Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Willie Doody and Mick Murphy

Last Sunday’s Parish newsletter included amongst the list of the dead two Athy men who died in England. Seventy year old Willie Doody died a short time after his older sister Teresa passed away in London. The previous week the remains of Mick Murphy formerly of Convent View who also died in England were brought back for burial in Athy’s St. Michael’s cemetery. Weeks earlier the ashes of his namesake, Ena Murphy formerly of Offaly Street who died some months ago in England were brought back to Athy for burial in the same cemetery. An old school mate of mine Johnny Mulhall formerly of Geraldine who spent many decades in England died there recently and his remains were also brought back for burial in his native town. Like every other Irish provincial town Athy has seldom been able to meet the employment needs of its young people. The dismal state of the Irish economy in the post World War II period and the protracted economic crisis of the 1950’s did not allow the creation of sufficient jobs for Irish workers. The inevitable movement away from friends and family saw many take the emigrant boat to Britain. Mick Murphy, Ena Murphy and many members of the Doody family were part of that diaspora. Now as the years advance the one time youngsters to whom the streets and buildings of Athy were so familiar are rapidly decreasing in numbers. Very soon Athy’s diaspora of the post war period will be lost to memory. They left many years ago the town where they were born, reared and schooled but they never forgot those they left behind. To read of the death of somebody in England “formerly of Athy” is to remind those of us who remained of the economic backwater which was Ireland of the 1950’s and the 1960’s. Many young men and women and indeed several entire families left Athy to make a new life, usually in Britain but occasionally in America. Young people left Ireland in droves in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Britain offered employment and hope of a better life but those who emigrated were understandably anxious to retain close links with family and friends in Ireland. In many cases however the loss of contact led to a fracturing of the social relations between emigrants and those they left behind. The Doody family, children of Paddy and Kathleen lived in Janeville Lane, at the back of Offaly Street in the 1950’s. There were thirteen children in the Doody family and the eldest son, Paddy shared a first communion photograph with myself, Willie Moore, Teddy Kelly and Basil White. Paddy left school at an early age, as did many of my classmates in the immediate post war years, and emigrated to Britain. Many of Paddy Doody’s siblings also emigrated and at one time there were ten Doody brothers and sisters in Britain, most of them living in and around Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Ena Murphy who died in England and whose ashes were returned for burial in her hometown was the daughter of Paddy and Polly Murphy of Offaly Street. There were nine children in the family, all of whom at various times emigrated to England. The last to do so was the oldest Paddens who left Athy after the Wallboard factory, where he worked, closed down. Paddens will be remembered as the leader of Sorrento Dance Band. Five members of the Murphy family have since died in England and the remains of three have been returned to Athy for burial in St. Michael’s cemetery. The return of the exile is sadly in many cases only achieved after death as happened recently for the late Mick Murphy and the late Johnny Mulhall. Emigration which has been a feature of life in rural and provincial Ireland for centuries lessened the bond between families, neighbours and friends. It also deprived our country of the talent and energy of generations of Irish men and women who could not find employment in their own town or country. One local factory which 84 years ago opened its doors to create employment in Athy is Tegral. During the week Paddy Kelly, Managing Director of Tegral Building Products made a presentation in Clanard Court Hotel to announce the change of the company’s name to Etex Ireland Limited as part of the Belgium company Etex. The original factory opened in 1936 changed its name to Tegral Building Products in 1973 and now its 151 employees will be a part of the worldwide Etex Company which employs approximately 12,500. The Canal side factory has been an important part of the industrial life of Athy for generations, during which time it has given many young persons the opportunity to work in their own town.

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