Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Forgotten Place Names of Athy

Looking through the place names and street names recorded for Athy in the census of 1901 and that of 1911 I was surprised to find how many of those names mentioned are no longer remembered. The earlier census shows for that part of the town on the east side of the river Barrow several names no longer in use and in all probability long forgotten. Where were Back Lane, Carroll’s Court, Chapel Hill, Garden Lane, Kellys Lane and Kyles Row? Matthews Lane, New Row and Porters Row complete the list of long lost local place names of 118 years ago. Chapel Hill had disappeared from the 1911 census records, while Emily Square, so named after the Duke of Leinster’s wife and Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s mother, was noted as Market Square in both the 1901 and 1911 census. For Athy west of the river Barrow place names now no longer used include Canal Lane, Higginsons Lane, James Place and Keatings Lane. Other names long since forgotten include New Gardens, Newmans Row, Tanyard Lane and Tay Lane. Names still remembered and occasionally used today include Dry Docks, Shrewleen Lane, Barrack Lane and Street and Blackparks. The lost named places accounted for many of the lanes, courts and alleyways which were demolished during the slum clearance programme of the mid-1930s. That programme was an initiative of the government of the day which allowed Athy Urban District Council to demolish the small unsanitary dwelling houses of which there were many to be found throughout the town of Athy. Generally two roomed single storied houses built in the previous century without proper sanitary facilities and lacking running water were all privately owned by local landlords. The tenants from those houses were accommodated in public authority housing newly built at Dooley’s Terrace and St. Joseph’s Terrace, as the houses they vacated were demolished. The last of those house types were to be found in more recent years in Blackparks where the landlord was Mr. Plewman who lived nearby in the house which is now the offices of Minch Malt. The two roomed houses, all with small rear yards, were served by a single water pump outside on the public footpath. I had the pleasure of interviewing 85 year old Sarah Davis some months ago when she shared with me her memories of growing up in Blackparks. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sarah could recall with astonishing accuracy the names of the families and the various family members who lived in Blackparks. There is a photograph in the local Heritage Centre of a car passing through Blackparks during the Gordon Bennett Race of 1903. Many will recall the row of small houses known as Blackparks facing onto the Kilkenny Road but the 1903 photograph shows not only that row of houses opposite Plewman’s Terrace, but also three other houses facing onto what is now The Bleach cottages. Those first three houses I am told by Sarah were demolished during the 1930s. With the housing developments of the recent pre-recession years many new housing estates came into existence in Athy. So many in fact that I have difficulty in recognising their names or where many of them are located. If the new estate names are unfamiliar to many of us, the old place names once readily identifiable and part of everyday conversation in and around Athy are unlikely ever to be resurrected. Like the laneways they once identified their names have now disappeared, seldom if ever again to be recalled in conversation. Following on the recent article which accompanied the photograph of an Athy Gaelic Football team of the 1930s I received a lot of background information on ‘old man’ Mulhall. His football medals are now held by Lily Bracken and thanks to Lily I hope soon to revisit ‘old man’ Mulhall’s story. In the meantime I am looking for information on ‘Tarman’ Cunningham who was on the same football team with Martin Cunningham in 1937. If you can help me I would like to hear from you. The War of Independence Exhibition currently running in the Heritage Centre and which was to finish on Friday 11th October will now continue until Monday 21st October. The exhibition which tells a story of South Kildare’s involvement in that war has generated a lot of interest. It’s an exhibition which will not be revisited for many years so this week presents a not to be missed opportunity to see it.

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