Tawnykinaffe Post Office
IN these so-called modern times it is difficult to ascertain what progress really means. Years ago, when there was a lot less money in the country, every village had its own post office and garda barracks. However, in recent years, the faceless bureaucrats in Dublin have run riot with their scalpels and closed post offices and barracks in rural areas all over the country.
It's the same with national schools and you only have to drive around Mayo to see how many schools have been closed, skeletal buildings falling to pieces, a stark reminder of other days when the patter of little feet re-echoed across the corridors of time.
What set me thinking about those matters was the obituary of Catherine Kelly, Tawnykinaffe Post Office, Crimlin, Castlebar, who died in 1915. She was a comparatively young woman of 59 years and had served the people of Crimlin with efficiency and courtesy.
Catherine was survived by her husband Dominick; Mrs. Kenny and Celia Kelly (daughters); Dominick and Peter Kelly (sons).
There were other relatives also, such as the Gillens and Hopkins, Chambers families, Blaines and Stauntons, familiar names in Tawynkinaffe, a pretty little villages which nestles a few miles to the north of Castlebar.
The closure of schools, post offices and barracks doesn't say much for successive governments since the foundation of our state.
Their ill-chosen actions have been responsible for the killing of many parts of rural Ireland. What would our patriot dead think of the shabby treatment they have meted out to decent people?
Tobias Thomas, merchant
The name Tobias Thomas, one of Castlebar's leading merchants in the late 1800s, has largely been forgotten. However, in his day he was one of Castlebar's most prominent citizens and played a major role in the development of the county town over 100 years ago.
One of his daughters, Anne, married a man named Fergus Kilkelly, Ballinrobe. Mrs. Kilkelly died in 1915. Another daughter, Margaret, married Robert Kilkelly. On the death of his wife, Robert married a widow, Mrs. Sheridan, Marsh House, now the headquarters of Castlebar Town Council.
Robert Kilkelly was grandfather of John and Fergus Kilkelly, well-known Castlebar businessmen, and the late Robert Kilkelly, Westport. Their father was Robert Kilkelly, a man closely associated with the business and sporting life of Castlebar for many years.
Jimmy Gannon, an all-rounder
Jimmy Gannon, Thomas Street, Castlebar, was employed by Castlebar Urban Council many years ago. He was a great all-round worksman who could turn his hands to most tasks.
As well as being a member of Castlebar fire brigade, it was said of Jimmy that he knew every water connection and sewer pipe in Castlebar town. Whenever there was a burst water pipe or trouble with sewer pipes, he was called on to solve the problem. Mission accomplished, he retired to Paddy Moran's, Rush Street, for a few quiet pints, a man at peace with the world.
Jimmy was brother of Mrs. Foy, Thomas Street, wife of the well-known coach builder Tom Foy and Mrs. Ainsworth whose husband Mikie was caretaker in the hat factory.
Jimmy was a unique character who served the people of Castlebar for several decades. He never groused or found fault with people; he simply got on with the job. In these dark economic times perhaps we could learn from his commitment to his fellow townsmen.
A tail of a cow
I have come across the word 'haughing' on several occasions over the years. The word doesn't seem to appear in any dictionary, but I believe it means cutting the tails of cows. It was a common practice in times gone by and people regularly appeared at local courts charged with the offence.
A Castlebar farmer told the judge it was his way of getting his own back on a neighbour for trespassing animals.
The judge, a man with a sense of humour, remarked that he just liked oxtail soup.
The farmer was fined 1s. for his tail cutting activities and told to behave himself in future.
Hobnails and blackpudding
Tommy McDonnell lived at Thomas Street, Castlebar, many years ago. His son Kevin, who has spent many years in Australia, was a schoolmate of mine. There was a big family of the McDonnells in it. They were all very talented, a trait they took from their father who was a member of Castlebar Urban Council.
The family traded under the name of Thomas McDonnell & Sons and during World War II they made hobnails and studs. They were also coach builders and one of the lads repaired shoes.
Around the same time my neighbour in McHale Road, Pat McGreal, manufactured nails. Nail-making had been in the McGreal family for many years. As youngsters we sold bucket handles and bed ends to Pat who used them to make nails.
Across the road from Pat McGreal, Jim Hughes and his wife made blackbudding which they sold to local shops.
This was happening long before the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland were set up. There were no grants or technical advice of any kind available in those days.
People used their initiative and God-given talents and got on with the job. And they made a good living for their families. There's a message there for modern budding entrepreneurs. Hard work forms a great part of that message.
Labour of love
Mrs. Deffely, Mrs. Minch and Mrs. Byrne were three well-known maternity nurses in Castlebar in the 1940s and 1950s.
Before that Mrs. O'Toole, Newline, and Mrs. Faulkner, The Grove, Lower Charles Street, who also ran a nursing home, were maternity nurses. They travelled all over the place with their little bags of equipment, convincing us youngsters when they came to our homes that babies came from under cabbage stalks. Most babies were born at home in those days.
The nurse only mode of transport was the sturdy Raleigh or Humber bike, purchased from Willie Munnelly, Shamble Street, or Josie Bourke, Ellison Street.
Those dedicated ladies didn't have any trade union to fight their cause. Sometimes they never looked for payment, simply because they knew people didn't have any money. But those of us who knew the maternity nurses remember them with pride and affection. For them their work was a labour of love.
One of my readers has asked me about a man named Hubert Dupre. Hubert lived at Thomas Street, Castlebar, and was a psychiatric nurse in St. Mary's Hospital. His association with St. Mary's went back to the time of Dr. Hatchell and Dr. Ellison. Hubert was a very keen fisherman and all-round good character. The name Dupré comes from the French.
Duke Street shop
I hope to draw up a list of the smaller shops in Castlebar in former years. The Central Stores were located at the bottom of Duke Street and were run by a man named Henry O'Donnell from Ballyheane. His brother Paddy ran the pub now owned by Gerry Tolster in Spencer Street. The Central Stores were later demolished to make ways for Heatons.
By the way, do any of my readers remember Ciss Condon's little shop on Ellison Street? Nora Gibbons, later to marry Tom Neary, Blackfort, worked in Condon's in her younger days. Nora, who died earlier this year, was mother of Dr. Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam.
Teresa Quinn, Snugboro, also worked with Ciss Condon. I have happy memories of Teresa, a genuinely nice person. She was sister of my good friends Patrick and Gertie Quinn, Snugboro. The Quinn family have been breeders of top-class horses for many years.