A Ramble around Athenry in the 40s: Cross Street

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I will start this time in Cross Street and as before, because I am working from memory, I am open to correction. I will start where the Allied Irish Bank is now. It was then the Post Office. The Postmaster was Mr Delaney and the Postmen were Mick Fahy (well known as an actor with the Drama Society), Fred White, Watt Doherty, Michael Rooney, Jimmie McCormack, Michael Kilkelly, Bill Keating, and Tom Reilly. Tommy Ryan was the telegraph boy. Working at the counter were: Ursula Daly nee Kearney, Margaret Lyons nee Taylor, Kate Henegan, and there may have been more, but I don’t remember them all.

Beside the Post Office lived Jackie Hession who had a grocery shop. His wife Bridie is still there and enjoys good health. Next was Michael Whelan, He owned a pub and his wife had a drapery shop next door. She had an agency for IMCO Dry- cleaning. I think there were the only dry-cleaning company in the country at that time. Michael Whelan once had a shop, in Bridge Street, where Millie Brown is now. Michael was a great character and always good to make you laugh. Cigarettes were very scarce at the time and you would be lucky to get five loose cigarettes but Michael could appear out on the square on a Friday, Market Day, with two cigarettes in his mouth.

Next door was Peter Houlihan where Shields Solicitors had an office. Teresa Kenny worked there for years, also Mickey Hession. After that came Sweeney’s Hardware shop and pub. Jones Sweeney was the proprietor; Jim Plunkett was his clerk; shop boys who worked there were John O’Rourke and Joe Walsh who later married Patsy Murphy from Clarke Street. Jones had two sisters Louise and Bridgie. They owned a lovely Singer car when cars were scarce at the time and they looked very superior when they went for a drive, sitting in the back and being driven by Christy McNamara. Sweeneys had a fine hardware business with a paint store out in the yard. Pat Kearney worked in the paint store which was run by his son Malachy later. Mickey McNamara was the yard man.

The Gárda Barracks, once the RIC Barracks, later to become to become the FCA headquarters, is now owned by Charlie King and run as a hostel. Sergeant King, Prospect, was there in the early forties. The permanent guards were Pat Kearns, Jack Coffey and Frank O’Rourke while others came and went at various times. Jim Kelly (Ann Cullinane’s father) was the superintendent at that time.

Adjacent to the barracks was Sweeney’s Garage. The petrol pumps were under a roof when canopies were unheard of. It was run by Christy McNamara and petrol at that time was about 11d a gallon. Tony and Marie Waldron lived next door for a while. Then there was Bridgie White. Michael Higgins (known as John Ireland) lived there as well. He was a legend around town in his time. Next to him lived Fred White, a postman, who lived to be a very great age.

Christy Howley, next, was a famous character and a prolific actor. A carpenter by trade he formed a company called St. Bemadette’s Industries. He made chairs. He was a great man for psychology and his great claim to fame was that if psychology could not fix it then it was a lost cause.

After Howleys was Johnny Whelan’s house where Noreen Hynes now lives. Johnny owned a shop in Church Street in Kitty Lardner’s house, once Larry Lardner’s pub of 1916 fame. Christy and Ena O’Grady lived next door in a very neat thatched house. Later they built the present bungalow.

Next was Pat Quinn, where Shields Solicitors’ offices are now. Pat was a carpenter by trade and he also had a forge worked by his nephew Christy Flynn who was a great man for inventions.

Pat made and supplied coffins. There was an instance where a son came into his yard and bought a coffin for his father but some months later it transpired that the coffin had not been paid for. This being a delicate situation he had to bide his time. Later that year, one fair morning, Pat saw his man selling cattle on the street outside his window and he went out and passed a few words about the weather and such. He then said, “How is your father?” and the man said, “Sure my father is dead for the last six months”. Pat said, “I’m sorry to hear about that but I think I put a coffin on that man and it was never paid for.” How’s that for integrity?

Next door to where Anthony Quinn lived was Dr. Peadar Finnerty and before him the famous Jack Hoey. There was a story about Jack and turkeys but it would take too long to put it in print.

After this was Payne’s Hall and Yard, where Car Spares’ scrap yard is now. I can remember a show given there by the McFadden Touring Company. They had a serial picture followed by a live stage show. The admission was 4d, 8d and 1s. The name of the film was ‘Burn up Barns’.

Between this and Úna Hynes’ house are two houses built I think by Sean Broderick. Jimmy Corley lived in one and Ursula Daly lived in it before him, and Pakie Dooley who once had Sean Corbett’s farm lived in the other. Una Hynes’ father, Frank, started the scout movement in the town. Inside Taylors Gate there was a dispensary. I think Dr. Foley was the doctor at the time.

Across the road was Condron’s Guest House, later to become The Western Hotel and is now The Dunclarin Arms. I lived there for about fourteen years. Pat Kenny from Caheroyan, who had an oil business and drove an oil lorry, had his business in Condron’s yard.

Next door to this, where Paddy Ryan lives now, lived Mrs. Kennedy. Later, it was a Mart office. Then Joe Pollard, who was a Superintendent’s Clerk, lived next door. I never saw him in uniform in my life. The Flynns, Christy, Philomena and May live there now. After this was Jack Molloy. His wife, a very industrious dressmaker was always called by her maiden name Nonie Connors. Next was Mary Keane. John Caulfield made shoes there and later Ryan’s had a shoe repair shop there.

Next, where Joseph Sweeney lives now, Fr. Concannon lived and also another priest, I think a Fr. Pendergast. After this came McGlades. There was Fr. Charlie Mc Glade, then Jackie and Eugene who had a pub in Galway. There were two sisters Eileen and Ena. Eileen died very young and Ena married Donal Kennedy. He was the Principal in the Boy’s National School. They now live in Dublin. Mr Curran who lived next door was an ex- R.I.C. Officer. He had two daughters – Masie and Josie. Josie married Joe Mahon. They were both talented musicians and formed the Athenry Choral Society which became famous around the country in later years.

Kathleen Curley who was a legend in her time ran a guest house and anybody who ever worked in Athenry started their stay in Kathleen’s.

Next door, where Noel Treacy has his office now, Jimmy Curran lived for a while as did Jimmy Farrell and later Brendan Melley. Next door was John Joe Glynn , he had a bicycle repair shop. When asked was he making money John Joe would say “How can I make money if I only charge half a crown to mend a puncture and the customer ‘swipes’ a spanner worth seven and six “.

Further up the street was Payne’s Pub, where the Fiddlers Green is now. Sean Coen had a pub there for a while as did the Ruane family. Jimmy Payne was a great actor and a great wit. He had two sons Ronnie and Norman who later became very famous in the music scene in America.

Next door was Leo Mahon’s house and shop. I worked there for seven or eight years. I could write a book about that place and, maybe, sometime later I will. Leo’s sister Katy was a character. After parcelling up a set of delph she would always say, “Don’t catch it by the string”. She censored the books in their library by cutting out terribly bad and rude words such as “damn” and “bloody” with a razor blade.

Jane Quinn and her sister had a hairdressing saloon farther up the street. After that was The Athenry Hotel run by Michael and Mary Jane Cannon – a famous establishment in its day. Albert Cummins had his office inside the door on the left. One of his secretary’s was Emily Jennings, nee Hemmings. She now has a shop in Tally-Ho. John Joe Glynn’s wife also worked for him. There was also Mr. Mills, a dentist, who practised came there every Friday.

Then came O’Neill’s. Mary O’Neill ran the chemist shop that Frank O’Neill now owns. She lived in the house to the left of the chemist shop. One fair day she came to the door to go to eight o’clock Mass and found she couldn’t open her door. Later, it transpired that some farmer had tied his sheep to the brass knocker. No wonder the fairs have left the streets.

I think that’s about all for now!

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About this record

Written by Jimmy Somers

Published here 08 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995

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