Thursday, April 29, 1999

Historical Walk of Athy

The organisers of Seachtain Na Gaeilge organised a short walk through part of the town last week with yours truly giving a commentary on the people and events associated with the various buildings met on the way. The first stop was St. Michael’s Church of Ireland at the top of Offaly Street which presents a very pleasing aspect as one approaches from Church Road. The Church is at the end of what might be seen as a long private avenue but is in fact is a roadway to give access to the Peoples Park when it was laid out in the 18th Century. The Park was noted on Taylors map of Kildare of 1783 and confirms it as one of the earliest public parks provided in this country.

St. Michael’s Church was built in 1840 at a time when Reverend Frederick Trench was the local Rector. A resident of Kilmoroney House, he later arranged for the building of the Rectory on Church Road but died in 1860 before it was completed. Local tradition relates that stone from the original Dominican Monastery situated at the Abbey was used in the building of the Church but I believe that the facts do not support this claim. However, we do know that in the building of the Rectory, stone from the town jail on the Carlow Road was used. The jail had been built in 1830 to replace the sub-standard facilities in the basement of Whites Castle and during the 30 years it was used, it contained on average 50 prisoners. Some were serving life sentences while the majority were serving seven years for larceny and other minor offences. The prisoners were accommodated in 30 cells built around five exercise yards and the cell blocks were in turn built in a semi-circular format around the Governors House. That house is still standing with just one block of cells, the remainder having being knocked down to provide stone material for the Church of Ireland Rectory.

The Rector, Reverend Trench was an important and interesting figure in the life of early 19th Century Athy. As the last Sovereign of the Borough of Athy, he occupied a unique position in the history of the Town. Nowadays, he is better known as the man whose accidental death while travelling down Offaly Street led to the removal of the last remains of the Medieval Town gate, otherwise known as Preston’s Gate. Trench’s carriage overturned when it struck Preston’s Gate located at the end of Offaly Street next to the Credit Union office and the Rector who was thrown onto the road later died. He was a friend of Reverend John Keble, the man who with the future Cardinal Newman is identified as the founder of the Oxford Movement. Indeed, Keble visited Athy staying in Kilmoroney House with the Trench’s and he officiated at the wedding of Trench’s daughter in St. Michael’s Church. Another interesting association is noted with Trench’s wife who was a niece of Sydney Perceval, the Brittish Prime Minister was assassinated in the House of Commons in 1812. Next time you pass by St. Michael’s Church at the top of Offaly Street, remember its associations with these notable people and events of the past.

Walking through the Peoples Park we approached the railway station. When the railway line was opened to Athy in August 1846, it reduced the travelling time to Dublin by over six hours. Passenger boats on the Grand Canal took thirteen hours to travel between Athy and the Capital City in 1791. The use of fly boats pulled by teams of four horses introduced in 1837 reduced that travelling time on the Canal to eight hours. Within another nine years, one could travel from Athy to Dublin in less than two hours. The advances made in rail travel spelt the death of the Canal Passenger service and soon after the arrival of the railway, the Grand Canal waters were limited to transporting freight only. The cost of rail travel however, was very prohibitive with a first class single ticket to Dublin costing in 1846 the princely sum of 6/6. For this you had a first class waiting room just inside the entrance to the railway station and a seat with a cushion on the train. For five shillings, one travelled second class using the second class waiting room on the far side of the ticket office and a carriage devoid of cushions. The third class passenger had no waiting room available to him and for his 2/10 had to stand on the journey to Dublin.

The railway provided great opportunities for Athy and enabled it to develop as a Market Town of considerable importance. Now over one hundred and fifty years later, the railway is yet again about to play a considerable part in the future development of the town. Athy has been pinpointed as a town to be developed on a secondary basis as part of the greater Dublin strategy and it was the presence of a good road system and a railway link serving the town with the Capital which secured Athy’s future Development Status. The railway which helped to stave off starvation for so many families during the great famine as work on extending the railway line continued now finds itself acting yet again as a possible saviour of a once prosperous market town as it seeks to regain its former glory.

Passing from the station down the steps located about midway in the wall running down the centre of the railway bridge approach road, I wondered why the road is at two levels. Before the railway bridge was constructed in 1846, the road leading out of Athy towards Dublin had houses on both sides. For the most part, these houses were small cottages and their removal to facilitate the construction of the bridge presented few problems. What was more difficult however, was the substantial five bay two storey house occupied by the Duke of Leinster’s agent which in more recent times we had come to know as the Old Folks Home. It seems to me that to preserve this house, the gradient on the north approach to the bridge out of Athy was much steeper than on the south side thereby ensuring that the Duke of Leinster’s agent was not discommoded by the Railway Companies bridge building. Incidentally there is nothing to support the oft repeated claim that the same house was occupied by the Dominican’s when they returned to Athy in the mid Eighteenth Century. All the evidence points to the Dominican’s having a house in what is now Kirwan’s lane. It was the practise following the relaxation of the penal laws for Catholic Churches to be located in side streets and laneways so as not to attract undue attention. Old maps of Athy show that long before the Convent of Mercy opened in Athy, Kirwan’s Lane as it is now known was called Convent Lane. This was because it led to a Dominican House in the area.

Interestingly, when the Dominicans moved in 1824 or thereabouts to Riversdale House at the end of Tanyard Lane, that laneway was renamed Convent Lane. The original Convent Lane off Leinster Street was at the same time renamed Kirwan’s Lane. Passing up Mount Hawkins, I passed high walls on the left where more than sixty years ago hundreds of Athy people lived in laneways and alleyways. Porters Row, Carr’s Court, Kelly’s Lane and New Road were some of the areas which were cleared away during the slum clearance programmes of the 1930’s. Later that same night, I met Mrs. Mary Murphy of No. 1 Upper St. Joseph’s Terrace who told me that the Council houses in lower St. Joseph’s Terrace were first tenanted by families from Kelly’s Lane.

The walk ended in Meeting Lane, so called after the Quaker Meeting house built there in 1780. A Quaker community flourished in Athy from about 1672 until the beginning of the 19th Century. The last Quaker Family in Athy were called Heuston’s and two children were born to the Heuston parents in the years before the great famine. The Quaker influence on the development of Athy is now hard to discern and the only apparent reminder of their one time presence in the town is Meeting Lane.

Thursday, April 22, 1999

Memoirs of Caroline Kelly Daughter of Thomas Kelly

One of the most remarkable men to come out of the history of Athy and district was the Reverend Thomas Kelly of Kellyville Ballintubbert. He was born in 1769 the son of Thomas Kelly a one time Catholic Barrister, who had become a member of the Church of England in order to obtain judicial preferment. Thomas Kelly the junior went to London in order to study law but instead changed his mind and took Holy Orders in 1792. Ordained to the Church of England he returned to Dublin where, despite his youth and relative inexperience, he proved a popular preacher. However, he soon fell out of favour with Archbishop Fowler of Dublin who prohibited him from preaching in any church in the Dublin archdiocese. Archbishop Fowler died in 1801 so the prohibition was probably some few years after Kellys ordination and just before the turn of the 19th Century.

Thomas Kelly still attracted a large following and in a period where different groups such as the Walkerites and the Brethern, later the Plymouth Brethern, established themselves outside the mainstream Anglican Church, Kelly founded the Kellyites.
A man of independent means, who had made a good marriage with Ms Tighe, of Rosanna, Co Wicklow, Kelly was able to establish a number of meeting houses in Dublin, Athy, Portarlginton, Wexford and Waterford.

I was reminded of Thomas Kelly when I recently came across a copy of his daughter’s memoirs published for private circulation in August 1902. Caroline Theodosia Kelly’s recollections were recorded during August and Sept. 1901 at No. 2 Eaton Square, Monkstown, just 5 years before she died at an advanced age. They are of interest for the insight they gave into the lives of the people of Ballintubbert around the time of the Great Famine and for that reason I give the following lengthy extract from them:-

“Amongst the poorest, there were several original characters, such as were to be met with only in the old-fashioned Irish country districts, before the day of railways and telegraphs.At the top of the “Quarry” field resided a very old man, Paddy Fennan, and his wife. He remembered as a boy helping when the modern part of Kellyville House was built by my grandfather, Judge Kelly. The wife remembered being a housemaid during his life time, and used to say that the guests always left a shilling for the housemaid between the sheets when they were leaving. They were a very clean and tidy old couple, and Mrs Fennan’s girdle cakes were much appreciated by the younger generation.

There were, the blacksmith’s family, the Murphys, and that of the carpenter, the
Carberys. Old Dan Carbery was an excellent skilled mechanic, and his sons and
grandsons still follow the trade, some of the latter in America. He dressed in the old-
fashioned style, with knee-breeches, knitted stockings, and blue cloth coat with brass

There was a herdsman of the name of John Gorman, who was quite an authority. His
favourite manner of drawing attention to any person or thing was, “Look at that, now”.
He was a most warm-hearted man, but endowed with the coarsest brogue I think I ever

There was a little gamekeeper of the name of Tom Branigan, who was a good rabbit shot,
and had a very dry manner, and was generally more silent than Irishmen of his kind. He
married at an advanced age, and, in consequence, as is the custom in Ireland, had on his
wedding night to go through the ordeal of a great deal of what is called “booing”,
accompanied by the blowing of horns.

There were cottages belonging to families, such as the Whelans, Regans, etc., which,
though constructed with thick walls of stone and clay, and thatched with straw, and
having mud floors, were always clean and tidy, so that no one could object to visit or sit
down in them.

An old man of the name of Tom Cushion lived in a cottage on the road to Athy, whose
conversation we much enjoyed. One day I was improving the occasion, as I thought, by
talking to him on some instructive subject, when he remarked with a straight look, “It’s a
muthering pity”, Miss, that ye weren’t male born.” Once I asked him to let me have a
little gravel from his sand-pit for my garden; his answer, in the fullness of his heart,
when I wanted to pay for it, was “Ye shall have it sponta-a-neous as the leaves grow on
the trees. ”He was one of the very few Roman Catholics of his position who read through
his Bible continually, and talked freely about it.

I must not omit to describe a character that was well known in the whole countryside, and
who rarely passed a week without being seen and given food at our door. I mean Mary
Grady, who was an example of Irish county early life to be met nowhere else. She had
married and had a large family, but the poor thing had a disordered brain, brought on
through illness or disappointment. She lived with her husband, mother and six children,
in a cabin on the Ballyadams bog. The dwelling was of the poorest and most elementary
description; her husband was a day labourer, and, although she was rarely at home and
spent her days wandering over the country far and wide, the children all grew up well and
healthy. On one occasion when talking to Mary Grady she said how fond the poor girls
were of me.”Oh,” I said (in joke), “it was only for the money they get,” to which she
responded: “Die to-morrow, and see what a grand funeral ye’d have.”

Her restlessness of brain forced her from house to house, and from town to town, and her
life, passed in repartee and wild conversation or altercation with those who laughed at
her, or pitied or disliked her, produced a flow of vigorous language, and filled her with a
vast amount of local gossip, upon which she discoursed, or which she retailed, greatly to
the amusement of the young and old of all ranks who would listen to her.

Her genius for quaint saying and for coining quaint words and funny names was
wonderful. For fully 40 years she wandered over parts of Kildare and Queen’s County,
and there were few houses of any kind where she was not pretty sure to get something to
eat, and, if it was a dinner, she especially enjoyed what she called the “top finish”, which
in ordinary language is the “sweet thing”.

Reverend Thomas Kelly died on 15th May 1955 aged 86 years and was buried in the
Kelly family vault in the grounds of Ballintubbert church.

On Thursday I will be leading a history walk of Athy starting in Emily Square at 7pm as
part of the Seachtain na Gaeilge activities. Join me on my journey down the history of
Athy as seen through its buildings and the people who once walked the streets of our town.

Thursday, April 15, 1999

Ribbon Men Activity 1820s

The Peace Preservation Force instituted by Robert Peel in September 1814 was the forerunner of the modern Garda Siochana. A heavily armed force drawn mainly from the ranks of the militia and ex soldiers, its operations sometimes gave cause for public complaint. On October 22nd 1817 Thomas Fitzgerald of Geraldine and magistrate for Athy forwarded to Dublin Castle the sworn affidavit of Thomas Noud of Kilmead concerning outrages committed by the new force. On the other hand the replacement by the Peace Preservation Force of the local yeomanry whose knowledge of their own locality was invaluable in combating crime, gave the locals greater scope for illegal nocturnal activities. Such activities were then gaining prominence and in August 1818 a number of outrages committed in and around Athy were the first indication of the resurgence of Ribbonmen activity in South Kildare. These outrages reported to Captain Mansergh of Athy included:
“Party of 5 men had entered the house of a farmer near Athy and shot him.

Another man shot by the same party on the Carlow Road and an attempt made to burn
his house.

Church windows of Athy broken and the piers of Dr. Johnstons gate demolished.”

Ribbonmen were mostly tenant farmers who because of high rents and inadequate prices for their farm produce found their tenancies at risk. Working men were in time to adopt Ribbonmen tactics in their attempt to improve the level of wages. On 1st December 1819 Robert Rawson writing from Glassealy, Athy informed the Dublin Castle authorities that:
“a few nights ago a soldier on duty at the Barracks of Athy having heard a shot looked from a rising situation over the wall and saw as he swears upwards of 12 men, but he has since in private admitted there were 30 running in the field and calling on each other to come on … since, it has been stated that an assembly of 30 persons were at the house of one Keating swearing on the Ribbon business”.

Rawsons distrust of his Catholic neighbours extended even to those occupying government positions for he went on to complain:-
“the investigation has fallen into the hands of Mr Bergin a Catholic magistrate who I fear will not be very jealous in developing the facts and the Sovereign of the Town being weak the loyal man may be easily imposed on …”.

Whether Rawson’s fears were well founded or not we do not now know. Whatever the result of Bergins investigation it did not serve to stop the Ribbonmen activity in the area. Early in 1822 an attempt was made to burn the Athy Goal for which a conviction was secured against a hapless individual the following March. Around this time the Peace Preservation Force was replaced by County Constabulary, a police force to which local magistrates retained the right of appointing Constables and sub Constables. James Tandy newly appointed Chief Magistrate of Police residing at Annfield Kilcullen was petitioned in October 1822 by some Kildare baronies to reduce the level of the police numbers in the county. The local land owners no doubt felt that their financial position did not permit them to finance a large public force whatever the consequences. Robert Rawson son of Thomas, having succeeded his father as owner of Glassealy warned Tandy:-
“that the emissaries of sedition are at work again as busy as ever …. I am assured there are regular meetings held now in this town (Athy)…. I have succeeded in dissuading the landholders of East Narragh from petitioning”.

Tandy no doubt wise to the Rawson scares of the past reported to the Castle that no outrages had been reported in East Narragh since he stationed the police there some months previously.

On 27 December 1822 Rawson ignoring Major Tandy wrote to Dublin Castle enclosing an anonymous letter which he had received from an Athy informant. The letter undated, unsigned and without an address read:
“….. there was a meeting in Murphy’s public house in Athy on Saturday 21st at which there was 12 men … it was agreed to take up arms from the gentlemen and farmers, your house is the first on the list Colonel Bagots next …. You will find the meetings at Murphy house once a week either Saturday or Sunday …. “

Rawson suggested that himself and Mr Butler the Town Sovereign of Athy attended by the yeomanry force raid Murphys on the following Saturday night. He asked the government authorities not to mention his name to Major Tandy.
“as he is imprudent in speaking of things I told him, only desire him to patrol more frequently and at different hours and I expect an attack on New Years night that his party should be in my vicinity on that night”.

The Castle official dealing with Rawsons correspondence wrote across the letter
“I would rather trust Tandy than Rawson, this is an idle letter”.

Two generations of Rawsons had cried wolf too many times, although subsequent events tended to prove the accuracy of the information concerning Murphys public house.

On 12th March 1823 N. McDonagh wrote from Ballitore to Major Tandy advising him of an attack on the night of the 11th on the farm house of Milo Farango within two miles of Athy, by about 15 men all of whom had their faces blackened. Mr. Farango who kept mills near Athy had previously received threatening letters. The writer continued:-
“… on being refused admittance by a man named Anthony Kavanagh who was lately sent there as a herd by Mr Farango the windows were all demolished. However Kavanagh having got alarmed he gave them admittance on which he was threatened in the severest manner to quit his masters employment. He was then knocked down and most inhumanly beaten his head cut severely in two places so much so that he was obliged to get medical assistance. He was also brought out of his house and stripped laid prostrate on the ground and flogged with furze brushes to that degree that his skin was torn off. I proceeded immediately after to the place and succeeded in apprehending the following persons who are sworn to and committed to Athy Goal:
Pat Moran Thomas Doyle
James Goode John Dunn
James Doyle Thomas Dunn”

The fate of the arrested men is not known.

On 29th October 1824 Tandy reported to Dublin Castle the houghing of cows belonging to Hugh Shields who doubled as the Duke of Leinsters agent and Athy Pound keeper. A number of cows belonging to the local Church of Ireland curate Charles Bristow were similarly ill-treated. It was suspected that the arrest of Patrick Kirwan a local farmer for unpaid rent due to the Duke of Leinster was the cause of the unsavoury activities of the night of 28th. A number of local men were arrested shortly afterwards by a large party of police under the command of Mr Butler Town Sovereign and charged with the houghing offences.

Thursday, April 8, 1999

'Why by fire'

The past week for me has been given over to the sometimes forgotten history of the people who suffered more than most during World War II. It was a coincidence that I was visiting Prague the same week as John MacKenna’s new work “Who by Fire” premiered in the local school hall while Zolton Zinn Collis was filmed revisiting Belsen for the first time since 1945.

I had previously written of Zolton who has lived in Athy for almost twenty years. That occasion was the publication of Mary Rose Doorley’s Book, “Hidden Memories” which dealt with the personal recollections of what were called the “Belsen Children” who came to Ireland with Dr. Robert Collis at the end of World War II. They were the unclaimed children who survived in the German concentration camp Bergen Belsen and who like Zolton Zinn and his sister Edith were orphans.

I can still recall the emotion I felt when interviewing Zolton Zinn Collis in 1995 as he recounted the experience of his distraught mother resisting a german soldiers attempts to wrest a dead child from her arms during a stop over on the train journey to Belsen.
“I can never forget”, he said “only the dead can forgive, we have no right to forgive on their behalf”. He had lost his mother and father, his eldest brother Aladar and a baby brother or sister, which he cannot say, in the horrible inhuman conditions created by the Germans during World War II. On Thursday night on Irish television, he relived the horrors of over 50 years ago when he was filmed revisiting Belsen for as he said “we should all learn from the past - we should not forget”. As the Albanian people evicted from Kosovo last week massed in refugee camps, we should remember the Zolton Zinn’s of this world who are left with memories of a time which should never again be repeated and of families which can never again be theirs.

The same night as Zolton Zinn Collis’s story was transmitted, I attended the second night of John MacKenna’s, “Who By Fire” - a play with songs by Leonard Cohen. For reasons which I will explain later, the performance was of special significance for me and evoked in me a response similar to that felt when I spoke to Zinn Collis some years ago. “Who by Fire” is a story of a young girl who was taken to the concentration camp of Auschwitz with her mother. She survived but her mother, her friends and neighbours all died and twenty years later, she revisits the former death camp where as the author explains, the sights, sounds and smell of her three years in Auschwitz bring the past back to life.

As the Members of Athy Musical and Dramatic Society brought the evenings performance to a conclusion, I felt that I had watched a most compelling and moving theatrical experience. The immediacy of the performance was for me heightened by the fact that on the day before, while on a journey from Prague to Dresden, I stopped to visit Terezin, a holding camp for Jews and Czechs who were destined for Auschwitz. Situated near the Czech border with Germany, the former camp has been established as the Memorial of National Suffering by the Czech Government and shows the fate of persons imprisoned there in the context of the overall picture of the persecution of the Czechs during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. I could not then but be moved by the Athy groups performance reawakening as it did, the visual experiences of the day before when I saw for the very first time, documents, artifacts and material from a terrible period in recent Czech history.

The number of Jews exterminated in Auschwitz concentration camp has never been accurately assessed and estimates range from one to four million. Amongst those were upwards of 75,000 Jews from Prague City which was once the location of a vibrant if somewhat overpopulated Ghetto Jewish Quarter. The death camps of the Second World War finished what the slum clearance programmes of Prague Municipal Authorities started at the beginning of the century. Nowadays the former Jewish quarter of Prague is a monument to the Jewish past. Its old Jewish Cemetery’s is the largest and best preserved Jewish Cemetery in Europe having been established in the fifteenth century. There are almost twelve thousand tombstones in the cemetery holding many more unmarked graves where centuries of burials resulted in the elevation of the ground so that it was thought that there are upwards of seven layers of burials there. These then were the ancestors of the Jews who suffered so much as a result of Hitler’s plans for the extermination of their race.

John MacKenna’s new work comes at a significant time when trouble has erupted in Yugoslavia and another ethnic group, this time Albanians face a situation so reminiscent of what occurred to the Jews just over 50 years ago. “Who by Fire” is a timely reminder of a history which for most of us has passed unnoticed or perhaps not understood.

I had hoped to meet Tommy English whom I believe is the only Athy man living in Prague. Unfortunately, my trip coincided with Tommy’s return to Athy and so I was left looking elsewhere for an Athy connection. The only previous Czech connection with Athy was Josef Ratusky who worked in the Wall Board Factory many years ago. As far as I can recall, he lived for a while with McHugh’s of Offaly Street. He first came to Carlow, as a fitter in the Sugar Company and later to Athy to join the Wall Board Company. Unfortunately, he passed away some years ago.

It was while passing over Charles Bridge in Prague built in the 14th Century that I made the Athy connection. Prague’s most familiar monument connects the old town with the Latin quarter and boasts no less than 28 statutes including that of St. Felix deValois and St. John deMatha who founded the Trinitarian Order. You may remember that the Monastery of St. John, Athy was a Trinitarian Foundation in the early part of the 13th Century. The Monastery closed down even prior to the Reformation but a window from the Monastery is to be placed in the Heritage Centre in the very near future.

I was saddened to hear of the death of Paddy Tierney, formerly of Emily Row when I returned to Athy. Paddy was a schoolmate of my brother Tony and his family lived in the house next door to the original Credit Union office which is now being incorporated into its new offices. Paddy who was Town Clerk of Dundalk spent his working life in Local Government and died at the relatively young age of 61 years. My sympathy goes to his family and sisters especially Noreen Noonan of Leinster Street.

Thursday, April 1, 1999

Orford Baldwin families of Athy

Visiting Athy during the week was Margueritte Germaine of Florida, USA, who had last seen the town of her birth in 1939. Born Margueritte Orford, she was the eldest of two daughters of Joseph Orford of Foxhill House and Mary Baldwin formerly of 10 Woodstock Street. Her father came from a large family and in his time had studied for the Bar, emigrated to Australia, and on his return to Ireland carried on a car sales business in Dublin where he held the agency for Willis Automobiles.

Joseph’s wife Mary Baldwin was a sister of Carmel Baldwin and Jack & Jim Baldwin who lived in No. 10 Woodstock Street with their mother Margaret Baldwin, formerly Murphy. Both Jack & Jim Baldwin served as officers in World War 1 and while Jack suffered from gas poisoning both brothers survived and returned to Athy. Jim, who prior to the war, served as a British Army Officer in India, later enlisted in the Irish Free State Army and lived in Dublin until his death.

His brother Jack was a man of mystery. He was the engineer on the Barrow Drainage Scheme which had offices in the ground of St. John’s House which are now given over to car parking in the centre of the present town. He was one of the founders of the first soccer club in Athy but appears to have disappeared without trace sometime after 1939. Local folklore gives the impression that Jack Baldwin was lost during World War I but we now know that he returned safely from that European conflict. No one knows what happened to Jack. Not even his niece Margueritte who lost contact with him after her family emigrated to England in 1939.

Margueritte was born in 1922 in No. 10 Woodstock Street at the time when her parents were living in Foxhill House. Her mother planned her confinement for Dublin but apparently time was not on her side so a hasty retreat was beaten to her mother’s house in Woodstock Street where the first grandchild was born.

The Orford family continued to live in Foxhill House until 1929 when the house with 200 acres of land was sold to Jeremiah Maloney of Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick for the sum of £900. It was a strange coincidence that saw me bringing the former child of Foxhill House out to see the house and its present occupiers on the 31st March. For it was on the 1st April 1929, almost 70 years to the day, that the Maloney family of Abbeyfeale took possession of the house and farm from Margueritte’s parents. Before we called to Foxhill house, she remembered the two-storey house and the apple tree which she looked out on from her bedroom window over 70 years ago. Her childhood memories of Foxhill House were crystalised as she stood on the front lawn of the house pointing out the window of her one time bedroom and the ancient apple tree which still stands today. It was a lovely moment and one made all the more pleasant by the kindness of Letitia and Terry Maloney who showed the 77 year old woman throughout the house where as a young girl she played with her only sister Blathnaid. With her on this, her first visit to Ireland since she left in 1939, was her son Pat, his wife and her son’s mother in law.

Margueritte Germaine who married a U.S. officer during World War II and emigrated to Florida in 1945 recalled with uncanny accuracy the names of people and places familiar to her 70 years ago. Although she went to school as a boarder to the Sisters of Mercy in Arklow, she maintained friendships in Athy with members of the Doyle family of Woodstock Street, the Whelans of William Street and Fortbarrington House and the Hollands of Model Farm. She recalled playing tennis in the Tennis Club behind Geraldine Park and was able to point out its location to me as we passed on the way out to Foxhill. Having spent some time with her granny in No. 10 Woodstock Street, she readily and with apparent ease, recalled the names of her neighbours in that street. Special mention was made of Mrs Telford who lived next door to Granny Baldwin and whom she described as always wearing purple while having a consistent dislike for children of all ages! This was the same Mrs Telford, whose son Seargeant Alfred Telford was killed in World War I and who later gave her son’s army service knife to a young Leo Byrne. This World War I artefact is now to be found in the heritage centre.

In St. Michael’s Cemetery is the Orford grave stone commemorating Thomas Orford and his wife Margaret both of Foxhill who died in 1911 and 1906 respectively. They were the grandparents of Margueritte. With them is buried their daughter Eleanor who died in 1917 aged 28 years, their daughter Mary who died in 1937 and their son John who died in 1958. John, who was the owner of the Nags Head in Leinster Street was brother of Joseph Orford, father of Margueritte Germaine.

There is apparently no member of the Orford family living in Athy today although I believe that the Orford family of Kilcullen are descendants of the Foxhill House family of the same name. Coming to Athy after 70 years gave Margueritte Germaine, formerly Orford, a rare opportunity of revisiting her memories of a town which has changed significantly in the interim but in some important respects remains recognisable. Crom a Boo bridge and White’s Castle is the one constant which every onetime resident of Athy can recall. In Margueritte’s case, she remembered and recalled the location of the Tennis Club, Peter P Doyle’s House, her granny’s house and many other features of the town which have survived over the years.

It is seldom that I meet visitors to Athy who have carried for so long and with such clarity childhood memories of the town in which they once lived. Margueritte Orford had an uncanny recall of times past in Athy stretching back over 70 years remembering families who are no longer part of our community. I hope that her visit to Athy gave her as much pleasure as I derived from meeting her. If any of my readers can give me any further information on the Orford or Baldwin families I would like to hear from them.