Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Market rights in Athy

When the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the state of the Fairs and Markets in Ireland held its hearing in Athy on 18th December 1852 the Town Clerk, Henry Sheil, came before the Commissioners to provide information on the market rights in Athy. He explained that the Charter granted in 1515 by the English King, Henry VIII, allowed the Town Provost and the inhabitants of Athy to hold markets on Tuesday and Saturday each week in the town in a place decided by Gerald, Earl of Kildare. His claim of a Saturday market ‘as provided in the Charter’ was incorrect. However, it is likely that the holding of an unauthorised market on Saturdays had developed over the years. During the 18th century the market square was identified as the area immediately in front of the Town Hall which had been built in or about 1720. Immediately behind the Town Hall was St. Michael’s Church which was demolished following the building of a new St. Michael’s Church at the top of Offaly Street in 1840. The area between the old church and the nearby River Barrow during the 1700s was marshland. This would tend to indicate that the place decided by the Earl of Kildare for exercise of the market right was the front square which is shortly to be the subject of a planned re-development by Kildare County Council. The market rights have been exercised since they were first granted over five hundred years ago and even if not continuously used could not, as common law rights, be extinguished. However, since the passing of the Casual Trading Act of 1995 Kildare Co. Co. as successor to Athy Borough Council and Athy Urban District Council can pass bylaws to regulate the market. Regulation in that context includes limiting the size of the market, extinguishing the existing market rights and relocating the market if necessary. I have for years advocated for the local Council to regulate Athy’s market so as to make it more attractive for locals and visitors alike. In a previous Eye on the Past I wrote of my experience on a visit to the local market in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex. There I discovered that market stands and canopies were provided by the local Council whose workers set them up in preparation for the market. Market traders rented the stalls from the Council and the Council ensured that the marketplace was free of parked cars and traffic on the day of the market. Incidentally, Athy’s market square never included Barrow Quay to where the current market has extended and on the basis of the available evidence regarding building layout the area designated by the Earl of Kildare as Athy’s marketplace is unlikely to have included what we now call the back Square. However, it is also clear that the back Square has been used for various markets including the Tuesday market since the demolition of the Church. If Kildare County Council decides to regulate the Tuesday market it will have to provide alternative market facilities for traders whether it is to be Emily Square, the back Square or Barrow Quay. It could reasonably decide to designate the two squares and Barrow Quay as the marketplace under new market regulations. Any such plans should take account of the Council’s proposed redevelopment of Emily Square to ensure that any services required for market trading can be installed during the redevelopment work. The regeneration of the town’s centre requires the Council to take action sooner rather than later to improve the appearance of the Tuesday market. Passing through the market last week it had all the appearance of a tatty and unwelcoming market. The regeneration of Athy’s town centre requires action on many fronts and improving the appearance and quality of the Tuesday market is one action which Kildare County Council can and should immediately undertake. Two weeks ago I mentioned the late Eddie Tubridy as designer of the wall surrounding the GAA pitch on the Dublin Road. The late Fintan Brennan was the source of my information but since then two readers brought to my attention the claim of the late Andy Owens to be regarded as the wall’s designer. Andy was a student of Eddie Tubridys in the Technical School when Eddie offered his class students a prize for the best design for the proposed GAA wall. Andy won the prize and I am told that his drawing was the design used during the construction of the wall. I have just received notice of the death of Peter Behan, Professor Emeritus of Neurology, University of Glasgow who passed away on 31st August 2019. Peter was a former pupil of Athy C.B.S. and a native of St. Joseph’s Terrace. I have written previously of Peter and the Behan family and Peter’s name must be added to the illustrious list of past pupils of Athy’s Christian Brothers school.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Athy's Technical Schools

Those of us who remember the Catholic Young Men’s Society premises at the corner of Stanhope Street and Stanhope Place which was demolished in the early 1960s to make way for the building of St. Michael’s Church may not have been aware of its early history as the first technical school in Athy. The Technical Instruction Act of 1889 empowered local authorities to provide technical instruction which was to be financed by the imposition of a penny on the local authority rates. Athy Town Commissioners did not exercise its power under the Act. Athy Urban District Council which held its first meeting on 7th April 1900 later agreed to provide technical instruction facilities in the town. A Technical Instruction Committee was established by the Council members and the local Press reported on 8th March 1902 that the County Kildare Technical Instruction Committee meeting in Naas agreed that a building was to be rented in Athy for technical instruction at an annual rent of £25.00. The building referred to is believed to have been previously used by the Sisters of Mercy as a girl’s school. The first technical instruction classes provided in Athy were apparently drawing classes attended by 25 students in the afternoon and evening classes held in the Christian Brothers School which were attended by about 20 students. It would appear that the afternoon classes and the evening classes were held in different buildings. The Post office Guide for 1910 gave us the first confirmation that the Technical School’s address was Stanhope Place. The school secretary was named as Mr. Favelle. Early in 1917 Athy’s Technical School was recognised as a sub depot for the Irish Hospital Supplies Depot which had been established in December 1915 to provide medical appliances for military hospitals in France and England. Every evening students and local volunteers were encouraged to attend the Technical School to assist in making crutches, bed rests, leg rests, splints and other items needed by soldiers injured during the 1914/1918 war. Herbert Painting was in charge of Athy’s Technical School in those early years. He was officially noted as the Vice Principal, while the principalship of the entire county of Kildare was held by John Hassall who was based in Naas. Painting, who was a teacher of art in the local school, made the mould from which the Garda Siochana plaque which was placed over the entrance door of every Garda Barracks was cast by the local firm of Duthie Larges. The Garda Siochana crest was designed by John Francis Maxwell, an art teacher in the Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire Technical School and was worn as a cap badge for the first time by new Gardai at the funeral of Arthur Griffith on 12th August 1922. The Vocational Education Act 1930 which provided for education through the medium of subjects directly related to the workplace brought about the establishment of county vocational educational committees. The newly appointed Kildare V.E.C. initially continued to provide only evening classes in Athy. The opening of the V.E.C.’s school on the Carlow Road in 1940 allowed the V.E.C. to provide, for the first-time, full-time technical education in the town. The new school called St. Brigids, built by the local building contractors D. & J. Carbery, was officially opened by the Minister for Education Thomas O’Deirig and blessed by the local Parish Priest Archdeacon McDonnell. The first principal of the school was Mr. T.C. Walsh who presided over an education programme for boys and girls over 14 years of age which for boys included woodwork and metalwork and for girl’s cookery and needlework. Tom McDonnell, followed T.C. Walsh as principal in 1950 and he oversaw the introduction of the Intermediate Certificate Examination in the school in 1966 and two years later the Leaving Certificate Examination. Nicholas Walsh was Acting Principal for a while following Tom McDonnell’s death and in 1976 John Doyle was appointed principal. John, who remained in that position for 17 years, saw the successful transition from a ‘Technical’ school and in that his successor, Richard Daly, appointed in 1993 also played a major part. When first opened St. Brigid’s School had 40 students but soon increasing student numbers necessitated the provision of prefabricated classrooms and the building of an extension to the original school building in 1963/’64. A further building extension was required in the early 1980s which was officially opened by the Minister for Education Mary O’Rourke. By then the student number had increased to about 400 and subsequent student increases warranted the construction of a new school on a green field site at Rathstewart which was officially opened in 2010 by the Minister for Education, Mary Coughlan. Located on a 25 acre education campus the new St. Brigid’s School, now named Athy Community College, was recently awarded School of Distinction status by Trinity College Dublin. On Thursday 23rd January the Community College will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the opening of St. Brigid’s School Teachers and pupils alike, past and present, deserve great praise for the success which has marked the school’s past 80 years.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

John W. Kehoe

At an Athy Urban District Council meeting in November 1969 the local Councillors discussed a press report of the Councillors’ previous criticism of the failure of the County Kildare GAA Board to secure more intercounty games for Geraldine Park, Athy. During the discussion in which Enda Kinsella, Frank English and Tom Carbery participated Michael Rowan, better known to all as ‘Rexie Rowan’, suggested that the GAA grounds should be called ‘the John W. Kehoe grounds in honour of the man who brought the grounds up to their present excellent condition.’ John W. Kehoe owned a pub in Offaly Street which he purchased with his brother Harry from Tom Dowling in 1947. John W. was elected chairman of the Geraldine Park Grounds Committee in 1954 following the retirement of the previous long serving chairman, Fintan Brennan. It is claimed that Geraldine Park was the first GAA grounds in the country to be fully enclosed, in its case by a wooden paling. The local GAA club’s efforts in that regard were rewarded when Geraldine Park was chosen as the venue for the 1907 All Ireland Football Final between Dublin and Cork. It was later chosen for the All Ireland Hurling Final between Tipperary and Dublin played on 27th June 1909. Geraldine Park and Athy Gaelic Football Club went through difficult times during the following decades but yet the club members managed to carry out various improvements to the park to ensure its suitability for intercounty games. One major project was the levelling of the playing pitch and the installation of a drainage system all enclosed by retaining walls built to pitch level. That work commenced in December 1949 undertaken by Tom Fleming and was completed in time for the grounds to be reopened on 10th June 1951. When John W. Kehoe took over chairmanship of the Geraldine Park Grounds Committee there was an urgent need for dressing rooms, while the roadside fencing was unsightly and defective. John W. set about the task of improving Geraldine Park with energy and imagination. I think it was in the summer of 1957 that John W. first organised a nationwide draw. He toured the country during the summer months with helpers selling tickets for what was then a unique prize of a Hillman car and a caravan. While being toured around the country the car clocked up many miles, while the caravan provided living accommodation for John W. and the ticket sellers who were generally away from Athy for three weeks at a time. I was one of those ticket sellers for three years (if I remember correctly) between 1958 and 1960 spending my summer school holidays travelling the highways and byways of the 26 counties. I do however remember that I developed a lifelong hatred of beans after a daily diet of same during our travels. The singing of Bridie Gallagher announced our arrival in every town and village as John W. slowly drove the car and caravan with loudspeakers aloft, while the ticket sellers knocked on every door and visited every shop on both sides of the streets. Athy Gaelic Football Club became in those years the best known GAA Club in the country as a result of John W.’s countrywide draw promotion. As a result of my journeys over the years with John W. I got to know every town and village south of a line between Westport and Dundalk and to view parts of Ireland seldom seen by many others. John W. Kehoe devoted at least six months of every year to the Athy GAA draw, thereby providing badly needed funds for the Athy Club’s grounds. The funds collected as a result of his energy and dedication were utilised to build new dressing rooms and to construct a new boundary wall fronting on to the Dublin Road. Eddie Tubridy, who was then a teacher in the local Vocational School, was responsible for the design of the boundary wall which drew very favourable comments from the Tidy Towns inspectors in the year following its erection. John W. Kehoe retired from business in 1966 and he later moved to Ballaghmore between Borris-in-Ossory and Roscrea where he opened a bar and restaurant business called ‘The Highway Inn’. He died on 11th December 1974 and is buried with his wife Mary in the local cemetery in Ballaghmore. John W. was but one of many individuals who over the years since the founding of Athy’s GAA club contributed hugely to the development of Geraldine Park. The publican from Offaly Street made a huge personal commitment, assisted by many others on the Geraldine Park Grounds Committee, including my own father who was for several years the Grounds Committee treasurer. Every time I pass what I still call Kehoe’s pub in Offaly Street I remember with fondness the man who during his years in Athy did so much for Athy Gaelic Football Club and Athy’s Geraldine Park.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Garda Commissioner Patrick Carroll / Johnny Mulhall

Solicitors of a certain age were once familiar with the Garda Siochana Guide, a solid reference book of law relating to practice in the District Courts. It was first published in 1934 and ran to several additions but in more recent years it has been overtaken and replaced by a wide variety of legal textbooks dealing with every aspect of District Court practice. The Guide was written by a member of the Garda Siochana who had attended secondary school in Athy’s Christian Brothers. Patrick Carroll, a native of Ballyrider, a small townland between Vicarstown and Stradbally, joined the army as a cadet in 1922 and was literally headhunted by Garda headquarters to join the Gardai which he did on 15th June 1923. It was quite a common practice for Garda headquarters in the early days of the formation of the new police force to seek out suitable candidates and invite them to join the force. The early 1920s were extraordinary times and yet Patrick Carroll’s promotion to the rank of Garda Superintendent at the age of 21 was an unusual, if not a unique promotion. Appointed District Officer in Waterford he served there until he transferred to Garda headquarters as a Police Instructor in August 1925. He later attended the Kings Inns and qualified as a barrister in 1932. Four years later he was promoted to the rank of Chief Superintendent and in 1937 he was put in control of the traffic branch in Garda headquarters. In that role he was responsible for the various regulations prepared for the Minister under the 1933 Road Traffic Act. During the years of World War II he was head of the Special Branch in charge of crime and oversaw the Garda surveillance of I.R.A. members and German spies who were actively cooperating with each other at that time. In 1959 the man from the Laois/Kildare border area was appointed Divisional Officer in charge of Dublin/Wicklow division. Two years later he returned to Garda Headquarters as Deputy Commissioner and in January 1967 he reached the highest rank in the Garda on being appointed the Garda Commissioner by the government. During his Garda career Patrick Carroll was actively involved with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association and became Vice President of that body. In recent years another past pupil of Athy Christian Brothers, Dominic O’Rourke, headed up the Irish Amateur Boxing Association as President. Patrick Carroll was also secretary of the Irish Olympic Council and during his period of office attended Olympic Games in London, Helsinki, Rome and Tokyo. When interviewed soon after his appointment as Garda Commissioner Patrick Carroll acknowledged the important benefits of the education he received in Athy Christian Brothers School from 1916-1920. He cycled to school every morning a distance of approximately 8 miles, meeting his school pals Eddie Whelan and Michael Keenan at Ballkilcava Cross. School teachers he recalled in Athy in the years following the 1916 Rising included a Mr. Frayne and Brother Berchmans O’Neill, the Christian Brother Superior. Many successful and not so successful men passed through the classrooms of Athy Christian Brothers School. The more successful included at least two national newspaper editors, the former head of RTE News, the present head of a government department as well as the former Chief Executive of a semi state organisation and at least three county managers. I was not aware until this week that a Garda Commissioner could be added to that illustrious list of former pupils of Athy’s Christian Brothers School. A former Christian Brother pupil with whom I shared the same classrooms for several years passed away recently in England. The remains of Johnny Mulhall were brought back to Athy to be buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery in accordance with his wishes. Regretfully his funeral took place before I was aware of his death and so missed the opportunity of paying my respects to a former school mate. Another former Christian Brothers student still happy with us recently celebrated his 88th birthday. Ed Conway is the happy celebrant whom I have often chided for leaving Athy Gaelic Football Club to join our neighbour and great football rivals, Castlemitchell, during the best of his footballing years. With his departure Athy lost a very good footballer who later togged out with the Kildare senior county team before he took the emigrant boat to England. Congratulations are also due to another former C.B.S. pupil, Army Officer Cathal English who at 42 years of age has recently been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Athy Christian Brothers School holds memories, some good, some bad for those of us who made the daily trip through St. John’s Lane. The education, it provided, in what was then a small secondary school can be measured in the achievements of its past pupils.