Thursday, December 25, 1997

Charles Campbell, Scottish Soccer International

Although born in Scotland in 1854 he always regarded Ireland as his native country. Charles Campbell came to Ireland in 1861 from Pertshire in Scotland when his father James took up the tenancy of a farm on the County Galway border. The following year the Campbell family comprising nine sons and three daughters with their parents James and Margaret took up the tenancy of the Duke of Leinster’s lands at Kilkea Farm in South Kildare.

Two of the sons were to become early members of the Queen’s Park Football Club based in Hampden Park in Glasgow. How or why the Campbell brothers Edward and Charles returned to Scotland I do not know but on the 7th July 1870 Charles enrolled as a member of the newly formed soccer club. His older brother Edward had joined a short time earlier and was elected a member of the club committee in April 1870. Edward was to marry Ellen Hewson, daughter of Reverend John Hewson, Rector of Kilmore in Co. Mayo in 1880 and the Queen’s Park Club records disclosed no further involvement by him in the Club’s affairs.

Charles, however, was to retain links with the club and with the Scottish Football Association for many years both as a player and as an administrator. He became a member of the Queen’s Park Club first team on the 25th October 1873. His first game was a Scottish Cup Tie against Dumbreck which incidentally was the first match played in Hampden Park. He went on to play 81 matches for Queen’s Park as a half back. During his football career he won six Scottish cup medals with Queen Park F.C. between 1873/74 and 1885/86. He also got two F.A. cup runner-up medals when Queen’s Park were beaten in 1884 and again in 1885 by Blackburn Rovers in the F.A. finals played at the Oval in London. He was capped for Scotland on 13 occasions although the Queen’s Park Club history published in 1920 only credits him with 10 international caps. In those early days the international matches in which Charles Campbell played were against either England or Wales. It was one of his great regrets that Scotland did not play Ireland in an international match during his playing career. While still a playing member of the club Charles was elected president of the Queen’s Park Football Club for the 1879/1880 season. The earlier mentioned Club history refers to Charles Campbell as

“wrapped up heart and soul in the Queen’s Park. He, during his many years of active connection with it did more for the Club than any other of its many eminent members. With all his exterior bearing of nonchalance Charles Campbell was an intensely nervous man and took sorely to heart any disaster which befell the team …. His eloquence [he was a capable public speaker] generally swayed the club committee to his views, nor was he exultant over a beaten opponent.
A specialist at after dinner oratory he often assured the defeated the game was the hardest ever he had played. The score (no matter how great) in no sense represented the run of the game and that Queens Park was lucky in winning …. A great player almost to the end of his football career he played the game fairly - too fairly according to the light of modern football. Charging was charging in those days not as today when if one man rubs shoulders on the field with an opponent the whistle is blown. Charles took with equanimity and gave back with interest the hard knocks he received. It is recorded Campbell always apologised when he grassed his man. In defeat he was never despondent, his axiom being `we must do better next time’. He has left his mark on the game and he can console himself in his retirement that he has won universal respect and admiration”

Charles Campbell retired from the club committee at its AGM in May 1890. His retirement was the occasion of a presentation to him of a gold watch and chain inscribed “Presented to Mr. Charles Campbell by the members of Queen’s Park Football Club in recognition of valuable services rendered - Glasgow 18th May 1890”. After his retirement he devoted much of his time to the training of young footballers in Glasgow. The Queens Park Club history noted that

“on the occasion of cup ties or special matches his nervousness was such that he could not bear to look on during the progress of the game. He had been known to remain downstairs in the second Hampden Pavilion while the game progressed, rushing up the spiral stairs when cheers denoted a goal had been obtained. On being assured that all was going well he would go down again. At the finish no man appeared more indifferent and he concealed from all observers the intense nervous strain he had undergone. Truly his heart and soul were in the Queens Park.”

A resident of Glasgow he carried on a successful career as a stockbroker for a number of years. In 1889 he was elected president of the Scottish Football Association which position he held until the following year. His father had died at Kilkea in 1876 and his mother in 1880 and the family farm passed to his older brother David. Charles subsequently inherited Kilkea farm when David died in 1897 but remained in Glasgow until about 1907 when he finally returned to Ireland. A bachelor Charles Campbell farmed at Kilkea until his death in 1927 at the age of 73 years. He was buried in the Presbyterian plot in St. Michael’s Cemetery, Athy surely the only Scottish international soccer player and Scottish cup holder to lie in that medieval graveyard.

Last week I wrote of the launch of John MacKenna’s new book which will be held in the Town Hall Library on Friday, 23rd January at 8 p.m.. Waterstones, the International Booksellers have just announced that MacKenna’s new book, `The Last Fine Summer’ has been chosen as their Book of the Month for February 1998 - a great achievement for a local writer.

Thursday, December 18, 1997

Writers of Kilberry, Ann O'Neill Barna, Dorothy M. Large, Winnifred Letts

Many writers have in the past been kind to Athy its people and the surrounding countryside. It is forty years ago since I came across the first of many books written by authors familiar with the locality. Ann O’Neill Barna the American born wife of John Ranelagh who fought in 1916 had her book “Himself & I” published in 1958. In it she gave a warmly amusing account of life in Kilberry and Athy in the 1950’s. Her descriptions of the different aspects of local country life were funny and remain delightful to read even today. Who can forget her account of an Athy character from the past known only as Mary who once manned the fish and vegetable stall in Emily Square. Here is part of what Ann O’Neill Barna wrote:
“The one elaborate stall which had place of honour in front of the Square was run by Mary from Dublin …. She was a scrawny dark little thing with snapping black eyes, lank black hair and a toothy but engaging smile. She wore a shapeless overcoat and an ancient cloche hat … She controlled everything with a loud sharp voice …. Chanting ‘cahbages and tomahtoes, ahpricocks, ripe bahnanhnas’ ….. ‘Never mind the green dearie it is only the outside. I’ll peel one for you.’ She took up a banana and held it high and with dramatic gestures peeled four strips until it was half done. The banana was unripe and hard as a rock. ‘I’m sorry it is not ripe enough I said feeling very embarrassed at the wretched banana which looked so exposed and at the silent crowd watching all this with bated breath. Mary snorted ‘not ripe sez she’ to the crowd in a voice that carried for miles, ‘not ripe! after me stripping me bahnahna for her”.

O’Neill Barna lived in Kilberry for a few years in the 1950’s as did at an earlier time, poet, playwright and fiction writer Winnifred M. Letts who was married to W.H. F. Verschoyle. Born in England in 1882 Winnifred wrote extensively between 1907 and 1941 producing many works of fiction and some plays which were put on in the Abbey. She wrote of rural Leinster and two of her books of poetry were titled “Songs from Leinster” and “More Songs from Leinster”. In 1933 she published a book of reminiscences titled “Knockmaroon” which was illustrated by Kathleen Verschoyle. A book of wistful charm Knockmaroon deals with her life in Ireland and of Kilberry she wrote “the stones of this place are very deep in history and I feel often as if the past possesses it and will not let it go. Ivy and nettles are so quick to cover up the stones and to make raids upon all that we would make of a garden. We are surrounded by little stumps of castles, one in the farmyard proudly rules the hayrick. Another, Castle Redy, in a field has its legends of buried treasure and of the old La Rede family who once rode about their fields, now given up to grazing beasts. Just by the avenue gate lies the old churchyard and the ivy buried nave of the church of St. Bride who has become “Berry” in these days. Ruins of the Abbey stand close to the house”.

Another female writer who may have lived in the Kilberry area was Dorothy M. Large. Born Dorothy Lumley in 1891 she is believed to have been a daughter of Mr. Lumley a tailor of Duke Street and that she married a Large of Castle Rheban. However, Tullamore where another branch of the Lumley family were living is sometimes stated as her place of birth and I have made certain assumptions regarding her link with the Larges of Rheban on the basis of her writings. In her book of short stories “The Kind Companions” published in 1936 one of her stories was called “The Cloney Road” and the place name “Cloney” is used in more of her stories. Indeed in 1934 she published a small book of poetry titled “The Cloney Carol and Other Verses”. “Talk in the Townlands” a book of short stories published in 1937 had its story centred on “Rathberry Football Club” an obvious reference to Kilberry. Dorothy Large wrote humourous novels and short stories but her sketches of country life however tended to be sentimental and heavily stage Irish.

It is quite an extraordinary coincidence that Kilberry should have been home to the three eminent female writers of the century. The works of Dorothy Large and Winnifred M. Letts were once extremely popular but are now out of print while Ann O’Neill Barna’s only contribution to the literature of the area is also difficult to find these days. However, antiquarian bookshops can still turn up copies of these writers’ works which are guaranteed to give a fascinating glimpse of Irish country life of a couple of generations ago.

If the Kilberry countryside and its people held a special fascination for these writers the same can be said for the contemporary writer John MacKenna whose love affair with Castledermot and South Kildare is well documented. John who had already written a social history of Castledermot of 1925 has managed to keep South Kildare and his native village especially at the very centre of his fiction writing over the last few years. His first book of short stories “The Fallen and Other Stories” published in 1992 won the Irish Times fiction prize the following year. This was followed in 1993 by his first novel “Clare” which dealt with the life of the English rural poet John Clare. Two years later his second book of short stories “A Year of Our Lives” was published by Picador to critical acclaim earning for the author the description of being “one of the most individual prose writers in Ireland”.

On the 23rd January in the Town Hall, Athy his second novel set in Castledermot and the South Kildare countryside will be launched by Mary O’Donnell the writer and poet. Entitled “The Last Fine Summer” the book will excite and delight those who have been observing MacKenna’s sure rise in the Irish literary world. He is an able writer of considerable stature and everyone with an interest in good writing should come along to the Town Hall on the 23rd January at 8 p.m. to show support for a local writer whose work is gaining in importance with each new publication.

Thursday, December 11, 1997

Simon Vierpyl

A visit to the National Gallery in Merrion Square, Dublin is always a must at this time of the year. As always there are discoveries to be made amongst the collection of old master paintings in the gallery which was established in 1854 to commemorate the generosity of Carlow man William Dargan in funding the Irish Industrial Exhibition the previous year.

I have visited the Gallery on many occasions over the years but it was only recently that I took note of the marble bust of William Robert Fitzgerald 2nd Duke of Leinster which stands in the first room of the Irish collection. William, Duke of Leinster was to marry Emily St. George and both of them have given their names to the principal streets of our town. The bust of William shows him as an officer of the Volunteers which were formed to defend Ireland against a feared French invasion in the latter part of the eighteenth century. The most interesting feature of the bust however was the name of the sculptor inscribed on its base. The name was Simon Vierpyl with the additional details London 1725 - 1810 Athy.

Vierpyl was born in London in 1725 and at a young age was apprenticed to the distinguished Belgian born sculptor Peter Scheemakers. Scheemakers in the 1740’s was one of the premier sculptors of London, feted in his day for his statue of Shakespeare which was erected in Westminster Abbey. It was in the studio of Scheemaker that Vierpyl acquired his taste for the statuary of classical Rome. In 1748 Vierpyl left for Italy where he was to spend the next nine years of his life. His particular skill was to make copies of the great sculptures of the classical civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans. He lived in the Palazzo Zuccarri in Rome where he shared rooms with many of the most famous artists of the age including Sir Joshua Reynolds. Vierpyl is one of the figures in ‘Parody of the School of Athens’ which Reynolds painted in 1751. It forms part of the National Gallery’s collection today.
Vierpyl was a popular artist and was busily engaged in commissions for patrons such as Lord Wicklow and Lord Charlemont. By far his largest and most significant commission came from Rev. Edward Murphy, Charlemont’s tutor and travelling companion. From 1751 to 1755 Vierpyl copied 22 statutes and 78 busts in terra-cotta of Roman Emperors and other figures from the Capitoline Museum in Rome. They were all sent to Ireland in 1755. Vierpyl later described the work in a letter to Murphy in 1774 ‘your happy, and, I believe, singular thought, (getting the whole series copied, and then by one artist only), has never before nor to this day been executed by any sculptor except me. So that your imperial series is the only one of the kind now in the world. I am certain that no eminent artist will here after stand four years, winter and summer (as I have done), in the chilling Capitoline Museum to model so many busts an statues with his own hand’.

Rev. Murphy bequeathed the collection to Lord Charlemont, whose descendants presented the set to the Royal Irish Academy in 1868. With the patronage of Lord Charlemont, Vierpyl came to Ireland in 1756 where he established his reputation to such a degree that his work is noted in the majority of Dublin’s finest buildings of the late eighteenth century. Charlemont engaged him to supervise the construction of Rutland Square, now known as Parnell Square. Vierpyl himself bought No.21 on the square in 1760. Lord Charlemont himself resided in Charlemont House (now the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery) where the collection bequeathed to Charlemont by Rev Edward Murphy were kept in the library of the house.

For Charlemont he executed much of the decorative sculpture for the Casino at Marino, a folly used by Lord Charlemont for holding parties. One of Vierpyl’s clever works was the sculpting of Urns for the roof of the Casino which disguised the chimneys.

Vierpyl’s work for Charlemont brought him to the attention of other patrons. Among his most significant work in Dublin included the earlier version of the Rotunda of the Rotunda Hospital, the facade of St. Thomas’ Church, Marlborough St., executed by him from the design of the Palladio in Venice. He also executed the decorative work on the Royal Exchange, now City Hall. For his contributions to the work on Poolbeg lighthouse he received the thanks of the Ballast Board.

From 1773-1779 he was responsible for the supervision and execution of the decorative stone work on the Blue Coats’ School, Blackhall Place, now the headquarters of the Law Society of Ireland. A painting by the artist Jonathan Trotter, dating to 1779 portrays the nine central characters involved in the construction of the school, one of whom is Simon Vierpyl.

Although his career was one of great distinction, it was his pupil Edward Smyth, an Irishman, who would achieve greater renown. Smyth’s sculptures adorn the principal public buildings built in Dublin in the late eighteenth century. His work graces edifices such as the Four Courts, the Bank of Ireland on College Green and most notably the Custom’s House. Smyth is responsible for the fourteen different River Gods carvings which are the keystones for the windows of the ground floor of the Custom’s House.

Vierpyl was married on the 26th December 1758 in St. Andrew’s Church in Dublin to Frances Dickson, who was a niece of a Rev. Dr. Henry of Kildare Street. Sleator’s Public Gazetteer described her as ‘ a most agreeable young lady , with a considerable fortune and every other qualification which can render that state happy’. They had a number of children including two sons, William and Charles, who became sculptors. However she was to later meet her death by throwing herself out of a window of their house on Batchelor’s Walk, Dublin, some time in the 1770’s. Viepyl was married again on the 30th of August 1779 to Mary Burrowes.

How Simon Vierpyl came to die in Athy on the 10 February 1810 is a mystery. A clue may lie in his second marriage to Mary Burrowes, a family name found in Co. Kildare and Co. Laois. There is no indication of where he lived in Athy and strangely enough his death certificate does not give same merely stating “father to Mrs Feranges from the Bachelors Walk Dublin”. We do know that Simon Vierpyl lived to 85 years of age and was buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Athy. One of the finest sculptors of his generation born in London of Dutch parents lies in an unmarked grave in the cemetery where the remains of the medieval monks of Athy probably also repose. It is ironic that an artist who spent so much of his life creating works of art in stone and marble today has no monument to mark his final resting place in St. Johns Cemetery.

Thursday, December 4, 1997

Annual Review of Articles

Another year has come and gone. It is time to look back on 1997 and some of the topics carried in past Eyes on the Past.

Kilkea born Ernest Shackleton was featured in the first article of the New Year. Twice during the year I made trips to the London auction house of Sothebys in an attempt to acquire Shackleton memorabilia and artifacts for Athy’s new Heritage Centre. On both occasions material was purchased and when the centre opens in March 1998 Ernest Shackleton the South Kildare man who conquered the world of polar exploration will be suitably commemorated.

At different times during the year I wrote of Eamon Malone local commander of the old IRA and of William Connor and James Lacey who were shot at Barrowhouse on the 15th May 1921. The local Urban District Council honoured Michael Malone by having its new housing scheme at Woodstock Street named after him. Malone Terrace will keep alive the memory of that brave man who lead by example during the War of Independence. Perhaps Connor and Lacy will also be suitably honoured in the not too distant future.

The visit of Archbishop Walter Empey to Athy on 2nd March for a confirmation ceremony in St. Michael’s Church was the occasion of a civic reception by the local Urban District Council and an Eye on the Past article. Archbishop Empey was generous of his time on the day of his visit and one delightful moment was captured when Tom “Tanner” Bracken met the Archbishop and the two reminisced of the days when the Brackens and the Empeys worked together as painters.

The closure of Herterichs pork shop on 29th March afforded an opportunity to write of Ernest Herterich and his family who came to Athy in 1942. The delights of Herterich’s home cooked ham are no more, a victim of the one stop shopping culture developed by the supermarket chains. Jack Murphy of Convent View at 94 years of age and one of Athy’s oldest residents passed away early in the year. He and his wife Margaret were good friends of Eye on the Past and the story of Jack’s long working life encompassed so much of Athy’s commercial history since the 1920’s.

St. John’s Cemetery was the focus of a training scheme during the summer which resulted in a general clean up of this most historic site. It also afforded me an opportunity to delve into its history and its many interesting reminders of Athy’s past. Soon afterwards St. Michael’s Cemetery and its interesting collection of headstones was featured in an Eye on the Past. Apart from the local men killed in World Wars I and II many other historic connections where found in the cemetery. A distant kinsman of Irish parliamentarian Henry Grattan is buried in a quiet corner of St. Michael’s. William Grattan was a lieutenant in the Connaught Rangers and fought in the Peninsular War. Another more recent find in St. Michael’s of which I have yet to write is the grave of a former Captain of the Scottish International Soccer team. More about that in a future article.

Another sport, boxing, featured in an article on St. Michael’s Boxing Club. The first full international boxing match involving Ireland and Canada held outside of Dublin was in the Grove Theatre on the 13th July. The Boxing Club is still going strong but sadly the Grove has closed its doors again.

Some of my travels during the year were remembered particularly two trips made during the 1400th anniversary of the death of St. Colmcille. A summer trip to Iona in the Inner Hebrides off the Isle of Mull brought me for the first time to this most historic and religious of places. A later trip to Derry to visit the sites associated with the Irish Saint before he departed these shores completed the pilgrimage.

Betty May and her family came back to Athy for holidays in the summer. In America since 1949 Betty formerly of St. Martin’s Terrace remembered life in Athy after the War and her friends in the Social Club. The emigration story of the Bradley Brothers who left Athy in the 1920’s for America to be followed by the members of the May family in the 1940’s and 1950’s was typical of those difficult times in Ireland.

A two part article on the first tenants of St. Plewman’s Terrace in 1936 drew an enormous response as did the later article on Ned Ward. The occasion of the article on the legendary Ned was the closure of his daughter’s betting shop in Duke Street. The Ward family had carried on business in Athy since the early 1920’s and the Ward name still manages to conjure up memories of times long past in Athy.

The story of George Lammon who holds a unique record as the longest serving employee of Tegral unfolded the most interesting tale of immigration from Newcastle Upon Tyne and how a Geordie name was transformed. As usual November 11th and the ending of World War I was remembered but sadly Mae Vagts whom I mentioned in that article as a daughter of Edward Stafford of Butlers Row has since died.

A Happy New Year to all.

Thursday, November 27, 1997

Fr. Peter Hickey O.P.

Last week Minch Norton celebrated 150 years in Athy. Theirs is truly a wonderful record of achievement and one which was fittingly recognised when the Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy paid a visit to the factory on Friday. In the present modern production facility there is little to remind us of the past years when malting work was carried out under difficult circumstances. The now unused chimney stacks on the older Minch Norton buildings are a silent reminder of those early days when men laboured with wooden shovels in the malt houses. Do you remember the malt house in Stanhope Street occupying the site opposite Noonan’s public house? Not many, if indeed anyone, can go back so far as to recall the malt house in Offaly Street where the cinema was later located or the Malthouse in Rathstewart where Batchelors factory is situated. Now however all of Minch Nortons malting activities are centered in their Kilkenny Road complex and it was there last week that the 150 years celebrations took place.

Another celebration during the week was occasioned by the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Fr. Peter Hickey which took place on 20th December. A member of a local Kilberry family and now a member of the Dominican Community it was appropriate that Athy Urban District Council should honour Fr. Hickey on his Golden Jubilee. Son of Peter and Elizabeth Hickey of Kilberry, he was born in October 1921, the second youngest in the family of seven boys and six girls. He attended Kilberry National School and for a short while Barrowhouse National School while his sister Sheila was teaching there. She was later to join the Sisters of Mercy in Athy where as Sr. Michael she was principal of the Primary School for many years.

At nineteen years of age Peter Hickey entered the Dominican novitiate in St. Mary’s, Cork. As a native of Athy Peter was undoubtedly following in the footsteps of many Athy men who joined the Order of Preachers since the Order first established a monastery in Athy in 1253. After seven years of study Peter Hickey was ordained to the priesthood on 20th December, 1947 by John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of All Ireland. By then his brother Willie and sister Jenny had died, while brothers Ted and Paddy were in America and New Zealand respectively.

After three years in the Retreat House in Tallaght, Co. Dublin he was assigned to the Missions in Trinidad in 1950. A country about one fourteenth the size of Ireland, the islands Trinidad and Tobago form an archipelago located near the Orinoco River Delta of the Venezuelan Coast. With a population of about one million people oil production is the principal form of production. With a slight majority of people of African origin and a large minority descended from Asian Indians, European and Chinese groups make up a small minority of the population. Mainly Christian with a Catholic majority Trinidad has a substantial minority of Hindus and Muslims.

It was to there that Fr. Hickey sailed from Cobh via New York in October 1950 to take up his first post as Chaplain to the Colonial Hospital and also to the prison in the Trinidad Capital of Port-of-Spain. As the hospital name would indicate Trinidad was in 1950 still a British colony but Fr. Hickey’s arrival coincided with the granting of internal autonomy and the holding of elections. In 1962 after a brief period as members of the West Indian Federation, Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Britain. Fourteen years later a Republic was declared.

Fr. Hickey travelled to America in 1952 for a holiday during which he performed marriage ceremonies in Pittsburgh for his two brothers Tom and Ted. Returning to Trinidad he was appointed to the Parish of Rio Claro, an inland town on the island. After ten years in Trinidad Fr. Peter returned to Ireland on holidays and remained two years as Bursar in Newbridge College. In 1962 he returned to the Missions in Trinidad where he remained for another five years before he returned to St. Saviours Monastery in Waterford. He served there as Bursar and sub-Prior for a number of years before transferring to St. Dominic’s in Athy twelve years ago.

I have often felt that the Dominican Order’s links with Athy stretching back all of 744 years are one of our town’s most important historical elements. Throughout virtually the entire life of Athy from early village to mediaeval town to the 20th century town the Order of Preachers have had a presence here. This most valued connection has seen the Dominican Monastery firstly on the East bank of the River Barrow, later still in the area of the present Kirwan’s Lane when it was called Convent Lane before the Monastery re-located in the 18th century to Riversdale House. Fr. Peter Hickey has spent the last twelve years of his priesthood amongst the people of his home town of Athy. A nephew of the formidable Monsignor Hickey, late President of Clonliffe College, the Kilberry born priest has earned the respect and esteem of all with whom he has come in contact.

The local Urban District Council in recognising his Golden Jubilee as a priest has also acknowledged the importance of the Dominican Order to present day Athy and the Order’s significance in the history of our town. In the same week that the Dominican priest Fr. Hickey was honoured, a local firm celebrated it’s contribution to the local economy over the past 150 years. To both go our congratulations and good wishes. The Minch Norton Maltings and the Dominicans have become synonymous with Athy and long may they both flourish.

Thursday, November 20, 1997

Brian Bracken Whistle Player

Irish Traditional Music, an important part of our Irishness, is one of the most rewarding of my many personal indulgences into the many facets of Irish culture. Music has formed an important part of community life in Athy down the years as evidenced by the many bands and musical combinations to be found in the town over different periods. Who can ever forget the stories, some no doubt improved in the telling, of the Leinster Street Band and their rivalry with the Barrack Street Band of the early decades of this century. The pipers of the Castlemitchell Pipe Band and the earlier St. Brigid’s Pipe Band left a legacy of music which long after their disbandment is still a source of inspiration. Nearer to our own time we can recall the bands of the 1950’s and particularly in the Irish music context the Ardellis Ceili Band founded by Fontstown man, Brian Lawlor in the mid-1950’s. There is even in that backward look sufficient evidence of music and musical talent to satisfy even the most demanding of tastes.

Two weeks ago I walked into the `Celtic Note’ music shop on Nassau Street, Dublin and asked the assistant to help locate a recently issued CD of a whistle player by the name of “Bracken”. Her puzzled expression prompted a quick correction and an acknowledgement by me that the player was in fact “Hughes”. I had used his mother’s maiden name, the former Claire Bracken being well known to me at a time when we were both members of Aontas Ogra. The shop assistant smiled and with her right hand pointing in the general direction of the ceiling said; “that’s his music being played at the moment!” Only then did I take note of the exuberant tin whistle playing which was coming over the shops loudspeaker.

As I listened it was with a sense of pride, knowing that the musician was an Athy man, but also with a sense of excitement only previously experienced when I first heard the singing of Galway man Sean Tyrrell and heard the piping of the legendary Johnny Doran. Johnny Doran who apart from his brother Felix was the last of the travelling pipers, died in the County Home, Athy in 1950. Twenty years later in the same institution, then renamed St. Vincent’s Hospital, was born Brendan Hughes, the whistle player whose music I was hearing that afternoon in a Dublin music shop. Brian the son of Liam and Claire Hughes of Woodstock Street has been a traditional musician for over 15 years. He was first introduced to the Uileann pipes by his grand-father Christy Bracken, when he was 12 years of age. He later travelled every week to the Pipers Club in Henrietta Street, Dublin home of Na Piobairi Uileann founded by Seamus Ennis and Breandan Breathnach. Here he was to master the chanter and here also he listened to and learned from the different piping styles of men such as Leo Rowsome, Seamus Ennis, Kildare’s own Liam O’Floinn, Roscommon’s Andy Conroy and the legendary Patsy Touhy. It was here also he would have heard for the time the only extant recording of the late Johnny Doran the man who played the Uileann pipes with a fire and passion bordering on reckless abandon. A frequent competitor at Feis Ceol Brian non All-Ireland competitions for uileann piping. Not content with mastering this most difficult of instruments, Brian also took up the tin whistle and before long was to gain further success as an Irish champion for that instrument.

One of the growing band of young Irish musicians who have been influenced by Planxty, the Bothy Band and Moving Hearts, Brian’s music is more contemporary than traditional. This is evident in his new arrangement of old tunes and in his exuberant legato style which owes more to the contemporary Irish groups than to the traditional stylists of Sliabh Luachra and the Western seaboard.

Brian, who is married to Bernadette Connell is the proud father of four month old Grainne. A trainee fireman with the Dublin Fire Service, presently he has little time to involve himself in the traditional music sessions which play an important part in sustaining and developing the Irish music scene. In the past he has played in Clancys in Leinster Street, in the Avalon Inn, Castlecomer and in the highly regarded music sessions held in Coffeys of Clogh. However, when the training is completed in March ’98 Brian hopes to be involved in a number of promotional concerts and sessions.

Brian’s CD was issued under the Gael Linn label and represents three years preparation in choosing tunes and making news arrangements for the recording. The choices he made are excellent and the playing is quite superb. Indeed after I had heard all of the tracks on Brian’s CD I then listened to recordings of the late Micko Russell and Michael Tubridy. The contrast in style could not be greater and I was left to marvel at Brian Hughes fast free flowing style which is so reminiscent of what we know of Johnny Doran’s style on the Uileann pipes. Amongst the tracks are two slow airs played on an African Blackwood Whistle. They have a haunting mellow sound which is heard to particularly good effect in the tune Turas go Tir na n’og. Included on the CD are some of Brian’s own jig compositions. All in all this is an exceptional first CD from a confident young players who has talent, feeling and a delightful touch all combining to give us a taste of good traditional music played in a contemporary style.

Athy is undergoing something of a musical renaissance at the moment, what with Jack Lukeman’s recent release and the emerging singing and song writing talent of David Bradbury. More about both of them in the future, but in the meantime everyone in Athy should go out and buy Brian Hughes’ new release “Whistle Stop”. Its a gem and would make a wonderful present for Christmas. There will, I feel, be many more recordings from this wonderful musician.

Thursday, November 13, 1997

Athy's Model School and 1866 Commissioners of National Education Report

The 33rd report of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland for the year 1866 presented to both Houses of the English Parliament contained many interesting references to Athy’s Model School. Built on a site provided by the Duke of Leinster the Model School was opened in August 1852. A total of 32 Model Schools were intended to be provided throughout Ireland for the dual purpose of providing schooling for children and also training for teachers for Irish National Schools. A number of candidate teachers were to be boarded in each Model School for a period of six months having first been selected by the Commissioner’s Superintendent from National Schools within the district. Each candidate teacher who received the Superintendent’s certificate after the initial six months training in the Model School would then spend another two years teaching in a National School before completing teacher training at the National Model School in Dublin. With the early development of the National school system in Ireland there was a shortage of suitably trained teachers and so the Model School system of training teachers was devised. In addition to the candidate teachers Model Schools also employed Monitors. These were deserving pupils from the area who were admitted as free scholars into the Model School and who in return for small weekly payments helped the teachers in the class. Monitors could in time be selected as candidate teachers by the school superintendent.

In its report for 1866 the Commissioners of National Education stated that there had been no change in the staff of principal or assistant teachers in Athy Model School during the year. However, one pupil teacher was removed for irregularity and one pupil teacher and two monitoresses left at the end of their contracts. The school catered for boys, girls and infants and in charge of the boys’ school was John Walsh a Roman Catholic who held that position since 1852. His assistant was John Henderson of the Church of Ireland and their pupil teachers were William Patterson, Church of Ireland and Charles Dodd, Roman Catholic. The recitation of the religious background of the teachers 130 years ago was significant given the non denominational nature of the Model School which when established was intended to “promote united education”. The boys’ school had 124 on the roll during 1866 although the average daily attendance was considerably less than that. Apparently at a time when school attendance was not compulsory every boy who enrolled even for a day was included in the yearly enrolment figure which tended to give an inflated account of the school numbers. The average attendance was in fact 69 boys and of the 85 school boys on the roll by the end of the year 45 were Church of Ireland, 16 Roman Catholic, 17 Presbyterian and 7 others. They showed an increase of 25 pupils over the previous year with a doubling of the Roman Catholic boys in the school.

In the girls’ school the principal was Ann O’Reilly a Roman Catholic who had joined in 1852 and her assistant was Bessie Glover, Church of Ireland. Their total enrolment for the year was 94 girls with an average attendance of 40. At the end of 1866 the school had 56 girls on its books 30 of whom were Church of Ireland, 11 Roman Catholic, 9 Presbyterian and 6 others. This reflected little change from the previous year.

Harriet Souter, Church of Ireland was Principal of the infant school and her assistant was Teresa Mackey a Roman Catholic. They had enrolled 70 infants during 1866 of which on average 31 infants attended daily. At the end of that year there were 29 infants on the roll.

When the Model School first opened a very substantial majority of its pupils were members of the Catholic Church a fact which did not find agreement with the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The opening of the Convent of Mercy in 1852 which had been planned long before the Model School reduced the latter school’s numbers. Further substantial reductions were noted when the Christian Brothers opened their school in 1861. The Brothers were invited to come to Athy by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin so that the Catholic pupils would be withdrawn from the Model School. The enrolment figures for 1866 confirm that the Archbishop’s campaign was largely successful although the parents of 22 Roman Catholic children who still attended the Model School felt sufficiently strong to withstand “a belt of the Bishop’s crozier”.

Regarding the Model School the Education Board’s inspector reported that in 1866 pupils generally speaking attended irregularly throughout the year especially in Spring and Harvest owing to demands of field labour. “The prevalence since September last of fever in several portions of the district interfered very much with the pupils attendance. In February, March, August, September and October the attendance was thinest”.

An important element of the Model School complex was the Agricultural Training School which was founded to train young farm workers in the most up to date agricultural methods. I will deal with its story and that of its pupils in a future Eye on the Past.

The Model School will be celebrating the sequecentenary of its foundation in five years time. The fine Tudor building constructed in the Gothic style to a design by Frederick Darley is one of the most impressive buildings in Athy. Equally impressive is the history of the school which has provided educational facilities in town for 145 years and has managed to survive and prosper despite early sustained opposition to Model Schools by the Catholic hierarchy.

Thursday, November 6, 1997

1798 Rebellion

Last week I mentioned the Bicentenary of the 1798 Rebellion which will be commemorated rather than celebrated next year. The distinction is important because there is little in the events of 1798 which should give rise to any bouts of enthusiastic celebration such as accompanies notable achievements. What happened in the last decade of the 18th Century resulted in considerable distress amongst many communities up and down the country. There is evidence of outrageous and barbarism committed on both sides. The rebels untrained and unskilled were perhaps less blameworthy than the well drilled and better armed Government forces but nevertheless apportionment of blame is less than a useful exercise after such an elapse of time.

Written accounts of the happenings of 1798 first appeared within a short time afterwards. Amongst them was Sir Richard Musgrave’s “Memoirs of the Rebellion in Ireland” first published in 1801. It was unsympathetic to the Irish rebel side as indeed were all the earlier books on the subject. Almost 30 years were to elapse before Wolfe Tone’s biography was published and this understandably included much material relating to the emergence of the United Irishmen and the aftermath of the 1798 Rebellion. Another account by an active participant was Teeling’s “Personal Narrative” published in 1828. The major work on the United Irishman which has stood the test of time is Madden’s four volumes “The Lives and Times of the United Irishman” published in the years immediately before the Great Famine. It was Madden who sought to rescue Robert Emmett’s housekeeper Ann Devlin from the dreadfully poor conditions she was forced to live in after her employer’s execution.

In the years since Madden’s substantial tomes first appeared many other books dealing with the ’98 Rebellion have been published. Local man Patrick O’Kelly who was leader of the Athy men during that period wrote his account of the rebellion which he had published as “The history of the rebellion of 1798”. As you might expect it had many references to Athy and to County Kildare never before included in any previously published account of the rebellion.

When the Centenary of the rebellion was remembered in 1898 Ireland was still under English rule. Nevertheless local committees up and down the country were organised to commemorate the rebellion of 1798 and a small number of publications were issued. There has been a tendency for such publications to concentrate on Wexford, Wicklow Antrim and Down with little or nothing appearing in relation to other counties in Ireland. This deficiency was remedied somewhat with the appearance in 1949 of McHugh’s edition of “The Autobiography of William Farrell of Carlow”. Farrell had written graphically of the floggings in Athy and highlighted the hardships experienced by the local people during the rebellion.

Next year we will have an opportunity to study not only the rebellious activities of 1798 but also the events which led up to it. The American War of Independence and the French Revolution were important influences on what happened in Ireland in the 1790’s as was Thomas Paine’s work “The Rights of Man”. The United Irishmen founded in Belfast in 1791 was a radical and largely Protestant movement. It was also a movement of particular appeal to Catholics and Dissenters alike at a time when the cry liberty equality and fraternity first sounded during the French Revolution found an echo on the streets of Irish towns. Within a few years of its foundation the United Irishmen organisation began to undergo a change. Forced to go underground it became a secret organisation committed to republicanism and the organisation became more and more militarised. To the alarm of the Government it was reported that local people throughout the country were involved in pike making while rebel raids for guns were a frequent occurrence. In November 1797 a boat anchored in the Grand Canal Harbour at Athy was raided and guns destined for a Co. Carlow Corps of Yeomanry were stolen. The military based in the local Army Barracks immediately reacted and the people of Athy and district were to incur heavy retribution during the following year.

The local blacksmiths of the town were arrested on suspicion of making pikes for the rebels and lodged in White’s Castle jail. Floggings under the triangle became a common occurrence in Athy and we have a contemporary account of this in William Farrell’s diary.

I have often wondered to what extent the 1798 Rebellion affected the community at large in Athy and specifically the Quaker community which lived there. The Quakers as pacifists did not become involved in the 1798 rebellion but as was noted by Mary Ledbetter in her “Annals of Ballytore” members of the Quaker community were nevertheless subjected to violence. Despite having held a weekly meeting in Athy from the latter part of the 17th Century and having had a meeting house constructed at the corner of Meeting Lane in 1780 the local Quaker community disappeared from Athy a few years after the 1798 Rebellion. Was their departure due to intolerable interference during the Rebellion or was it due to the demise of Thomas Chandlee a linen draper of Athy whose dynamic leadership had earlier reactivated the Quaker community in the town? We may never know the answer to this question but perhaps the Bicentenary of 1798 affords us all an ideal time and opportunity to evaluate the period when Protestant, Catholic and
Dissenter came together in a republican movement.

Thursday, October 30, 1997

1798 Rebellion

Next year the Bicentenary of the 1798 rebellion will be celebrated throughout Ireland. Books and pamphlets all centered on the events of 200 years ago have already begun to appear in the book shops. As an act of rebellion 1798 can only be regarded as a failure. Nevertheless ’98 remains the most potent rallying call for republicanism in our country. Other events in Irish history pale into insignificance alongside the stirring tales of the United Irishmen.

When the commemoration ceremonies take place next year they will be for the most part centered in either Dublin or Wexford - Dublin because it is our capital city and Wexford because it figured in many of the battles of the period. Who can forget Vinegar Hill, Kelly the boy from Killane or Father Murphy of Boolavogue. Growing up in an Ireland where the Christian Brothers groomed the Irishmen of the future we learned of the heroic adventures and deeds of the ’98 men. However, I never once heard any reference to the 1798 rebellion in Athy and finished my education oblivious to the extent of my townspeople’s’ involvement in the events of that time.

Indeed, it was an English television personality and historian, Robert Key who first prompted the realisation of Athy’s involvement in the rebellion. He included in his TV series on 1798 a scene of locals being flogged against the backdrop of the Town Hall in Athy. This single reference to Athy was enough to create an interest in the subject which has served to recover from obscurity the local events of 200 years ago.

The first references to Athy and the United Irishmen were included in Patrick O’Kelly’s book published in 1847 and simply entitled “1798 Rebellion”. Some years later the diaries of the Quaker author Mary Leadbetter were published as “The Ballitore Annals”. They gave a detailed personal account of events and happenings in Ballitore and surrounding areas during the period of the Rebellion.

The memory of those eventful days was however short-lived and no research appears to have been done on the Rebellion in County Kildare until recent years. Since then a number of people have independently of each other examined the part the men and women of this county played in the rebellious years which marked the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.

In February of next year Liam Chambers of Maynooth College will have his work published by the Four Courts Press under the title “Rebellion in Kildare”. Before Christmas another book on the same topic will come from the pen of Mario Corrigan who is attached to the County Kildare Library Services. There will also be published in the new year a small booklet dealing with the 1798 Rebellion in Athy and District.

The Local Museum Society established in 1983 to foster and develop a local museum in Athy will host a number of lectures dealing with the 1798 Rebellion. These lectures will take place on the first Thursday of each month commencing in February with a talk by yours truly on “Athy and the 1798 Rebellion”. The March Lecture will be given by Vincent O’Reilly who will talk on “Hempenstall - The Walking Gallows”. In April Liam Chambers will deliver a lecture on “The 1798 Rebellion in County Kildare”. The venue for all these lectures is the Town Hall where the hanging Judge Norbury sat in judgment on local United Irishmen 200 years ago. Indeed the Courtroom is now the exhibition/lecture room adjoining the main library room and the very room where the Museum Society lectures will be given.

To give a flavour of the times experienced 200 years ago consider the following extract from a paper I recently gave to a seminar in Clongowes Wood College under the auspices of Kildare Archaeological Society and Kildare County Council.

“Trial by court martial was a common occurrence in Athy during the months of May and June. Seven men were tried, convicted and hanged in the town in the early days of June. Six of these men were from Narraghmore and had been arrested following the killing of John Jeffries. The seventh man was named Bell, a graduate of Trinity College who lived in the Curragh. One of the Narraghmore men was Daniel Walsh, a steward of Col. Keating’s and a member of the Narraghmore Yeomanry.

On the day that Walsh and his companions were hanged, Rawson’s Loyal Athy Infantry erected a triumphal arch across the Barrow bridge under which the convicted men had to pass on their way from the gaol in White’s Castle to the place of execution. The prisoners were accompanied by a Fr. Patrick Kelly, a Catholic priest who, when passing under the arch, rushed and knocked down a yeoman named Molloy. Grapping at the orange flag which was hoisted on the spot, he pulled it down and trampled on it. We are told that the Protestant yeomen did not react as one might expect, presumably because the prisoners were escorted by members of the Waterford Militia whose rank and file members were Catholics. The hangings took place at Croppy’s Acre, located at the basin of the Grand Canal. Two of the seven were beheaded and their heads placed on White’s Castle where it was said they served as targets for Rawson’s yeomen who fired at them from the adjoining Barrow bridge. The same yeomen defaced with sledges the coat of arms of the Geraldine family which was carved on a large flagstone and embedded in the castle wall when the bridge of Athy was rebuilt in 1796. The damaged stone can still be seen inset in the wall of White’s Castle.

In August 1798, information was given to Captain Rawson that the Protestants of Athy were to be massacred while attending Sunday service. As outlined to Rawson, the plan was to set fire to some cabins outside the town in the hope of attracting the local yeomanry force to the scene. Three hundred men, concealed in the yard of Walsh’s Inn, were then to gain possession of the Courthouse and White’s Castle while another group waiting at the scene of the fire were to wipe out the yeomanry. Those Protestants attending service in St. Michael’s Church in Emily Square were then to be executed. Information of this alleged plot was sent by Rawson to Dublin Castle, and 120 men of the Fermanagh militia were immediately sent to Athy under the command of Major King. Arriving on Saturday evening, the day before the planned massacre, their presence guaranteed the safety of the Protestant minority in the town.”

Next year will be an important landmark in the contemporary history of our island as we commemorate a time when Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter came together in a struggle for equality and freedom.

Thursday, October 23, 1997

Detective Kevin Brady

As the first member of Athy Garda Station to receive a Garda Merit Award Detective Kevin Brady has completed a unique treble of firsts. The award presented to him last week by the Garda Commissioner was in recognition of his outstanding work as a member of the Garda Siochana. The citation which was read at the award presentation at Templemore Training College referred to Kevin’s involvement in almost all major criminal investigations in the Carlow/Kildare division over the last twenty years. In the intervening period crime figures for Athy have increased from an average of 75 a year to almost 300. Despite the resulting heavy workload Detective Brady has consistently succeeded in maintaining a high level of crime detection in the Athy area.

A native of Ballyjamesduff in County Cavan Kevin has lived in Athy since 1971 having spent a few years as a Garda in both Carlow and Ballon. When he first arrived to take up duty in the Garda Station then located in Duke Street, it was to replace the recently retired Tom Meaney. Tom was one of the great characters of the Garda Siochana who with his impish smile enlivened many a local gathering. The Station’s strength then consisted of two Sergeants, Maurice Shortt and Hugh Donnelly with six Gardai, including the newly arrived Ballyjamesduff youngster. His colleagues were Joe Carty, Tom Friel, John Murphy and Owen Doyle, all retired in recent years and still living in Athy and Mick Cullinane, now retired in Rathcoole. This of course means that Kevin is the longest serving member of the Garda Siochana in Athy.

In the first year of the 1970’s the Athy Station party did not have a squad car at it’s disposal. Members were still in receipt of bicycle allowances and each were expected to possess a sturdy Raleigh Bike to get them around their area. In those pre-Conroy days the Gardai still worked long and exhausting hours with only two days off each month. Even then the days off had to be taken at the discretion of the Station Sergeant and “subject to the exigencies of the job”. Barrack orderly duty was still the norm, requiring Gardai young and old alike to spend twenty-four hours on station duty sleeping in the day room during the night. These days are now long gone and now Gardai work eight hour shifts with eight days off in each month. The bicycle allowance has disappeared as happily the present day force is well and truly motorised.

In the intervening twenty-six years Kevin has worked out of three Garda Stations in Athy. The first was at Duke Street where Starsave is located, later a temporary Station was opened at the Model School Building on the Dublin Road before the final move into the newly built Garda Station adjoining the Dominican’s Monastery. During the same period his wife Margaret, formerly Margaret Reid of Bennekerry, Co. Carlow whom he married in 1971 has also moved house on three occasions from Grangemellon to McDonnell Drive, before settling in the newly developed Avondale Drive where Kevin and Margaret still live.

Promoted to the rank of Detective in 1977 Kevin has been involved in an extraordinary range of criminal investigations in the intervening twenty years. Several murders, armed robberies, many burglaries and assaults have all come under his exacting scrutiny, much to the discomfort of the criminals involved, most of whom have had reason to acknowledge Kevin’s forensic and investigative abilities.

But it is not only in the realm of law or more precisely law breaking that Kevin has shone. As a somewhat slimmer man he played football for the Virginia Blues which he refers to as a Gaelic football team in County Cavan of indefinable talents. A spell on the County Cavan minor team confirms Kevin’s above average ability to catch and kick with skill, if not a whole hearted willingness to rough it with Cavan’s best. It is not only on the Gaelic Football pitch however that his sporting talents were to the fore. Kevin has been a golfer of indeterminate talent for some years. He claims not always to have the time to practice his game and to bring it to the level of perfection as performed by his near neighbour Peadar Doogue. However, he can claim the honour of achieving the first “hole in one” on the extended eighteen hole golf course at Geraldine.

As a Committee Member of Athy Golf Club for approximately ten years Kevin has served as the Club’s Social Secretary and also as organiser of the very successful Open Week held each year on the Geraldine Course. His hard work was given due recognition by the Club Members when he was appointed Club Captain for 1997. The honour is one which has never before been accorded to a member of the Garda Siochana. In fact, as far as I can ascertain, Kevin is also the first Cavan man to hold that position in the Athy Club, a double first of which he can be justifiably proud.

I have often met with Kevin the Detective in the course of “my day job”. Always good humoured he is an efficient law officer who has earned the respect of all those who have had dealings with him. The nature of his work has changed enormously over the last twenty years. Today there is a far greater level of violent crime than existed in Ireland a generation ago. Investigating and solving such crimes requires a high level of dedication and committment with an astute application of shrewdness born of experience. As the first and as yet the only detective assigned to Athy, Kevin Brady has had a tremendously successful career in solving crime. The first detective in the town, the first Garda Captain of Athy Golf Club and now the first Garda Merit Award winner, his is a remarkable triumph of firsts for the Ballyjamesduff man. Percy French’s call “to come back to Ballyjamesduff” must go unanswered for Kevin whose roots are now well and truly transplanted in Athy, even if his football allegiance is still to the “Brady Bunch” of Cavan!

Thursday, October 16, 1997

World War 1

It’s that time of year again. No, not Christmas, rather the time set aside by people around the world to remember those lost in the carnage of World War I. Here in Athy we have more reason than others to remember that awful time over eighty years ago when young men rushed or walked to their deaths across the muddy ground which was Flanders fields.

Those young men came from rural or small town backgrounds and joined the British Army in their hundreds for reasons which we can never satisfactorily explain. Was it the prospect of wearing a smart uniform which first caught their attention? Was it the opportunity of shedding the perennial unemployment status which drove the Athy men into the recruiting station in Leinster Street? Perhaps the opportunity to go overseas, even in war time, was to many who had never gone further than the nearest village the reason they enlisted in such numbers. Maybe the answer is to be found in all of these possibilities, coupled with a manly and courageous response to a call for arms in aid of beleaguered Belgium.

For whatever reason almost half a million Irishmen fought in World War I at a time when their own country was nearing the end of it’s 800 years of subjugation to English Rule. Indeed some historians would claim that many of those men joined up in the belief that Home Rule would be granted to a thirty-two county Ireland at the end of the hostilities.

All of this fades into insignificance when we review the high number of Irishmen, believed to be in excess of 36,000 who died during the Great War. The effect their deaths had on communities throughout Ireland has never been properly assessed, but even now it may be claimed that this country is still unable to divest itself of the social problems which followed in the wake of that War.

For the town of Athy and District the loss of 188 men over the period 1914 to 1918 could only have had a most depressing effect on the psyche of the area. Accentuating this was the large number of badly injured men, pensioned off after the war, who remained for decades a constant reminder of those terrible days.

It is difficult to grasp the enormity of the losses suffered by some families whose fathers, husbands or brothers were never to return alive or dead. Their bodies were never recovered, being buried as they lay in the mud of Flanders or France. The families they had left behind in Athy were never to have the consolation of mourning at the graveside of their loved ones.

During the War the uniformed postboy who delivered telegrams at one time or other came to every street and lane in Athy. In his hand was invariably clutched the dreaded message which informed the next of kin of another death on a European battlefield. Sadly several local families received the awful news not once, but twice. Last April I received a letter from 90 year old Mae Vagts of Washington, U.S.A., daughter of Edward Stafford of Butlers Row. She recalled her father who had enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, leaving his house for the last time to walk to the railway station in Athy where he was joining other local men on the first leg of a journey which would end in France. Edward was killed in action on 24th September, 1914, leaving a widow and three young children, Mae, George and Tommy. Strangely his son Tommy died on the same day as his father 74 years later. Mrs. Stafford later re-married Paddy Shaughnessy and their son Danny died within the last year.

The telegram which was delivered to Butler’s Row announcing Edward Stafford’s death was to be followed by a second telegram when his brother Thomas, a lance corporal in the Dublin Fusiliers was also killed in France on 6th September, 1916. The Heydon family in Churchtown also lost two sons, Patrick, killed in France on 4th September, 1914 and Aloysius killed on 27th November, 1917. Brothers John Hannon and Norman Leslie Hannon of Ardreigh House also died in the War. Norman was 20 years of age when he was killed at Festubert on 16th May, 1915 while John was 24 years old when he died on 18th August, 1916.

On three separate occasions the messenger of death came to the houses of two local families during the Great War. Mr. And Mrs. Kelly of Mount Hawkins suffered the loss of son Owen on 3rd May, 1915 and 20 days later the loss of their other son John. A third son Dennis died of his wounds in France on 3rd September, 1918.

Jack and Margaret Curtis of Rockfield like the Kellys of Mount Hawkins also lost three sons in the War. Patrick was killed in France on 5th November, 1914 while his brother John was killed in action on 9th January, 1917 and his brother Lawrence died of his wounds on 4th December, 1917. Just before Christmas 1995 I received a letter from their niece, Mrs. J. Watts of Northold in Middlesex who as a young girl had worked in Hutchinsons Hotel in Leinster Street. She is a reader of “Eye on the Past” and in the course of a very nice letter thanked me for remembering the young men from Athy who died in the Great War. “You are the first person to mention them” she wrote which I felt was a somewhat sad indictment of the local townspeoples’ neglect of an important part of their own history.

On Sunday, 9th November a small group of local men and women gathered in St. Michael’s Cemetery to remember those forgotten men from Athy who died so young and so tragically during the 1914/18 War. In doing so they were publicly recalling the worst days in the history of warfare and possibly the most tragic four years in the long history of our Town. At the same time they helped recover from oblivion the memory of those local men who died in previous wars, especially the 1914/18 War. Their generous action serves to remind the people of Athy that Nationalists of whatever hue do no disservice to what they believe in by remembering their own dead.

Thursday, October 9, 1997

George Lammon

Bartle George Lanham was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 12th September, 1876. Almost 76 years later he died in Athy, Co. Kildare, known to his neighbours and friends as George Lamon. The transformation in his surname was not due to any conscious decision on his part or that of his parents, but probably reflected an Irish persons transcription of a geordies name. To the unpracticed ear Lanham had all the intonation and resonance of the name Lamon and so it was that the Lanham family which came to Ireland sometime after 1876 came to be known as Lamon. George’s parents were William Lanham and Sarah Kennedy. They lived at Gun Terrace, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and why and when they came to Ireland we cannot as yet say. Their youngest son John was born in Mountrath, Co. Laois and they also had a daughter Mary, but her place of birth is not known. What we do know is that when the Lanham children were still young the family moved to Athy where the parents William and Sarah died within a few years.

Their young daughter Mary was then brought out to America and she was never again to see her two brothers. A photo of her in a Nurse’s uniform taken sometime around the turn of the century is the only record of her that has survived. It was a photograph taken in Belview Hospital, New York and by then her name was changed to Mary Lamon Dockery. This may be a clue to the name of her adopted parents.

Her brothers George and John were fostered by a Mrs. Byrne of the Flags just over the bridge at Upper William Street. She was obviously very kind and good to them and provided for them in every way until they were old enough to fend for themselves. First to go was George who had enlisted in the British Army and served in South Africa during the Boer War. He returned unscathed to Athy where he married Lizzy Mulhall, an Aunt of “Cuddy” Chanders. Lizzy was to die while still a young woman, leaving George with their young son Paddy. Paddy was in time to train as a carpenter in Doyle Brothers where he had as his master Paddy Keogh of Woodstock Street. He subsequently took up employment with the Board of Works and died in 1971.

George who by now was employed by Athy District Council later married Mary Quinn and they had two children, George who recently retired from Tegral Building Products and Mary who is married and living in London since 1951.

George’s brother John enlisted in the British Army during the Great War and afterwards returned to Athy where he was to die in the 1930’s from the after affects of Malaria. He had five children, Paddy, Christy, John, Mary and Elizabeth.

In the meantime George became a leading member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. A non-smoker and a non-drinker from his middle years onwards he developed an abiding interest in fishing and was regarded locally as a superb master of that craft.

Employed by the local Urban District Council he regularly featured in minutes of that Body where many references can be found to George Lamon who was employed as a weigh man in the Market in Emily Square. Each year George and his colleague John Farrell were supplied with what was referred to in the Minutes as “sleeved vests”. In later years George was responsible for the water supply to the town and was the nominated “key man” with special responsibility for turning on and off the water as required. George continued working with the Urban District Council until 1951 when he died.

His son George Lamon who now lives in Pairc Bhride has a unique position in the annals of industrial employment in Athy. Just recently retired after 50 years service in the Asbestos and Tegral factories, George is the longest serving member of that factory since it opened in 1936. The explanation for this lies in the “subterfuge” exercised by George when in 1947 he first applied to join the Asbestos factory as a juvenile worker. In those days and indeed I understand up to the early 1960’s the Asbestos factory took on workers aged fifteen years upwards. Termed “juvenile workers” they worked less hours and received less pay than their adult colleagues. On reaching eighteen years of age they worked the same hours but for less pay and only achieved parity with adult employees on attaining twenty-one years of age.

George who attended Athy Christian Brothers School with Mossy Reilly, John Anderson, Stan Mullery, Hugh Kerrigan and Jackie Hayes left in the middle of his first year in Secondary School when aged thirteen and a half years to join the Asbestos factory. He told his prospective employers that he was fifteen years of age and was put into the moulding section where he worked under foreman Frank Gibbons and chargehand Dan Meaney. His true age was not known to his employers until he had to go out on sick leave in 1966. In his long period in the Asbestos factory he worked under all of the Managers, including the Welshman Ned Cornish, his successor Charlie Stephens, Jens Preisler, Brian Taylor and the present Manager, Denis Mullins. When he retired in August of this year George did so as chargehand, to which position he had been appointed in 1969.

George is married to Betty McCormack, originally from Dun Laoghaire whom he met at a marquee dance in Naas in the early 1960’s. Married in July 1966 they have six children, all of whom I understand spell their name with a double “M”. Their eldest son George is in America, while Frank and Gerard are working locally with son Paul, a legal student in UCD. Their eldest daughter Teresa is in Cathal Brugha College in Dublin while Ann is presently in the Leaving Certificate class in Scoil Mhuire.

George who was reared in Upper William Street has lived in Pairc Bhride since marrying. His leisure time was devoted to Athy Soccer Club with whom he played for the seconds and occasionally the first team in the early 1950’s. Local men on the soccer teams in those days included “Cha” Chanders, Ger “Scratch” Robinson, Jimmy O’Donnell, “Onie” Walsh and occasionally Danny Flood who was to win a Leinster Senior Championship medal with Kildare in 1956. Two men who also played with George in those days were Tom Bohana and T.J. Byrne, both of whom cycled from Carlow to Athy for the soccer games. T.J. Byrne went on in later years to manage the Royal Show Band in the 1960’s.

George and Betty are a delightful couple to meet and the soft-spoken woman from Dun Laoghaire speaks warmly of the kind and neighbourly people she has met in Athy over the last 30 years. “Athy people are always friendly and will always speak to you” she says. For George Lamon the journey from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Athy is part of his family history. As he looks back on a lifetime spent in Athy, George the third generation Lanham, knows that for himself and his own children Athy is the place which they will always call home.

Thursday, October 2, 1997

Ned Ward

Yet another long established business in Athy has closed down. The door was shut for the last time last week on the betting shop business first opened by the late Ned Ward fifty years ago. It was in 1947 that Ned extended this business empire when he opened the small betting shop at No. 2 Woodstock what is now Harry Bachelor’s house. Ned who was a native of Portarlington had first arrived in Athy within a year or two of his marrying Elizabeth Murphy of St. Michael’s Terrace. Her father was a renowned stone mason as indeed had been other members of the Murphy family for generations past. Indeed I can recall Elizabeth’s brother Joe Murphy also of St. Michael’s Terrace building the fine cut stone entrance at St. Dominic’s Church in 1957. This was possibly one of the last pieces of stone work he undertook in the Athy area.

Before coming to Athy Ned Ward operated three butcher shops in Portarlington, Castlecomer and in the Cornmarket, Dublin. These were sold off in time and when Ned and Elizabeth came to Athy with their newly born child May, Ned opened up a butcher shop in Athy in what is now Fred’s Fashions.

The Civil War had just ended and the local men who had served in France and Flanders and survived the Great War had returned to live in Athy. For most of these men life in the town meant unemployment as in common with the rest of provincial Ireland Athy struggled to come to terms with the political and economic freedom of the newly established Irish Free State. The local brickyards with one exception had closed down and the long established firm of Hannons Millers of Ardreigh and in Athy had also ceased business. It was not a good time to open up a butchers shop in Athy.

Ned Ward’s business however was to prosper and he was in time to open up another butcher shop in Stanhope Street next to the corner shop which is now occupied by Lehanes. The growing family which by now included Dympna and Sam lived in No. 35 Duke Street.

Apart from his involvement in business Ned actively concerned himself with the social life of Athy. Possessed of a very fine tenor voice he sang in the local Dominican choir and on the stage with Agnes Glespen of Duke Street who was a well known contralto. Agnes was a daughter of Patrick Whelan a draper of Leinster Street who in her early days was a member of the Dublin Grand Opera Society and later still of the D’Oyly Carte Company in London. She married John Glespen who had a coach building business at 19 Duke Street and one of their sons was the late Brother Seamus Norbert Glespen who published in 1957 the first full length biography of the 1798 patriot Thomas Russell.

One of the Ned Ward’s life long interests was the local soccer club which was first started during the period of the Barrow drainage scheme in the mid 1920’s. The club did not prosper then and was to shut down soon after the men employed on the scheme had left Athy. It was not until 1948 that another attempt was made to revive the club and one of those involved in that attempt was Ned Ward. He

remained a constant supporter of the local club for the rest of this life earning for himself the title of “grandfather of soccer in Athy”.

In 1947 Ned opened his first betting shop at No. 2 Woodstock Street. By now the Ward family included Dominic who died tragically in the early 1960’s while an officer in British army, Stella and Noelle both of whom live in Dublin and Brendan now living in England. The Ward businesses included a greengrocer shop in Duke Street but in time the butcher shops were closed and the betting shop was re-located to No. 36 Duke Street. Mrs. Elizabeth Ward died in 1957 and thereafter Ned wound down his business interests.

My memory of Ned Ward in the late 1950’s is of his card playing skills which were always to be seen on the night of the big 25 tournament which ran each year in a number of venues in the town but centred in St. John’s Hall. It was organised by the local church fundraising committee in which my father was involved and the 25 tournament was his particular responsibility each year. There was always a card table sequestered for the serious poker players of which Ned was one and throughout the night large amounts of money passed to and fro across the table with a practised regularity. Ned like his companions was a superb poker player and a frequent card player in the local CYMS club where he continued to be a member until his death in 1971.

The Ward family suffered the tragic loss of their second eldest child Tommy in February 1938. Tommy who was born in 1927 crept out of bed early that fateful evening to play cowboys and indians with his friends. His father Ned met him in St. John’s Lane and sent him back home little realising that Tommy would scamper past 35 Duke Street to have one last encounter with his young friends at the canal lock. He was drowned that evening in the canal lock having fallen in when crossing the canal gates. Tommy was to have made his confirmation that following May.

Ned’s daughter Dympna who married Brendan O’Flaherty continued to live in 36 Duke Street. Brendan was from Dublin and came to Athy when he took up employment in Bord Na Mona. He was a playing member of the local soccer club for many years and in later life was an officer and a member of the club’s committee. The eldest Ward daughter May married Bobby Bachelor brother of Harry of Woodstock Street and the late Michael who was a jockey of note. May, Dympna and Stella possessed fine singing voices and May and Dympna especially were involved in the local musical societies in the 1940’s and later. Indeed in the photographs I have seen of musical stage presentations on the town hall in the 1940’s the Ward sisters have been ever present. Theirs was a musical tradition stretching back to their father which continues today with the daughter of their brother Brendan who is a concert pianist in London.

With the closure of the betting shop in Duke Street the business concern started by Ned Ward over 70 years ago have now passed into memory. The man from Portarlington left his mark on his adopted town not least in the wonderful musical legacy in which we all shared down the years. The Ward family name continues to conjure up for each of us memories of times past long after the legendary Ned Ward had passed away.

Thursday, September 25, 1997

Eddie Delahunt

Eddie Delahunt now in his 72nd year enjoys his retirement in St. Joseph’s Terrace after a most interesting and varied work career stretching back nearly sixty years. Son of local postman the late Patsy Delahunt and Kathleen Wright of Castledermot Eddie or ““Neddy”” as he is generally known took up his first job with Flemings sawmills after leaving school. Jim Fleming was a sawmiller whose timber yard and sawmills were located off Chapel Lane immediately to the rear of what was Hickey’s pub now known as Lanagan’s Well. He spent the first eight years of his long working life with Jim in what was one of the last sawmills in the town. How many people remember Blanchfields sawmills at the top of Leinster Street which in its time was one of the largest and most extensive in the area. It was Flemings sawmills however which is perhaps best remembered today as it remained in business up to the 1960’s.

“Neddy” had five brothers and sisters one of whom Paddy, died at a very young age. His sister Kathleen known to everybody as “Tal” married Paddy Davis of Plewman’s Terrace and they now live in Luton, England. His sister Bridie married Martin Short while Lila married Eamon Bambrick and lives in the adjoining County Laois. His remaining brother Billy is the well known caretaker of the Courthouse and lives in St. Patrick’s Avenue.

After eight years with Flemings sawmills “Neddy” crossed to the other side of Chapel Lane where he began to work with Duthie Large’s. They were very substantial employers in Athy with agricultural equipment sale and repairs, foundry works and bicycle sales and repairs. Spending three years with this old established firm “Neddy” next joined the Asbestos factory where another three years were to pass before a machinery shut down and cost him his job. In the years immediately following the second World War electricity cut backs were an inevitable consequence of the Nation’s limited fuel supplies. Manufacturing concerns such as the asbestos factory in Athy without adequate electricity supply had no option but to shut down a number of machines leaving men off with no real prospect of alternative employment.

Neddy was one of the lucky ones and was able to escape the beckoning emigrant ship which offered the only real escape for most of the unemployed local men and women of the time. He later started work in Bowaters newly opened factory in Barrowford and was to stay there until it closed down in the mid 1970’s. He eventually retired in 1990 on reaching his 65th year after working for eight years in Canada Dry.

Looking back over his working life it is remarkable to note that so many of his past employers no longer provide employment in Athy. Flemings sawmills is now long closed and the Wallboard factory as Bowaters was known closed down with devastating affect for the Athy people in 1977. Duthie Larges so long a landmark in Athy was to close in the mid 1980’s years after the foundry and repair shops had closed down. It is a salutary lesson to realise how inexorably and how quickly change is noted in the employment patterns of an Irish provincial town. The only constants on the employment scene in Athy over the last 60 years have been Minch Nortons and Tegral formerly the Asbestos factory. But even they have changed as increased mechanisation leads to greater productivity and fewer workers.

“Neddy” married Kathleen Walsh of Nelson Street in 1947 and they had eight children. Throughout his working life “Neddy” has been known for his unswerving loyalty to the Labour party whose political fortunes he has helped shape since the days of the late Bill Norton. His first involvement was on the day of his confirmation when he joined the welcoming party for Bill Norton then a local TD. “Neddy”’s father Patsy was secretary of the Labour party in Athy and at a very young age “Neddy” was pressed into service to deliver notices for party meetings. He was to formally join the Labour party on reaching his majority and has continued to play his part in the party which Bill Norton dominated for so many years in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

“Neddy” remembers the Labour party members in Athy who kept faith with their party through thick and thin. Jack and Mark Dalton and “Sticker” Ryan all of Foxhill, Jim Maher of Geraldine, Bill Cranny, Paddy Rowan, Lar Doyle, Bill Hoare, Mick Rowan and John McEvoy another postman like Patsy Delahunt who also lived in St. Joseph’s Terrace. Labour party public representatives recalled include Chevitt Doyle, UDC, Jim Fleming, UDC of sawmill fame, Tom Fleming, UDC, John Norman, UDC and possibly the most famous of all, the legendary Tom Carbery a member of the local Urban Council and a member of Kildare County Council. Tom did a lot of good work for the people of Athy and in the opinion of many people was one of the best public representatives in the Labour party.

Neddy’s involvement in politics paralleled his work for the local community. He was a member of the swimming pool committee which collected the local contribution required to build the swimming pool in the People’s park. In his younger days he was a useful gaelic footballer playing for Athy in the minor championship finals of 1942 and 1943. To his great regret Athy were beaten in both finals. He also played for St. Joseph’s in the street league competitions of the early 1940’s. St. Joseph’s had the unique record of playing at every final during the four years of the street league competition winning in the last two years but losing out in the previous years to Barrack Street and to Starlights.

Heavily committed to St. Joseph’s social club founded to help families living in the terrace “Neddy” was later to become a committee member of the group which built The Marian Shrine in 1954. In fact “Neddy” is the only surviving member of that committee. Strongly committed both in politics and to the community Neddy has made a major contribution over the years to the life of Athy where he was born 72 years ago.

Last Saturday Neddy and Kathleen were guests of honour at a surprise party held in the local GAA Centre to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. There was a huge attendance of friends and neighbours all gathered together to celebrate with the happy couple. It was a proud day for Neddy and Kathleen both of whom have lived all of their lives in Athy. There to join with their parents were their children Patrick, Katie who is married to Emmanuel Kennedy, Christy a former Urban Councillor, Christine married in Newbridge, Eamon, Bridie married and living in Ballina, Co. Mayo, Gerard and Caroline married to Colm Walsh.

May I add my congratulations and best wishes to Neddy and Kathleen.

Thursday, September 18, 1997

Fire Brigade

One of the many happy memories I have of the late 1950’s in Athy is that of the Fireman’s competitions which were held in the back square. In those simple pre television days the sight of Tom Langton with Christy “Bluebeard” Dunne and their colleagues running to connect water hoses to the Fire Brigade pump and then knocking down a target with a jet of water was always assured to generate a cheering response from the bystanders. These were the men who manned Athy’s Fire Brigade and they pushed back the advancing years every time they bent themselves to be faster at their tasks than their neighbouring fire brigade personnel.

Their names came flooding back to me as I talked last week to “Neddie” Delahunt who joined the Fire Brigade in 1957. As a youngster of 32 years “Neddie” was the junior in an eight man team which was headed up by Bob Webster of Offaly Street. Bob was the station officer and he lived in Offaly Street almost opposite the cinema where at one time he had been manager. Bob was a brother of Fireman Jack Webster who lived in Butler’s Row. Both had been painters and decorators in their time and indeed Jack continued as such long after his brother Bob took on the management of the local cinema.

The station sub officer was Matt McHugh of McDonnell Drive who had operated the foundry in Meeting Lane with his brother Mick of St. Michael’s Terrace. Mick was also a fireman and the McHughs were the second set of brothers in the local Fire Brigade.

The men who stick out in my memory more than anyone else were the earlier mentioned Tom Langton and Christy “Bluebeard” Dunne. Tom’s laughing face with the fireman’s helmet jauntily pushed back on his head is fixed in my memory. He was a most popular man who lived then in one of the small houses, now gone, near Jacob’s present shop in Leinster Street. In his day job Tom was a postman and both Tom and his wife Marie are remembered as wonderful ballroom dancers.

I knew “Bluebeard” better than I did any of the other fireman as like myself he was a member of the CYMS. While I played snooker under the watchful eye of Mattie Brennan in the hall in St. John’s “Bluebeard” was inside in the card room playing cards with the likes of Ned Cranny and Tom Moore. Several years were to pass before I was able to join them at the card table and a sharper shrewder card player I cannot recall. He had an uncanny instinct for “seeing” the bluff in a game of poker and a never unfailing knack of increasing the ante on anyone who waivered. He was a great friend of the CYMS and enlivened the place with his quick wit which was sharpened in the smoke filled room in St. John’s Lane. Christy worked in the Asbestos factory and was to pass away long before his time as did his colleagues Jack Webster, Tom Langton and Mick McHugh.

When Jack Webster died his son Tom replaced him in the Fire Brigade. Tom was a good friend of mine during our young days in Offaly Street and is now station officer in Athlone where he has lived for many years. By a happy coincidence Jack’s widow Cecilia Webster who lived for so long in Butler’s Row at a time when it was a terrace of small houses has recently returned there to live in one of the beautiful houses built for the local Council.

Christy Dunne Junior joined his father as a member of Athy Fire Brigade and when Christy “Bluebeard” died his place was taken by his second son Tim. He is now the full time station officer based in Athy. Another man who later joined the local Fire Brigade was the late Jack Webster’s son Robbie.

“Neddie” Delahunt recalls the days when the local firefighting equipment consisted of a trailer pump which was hauled to each fire by either Mick Finn’s or Mick Rowan’s lorry. It was not until 1959 or thereabouts that Kildare County Council purchased the first purpose built fire tender for Athy and it was around the same time that the ground floor of the Town Hall was used as the Fire Station. Prior to that the trailer pump was kept in the Council yard at Meeting Lane.

The ready availability of Finn’s or Rowan’s lorry could not always be guaranteed and Neddie recalls one occasion which the volunteer firemen were never to forget. Responding quickly to the fire siren they togged out and stood ready with the trailer pump awaiting the arrival of one of the lorries. As they waited on the Square the saw the Curragh fire tender race through the town on the way to the fire in Ballylinan. Another one and a half hours were to pass as they waited in vain for their transport to arrive. The Athy firemen were marooned that day and stood crestfallen and somewhat bemused as their Curragh colleagues later passed through Athy on their way home from the fire. It was soon afterwards that Athy got its first fire tender.

The local fire brigade has a very proud record of service to the local community. Whether called upon to attend at fires, road traffic accidents or to render assistance in any situation the fire brigade personnel always perform their duties with enormous dedication and skill.

Thursday, September 11, 1997

Plewmans Terrace

Sixty-one years after the houses at Plewman’s Terrace were built it is surprising to find so many members of the original families of the Terrace still living there. The first tenant of No. 12 was Christy Rochford, who with his wife Katie had five children. Sons Paddy and Christy are still living there while their sisters Katie, Bridie and Ena are married and living in England.

Christy’s brother Jack lived next door, having also transferred in November 1936 from the small cottages at Canal Side. Jack was a footballer of note and was better known in Athy as “Bird Ratchie”. He was on the Athy team which won the Kildare Senior Football Championship in 1937 and 1942. The only surviving members of the 1937 team are Johnny McEvoy, formerly of St. Joseph’s Terrace now living in Dublin and Barney Dunne, still going strong in Duke Street. Jack played on the County Senior team in 1939 with two of his Club mates, Tommy Mulhall and Johnny McEvoy. He later went to live in Dublin, leaving in No. 13 his sister “Mame” who reared her nephew John Minahan. John, late of the Evening Standard, is a photographer of world renown whose most recent book of photographs “Shadows from the Pale” featured people and scenes from Athy.

Appointed tenant of No. 14 in 1936 was Billy Walsh who worked as an outdoor assistant for McHugh’s Chemist. He was married to Mary-Ann Chanders, a sister of Cuddy Chanders, whose name is still associated with the All Ireland Football Final of 1935. This was the last occasion Kildare featured in the Senior Football Final. Billy and Mary had three children, Noel recently retired from Minch Nortons and still living in No. 14, May who has since died and Ann married to Noel Wright who lives in No. 24.

The original tenant of No. 15 was C. Cummins of the Bleach. I don’t have any knowledge of him, but “Sconny” Connell lived there before Stephen Bolger was appointed tenant on transfer from Dooley’s Terrace. In his younger days Stephen was a boatman on the Grand Canal. When he was eleven years of age he was one of the crew of Jack Rooney’s Canal Boat which set off from the Canal basin in Athy for Dublin. Jack Rooney who lived in Woodstock Street steered the boat, while Stephen and another crewman took turns in leading the two horses, which traced together, pulled the boat on the journey from Athy to Dublin. The outbreak of the Easter Rising of 1916 coincided with the arrival of Rooney’s Boat at Inchicore where boat and crew were obliged to wait for a week until the Rebellion was over. Stephen died last year and the house is now occupied by his Grand-son, Sean Bolger.

William Day of Canal Side was allocated No. 16 Plewman’s Terrace in October 1936. What connection he had with the next tenant “Major” Toomey is uncertain. The “Major” was in the Irish Army and married Molly Day whom I understand was from James’ Place. Was she perhaps a daughter or a niece of the original tenant, William Day? Their two children are now believed to be in England. The house is now occupied by Mary Mulhall, the widow of Paddy “Whack” Mulhall.

Mary Brien of Canal Side was the original tenant of No. 17 and her niece Angela Brien is now in the house. Another Canal Side tenant Pat Morrin was given the key to No. 18. A canal boat worker, Pat who was married to Mary Nolan, a sister of Katie Kelly of The Bleach, later worked in England. Their daughter Winifred who married Jim Byrne of Leixlip now lives in her father’s house. The other six members of the family, John, May, Kathleen, June, Paddy and Sheila all emigrated to England. Kathleen and her husband, John Murphy, formerly of Offaly Street return each year to Athy.

Hannah Campion’s house at No. 19 is one of the few terraced houses which has not remained in the same family. Mick Kane and family now live there. Hannah’s daughter Molly married a Moran of Meeting Lane and her two sons emigrated to England.

Tom Holligan, a widower, lived in No. 20 with his daughter Nan, both of whom are now deceased. Catherine Byrne, daughter of Winifred Byrne of No. 18, now lives there with her husband, Patsy Campion. Next door was Matt Kennedy, another former Canal Side tenant who died unmarried and apparently unremembered. Paddy and Lil Murphy later lived there with Lil’s sister, but they too have passed on. It is now owned by Mrs. Redmond.

James Byrne, known locally as “Shopboy” lived in No. 22 and his daughter Agnes married Pat Carthy. The family nickname has passed down the generations to James’ Grand-son.

The second last terraced house in the area, previously known as Beggar’s End was given by Athy Urban Council to T. Power. The initial “T.” hides from us the knowledge of whether the tenant was male or female and now no-one can tell me of the Power family. Biddy Davis is remembered as living here with her daughter Maria who married Christy Donnelly of Rockfield and her son Paddy who married Patsy Delahunt’s daughter, “Tal”.

Another tenant allocated No. 24 and noted in the Council records simply as “J. Lambe” is not recalled. Winnie Ryan later lived there with her children Patsy, Johnny, Toss and Maire, the last of whom married one of the Keyes of William Street. Toss Ryan was a very good footballer who played in two County Championship Finals for Athy in 1941 and 1942, winning a senior medal in the latter year with his friend and neighbour, “Bird” Rochford. Toss was one of several Athy Club players who figured on the County Kildare Senior Team in the early 1940’s. He later emigrated to England where he died. Noel Wright, married to Ann Walsh, formerly of No. 14 now lives in the last house in the Terrace.
Family and kinship have been the focus of many scholarly sociological studies in the past. I have often felt that a similar study of Athy would be an interesting addition to the literature of the town I was reminded of this when recently reviewing the names of the first tenants appointed to the then newly built houses on the Kilkenny Road in November 1936. The twenty four house scheme was later called Plewman’s Terrace in recognition of the long service of Thomas Plewman as a Member and Chairman of Athy Urban District Council.. Plewman’s Terrace was one of several new housing schemes provided in the 1930’s specifically to accommodate families who required to be re-housed from the old lanes and alleyways of the town.

Once such area cleared of substandard housing was Canal Side from where twelve families were re-housed in Plewman’s Terrace. The previous year Mullery’s field bordering on the canal side houses was chosen as the site for the new asbestos factory. Presumably the demolition of these houses and the consequent site clearance facilitated the factory layout. Another area from where many of the new tenants were relocated was Blackparks.

The first tenants of Plewman’s Terrace moved into their houses before Christmas 1936. Martin Timpson of the Bleach was tenant of number 1. Nicknamed “Nashie”, he worked on Plewman’s farm and was married to “Polly” Byrne. Their son Martin worked as a Porter in the Hibernian Bank, another son Al in Minch’s Terrace and a daughter Julia was married in England. All are now dead and the house is now occupied by Kieran Bergin whose grandfather was one of the original tenants in Plewman’s Terrace.

Martin Doogue of Blackparks was appointed tenant of number 2 but apparently moved out in the early stage to number 11. “Essie” Power is remembered as living in number 2 and her daughter Kitty lives there today with her own daughter Eithne and son in law Johnny Moore. Kitty’s late husband, “Rambler” Byrne worked in Doyle’s pawn shop and other members of the family who lived in number 2 were her brothers Paddy who worked in Plewman’s and Andy both of whom have since died. Her sister May is married and living abroad.

Pat Leonard of Upper William Street was tenant of number 3 where he lived with his wife Katie and six children. Pat worked in Minch Nortons and of his six children, Mary who married Jack Murphy of St. Joseph’s Terrace is still happily with us. Jack, Stephen, Jimmy and Maggie died unmarried at relatively young ages while Paddy the only married son is also deceased. The house is now occupied by the Kelly family who have connections with the terrace but this is one of the few houses in Plewman’s Terrace where is there is no continuing link with the original tenant of 61 years ago.

The tenancy of number 4 went to Christopher Lammon of Blackparks who was married to Chrissie Kelly. Christopher worked in the Asbestos factory before emigrating to England. Their eldest son John, known locally as “Big John” also worked for a while in the Asbestos factory and has since died. Christopher married Lily Prendergast of Gouleyduff while Jim, Martin and “Sonny” emigrated to England. The remaining members of the family also took the emigrant boat but subsequently returned. Mary married John Neill of Offaly Street while Bridie married Jimmy O’Leary but later returned to live in number 4. In number 5 lived Elizabeth Lammon who was mother of Christopher her next door neighbour. Elizabeth’s other children included “Babe” Lammon who married Tom Morrin and their son Billy is now living in number 5. Another daughter was Lizzie who went to England to work and who is still remembered in the terrace for the wireless set she brought home for her mother. Everyone in Plewman’s Terrace crowded into number 5 to hear the news on Lizzie’s wireless, at a time when it was the only one on the terrace.

Darby Delaney of Blackparks was allocated number 6. He was a tailor who married Nanny Daly and their children included Paddy and Mary who went abroad, and Biddy who is now in Cork. Other family members included Annie Whelan of Pairc Bhride and Betty who now lives in the house in the Bleach to which the Delaney Family subsequently transferred. Kitty Scully, mother of Noel Scully now lives in number 6.

The Urban Council allocated number 7 Plewman’s Terrace to Charles Delaney although I am assured his correct name was Christy. A farm worker in Minch’s, Christy married “Mag” Bolger and their four children are all still living in the Athy area. Sarah who married Matt Davis lives in number 7 while her sister Mary who married P.J. O’Rourke lives in Geraldine. Nan married Mick Hopkins who worked in Cunninghams Pub in William Street and now lives in Ballylinan. Not far away is Christy who married Maura Maher from Monasterevin and after spending some years in England, they are now living in Gouleyduff.

The Urban Council’s Minute book discloses that J. Bolger junior was appointed tenant of number 8 Plewman’s Terrace. His full name was Johnny “Nailer” Bolger who worked for a while in England before joining D. & J. Carbery’s, Building Contractors. He married Molly Delaney of Ballylinan and of their eight children, all but three were living in Athy. Sadie who married Jim Moore of Dooley’s Terrace died last year, while Patsy, John and Kate are in England. Josie who recently retired from St. Vincent’s hospital still lives in number 8 while her brother Frank is in Forest Park and her sister Rita Ward lives in Castle Park.

James Grant of Blackparks lived next door and his son Peter is still living there today. James worked in Minch’s and he and his wife Bridget had five children, four of whom sadly were to die at a very young age in the 1940’s. James “Twinnie” Byrne lived next door to the Grants. Described as a small man and a dandy dresser, “Twinnie” married Marie Leonard who was a sister of Pat Leonard in number 3. Their daughter Julia married Paddy Rochford who worked in Minch Nortons and their only son Pat, today lives in number 10 and like his father is employed in Minch’s.

Number 11 Minch’s Terrace was originally allocated to Willie Holligan of the Bleach but for as long as anyone can remember Joseph Doogue lived there. Joseph had been appointed Tenant of number 2 but presumably he transferred to the higher numbered house at an early date. He worked with the Barrow Drainage and was married to Nan Timpson, sister of Martin Timpson who lived in number 1 Plewman’s Terrace. Their daughter, Sheila Bergin is now living in the house.