Walking Around Athenry with Séamus Lynch – Part 4

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Today, I will attempt to describe some buildings, which in my younger days, seemed to be an integral and very important part of the town. Those buildings lay in the environs between Abbey Row and Caheroyan House, on either side of the Clarin River i.e. The Ball-Alley, The Forge, Taylor’s Mills, The Bag Factory, and of course, Caheroyan House.

The Ball-Alley has been well documented in these pages in a previous issue. I myself spend a lot of time whiling away the hours in the Forge. Traditionally the Forge was a well-known place to relax and have a chat. One can see Eamonn (Madden) working with animals, which can range from the humble donkey to a thoroughbred horse. His work can also be as diverse as shaping a bar of iron into all makes and sizes on the anvil, to the making of farm equipment, with his ultra modern machinery.

Taylor’s Mills provided much needed employment to people from the area. Men such as Joe “The Nailer” Howley, Mattie Ryan and Gerald Collins, cut and shaped different timber into all sorts of shapes and sizes. They also manufactured a large amount of Egg-Boxes, which, obviously, were supplied to the poultry trade. Charlie and Herbert Taylor were Directors of the firm. Herbert lived in Bridge Street. Charlie and his mother lived alongside in a beautiful, quaint little cottage, which was surrounded by immaculately maintained out-houses.

As kids we would “perform” plays in one of these. One of the Mill-Bridges housed a machine, which was known as a Turbine. This apparently, was kept in motion by the constant flow of water from the dam to the bridge and provided the necessary power for the milling process. It seems a pity that we could not have preserved some bit of this as part of our history. There was also a huge chimney that serviced the Mill. They would surely enhance the immediate area of the Castle and its surrounds.

Caheroyan House, in my early teens, was owned by the Murray-Alliston family. It was previously owned by Colonel D’Arcy, who later re-located to the New Line to the house now occupied by the Walls family. It is now completely renovated and the out-houses have been converted to a Mini-Tourist Village. It is owned by the Coyne Family from Oranmore. At one stage, the house was also owned by the well known Dempsey family who had a butcher shop on Old Church Street.

The Bag Factory on the Caheroyan Road, which was until recently, used as a very successful multi-purpose car garage by the local McNamara family, was set up in the 1930s as a factory which to supply all makes and sizes of Canvas Bags, mainly to the four Sugar Factories of Tuam, Mallow, Carlow and Thurles. A Scotsman, Mr. Weir, realised the potential of such a factory in our area, because of the proximity to the Tuam Plant. Inevitably the supply of these bags, expanded to individual members of the farming community.

They had machines which could print all the relevant details, such as name, size, weight etc., on these bags. Paddy Kilkelly, a brother of Frank, was the first Foreman. He was later replaced by Winnie Holian, now living in Newford. Any of these bags which were soiled, would have to be washed through a mangling-machine in the local river, and dried on the grass margin between the building and the river. They were later vacuumed in the factory.

To us kids, in those days, this area of the river was used as a Swimming Pool. Given the fact, that the entire workforce of the factory was female, and because swimming togs were at a premium, we learned at an early age how to dive (legs-first) into the pool! Incidentally after acquiring some swimming skill here, it was considered a major achievement to graduate to the deeper and more daunting waters of Cahertubber, courtesy of a lift on the crossbar of an adult’s bike.

As well as supplying the sugar factories, all sizes of bags went to prominent local firms such as McDonaghs of Galway, Palmer’s Mills of Galway and the Alginade Factory in Connemara.

The old photo (courtesy of Winnie Holian), depicts workers putting the finishing touches to material which was bound for this company. A large amount of bags were second-hand and were imported from Mr. Weir’s British factories in Liverpool, Glasgow and Dundee. Those bags came in Bales of 25 and 50. Ten to twenty thousand of these came at a time, via the Steam Ship Company Galway and C.I.E. Tender Lorries delivered them to the factory.

Company Directors:

Stephen Jordan T.D. Supervising Director,

Sean Broderick T.D. Director,

Jas. Ruane Co. Clr. Director,

Christopher Daly Director,

Charlie Taylor Director,

Benny Murtagh Director,

It is interesting to note that the town had two T.D.’s and a Co. Councillor., who lived a short distance from each other.

The Staff included :- Detta Fahy and Rosaleen Fitzpatrick in the Office.

Una Finnerty, Ballygurrane

Baby Nilan, Caheroyan,

Annie Healy, Mountain North,

Detta Burke Caheroyan,

The Spellman Sisters, Kilskeagh,

Sarah Bohan, Mirah,

Delia Corry, Moorpark,

Brigid Hession, Park,

Nora Higgins, Boyhill,

Nancy Lynskey, Abbey Row

Mrs. Payne, Athenry

Chris Loughnane, Ballydavid.

Shortly after its demise as a factory, the building was used as a very adequate Church, while the present Church was being built in the 1960s. It was also used in later years, as a centre for packing and storing wool.

Today it is once again being used as a very successful multi-purpose garage.

My sincere thanks to Winnie Holian for the “Chat” and the photograph, and to my good friend, Mr. Joe Keating, for the modern one.

I hope to relate some more of my ramblings in a later edition of “The Journal” D.V.. Until then Slán!

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About this record

Written by Séamus Lynch

Published here 10 Jul 2023 and originally published Christmas 2001

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