue Shirts Attacked’ the paper reported that while returning from a meeting in Ballitore two members of the League of Youth named Haydens from Vicarstown were attacked at Mullaghmast. The four or five attackers were provided with bottles and stones and were aided by a woman who wielded a fire tongs.
The following week the same newspaper under the headline ‘Blue Shirt Member Threatened’ reported how Patrick Lawler of Pill, Moone, described as a member of the local branch of the Blueshirts, while cycling home from Castledermot was accosted by a number of men who threatened to assault him.
Clearly elections in the 1930s created more excitement than elections of modern times.