Thursday, December 30, 1999

Tommy Keegan

Some time ago I spent an enjoyable evening reminiscing with Tommy Keegan whose family has been in the South Kildare area for generations past. The wealth of historical material gleaned from Tommy filled many pages, the true value of which has only now become apparent as I check his many references against other sources, both written and oral. Tommy’s knowledge of the hidden past of this locality is quite extraordinary, but not surprising, given his interest in local history and the Keegan family connection which goes back centuries.

At least three generations of the Keegans stretching back to Tommy’s Great Grandfather are buried in Fontstown cemetery. This is one of the oldest cemeteries in the area and likely to remain so unless further research confirms the existence of cemeteries on two sites which have come to my notice. The medieval Dominican Priory of Athy which was sited in the area known as the Abbey at the back of Offaly Street had a community graveyard which may have been located at the rear of the two houses on the Carlow side of the Credit Union Office. This is yet to be authenticated but there is some evidence to support the claim that the Dominican Cemetery was in that area. The second as yet unconfirmed medieval cemetery location is the small piece of ground lying between St. John’s Lane and McHugh’s Chemist in Duke Street. However, more about both possibilities at a later date.

A sprightly 76 year old Tommy Keegan was born in Foxhill. His father Daniel was a farmer and carpenter, a craft which has now been passed on to Tommy’s own son Joe. Daniel Keegan’s father was a blacksmith in Blackwood while his Uncle Martin Keegan was the owner of Keegan’s brickyard in Churchtown. Tommy attended the Christian Brothers School in Athy during the superiorship of Brother Dolan and had as classmates Gerry and Dinny Moloney, Tim Dunne, Kevin and John Hyland and Eddie and Charlie Moore. Later apprenticed to his father Daniel he worked in the family sawmills in Foxhill making a variety of items including cartwheels, hay bogeys and trailers. He was a member of the Barrow Vale Athletic Club in the 1940’s, competing, he admits, not too successfully in marathon running. I understand the Chairman of the Club was Alfie Coyle, a butcher employed in Fingletons of Leinster Street. Tommy’s reference to Barrow Vale Athletic Club was the first and only reference I have ever come across of this Club of almost sixty years ago.

One of the old traditions passed down to Tommy was that the famous ballad Lanigan’s Ball was written by Alec Roberts, a signal man on the railways who lived in Leinster Street in the premises now occupied by Sunderlands Hardware Shop. Colm O’Lochlainn in his “Irish Street Ballads” published in 1939 mentions a full music sheet of the song published in the 1870’s where the words were ascribed to “Mr. Gavan, the celebrated Galway poet”. Sean McMahon in his more recently published Poolbeg book of Irish Ballads describes Lanigan’s Ball as an “Athy Ballad dating from the ‘60’s of the last century and taken to have been based on an actual rough evening near the town”. Whatever the right of Alec Roberts to lay claim to the authorship of this famous ballad there seems no argument about his responsibility for composing a song about the Publicans of Athy at the turn of the last century. It ran :-

I’ll describe to you in a verse or two
The Publicans of Athy
We’ll take them one by one
From Mrs. Silke of the Railway Bar
To James Brophy of the Grand Canal

The first we have is Mrs. Silke
Some say she’s nice and
Some say she’s very grand
But it looks so suspicious
The Pump is so close up to her hand

The next we have is poor Paddy Kelly
Whose fortune lies upon a hare
Then we have the two Christian Brothers
Master James and Master John
Who if they had their will
Would send poor Kelly back again.

It continues on in this vein listing the publicans of the town and remarkably not a single public house remains in the ownership of any of the family names mentioned in the ballad.

Tommy Keegan’s connections through his ancestors with some of the historical figures of the past brings to the fore names as diverse as Michael Dwyer, the 1798 Rebel and Dan Donnelly, Ireland’s most famous pugilist. The Bailey Family of Killart, Athy were noted pipers as was Tommy’s Uncle John Keegan who died in or about 1941. An elderly Mrs. Bailey presented Dan Donnelly’s pipes to John Keegan who later passed them on to his friend and fellow piper, the famous Leo Rowsome.

Tommy claims that his Great Grandmother Kate was a sister of Michael Dwyer of Camara in the Glen of Immal, the revolutionary leader of 1798 fame. She married Willie Keegan of Russellstown, a member of a coach building family which lived in the house now occupied by the O’Sullivan family on the Dublin road. The Keegan families in Russellstown, Geraldine, Churchtown and Springhill were all related and the family tradition notes that one member of the extended Keegan family had a distillery and a beer house in the Shambles at Market Square, Athy many generations ago. Talking to Tommy about the history and traditions of our locality was an invigorating trawl through a mixture of genealogical facts and long forgotten folklore, all of which deserved a home secured by pen and ink for future perusal.

Writing of such matters while a flu epidemic rages through the countryside prompts me to ask my readers for help in recording the cures of folk medicine practised in this area in the days before advances in medical science made us all so dependent on antibiotics. The subject came up recently when I shared the celebration of New Years Night with a few friends, nearly all of whom had personal experiences or knowledge of local cures for various ailments. Folk medicine has always played an important part in the lives of Irish people and even today in South Kildare it continues to play a not insignificant part in dealing with certain ailments. I would like to hear from anyone who has any information on the subject of cures and folk medicine in the locality.

Thursday, December 23, 1999

Frank Whelan

Early last year Frank Whelan’s life long involvement as a member of the Fianna Fail Party was the occasion of a presentation to him in the Castle Inn. It was a time for reminiscing and I put together some rough notes which I hoped would form the basis of a future Eye on the Past. As luck would have it the hastily compiled notes disappeared amongst the mass of paper which over time engulfed my desk. I tackled the mess during the Christmas holidays and retrieved these notes and many more which I carefully put aside with a view to putting pen to paper at an early date.

Unfortunately time, which has no respect for the tardy, caused me to regret my inefficiency when I was told on New Years day of the passing of Frank Whelan. Indeed the period since Christmas has been a sad one with so many deaths amongst the older generation in Athy. Elsewhere I have referred to the passing of John Allen, while in todays Eye on the Past I take the opportunity of paying my respects to near neighbours Frank Whelan and Pat Eston.

Although known as “Frank”, he was christened John Francis Whelan. As a young man, born in Ballylinan, he worked as a blacksmith with his father, also named Frank, who had a forge in the village. Indeed the Whelan family had a long involvement with blacksmitting. Frank’s grandfather Edward, a one time Chairman of the Land League in Ballyadams, had a forge in Loughlass. His four sons took up the craft, and each of them worked their own forges. Paddy Whelan had a forge at Timahoe and his brother Jim, who was later to work with Tom Brogan in Green Alley, had his forge at the Heath. Another brother Willie worked with his father Edward Whelan in Timahoe while Frank’s father eventually took over his Uncle’s forge in Ballylinan. Frank (Senior) married Kathleen Whelan, a teacher in Athy who was a member of the Cumann na mBan branch established in Athy in July 1914.

After his early training in the Ballylinan forge Frank (Jnr.) joined the Irish Army in 1940 and spent the next 5 or 6 years with the 1st Field Engineers, putting up army huts around the country. Frank’s father died in 1946 and around that time he went to work in Tom Brogan’s Forge in Green Alley joining his Uncle Jim. He recalled one of his early jobs with Brogan as the casting of horizontal bars for the Barrow Bridge. In 1948 he took up employment with C.I.E. as a road freight driver where he was to remain until he retired. Amongst his colleagues on the railway were Joe Murphy of Offaly Street, Jack McKenna of Castledermot, Dennis Gunner Whelan, “Pokie” Flynn, Brothers Ned and Mick Loughman, Andy Conville and Paddy Flanagan. Mick Loughman would later establish a garage business on the Kilkenny Road.

Between 1948 and 1952 Frank worked on the Post Office mail run collecting mail in Kildare for delivery to Athy, Carlow, Bagnalstown, Kilkenny, Bennettsbridge and Thomastown. On the return journey outgoing mail was collected and brought to Portarlington to be put on the evening train.

Later on Frank was involved in local deliveries around Athy and particularly remembers the early 1950’s when waste paper was a much sought after commodity. The local children were organised at school to collect waste paper and the material was then delivered by horse and dray to the Railway Station for onward journey to the paper mills in Waterford. The horse and dray remained a familiar sight around the town until the early 1960’s when they were replaced by a tractor and trailer.

Frank married Rose Timpson of Bennetsbridge in 1956 and they had three children, Frank, Mary and Betty. Rose sadly died in 1996, some 9 years after Frank had retired from C.I.E.

At last year’s presentation to Frank, reference was made to his having joined Fianna Fail at an early age. He was a staunch supporter of De Valera and played an active part in every National and Local Election held over the last fifty years. At different times he was Secretary and Chairman of the local Cumann and was it’s Honorary President at the time of his death.

At all times he played a significant and thoughtful part in the political process. His experience was often relied upon and many a youthful political candidate had occasion to welcome his astute and often invigorating response to whatever situation arose.

It was however not only in the local political sphere that Frank Whelan made a valuable contribution. He was involved with Barrowhouse Gaelic Football Club since it’s early years and for twenty years was the Club’s Honorary Secretary. Following that he was elected Chairman of the Club and later still Club President. During his working life he was a staunch Trade Unionist and was elected Chairman of the National Association of Transport Employees which has since amalgamated with S.I.P.T.U.

Frank’s near neighbour in Pairc Bhride was Pat Eston who also died last week. I first came across reference to Pat when I was researching shows put on in the Town Hall 50 and 60 years ago. The Black and White Minstrel Shows of the late 1930’s and early ‘40’s showcased the talents of locals such as Pat Eston and “Thrush” Kelly. Pat was a gifted tenor while “Thrush” who is regularly mentioned with Pat when people speak of the old Minstrels, was a whistler. Pat always responded kindly to my requests for an interview, invariably asking it to be left for another day. To my regret his story was never recorded and perhaps we can never have the opportunity to appreciate the Town Hall Shows and those local men and women who trod the boards so many years ago.

May these two good men rest in peace.

Thursday, December 16, 1999

Athy at the Turn of the 20th Century

One hundred years ago Athy Town Commissioners, soon to give way to the newly established Urban District Council, passed a resolution protesting against “the unjustifiable war waged against the Boers” and tendered their sympathy to the Boer President Kruger. As the new century arrived the Boer flag was hoisted over the Town Hall in Athy, much to the annoyance of the towns’ Police. A local newspaper reporting the incident claimed that “the Athy Boys have not lost their originality and keen sense of humour”.

The winter of 1899/1900 showed up the unhealthy condition of the town and it’s unsanitary undrained state. Thomas Plewman, Chairman of the Town Commissioners, was moved to complain of the dirty streets of Athy during Christmas 1899. During the first week of the New Year there was a measles epidemic in the town. Doctors P.J. O’Neill and J. Kilbride were reported as having been run off their feet but despite their efforts there were a number of deaths amongst local children. At a subsequent meeting of Athy Board of Guardians Mr. Plewman again spoke of the measles epidemic in Athy, claiming that

“there are many houses where people have not a bed to lie in. It was a scandal in a Christian country that men and children should be found to lie like pigs in damp cottages. They would require the constitution of elephants to bring them through and from what he heard it was not the measles that were hitting the children but colds after the epidemic.”

The measles epidemic in the winter of 1899/1900 caused the postponement of the Christmas celebrations planned for the children of Athy by the local Catholic Young Mens Society. It was eventually held in the last week in January under the guidance of Mrs. Noud who was assisted by Agnes O’Brien, Millie O’Brien, Gipsy Murphy, Rose Heffernan, Miss McHugh, Miss Cantwell and many other ladies. A report of the delayed Christmas feast noted that the C.Y.M.S. rooms in Stanhope Place were “prettily decorated and appropriately draped and hung down with greenery”. Over 500 poor children of the town attended to partake of tea and sweet cake, followed by oranges and confectionery.

Dr. James Kilbride, local Medical Officer of Health, was happy to announce on 14th March that measles had practically disappeared from his District. His report continued:-

“Large numbers of children contracted the disease. The mortality was high among children. Croup and broncho pneumonia were the principal complications and were the cause of death in most cases. The deaths have not yet been registered in many cases and so the number of fatal cases cannot be given. The flooding condition of some of the houses, the weather been very wet during part of the epidemic, the damp or wet clay floors, the wretched dwellings with broken windows, doors and roofs and in many cases scanty bed and personal clothing, sometimes no beds, the children lie and huddle together on the floor and the general state of health of children caused partially by poverty and partially by the bad sanitary conditions of the houses and lanes account for the high mortality”.

Dr. Kilbride pointed out that the unsanitary conditions had been reported by him on several occasions and he concluded with the claim that “there has been no move ever made to remedy the defects of the public sewers or to procure a water supply for the town”.

Far away from the squalor of Athy were local men Paddy Connors and Patrick Kelly, both of whom were enlisted soldiers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers fighting in the Boer War. In January 1900 Connors wrote to his brother in Athy of the heavy losses suffered by his battalion during the Battle of Colenso.

“Three companies got cut up and the Connaught Rangers lost a lot. Murphy, Flynn and Kenny got dangerously wounded. Poor Sergeant O’Flynn got killed with a shell through the head. Twenty-five Sergeants got killed and wounded with 250 of the rank and file ….. thank God I’m very lucky. My helmet was knocked off by a bit of shell when I was carrying a wounded Corporal and he got shot in my arms.” Connors finished with the plaintive request “Brother, mind the birds and feed them well. Don’t fret for me for God will save me now”.

Kelly in his letter also refers to the killing of local men Flynn and Murphy. “Murphy got five bullets and Flynn four. Campion is also dead. There must be someone praying for the Athy boys afterall, as we nearly all escaped.” Not all of the Athy boys were not to escape as many more were to die during the Boer War which continued on into the new century.

Back home in Athy the death of Brother Holland, one of the first Christian Brothers to come to Athy in 1862 was announced in Marino, Dublin. J.J. Byrne, Barrow Bridge, Athy placed a large advertisement in the local newspapers offering corn drills, seed ploughs, cultivators and harrows at cheap rates for cash. The same paper carried an advertisement for Mr. Davies, Dental Surgeon of Lower Sackville Street, Dublin who attended at Miss Molloy’s of Duke Street on the first and third Tuesday of each month. At the start of the twentieth century life in Athy went on as before.

The last century of the second Millennium was to bring many changes to the town which had first grown to prominence as an adjunct to the Manor of Woodstock. The public water supply suggested by Dr. Kilbride in his many reports to the local Council was eventually provided in 1907. The first Council houses built in Athy were let to tenants in March 1913 but these houses in Meeting Lane, St. Martin’s Terrace and St. Michael’s Terrace were to be occupied by families other than those who lived in the unsanitary hovels condemned by Dr. Kilbride. Families most in need of re-housing would have to wait for the slum clearance schemes of the 1930’s.

Some of those men who survived the Boer War were later to re-join the ranks of the Dublin Fusiliers during the First World War. Their colleagues at the front included young men who had survived the measles epidemic in Athy in January 1900 and who later endured deprivation and unsanitary conditions in their home town.

For them, the wet clay floors of houses in Athy were but a prelude to their final resting places in watery muddy graves of France and Flanders.

Thursday, December 9, 1999

Review of the Year

Indulging myself for the second week in succession [some might claim I do so every week] I take a quick look back over the last six months of the second Millennium as seen through the Eye on the Past. In July I wrote of the conflict and turmoil as witnessed in the career of Patrick O’Kelly, United Irishman of Coolroe and of events in Luggacurran during the evictions at the end of the last century. O’Kelly remains an interesting individual for today’s readers, not least because of his role as a Colonel in the United Irishmen during the rising in South Kildare in 1798. He left a personal record of those difficult times in this locality in a book which was published some forty years afterwards. Interest in Kelly extends far beyond his rebellious activities or lack of them depending on how one views his ’98 record. The man once described by the local Parish Priest Fr. John Lalor as “a member of one of the most respectable families in the Parish of St. Michael’s, Athy” lives on in the books he wrote following his return to Ireland after exile in America and later France. Fittingly he is remembered in the local Heritage Centre in Athy.

The Luggacurran Evictions were recalled by me when writing of Rev. John Maher, the one time curate of Luggacurran and the man who spearheaded the Plan of Campaign in the County Laois village. By co-incidence the earlier mentioned Heritage Centre located in the ground floor of the Town Hall occupies a space which was once a dormitory for policeman brought in from outlying areas during the Luggacurran Evictions of 1887 and 1889. Fr. Maher addressed Land League meetings in Athy and he was supported by the people of Athy including the Catholic Clergy of the town. Maher was imprisoned in Kilkenny in May 1889 following a speech delivered by him during a public meeting in Luggacurran. On his release after one months incarceration he found the local’s attitude to the Plan of Campaign had changed and he himself was soon to feel the wrath of disillusioned campaigners. It is remarkable to note how active were the Clergy of the last century in supporting and in some cases leading their congregations in matters which would not now be considered inappropriate for their calling. A parallel could be drawn with the activities of the Free Presbyterian Church Ministers in Northern Ireland today.

During the summer a book of fiction was published by Picador Press with a story which had as it’s background Athy and the countryside of South Kildare. Inevitably it’s author was John MacKenna who has done much to make the South Kildare landscape as familiar to today’s readers as the Wessex of Thomas Hardy. “The Haunted Heart” had a particular interest for me as it’s narrator wrote her story and that of the White Quakers from No. 5 Offaly Street where I had lived for many years. That same house featured in an Eye on the Past I wrote later in the year when I dealt with my father’s involvement in the Garda Siochana. I was pleasantly surprised by the unusually large response I had to that piece, not only from persons who remembered by father but many who did not know him. Clearly it struck a cord with many people, some of whom passed on stories about their brushes with the Law. Indeed once such story concerning my father has reached me from Australia via the Internet.

It’s twenty-one years since my father died and during the past year many whom he knew have also passed on. Brother Joseph Quinn, the last Superior of the Christian Brothers in Athy died in Dublin and his funeral brought together past pupils from Athy, Tuam and elsewhere to remember a gentle giant of a man whose love for Gaelic football endeared him to everyone he came in contact with. Another man whose advice and friendship I valued was Tadgh Brennan. He passed away during the summer and in his passing Athy lost another link with the Social Club players of the 1940’s and the great local football team of 1942. Unfortunately the Eye on the Past which I had penned to reflect my admiration and respect for Tadgh was rather sadly strangulated in the printing by an excessive amount of typographical errors. Such problems I’m sure you’re glad to hear are now in the past as my copy can now reach the Editor’s desk and presumably the printed page exactly as it leaves my computer.

The past summer also witnessed the final stages in the towns remembrance of James McNally who had served the community as Sacristan in St. Michael’s Church for over sixty years from 1897. Some years ago I drew attention to the absence of a gravestone over the last resting place of this fine man who died over thirty years ago. Last August a group of sixty or seventy huddled together under umbrellas as the incessant rain beat down on the hollowed ground of St. Michael’s mediaeval cemetery. I had joined former neighbours of James McNally and members of his extended family as Fr. Tommy Tuohy, formerly of Offaly Street blessed a recently erected gravestone commemorating James. Fr. Tommy like myself served Mass in St. Michael’s Church when James McNally was Sacristan. Strangely the man who received the Papal Medal “Bene Meretti” in 1953 for services to the Catholic Church was not privileged to have any member of the local Clergy at his graveside during the blessing by Fr. Tommy.

A review of the last six months articles would not be possible without reference to the Inner Relief Road controversy which conspired to fill many Eyes in the Past during the year. Following the local elections I noted that the road plans for Athy had obviously determined the outcome of the summer elections. Like many others I was very happy after the election results were announced, particularly as the issue which the locals had before them was in danger of being side lined two weeks previously. Then the Local Government officials who in the past had shown little stomach for public debate on the issue sought to have the Town Development Plan adopted by the outgoing Council. Indeed you may remember that despite the changes brought about in the composition of the Urban Council following the election, those same officials arranged for the outgoing Councillors to meet three days after the election to adopt the Development Plan and of course the plans for the Inner Relief Road. The High Court saw fit to put an end to these shenanigans and I was prompted to note “democracy has prevailed ….. the people of Athy have spoken with a clarity which deserves to be listened to.”

Unfortunately events since have shown how fickle is human nature and how vulnerable is the human condition which relies on honour. Public accountability is one of the by words of the 19900’s but I’m afraid that in Athy we have yet to reap the fruits of the open society which cherishes and nurtures the twin aspirations of transparency and accountability.

Take heart, the New Year may bring a welcome change. Happy New Year to everyone.

Thursday, December 2, 1999

Review of the Year

As we career towards the end of the second Millennium I will take the opportunity of looking back over the past year as captured in the weekly Eye on the Past. The first week of the new year saw my pen take up, not for the first or last time, the subject which exercised many minds during the year. I refer of course to the controversy concerning the Inner Relief Road. Just twelve months ago I mentioned the Government Report on Local Government in Ireland which emphasised the need for local communities to be fully involved in influencing major decisions by public representatives. Strange to relate that only this week the much criticised Councillors on Athy Urban District Council agreed by a majority vote to disregard the locals’ call for a plebiscite on the issue ….. more about that again!

January 1999 saw the passing of an old IRA man, Jack MacKenna of Castledermot and as we witnessed possibly the last old IRA funeral in these parts I recalled the days of the Graney Ambush. “The volleys fired over the coffined remains of Jack MacKenna echoed across the countryside which had once resonated to the sound of ambush fire during the Irish Civil War. The date was October 24th, 1922 and the fratricidal war which gripped the Irish countryside was to have three more young martyrs before the evening shadows lengthened over the Graney countryside”. I expressed the hope that the older generation like Jack MacKenna whose lot was the hungry ‘30’s and ‘40’s would never be forgotten for the part they played in building the Ireland of today.

A February journey in two parts through St. Michael’s Graveyard was the focus for further forays into local history. The Scottish Presbyterian families who settled in South Kildare from the 1850’s onwards were mentioned for the cultural and religious diversity which they brought with them and with which they enriched this area. The tombstones in St. Michael’s Old Cemetery tell the stories of the different families involved in the migration from Pertshire in Scotland to this country. The second part of the St. Michael’s cemetery article was postponed for a week to facilitate an article on the then man of the moment Patrick Shaffrey, Architect. Shaffrey was and may still be employed by Kildare County Council to sweeten the “bitter pill” of the Inner Relief Road. His first attempts at this exercise early in the year were not so successful but having retreated, regrouped and recharged his batteries and his answers he came across somewhat better in some circles at least towards the end of the year. This was the same man who some years ago wrote a book on Irish towns which included such unforgettable passages as:- “By far the most satisfactory way to resolve traffic problems is to provide for a by-pass”. How about this for another Shaffeyian nugget:- “In the smaller towns the need for a by-pass is equally pressing from the environmental point of view”. No doubt Mr. Shaffrey we shall have reason to revisit again the views you once held with such passion.

The Luggacurran evictions were the subject of an article in March when I asked without success for the present whereabouts of the Athy Land League flag which was last known to have been in the possession of Peter P. Doyle of Woodstock Street in or about 1948. The flag had on once side a portrait of Charles Stewart Parnell and on the reverse the words “United we Stand, Divided we Fall”. Maybe second time around someone, somewhere might throw light on the subject.

A centenary noted in my Articles, even if not otherwise celebrated in Athy, was the setting up of the Urban District Council in 1899. It’s predecessors included a Town Commission which held it’s first meeting on 16th June, 1856. It’s functions were of a most rudimentary nature compared to those of the current Council. It provided lime for whitewashing the homes of the poor, maintained the towns water pumps and weighing scales and paved the footpaths. How different from the Local Authority today which presides over the towns affairs with a wide ranging and comprehensive list of functions all geared to improving the life of the local people.

One of the early overseas visitors to Athy in 1999 was Marguerita Germaine of Florida, formerly an Orford of Foxhill House and later still of 10 Woodstock Street, Athy. Then aged 77 years she travelled to Foxhill House to meet it’s present owners Mr. and Mrs. Gerry Moloney and there recalled her childhood which she did with remarkable clarity. There are no members of the Orford family now living in Athy, yet almost 70 years after her father sold the Foxhill farm Mrs. Germaine recalled with uncanny accuracy the names of people and places of her childhood.

“Who by Fire”, the remarkable new work by John MacKenna which opened to full houses in April was the theatrical highlight of the year in Athy. Just a week before the play opened I had visited Terezin, near the Czech border with Germany, which had been a holding camp for Jews during World War II. My subsequent viewing of “Who by Fire” dealing as it did with the horrors of Auschwitz Concentration Camp evoked in me a response similar to that experienced when I interviewed Zolton Zinn Collis some years ago. I shall never forget his description of how as a young boy he watched his distraught mother resisting a German soldier’s attempt to wrest her dead child from her arms during a stopover on a train journey to Belsen. John MacKenna’s play which he directed himself was a moving and compelling theatrical experience.

It was in mid-April also that I wrote of memoirs privately printed and penned by a daughter of Rev. Thomas Kelly of Ballintubbert which gave me a rare insight into the character of this most remarkable man. Remembered in our local Heritage Centre, Kelly who died in 1855, continues to excite interest in this narrator at least. Another man still very much alive and whom I and many others have had an interest for some time is Mick Carolan, a sporting hero of Gaelic Football in County Kildare. Mick was the subject of an article following his retirement from the Garda Siochana in May. Away from the football field he went on to make a huge impact in his job as a Garda and within the community of Clondalkin where he lived for many years. Sporting success was also noted when Frank Boyce and his team mates on Athy Badminton’s Team brought home the All Ireland Title following their success in Galway in mid-May. At the same time the local St. Michael’s Boxing Club recorded 17 Kildare titles, 9 Leinster title and a plethora of other Boxing titles at provincial and club level. The Club established under the leadership of Dom O’Rourke has had remarkable success over recent years and every year goes from strength to strength.

For the first time in over six years the Eye on the Past did not appear for two weeks leading up to the local elections in June. I knew nothing of it’s absence until on opening the Nationalist found that the space occupied by yours truly was instead playing host to the advertising charms of the local Labour candidates. Clever stroke I said to myself - get your ad. into the best position in the Newspaper while at the same time dislodging the incumbent in case he should give vent to further outbursts on the Inner Relief Road which might prove embarrassing to those whose features now grace the page instead. Perish the thought, such Machiavellian schemes would never penetrate the inner regions of a political mind!

Writing of Machiavellian plots, let me conclude this weeks roundup of the first six months of the year by mentioning last weeks shenanigans in the local Council Chambers. The call for a Plebiscite would seem to have come unstuck [for a while at least] on the strength of a recommendation by an official whose library of Local Government law does not appear to extend beyond 1990. What also are we to make of the other man who changed his mind not once, but twice, and by so doing turned his back on the poor sods who took him at his word and elected him on a Plebiscite platform only five months ago. You live and learn.