Monday, June 25, 2018
Athy, once the largest town in County Kildare, was a thriving commercial centre even in the most difficult economic times of the 19th century. As the brick making industry developed in this area, Athy benefitted from a secondary industrial and commercial spinoff which owed its existence in large to the strong agricultural economy of the surrounding district. The entrepreneurial confidence which supported the continuing economic well being of Athy was undoubtedly similar to that evidenced in the life of a man of a later generation – Henry Hosie of Coursetown. Hosie, who was born in 1891, served in the British Army when commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the Army Service Corps on the outbreak of World War I. He served in France until invalided out in 1916 and served out the rest of the war as officer based in Scotland. On being demobbed, having reached the rank of Captain, Hosie joined the local firm of Duthie Larges, then the largest employer of men in the south Kildare area. Early in the 1920s (exact date not yet known) Hosie set up the Picture Palace company and opened a cinema in Offaly Street. It was the first of several commercial ventures in which Henry Hosie was to be involved over the years. In 1929, in conjunction with Fred Thompson of Carlow, Hosie formed the company ‘Industrial Vehicles Ireland Ltd.’ known to all of us as I.V.I. Ltd. The Irish Times of September 1929 detailed the company’s activities as Fordson tractor dealers and trailer manufacturers. In 1932 Henry Hosie was a member of the Irish Aero Club and that same year his company was appointed agent in Ireland for the de Havilland aircraft company of England. He was responsible for organising in conjunction with the Aero Club what was described as a flying pageant held in a field at Cardenton owned by the Minches in August 1932. Three aircraft took part in the event and the Kildare Observer reported ‘an amusing and exciting interlude when an old woman was seen to enter one of the planes and while the pilot (Capt Hosie) was getting his helmet adjusted, the machine was seen to stagger across the field and rise off the ground, missing the hedge by inches. The spectators were then treated to an exhibition of crazy flying and after one or two attempts, the machine was brought back to terra firma.’ The following March Hosie wrote from Athy to the Department of Industry and Commerce seeking use of the abandoned aerodrome at Collinstown as the Midland and Scottish Air Ferries Company which he represented was negotiating to operate commercial flights from Ireland. Throughout 1933 Hosie was often mentioned in the national press in connection with his representation on behalf of the Scottish company to use the aerodrome at Cork. In July 1933 the Irish Independent reported that Henry Hosie was instrumental in completing the arrangements for the Midland and Scottish Company to operate twice daily flights from Cork to Dublin with links to Britain. That service started on 15th August 1933 with flights between Baldonnell and Hooton. Hosie who was the initiator of the early attempts to operate an airline service in Ireland now found that the Department of Industry and Commerce had taken up the idea. Their initial step was to write to the general manager of the Great Southern Railways inviting the railway company to utilise its powers under the Railway Act 1933 to operate an airline service between Ireland and Great Britain. While the British mainline railways had similar powers since 1929 and had just started to use them, the Irish rail company decided not to enter the airline business. Henry Hosie as representative in Ireland for the Midland and Scottish Air Ferries was still pressing the company’s case to operate an Irish airline service but by January 1934 the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Sean Lemass, had four different applications to provide the service. The national press reported on 30th September 1934 that a new company, Aer Lingus Eireann Teo., was formed to begin early in the new year daily flights between Dublin and Croydon. In fact the Aer Lingus service started in May 1936 with flights between Dublin and Bristol. Henry Hosie, one of the pioneers of Irish commercial air travel was not part of the new venture. With the ending of Hosie’s involvement in the early years of Irish aviation he concentrated on developing his business in Athy. In November 1934 the press reported Hosie’s plans to open a factory at the rear of his existing premises for the manufacture of rain water goods. Hosie is reported as saying ‘Athy wants an industry so we decided to give them one.’ Hosie’s new factory was officially opened on 22nd March 1935 when his wife Laura started the furnace in what became known as the I.V.I. Foundry. The story of the I.V.I. Foundry is for another day but those early years of Henry Hosie’s business involvement gives some flavour of the entrepreneurial skills which Athy so badly needs today. Much of the material for this article comes courtesy of John King of London who came across a previous Eye on the Past and my request for information on Henry Hosie. John, who was initially researching Irish transport, particularly air transport, followed up on my request having come across many references to Henry Hosie and shared his work with me.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
One of the leading hymn writers of the 19th century was Thomas Kelly who was born on 13th July 1769 and died 86 years later in Dublin. The only son of High Court Judge Thomas Kelly of Kellyville, he was educated in a private school in Portarlington and at Trinity College Dublin from where he entered the Middle Temple in London to train as a lawyer. While in London he fell under the influence of William Romaine, then one of the more fearless evangelical preachers who is now accepted as the strongest figure among 18th century evangelists. Kelly gave up his legal studies and proceeded to take Holy Orders, being ordained in 1792. Little is known of his early church career, but he was noted in the last decade of the 18th century as preaching in St. Luke’s Dublin. Kelly’s evangelical zeal attracted ever increasing audiences but also the attention of the Rector of St. Luke’s who objected to his ‘Methodist activities’. Within Thomas Kelly’s circle of friends and acquaintances were John Walker and John Nelson Darby, two clerics of the Established Church who like Kelly were powerful and popular preachers. It was their misfortune that the Archbishop of Dublin was Robert Fowler who had a particular dislike for evangelicals and dissenters. Thomas Kelly and his colleagues were prohibited by the Archbishop from preaching in any church in the Dublin Diocese. As a consequence Walker seceded from the Established Church and founded the Walkerites, a Dublin based religious sect which were last noted in Dublin in the 1940s. John Nelson Darby went on to found the Plymouth Brethren. Thomas Kelly, despite Archbishop Fowler’s withdrawal of facilities, continued to preach in unconsecrated buildings in Dublin, notably the Bethesda Chapel in Dorset Street, Dublin. Kelly returned to Athy where there was a recently formed Methodist congregation which shared services with the Established Church in the Parish Church in Emily Square. He preached in that church before returning to Blackrock, Co. Dublin. In time he seceded from the church in which he was ordained and formed his own group called the Kellyites. Being a man of wealth, he opened Kellyite churches in Athy, Portarlington, Wexford and Blackrock, Co. Dublin. It was around this time that he married Elizabeth Tighe of Rosanna, Co. Wicklow, whose mother was a friend of John Wesley and whose brother Rev. Thomas Tighe of Dromore Diocese was one of the earliest leaders of the Irish evangelical movement. The Kellyites were to remain a small yet active group outside the main stream of the Established Church for the next fifty years or so. The Athy meeting house was located at the rear of No. 5 Duke Street with the entrance approached through the archway between No. 5 and the adjoining premises. A letter of 1807 refers to the Blackrock Kellyites ‘being divided’, and seven years later the Blackrock meeting house was sold. In the meantime Thomas Kelly, now living in Kellyville, concentrated his attention on the Athy Kellyites who continued as a vibrant congregation for several decades. Church returns for 1834 indicate that the Kellyites, numbering 30 or 40, met every Sunday for prayers in their Duke Street meeting house. The 1844/’45 Parliamentary Gazette shows the meeting house was still in use. Thomas Kelly was described 14 years after his death as: ‘a man of great and varied learning ..... and an excellent bible critic. possessed also of musical talent and published work that was received with favour .....’ Today Thomas Kelly is remembered mainly as a hymn writer. In 1802 Kelly published a ‘Collection of Psalms and hymns by various authors’ containing 33 hymns. New editions of his hymns were published in 1806, 1809, 1826 and 1836, all containing hymns written by himself. The last edition of Thomas Kelly’s hymns published in 1853, two years before his death, included 765 hymns. On his retirement Kelly went to live with his son-in-law Rev. William Wingfield in Kingstown [now Dun Laoghaire]. An occasional preacher even in old age, he suffered a stroke in 1854. Described by R.S. Brooke as a man ‘with catholic spirit and a love for all good men’, Rev. Thomas Kelly passed away on 14th May 1855 at the age of 86 years. The following year the Duke Street premises which had housed the Kellyite meeting place was sold. The small religious group which had remained apart from the Established Church for almost 50 years went out of existence and many of the former Kellyites joined the Established Church or the Methodist Church.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
On 25th March 1800 a proclamation issued from Dublin Castle offering a reward for the apprehension of the arsonist who had set fire to the Catholic Church in Athy. ‘Whereas information upon oath has been made before us, that on the night of Friday the 7th or early on the morning of Saturday the 8th day of March inst. the Roman Catholic chapel in the parish of St. Michael, in the town of Athy, and County of Kildare was set fire to and burned by some evil minded person or persons unknown.’ The proclamation went on to offer a reward of one hundred pounds sterling to any person who within the following six months ‘discovered the person or persons concerned in setting fire to the said chapel, so that they may be apprehended and convicted.’ The thatched church, located in Chapel Lane, had served the Catholics of Athy since about 1750. About 30 years ago I discovered what I believe was the remains of the Church which was then incorporated into the extensive garage forming part of the Duthie Large business premises. The building has since been demolished and the church site now forms part of the car park at the rear of Maddens Pharmacy. Shortly after the publication of the Dublin Castle Proclamation Timothy Sullivan, a soldier attached to the South Militia, informed his militia officers, Major Hennis and Captain Langston of an alleged conspiracy which subsequently formed the basis of a deposition he swore before a local magistrate. In that deposition dated 9th April 1800 Sullivan stated he was on guard duty at a gate next to Mrs. Dowley’s house on the night the chapel was burned. He was later approached by James Noud to swear information against John McKeon, a soldier of the South Cork Regiment and two yeomen, John Drill and John Willock claiming that they had set fire to the chapel. He further claimed that Fr. Patrick Kelly and Thomas Fitzpatrick of Geraldine also approached him offering money to swear information against the earlier mentioned soldiers. Fr. Kelly was the same man who in May 1798 accompanied the seven young men who having been imprisoned in Whites Castle jail were taken from there to be hanged in what was later called ‘Croppy’s Acre’ near the Grand Canal. The men were marched over Crom a Boo bridge accompanied by members of the Waterford Militia and as they did so they were required to pass under a triumphal arch erected on the bridge by Athy Loyalists. Patrick O’Kelly in his account of the events of that time described how Fr. Kelly tore down an orange flag which was on the arch but there was no reaction from the militia members whose rank and file members were Catholics. The information sworn two years later by Timothy Sullivan implicated not only Fr. Kelly but also a number of other local men whom it was alleged were ‘actively employed in engaging large numbers to be prepared for a public rising on 27th April, when they expected French assistance.’ Following these allegations local men Patrick Dooley, Joseph Hendrecon and James Noud were arrested and lodged in the Whites Castle jail. On 2nd May an informer swore information implicating more local men in the planning of an uprising. Those named included Terence O’Toole of Fontstown, Cornelius Moore of Gurteen and Thomas Fitzgerald of Geraldine. What eventually happened to the prisoners and those subsequently named is not known. Thomas Fitzgerald later accused Drill, Willock and McKeon of burning the Catholic Church. Drill and Willock were arrested on foot of Fitzgerald’s accusations but were subsequently released when Fitzgerald did not press his claim. Both men then sued Fitzgerald for defamation, the outcome of which is not known. The priest in charge of St. Michaels during this time was Fr. Maurice Keegan who has the distinction of being the longest serving Parish Priest of the parish. He served as the Parish Priest from 1789 to 1825 having earlier served as curate in St. Michaels for 7 years from 1780. Fr. Keegan who was made a Canon in 1821 lodged a compensation claim with Dublin Castle authorities for the loss of the Church. The sum of £300 was awarded but eight years were to pass before the new Church was built on a site donated by the Duke of Leinster. That new Church was built using not only the compensation of £300 but also an additional £1,700 collected locally. Canon Maurice Keegan, who died on 6th October 1825, availed of a neighbouring malt house owned by Mrs. P. Dowley to celebrate Mass until that building was also torched. Thereafter no other suitable building could be obtained in Athy to serve as a church other than a hay barn which served the needs of the local Catholics for a short while. Later a Catholic army officer stationed in the local cavalry barracks arranged for a canopy to be erected on the site of the Town Hall and under that canopy a temporary altar was provided each Sunday. Open air Mass continued to be celebrated there each Sunday until the new Church was opened in 1808.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
One of the many hidden stories from Athy’s past is the part played by local men and women, many now forgotten, in the development of the Republican Movement following the 1916 Rising. Athy and South Kildare, in the aftermath of the retribution imposed on the local population during and after the 1798 Rebellion, was unlikely ever again to be a centre of rebellion against English rule. The granting of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 as a measure to forestall the possibility of further rebellion no doubt offered further inducement in that regard. The Fenian Rising of 1867 made no impact on the South Kildare region and the rise of a Catholic middle class largely comprised of shopkeepers and publicans saw commercial success rather than national sovereignty as a common objective. At the same time the labourers living in squalid conditions in the courts and alleyways of the town and for the most part unemployed, were more concerned with family needs than issues of nationhood or sovereignty. The drift to war culminating in the declaration of war on 4th August 1914 was received with enthusiasm in every Irish town and village. The work of Arthur Griffith and the Gaelic League was then just a few years in being and had yet to overtake the Irish Parliamentary party’s role in leading the drive for some form of parliamentary independence for Ireland. Here in Athy civic leaders such as M.J. Minch, then Chairman of Kildare County Council, the members of Athy Urban District Council and the local parish priest, Canon Edward Mackey, encouraged the young men of the town and surrounding district to join the British Army to fight for the rights of small nations. It was a call answered with enthusiasm which when examined after the elapse of 100 years raises questions as to why did young men from Athy and district enlist in such large numbers to fight overseas. For young men born in the town which had traditionally been home to garrison troops for several centuries the culture of soldiering for a living was an accepted way of life. Even when parts of the country broke out in rebellion in 1798 the English Army and Navy had amongst their ranks many men from Athy and South Kildare. The tradition of soldiering was to continue during the Crimean War, the Zulu wars and the Boer wars. It was a tradition which offered a meaningful role in life for young men who faced perennial unemployment at home and who lived amongst the widespread poverty which marked Irish provincial town life of the 19th century. It was against this backdrop of English military involvement stretching back many years that the rising tide of nationalism began to harness support in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Here in Athy the public support for the World War I effort so obvious during the first year of the war began to wane as the casualty numbers mounted up. The local church and civic leaders enthusiasm for sending young men to fight overseas continued apace but despite this a build-up of support for Irish nationalist ideals lead by school teacher J.J. O’Byrne and others emerged. That support came from men and women, some of whom we have been able to identify such as Eamon Malone, Bapty Maher, Joe May and the Hayden brothers of Offaly Street. The role of the Christian Brothers in shaping the nationalist outlook of these men who had attended the local school in St. John’s Lane cannot be underestimated. The arrival of the Christian Brothers in Athy in 1852 to open a school was, I believe, a pivotal moment in the gradual re-awakening of what would in time become the local men’s drive for Irish independence. One family which gave sterling service to the Irish Republican cause were the O’Rourkes of the packing stables at the Grand Canal harbour. Brothers Michael, Thomas, James, Frank, Joe and Dinny were members of the local I.R.A. company. Michael O’Rourke, a Grand Canal company employee, was captain of the A Company 5th Battalion Carlow Kildare Brigade. During the subsequent Civil War Michael O’Rourke and his brother Jim were interned in the Curragh. Their story and that of the many other men and women from Athy involved in the War of Independence have begun to emerge with the release of military pension records. One man who has researched the O’Rourke family’s involvement in the Irish War of Independence is Michael Fox of Dublin. A grandson of the O’Rourke brothers’ sister Elizabeth, sometime ago he published a short account of the O’Rourke brothers’ involvement in the independent movement under the title ‘To Stem the Flowing Tide’. Michael Fox has now offered to present the O’Rourke I.R.A. veteran medals to Athy Heritage Centre. The presentation will take place on Thursday 7th June at 7.30 p.m. in the Heritage Centre during which there will be a talk delivered on Athy’s involvement in the Irish War of Independence and the involvement of the O’Rourke brothers.