A Ramble around Athenry in the 40s Jimmy Somers 1995: Old Church Street
I will start in Old Church Street and am open to correction. My first port of call is the Credit Union. This site was owned by Sweeney’s and used as a coal yard and was then taken over by Lucan Ice Cream as their depot for Co. Galway. The van drivers were Michael Kindregan; Mt. Pelier, Eamon Cummins; Kilskeagh, and Michael Russell of Monivea.
Next door to this is Farrells Insurance. This house was owned by the Murray Family. The two sons Dermot and Michael are living in Galway. Michael J. Rooney the court clerk next lived there. His daughter Maeve is now a nun in Newport. Joe Burke’s house was in fact two houses in the forties. Garda Tom O’Keefe lived in one and he had a son a priest. The O’Regan’s lived in it before my time. Peter O’Regan was in the RIC. The other was a little sweet shop owned by Maggie Hynes. She never had a paper bag but she made her own cone shape out of a piece of newspaper. You got ten sweets to a penny.
The little house to the left of Farrell’s Insurance once was in fact two houses in the forties Peter O’Regan’s and Maggie Hynes’ shop
Next to her where Michael Healy now lives there was a postman named Tomo Reilly, who lived with his sister Essie and brother Pat. He always said ‘Fine Day’ in a long drawn out manner no matter what the weather was like. Micheal Quinn’s comes after this. His father had a carpentry shop and forge. He wheeled the newly made horse carts onto the street in front of his house each morning.
Tommy Fox lived where Paul Thompson is now and carried on much the same business. Kavanagh’s private house was on the corner beside Joey O’Flynns radio shop – the only radio shop in Athenry. Radios or Wirelesses at that time had two batteries one which had to be charged and the other a dry battery which lasted about six months. There was no electric or transistor radio at that time. In the next house, where May Wilson is now, lived two old ladies – Miss Kellys. Then, there was John Joe White in what is now Mrs Howley’s house. John Joe had his bakery across the street from here. I think Batty Cunniffe had the house next to that, but I’m not sure. Next was and still is Duddy’s house after that is Maloney’s shop which hasn’t changed much over the years.
Norah and Hubert McInerney who both worked in Mahon’s of Cross Street lived in the next house. They had a sister Mary, who was physically handicapped who had great difficulty walking but was a great character. After the McInerney’s comes Jimmy Nolan’s shop which was at one time owned by Miss Julia Mary Morrissey, who was great with Liam Mellows of 1916 fame. Joey O’Flynn’s sisters – ‘We haven’t white thread but would black thread do’? had a shop and library there.
Dempsey’s house and butcher shop, now owned by Barney Carroll, was built on the site of a grain store, I believe. At the top of the street the houses were owned by the Brodericks. The Fields of Athenry pub and shop, now Melia’s, was owned by Sean Broderick, a Fine Gael T.D. for this area. This man built the row of houses in Prospect. His brother Christy, lived next door. Jim Kelly,. the chemist, is the owner now.
Next, John Whelan had a shop where Kitty Lardiner lives now. The Widow Lardiner’s Pub was there long ago. On the corner was Sonny Glynn’s Pub. His sister Bridgie Feeney continues the business. Where Finese Hair Salon is now was Professor Margaret Heavey’s house. Know affectionately as ‘Ma’ she was a great help to the Athenry students in U.C.G
After this comes Dan Reynolds House where Keane’s Pub is now. Pakie Fallon wrote the poem ‘Duddy’s Yard’ about this place. It was said of Dan Reynolds – a very tall man – that he could take a bottle off the top shelf without getting out of his chair and, during his courting days, his height who was also an advantage as the town wall was no hindrance when he kissed his girl friend goodnight, while she was in her garden on the other side of the wall. He had a son Joe and a daughter Mildred. Where Mary Ruane is now I saw a bank there. I think it was a Munster and Leinster branch. Next was Mrs ‘Momma’ Quintons. She had the sweet shop at the station moved up was to Old Church Street and did a thriving business. Then came Peter Connolly’s Chemist shop. This house was Nolan’s before that, I think. John Joe White’s Bakery was the next place. John Joe was Kathleen Bane’s father. The bakers were Tommy Kelly and Buster Walsh (a brother of Berla Walsh) who lived, in Fox’s Lane, where Christy Archer has his barber shop. John Joe had an old clock hanging inside the front door. This clock was not working and had a sign across its face: “NO TICK HERE. Kelly’s auctioneers now in this place probably have a new clock.
The next premises was Mrs Brennan’s tea house. Nowadays it would be called a cafe. She was Paddy Brennan’s (Northgate Street) mother and J.J.Brennan’s grandmother. Gerry Atkinson’s butcher shop is here. Next was Higgins Garage and Petrol Pumps. That time pumps were worked by hand. Over the garage was the Court House. If anybody threatened you with the law, you would be told ‘I’ll bring you up the stairs’. Margaret O’Halloran has a dressmaking shop there now.
After this came Christy Broderick’s first Chemist Shop or Medical Hall where Mary and Kathleen Gardner have a B & B nowadays. He had a chemist named Jim Ward working for him for many years. Christy owned a pack of Beagles and it was a big occasion every Sunday to follow the hounds around the countryside. Joe Shaughnessy lived in the following house where Eileen’s hairdressing salon is now. He worked for the County Council on the roads and I think he was the first fireman in Athenry. Malachy Kearney in the next house worked in Sweeney’s of Cross Street, in the paint store. His wife Ursulla (Daly) worked in the Post Office when it was in the Square.
The Pine Tree was once Sweeney’s shop and bar. Eddie Delaney an artist/sculptor of fame worked there as a shop boy.
Jimmy Cannon’s diner was owned by the McNamara family who ran a hackney business. I knew a Miss Heffernan who had a shop there, also two Miss McLoughlins and later John Kennedy of Boyhill.
Then there was the O’Grady’s, Sonny, Michael and Kitty Wilson. Sonny owned a bit of land outside the town as did many other householders. Guard Coffey lived in the next house – his wife Elizabeth died just a few weeks ago. May she rest in peace. These two houses are now the Flower Shop. After this came Michael Walsh, where Michael Morrissey is now. He did a bit of carpentry work. His workshop is still there. After a derelict site came a shop owned by Sweeney’s. They called it “the Sunday Shop”. That’s where I started business first. It was run by a Jim Bransfield, who sold bicycles.
Jimmy’s sister Jane (Sr Kieran) outside “The Sunday Shop” – Photo Mary Lowe Walsh published in The Local Heritages of Athenry, Esker and Tiaquin. | Facebook
The next house was Sweeney’s private house. When owned by the Kenny family it was the Ivy Hotel who had a hotel in Dublin also. Patrick Fallon the poet also lived in this house and the yard next to it, behind our last shop, was always called ‘Fallon’s Yard’. Tommy Whelan now lives here.
About this record
Written by Jimmy Somers
Published here 08 Feb 2021 and originally published August 1995