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The Athenry Fire Brigade - Christmas 2000


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The first fire-fighting service in Athenry came into being during the emergency (1939 – 1945 WW11). The service which was voluntary, consisted solely of members of the Local Defence Force (L.D.F.)

Their duties included house rescue and fire control. The members also had weekly fire-fighting service. The equipment used consisted of the very basics – ropes, hose, stirrup pump, branch and standpipe, all of which had to be transported manually. However, all was not dated and at that time all hydrants in Athenry were marked white on the walls.

This far-seeing idea was revived in the mid-1980s but present hydrants are marked yellow.

Those included in the fire service at that time were: Joe Shaughnessy, Tom Milmoe, Dominick Murphy, Paddy Greally and Charlie Whyte (all of whom are now deceased).

The first serious attempt to have a Fire Brigade in Athenry came in 1948 when the Galway Corporation delivered a heavy duty portable pump to the town. The pump was stored in a shed belonging to Brendan Higgins in Fox’s Lane. It was later moved to a garage, the property of Miko Cronnelly, Chapel Lane, where the local county council lorry was also stored. The pump was maintained and kept in working order by the council staff.

The first official Fire Brigade was formed in 1950 when the Galway Corporation transferred the service to the Galway County Council, where it still remains.

The first official crew of the brigade were as follows:

Joe Shaughnessy — Sub Officer

Sonny Flannery — Driver Mechanic

Dominick Murphy — Fireman

Frank Kilkelly — Fireman

Joe Mahon — Fireman

Tom Milmo — Fireman

Paddy Greally – Fireman

Pa Hall — Fireman

Berty Powell — Engineer in charge

The trailer pump, at that time, was normally towed by the council lorry, which was driven by Sonny Flannery, with the crew sitting in the open back of the truck. When this lorry was not available a taxi was engaged to tow it. At one point a hearse was used for the job.

Around that time in Athenry, there lived a “Fire Bug” (arsonist – who shall remain nameless) whose favourite past-time was to keep the fire brigade quite busy. Some of the more serious fires occurred in places such as Ruane’s of North Gate Street, John Joe Whyte’s Bakery in Old Church St, O’Neill’s Medical Hall and O’Neill’s in the Square.

The next stage of development for the fire brigade was the provision of an ambulance and a light trailer pump. It was stored in Tom Milmoe’s yard in Barrack Street. All fires in the Athenry area were dealt with adequately using this service except on occasions when extra help was required and another brigade was brought in to assist.”

During this time and after, the County Fire Service held an annual Fire Fighting competition. It was held in different locations each year. It included all aspects of fire-fighting and prizes were awarded for the best turned out brigade. The Athenry Brigade participated in all of these competitions and each time gave a good account of themselves. In fact, they won prizes on several occasions.

The present fire station was built in 1964. Then things began to improve, from an old war time ambulance and Beresford Stork trailer pump to a Jeep and later to a Ford Fire Tender. This trend continued and as everything became modernised so too did the Fire Brigade. Today, Athenry can boast of one of the most up-to-date fire appliances in the country which can deal with any kind of fire situation, from that of chimneys, hay, oil, houses, chemicals and gas. The members are also trained in the use of breathing apparatus, resuscitators and first aid. The Fire Brigade also carries the most modern hydraulic cutting and rescue equipment available and they are called regularly to serious car accidents – a morbid task. They also provide a stand-by service for the Galway Fire Station.

Over the years, Athenry has participated in every major fire in the county, sometimes, under the most difficult conditions, from carrying pumps across miles f bog to hay fires that lasted a week. They have fought fires from Glenamaddy near the Roscommon border to Kylemore Abbey near Mayo. The fires they have dealt with are too numerous to recall.

Alas, most of the members of the original brigade have gone to their eternal reward.

Joe Shaughnessy, Old Church Street. Tom Milmoe, Barrack Lane. Dominick Murphy, Kingsland. Sonny Flannery, Caheroyan. Paddy Greally, Swangate. Joe Mahon, Swangate. John Kennedy, Boyhill. Paddy Somers, Swangate.

Those retired from the fire brigade are Vincent Finn, Bridge St., Gerry Somers Swangate. Francis Kilkelly, Caheroyan. Pat Kilkelly, Caheroyan (deceased). Kieran Barrett, Caheroyan. Tommy Quinn, Caheroyan. Thomas Ryan, Abbey Row. P J King, Cullairbawn. Frank Coffey, Ballinloughane. Pa Hall, The Valley. and Frank Kilkelly, Caheroyan (who also served as a full-time fireman in Galway and Ballinasloe)

The crew of the present Fire Brigade are: Michael Somers – Station Officer, Jody Kilkelly – Sub-Officer, Leo Coffey – Fireman, Midi Flannery – Driver Mechanic, Cyril McNamara – Fireman, Enda Somers – Driver Mechanic, Michael (Doc) Doherty – Fireman, Gerry Morrissey – Fireman.

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Written by To be confirmed!

Published here 11 May 2023 and originally published Christmas 2000

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