Thursday, September 30, 1999

Market Day in Athy 1837

Market Days and Fair Days in Athy were once an important part of the commercial life of the old town. The Fairs were to be found in Woodstock Street as well as the open space at the top of Leinster Street, while the market was in Market Street, better known today as Emily Square. Here is an account of Athy’s Market which appeared in the second issue of the Athy Literary Magazine published on Tuesday, 21st November, 1837. It gives a unique insight into the happenings of 160 years ago.

“The Market Day” is generally interesting to most people. To the townsman it is a day of anxious activity, whether his business is confined to the counter, or in the more noisy throng of out-door wayfaring. It is not the less important to the farmer and the different gradations of his household, who have each some peculiar traffic to push, or some appointment to fulfil. The farmer sons are summoned and orders are given with precision relative to the corn and goods the farmer wants to send to the market. The thrifty “vanithee” is not less active in her preparations; the `lump’ of fresh butter is encircled in its well scoured wooden bowl, and a napkin `white as the driven snow’ laid over it. The weeks gathering of eggs too is a matter of some moment…... The hour has at length arrived when all must wend their way to the great mart, and Mary the eldest daughter unmarried is not displeased that her mother’s duties oblige her to remain at home, and that she is selected to exchange her burdens for tea, sugar, soap and other household necessaries which must be acquired during the din and turmoil of Athy’s Market Day.

It is indeed a busy day and the Market Day of our own town is more important to us than all the world beside. Good reader sure you have been in Athy of a “Market Day”. If you have not a visit to it will be more profitable than a voyage to see the poison tree of Java. If you are a philosopher you will remark a principal law of nature illustrated in our own language; `birds of a feather flock together’. Just take a walk to Cobb’s Corner, and proceed from thence around the Market Square. On your left is a row of decent looking housewives, clean aprons, clean faces, with “I assure you it is as sweet and clean butter as any in Ireland, and those eggs were laid this blessed good morning.” Don’t be surprised if the butter and eggs get together. Go on a little further through the corn sacks, and it is a chance if you don’t stumble over the new crocks and dishes prepared to pack the butter or hold the milk in, with now and then a sort of jingling knell, sounding in the midst of those self same crocks, when my aunt tries what the stuff is with a tap of her knuckles. Now elevate your body, and look due East, that is if the mountains of cabbage plants will permit a vista for observation, and you will perceive a group standing round an aged figure, who might literally be said to be all in motion, for his feet are perpetually moving like the paddles of a steam engine, and his hands generally wield some deadly weapon, while his tongue, with not less velocity than his feet, keeps up an incessant clamour. You stare - feel no alarm; he is a perfectly sane and harmless poor Scotchman, who is sharpening the wits as well as the razors of his customers.

Well, then you have cabbage, parsnips and pigs’ faces to the world’s end - at least to the other side of the square where, what will you guess comes next? The brogues! Surely when the belly is already provided for, such useful members as the feet merit a little attention; and not very far distant are the hats and bonnets, mixed up with eels, applies, sieves and riddles. A little further, You must push your way, no delicate remonstrance will avail you, should you get your boots bespattered, or your coat pulled half off by the multitudinous crowd, emulous to close round some `lion’ in the corn trade, and push their samples of golden drop, &c. into the rich man’s hands. The whirling maze of the crowd has now brought you in company with the `importance’ of the market - the millers, the malsters, the brewers, the jobbers and chapmen, now whispering, now laughing, now talking aloud; observe, in particular, that little group yonder, one half of whom seem to be supporting the pile of mason-work behind them. They are the Rothschild’s of our exchange. A company of soldiers never copied the harlequin positions of their fugle man with such exactness as the crowd around them adopt their different alternations of countenance, changing as they consider the market is likely to fall or rise. You cannot of course pass our Shambles, so much superior to the manner in which meat is exposed in the generality of country towns, and we know you will feel with us that its cleanliness and good order is highly creditable to the proprietor. Watch that little gentleman yonder with what a restless pleasure his eye wanders o’er the fine proportions of fat and lean which compose that ponderous sirloin, which the butcher has stretched in all its inviting amplitude upon his table. Oh! It would be almost a dinner for a hungry countryman to dwell a little here, even in imagination, on gormandizing. Now, intelligent visitor, we will conduct you from the shambles, and urge you a few paces onward, when you will find yourself among the cocks and hens. It was about here that “Cheap John”, in days of yore, held his weekly auction of pins and needles; poor fellow he is gone the way of all flesh, and it will be long before the tidy wives will look upon his like again. The Court-house door is before you, and close under its protection sit the most notorious of all the notorious animals, the bag-ers - the scourge alike of farmers and threshers. Behind you is the great area of the Market- square, and if you would pause for a moment, and let you inventive faculties shape strange fancies, you might imagine yourself in view of a little fleet, such a number of car shafts erect themselves before your gaze, while if you look more earthly you will see apples, creels and asses, bacon, bere and barley, calico, caps and coats, delt, ducks and drunkards, egg exhibitors and extortioners, flax, fish and fowl. A little to the right is a scene calculated to awake indescribable emotions, the weekly assemblage of the two great rival powers, contending for Ireland’s honor or Ireland’s disgrace. The great links or hinges on which turn our nation’s morals, money and mortality - the pigs and potatoes.”

Athy’s Literary Magazine was a short lived venture but we can be grateful that it captured in print for all time the wonderful world of the town’s Market in pre Famine days.

Thursday, September 23, 1999

19th Century Split in Athy

Banking in Athy originated with the Tipperary Bank which had an office in the town from the 1840’s. The National Bank also had a local office from about 1850 while the Hibernian Bank established a branch in Athy in March 1856, following the collapse of the Tipperary Bank and the suicide of its founder, John Sadlier.

The prosperity of the time was reflected in the social happenings of the period. On Friday, 15th August, 1856 the Athy Regatta, revived after a lapse of some years, took place on the River Barrow with six races. The most important race was for two oared boats, the property of persons residing at least one year within the town boundary, to be rowed and steered by local residents. With an entrance fee of ten shillings per boat, clearly it was a richman’s sport! A press report of the 1858 Regatta noted that “the embankments presented a thronged and animated appearance”, while the Athy Regatta Ball for 1859 advertised tickets at 7/6, the patrons to be entertained by a string band from 9.30p.m. with Mr. Doyle, Professor of Dancing, Baltinglass, as the master of ceremonies. The Leinster Express of 30th July, 1859 with reference to the Ball noted:
“There is not in Ireland an inland town that can boast of more public spirit than Athy or among whose inhabitants so many friendly and social reunions are reciprocated.”

The public spirit so apparent in 1859 quickly dissipated when the Stewards of Athy Regatta procrastinated throughout the summer of 1861 with no prospect of the Regatta taking place that year. Much annoyed by this were local oarsmen Daniel Cobbe and Francis Dillon who had won the Silver Challenge Cup renamed the Corporation Challenge Cup the previous year.

Popular feeling apparently ran in favour of Cobbe and Dillon as evidenced by a ballad sheet printed and circulated in Athy during November and December 1861 titled “Athy Regatta Rhymes.” It commenced:-

Oh! Remember, remember,
The Nineteenth of November
Frustrates a contemptible “do;”
I do not see why
The ONE sport of Athy,
Should be stopped by the `whims or mean
schemes of a FEW.

The two local oarsmen inserted an advertisement in the Leinster Express on 9 November, 1861 in which they announced the holding of the Athy Regatta on Tuesday, 19th November “two challenges having been sent to the Secretary and the Committee not wishing to act in the manner we the present holders of the cups hereby appoint the above day. The cups have to be won 3 times successively and if successful we will claim this as our second year.” The intrepid oarsmen duly won the race. Faced with the same official reluctance in 1862 Cobbe and Dillon acted as before. Challenged on this occasion by Delaney and Keefe, victory went yet again to Cobbe and Dillon in what was to be the last of the once popular Athy Regattas. I wonder if the Silver Cup which was won outright by Cobbe and Dillon is still in Athy.

On 7 May, 1857, steeplechase racing was revived in Athy after a lapse of many years. Four races were held on the Bray course which attracted a total entry of 19 horses, a matter of some satisfaction to the Stewards, Thomas Fitzgerald J.P., Thomas H. Pope J.P., Anthony Weldon, Hugh Maguire, Joseph Butler and A. Kavanagh, Race Treasurer. The local Newspaper reported :-

“Such a sensation was never yet seen in the quiet and unexcitable district of Athy and its vicinity as the dawning of this eventful day created.

….. the roads leading to the race course were speedily thronged with a motley crew of thimble riggers, card settlers, trick a loop men, followed by the no less accomplished creed of roulette and shooting gallery proprietors, musicians and all those who imbued with a mercantile and enterprising spirit sought the most eligible position for their forthcoming avocations ….. the proceedings and amusements of the day came off satisfactorily ….. the racing was throughout contested with the greatest spirit.”

However, local horse racing was not long in resurrecting its critics. On 27 March, 1858, a local correspondent using the nom de plume “short grass” drew critical comparison between the races of 1843 and the previous years’ event implying the reason with his comment “in those days the right men were in the right place.” In 1858 the races were held once again during which “disturbances occurred subsequently action taken against one of the stewards, he was fined.” The races were not held in 1859. In 1860 Thomas Fitzgerald J.P. was instrumental in reviving the races which were held on Friday evening, 20 April over the Bray course. About 1,000 people attended the meeting and enjoyed the main race for the Athy Cup over a three mile course. The 1862 meeting was run over “a small but well laid out course about 10 minutes walk from the town”, but despite Fitzgeralds best efforts, Athy’s tenuous claim to racing fame had slipped away.

Equally unsuccessful was the inaugural reunion of the Grand Leinster Archery Fete arranged for the Peoples Park, Athy on Friday, 7th August, 1863 and the following day. The archery competitions for men and women took place in the adjoining field which was walled in with the Band of the 86th Regiment performing in the park. The Leinster Express of 15 August reported :-

“We regret to learn that the inhabitants of Athy and neighbourhood did not come forward to the support of the recent archery meeting ….. in the manner they might.

Last year there was a similar complaint to make with respect to the agricultural exhibition and if there is not some person energetic enough to keep up the credit of the town, we fear it may be even minus the latter …..”

Some things never change!

Thursday, September 16, 1999

Preston's Gate

Growing up in Offaly Street in the 1950’s boys such as myself had none of the diversions which the youth of today now enjoy. Computers, videos and televisions were still decades away for most of us and we amused ourselves as best we could. Football was the bread and butter of our daily lives and most evening after school began with a game of football at the Church of Ireland end of Offaly Street. Although it is difficult to imagine today there was little traffic on the street in my youth except Dr. O’Neill’s car on it’s way to another patient and the odd bit of Agricultural traffic during the Harvest season. Games were played with much vigour and energy resulting in many scuffed knees and grazed heads by the end of these urban matches. The focus of most of our matches was in the part of Offaly Street close to the Athy Picture Palace or best known to my generation as Bob’s Cinema where with our penny toffees and lemonade we spent many a Saturday Matinee. The Lower end of Offaly Street at the present day Credit Union Offices was outside the bounds of our Offaly Street pitch as a road narrowed dramatically to barely the width of a set of goalposts

Even as a young lad it struck me as curious as to how a street could be so wide at the top half and so narrow at the lower half. Many years later when I developed an interest in local history I discovered that the narrowing street owned it’s origin to the fact that the last remaining stretch of Athy’s medieval town wall had once stood there. The width of the street reflected the width of Preston’s gate which was demolished in 1860.
The exact date for the construction of walls around the town of Athy is unknown. In 1431 the Dublin Parliament had a granted to the town a contribution towards the expenses in defending the town while in 1448 it was taxes were levied on goods sold in the town and also on those carried through which were to go towards the costs of building walls around the town. It was only with the granting of the charter of 1515 from King Henry VIII to the town that the first clear record of town walling is available. The purpose of the Charter was to assign to the town it’s various rights and privileges.
Under the Charter the inhabitants of the town were given licence that “They may erect construct build and strengthen the same town with fosses and walls of stone and lime”. In order to fund this construction it was stated in the Charter that a tax of one penny was to be levied on every horse, cow, pair of wheels and any good worth five shillings sold in the town. The Earl of Kildare who owned the town, was the person who would determine how the monies would be distributed in order to repair and build the town walls. Although there were further Charters to the town from the English Crown in 1613 and 1688 there was no further reference to the walls.
Indeed it is difficult to know to what extent the wall was completed. Mercarators map of Laois and Offaly completed in 1568 shows the town with the East bank surrounded by a wall. It is difficult to determine now whether or not this was a genuine reflection of what lay on the ground. Without doubt some walls were built because in 1532 the Earl of Ossory in writing to Thomas Cromwell the Lord Privy Seal referred to the gates of the town of Athy. John Dymok who visited Athy in 1600 gave a description of the town describing it as been divided into two parts by the River Barrow over which there was a stone bridge and upon it a castle occupied by James Fitzpierce. However he did not mention any walling while an anonymous writer who passed through the town in 1598 described Athy and Castledermot’s as the only important towns in Kildare which were walled but then in ruins.
The earliest detailed maps which survived for the town are Roques’ surveys of 1756 but even by this time, except in Preston gate in Offaly Street, no other parts of the town wall survived. It is likely that the town wall was built sometime in Athy after the Charter of 1515 after to Athy but its probable that the vast majority of the wall was destroyed during the confederate wars of the 1640’s. It has been suggested in the past that the naming of Preston’s gate relates to General Preston a leader of the Cromwellian forces whom occupied the town in the 1640’s. I would think that its name derives from a corruption of the word ‘postern’ which refers to a secondary gate or entrance to the town.
There exists in the British Library in London a pamphlet which details the siege of Athy in 1641. Mr. Hierome a man who appears to have been a priest in Athy detailed a variety of atrocities committed by the Irish Rebels against the English Protestants there. He described the Rebels as ‘killing the English Protestants, ravishing their women, cutting them to pieces, hanging them by their hair of their head, scalding them, cutting off their heads and firing their town and houses’. Whatever the truth of this descriptions the violence of the attacks on the town were such that it is surprising that even so much as Preston’s gate survived.
But there it stood in it’s splendid isolation at the end of Offaly Street until 1860 when a fatal injury to the Reverend Trench precipitated it’s removal. As I look at Offaly Street today I see a place where many of the names and faces familiar to my youth are long gone, but the houses are the same and the little narrowing of the street is a potent reminder of a time when Athy inhabitants walleed their town to protect themselves from the exigencies of the outside world when violence and strife threatened not only their property but their lives.

Thursday, September 9, 1999

Rogues and Heroes of Athy's Past

I had to do some preparatory work recently for a talk on rogues and heroes from Athy’s past and never one to pass up the opportunity of using material a second time I gladly pass on to you some of my selections. When one comes to cull from local history those names which might fit into either hero or rogue category, then the shortcomings of the written record become all too apparent. History is written by those who have a vested interest in the subject - either they are the winners who want to reassure their place in history, or else if losers, want to redeem a lost reputation. Either way the history student is left wondering how to assess the truth or value of the written record, especially so when required to designate it’s participants as either rogues or heroes.

In some respects the task is made easier by the passage of time. No one would doubt the right of Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic Explorer, to be regarded as a hero. A native of Kilkea, near Athy, he spent his adult life in England, but is nevertheless properly and rightly claimed as one of our own. On the other hand his brother Frank who spent more time than Ernest in Ireland might possibly fall into the rogue category for his exploits which Sir Arthur Vicars claimed resulted in the theft of the Irish crown jewels. Frank was the principal suspect for the theft and to this day the jewels have never been recovered. Perhaps they lie buries somewhere in South Kildare in an area known only to Frank who died without passing on his secret.

The unchallenged rogue must be Thomas Reynolds, the 1798 informer and former resident of Kilkea Castle. A distant cousin of Lord Edward Fitzgerald he took a lease of the Fitzgerald Castle at Kilkea just in time to be appointed colonel of the United Irishmen in County Kildare. This of course gave him access to information concerning the organisation in the County which due to the efforts of Lord Edward Fitzgerald had developed quietly and quickly in the period prior to 1798. Reynold’s son, in his father’s two volume biography published after his death, sought to deflect blame from his father for the arrest of the Leinster Directory of the United Irishmen in Oliver Bond’s house in March 1798 but to no avail. There was and still is sufficient evidence to convince even the hardened sceptics that Reynolds who spent some time in Whites Castle gaol following his arrest in May 1798 was a notorious informer who breached confidence with those who trusted him. As a result of his treachery the people of Athy suffered enormously at the hands of government troops and militia alike and particularly at the instigation of my second nominee for the status of rogue Thomas Rawson of Glassealy House.

If one accepts the views expressed by Thomas Fitzgerald of Geraldine House and William Farrell of Carlow, perhaps rogue is too mild a term to apply to Rawson. Fitzgerald after the 1798 rebellion during which he was suspected of complicity with the United Irishmen wrote a scathing letter to Dublin Castle in which he referred to Rawson as “a man of the lowest order, the offal of a dunghill, had every person tortured and stripped, as his cannibal will directed. He would seat himself on a chair at the centre of a ring formed around the triangles, the miserable victims kneeling under the triangles until they would be spotted over with the blood of the others”.

Many attempts were made on Rawson’s life but he escaped any form of personal injury. However, his house at Glassealy was burnt by rebels who were subsequently captured and hanged from a tree in Glassealy near the scene of their crime. In favour of Rawson there must be put his undoubted ability as an agriculturist and as a writer for he it was who wrote the “Statistical Survey of County Kildare” published by the Royal Dublin Society in 1807. His activities during 1798 mark him out as a cruel individual and for that reason he must be placed in my gallery of local rogues.

Heroes are generally more plentiful than rogues and the list of local heroes inevitably includes those who were involved in the many uprisings and rebellions which were so much a part of our past history. Into that category I put Patrick O’Kelly, the young man who lead the United Irishmen in South Kildare, even if his and their efforts came to nothing in the end. I wrote of O’Kelly quite recently in an Eye on the Past, paying particular emphasis on his efforts at publishing books on Irish history. His right to be regarded as a hero stems solely from his exploits as the youthful leader of the United Irishmen in Athy and District before and during the 1798 Rising.

Another man with military involvement was Eamon Malone from Barrowhouse, the one time Commandant of the Carlow/Kildare Brigade IRA during the War of Independence. He is remembered in the name Malone Court, the last housing scheme built by Athy Urban District Council at the top of Woodstock Street. Malone who married Kathleen Dooley of Duke Street was imprisoned for his involvement as was his brother-in-law Joe May of Woodstock Street. These two men and the other Athy men who endured imprisonment for their beliefs are rightly entitled to be included in the gallery of local heroes.

The War of Independence also threw up the only female heroic representatives in Hester May and Kathleen Moloney. Both were Members of Cumann na mBan, while Hester May was Secretary to Piaras Breaslai and later General J.J. O’Connell. She played an active part in Irish national affairs when it was dangerous to do so, serving as Secretary to men who were on the run during the War of Independence. Hester was sister of the earlier mentioned Kathleen Dooley and both were daughters of Michael Dooley remembered in the name Michael Dooley’s Terrace, a scheme of houses built in the early 1930’s.

The Luggacurran evictions of 1887 to 1889 are a useful field of exploration for inclusion in the rogue’s gallery. Strangely my views of that traumatic time might not necessary find favour with everyone. For instance I would feel compelled to include Fr. John Maher CC, Luggacurran, Denis Kilbride and John W. Dunne as possible candidates for the non-hero roles. I desist from calling them rogues as it would seem particularly unfair to call them such, so non-heroes might be more appropriate. Fr. Maher, exercising strong clerical influence over the poor tenant farmers of the area, apparently badgered and provoked the local families into joining the Plan of Campaign. Rent reductions had been offered by the Landsdowne Estate but Fr. Maher, whose brother also a clergyman in the Kildare and Leighlin Dioceses had successfully extended the Plan of Campaign in his Parish, sought to emulate his sibling’s success. He wanted the same rent reductions extended to the Laois tenants as Landsdowne had given to his Kerry tenants. There were huge discrepancies in the quality of land in both Counties and Landsdowne felt, perhaps reasonably, that a smaller reduction for his Laois tenants was only justifiable. Fr. Maher thought otherwise and aided and abetted by Kilbride and Dunne who themselves held vast tracts of land from Landsdowne which they sub-let, embarked on the Plan of Campaign. It resulted in misery and hardship for many families in Luggacurran which in hindsight could have been so easily adverted. Lord Landsdowne and his land agent Trench who decided to evict the tenants from the Luggacurran Estates must join the rogues gallery.

On the other hand siding with the heroes must stand Vincent Cullinane, Vocational Teacher and founder of Athy Farmer’s Club which later evolved into Macra na Feirme. Cullinane first mooted the idea of a Farmers Club in the early 1940’s, following classes which he organised for young farmers. Later with Paddy Kehoe and others he worked to establish Macra na Feirme and it was in Athy that the National Organisation had it’s first headquarters. Sadly Stephen Cullinane died a young man, but not before he had laid the ground work for the organisation which he had helped to found.

No matter where one looks in today’s society there will be worthy representatives of what you and I might term heroes or rogues. Some will merit their claim to fame or infamy but few will be remembered after they have passed on. In that respect history can be kind to many in the veil of obscurity which it draws over events and people of the past.

Thursday, September 2, 1999

Brother John Murphy

Brother John Murphy, a native of Rineen, near Milltown, Co. Clare, entered the Christian Brothers, noviciate in Baldoyle, Co. Dublin at seventeen and a half years of age. He took his final vows in 1932 and it was another 28 years before he arrived at the Christian Brothers Monastery at St. John’s Lane, Athy. I had sat my Leaving Certificate examination in June of 1960 and even though I remained as a pupil of the Secondary School until January of the following year our paths did not cross until many years later.

As principal of the Primary School in Athy Brother Murphy oversaw a number of important developments, including the opening of a new school in Greenhills and the establishment of a parents Council. He was still principal of the Primary School when, in 1971, the prospect of a new Secondary School to replace the outdated school buildings used by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy was first mooted. I was living in Monaghan town at that time but can still recall the heated debate faithfully reported in the local newspapers as the townspeople deliberated long and hard on the issue of a community school as against the continuation of the existing three schools, boys, girls and vocational. A community school for the area offered by the Department of Education was rejected out of hand and the opportunity for a major co-educational school was lost. I have often felt despite the enormous impact by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy and their teachers that the intervening years have not quite matched the promise held out by a community school better funded than existing secondary schools.

Brother Murphy who retired as principal of the Primary School in 1974 was not directly involved in that secondary education issue and when he celebrated his golden jubilee as a Christian Brother on 23rd September, 1974 many fine and well deserved tributes were paid to him. Special ceremonies were held in the town to celebrate his jubilee and the occasion was marked by the visit of the provincial of the Irish Christian Brothers to Athy. Brother Murphy’s fondness for piped smoking was well known and an entry in the house annals of the Athy Christian Brother’s Monastery noted that “Brother Murphy's famous pipe was remembered by everyone”.

Brother Murphy has the unique distinction of having the longest service as a Christian Brother in the local monastery of Athy. When the monastery finally closed in 1994 he had spent 34 years in all in the town, longer than any other Christian Brother since Br. Stanislaus O’Flanagan. Br. Luke Holland and Br. John Sheehy first arrived in Athy in August 1861. Now that he is about to celebrate his 75th year as a member of the Christian Brothers all of those who remember with gratitude our early years in the boys school extend our good wishes to Br. Murphy. He is now living in St. Patrick’s, Baldoyle since 1994.

With him is Brother Joseph Quinn, a native of Tarmonbarry, Co. Roscommon, who entered the Christian Brothers over 65 years ago. Brother Quinn was the last superior of the Christian Brother Monastery in Athy and is remembered with particular fondness by those involved in promoting the game of basketball. It was Br. Quinn who brought American teams and overseas coaches to Athy, thereby helping to popularise the game which is still a major sport in the town.

I have written before and elsewhere of the importance of the Christian Brothers who brought education within the reach of everyone who wanted to better themselves. Both Br. Murphy and Br. Quinn were the last in a long line of Irish men who between 1861 and 1994 gave the youth of Athy an education which raised their horizons and broadened their expectations. Special congratulations then to Br. Murphy who on 23rd September celebrates 75 years in the Irish Christian Brothers and our good wishes to Br. Quinn who will no doubt celebrate the great day with his friend and companion of many years.

Writing earlier of the debate in the early 1970’s regarding the community school issue prompts me to make reference to what I understand is the possibility of the boys and girls local secondary schools amalgamating. I have favoured such a proposal for a long time. Accepting the benefits which must inevitably flow from the economies of scale which such an amalgamation must bring. I would even go further and suggest that the educationalists look at the possibility of bringing the third senior school in the town, St. Brigid’s into the scheme, thereby ensuring that a college campus can be developed in the area of the present Scoil Eoin with all the facilities such would require. We are all only too conscious that the Convent of Mercy will in time no longer be required as a home for the Sisters of Mercy. Surely the convent, together with the ancillary buildings and its extensive grounds could be incorporated with the existing Secondary School complex which they adjoin to provide facilities for all the second level requirements of Athy and district. This would allow the existing St. Brigid’s School to be relocated from its existing site where there is no room for expansion and where inadequate buildings are presently being used to hold classes.

The Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy have created over the last 150 years a tremendous educational legacy which we must build on if it is to adequately and properly meet the needs of future generations of young Athy people. I would hope that the myopic debate of 28 years ago concerning the community school for Athy will not be a foretaste of what lies ahead when we come to re-assess our future needs in terms of education.