4 A Ramble around Athenry in the 40s Jimmy Somers 1996 Chapel Lane



I am working from memory, so if there are any mistakes I am open to correction. My first house, in chapel Lane, now called Church Street, is now owned by Mick Sheehan formerly owned by the Fleming family, Maureen and her brother, Jackie. Maureen married John Stack and later moved up to Durkan’s where the Shopping Basket is now. Jackie went to school with me but he died a very young man. Next door,  where Joe Walsh lives now, was Plunketts. May Plunkett had a shop in Davis Street where Maurice O’Neill is now. Jim, her husband, was a clerk in Sweeney’s of Cross Street.

Where Albert Cummins office is now, I think, was a derelict site. Next door was Heffernans. Mrs. Heffeman had a small sweet shop and Jack her husband had a taxi service. There’s a story told that Jack went down to Higgins’s Garage for petrol. Sonny O’Grady was the pump attendant at the time, Jack asked him for five shillings worth, now twenty five pence, and said "Be careful and don’t spill any".

Another story while I’m on about petrol pumps- an American with a big car pulled in and said "Fill her up". At the time pumps were hand operated, the Yank did not switch off the engine and Sonny found the car was using more than he was putting in so he said to the American "Switch her off, she’s beating me". Then came Qualters, Paddy and Ned were famous characters in the town. Their father worked in the railway. The Canton Hall which has not changed much since then was followed by Durkan’s, now the Shopping Basket. Durkan had a bar and grocery shop. He was a big jovial man with a big strong voice which he used to great advantage in the Church Choir. Tim O’Regan, Finbarr’s father, and himself were great friends and did a lot of parish work.

Fr. O’Malley, who kept greyhounds, lived in the Presbytery beside the Church.

The old Church had big gates, railings and huge pillars outside. Of the three galleries inside, the one on the railway side was the choir gallery. Then came the Convent, much the same as it is today except that it was an enclosed order at that time. The Nuns  rarely went out through the town but you could see them walking around their front garden part of which is now the carpark for the church. I went to school to the Nuns, stayed until first class and then went up to the Boy’s School. I remember Sport’s Day in the Convent on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Sister Dominic and Sister Baptist taught us, also a Miss Glynn who lived down in Ballygurraun. If Sister Dominic found you telling lies she rubbed carbolic soap on your tongue - not pleasant! The Parish Priest’s house, where Cannon McGough lived, was next. It has improved since then.

Down at the corner, towards the station, Glynn’s was the first of the houses, which, at that time were owned by the Railway Company. Frank worked in the Good’s Store. Next was Quentin’s. Momma Quentin, as she was called then had a little shop there - it is said she put a flat board, which acted as a counter, across the front door - and did a good business. She later opened another thriving shop in Old Church Street. The Station Master at that time was Mr Barry. His wife was a great singer and was a prominent member of the Choral Society. There was an Eason Bookshop on the platform, run by a Mrs Duffy, and later by Kitty Fahy. Nora Byrne was a clerk in the ticket office. Among those working in the station was Christy O’Grady, Matt Loughnane, Greg Rabbitte, John White, Redmond Carr, Roddy Dempsey, Matt Fitzpatrick and the two Gaughran brothers.

Jack O’Loughlin and his son Paddy looked after the Signal Box. There was then an all night service, for "Beet Specials" and "Goods Trains". The points and signal were worked by hand as there was no electrical assistance. The Good’s Store was run by Frank Glynn and Jim Clarke, who lived in the house on the corner beside the Signal Box. It was part of my employment to go down to the Good’s Store and see if there was "anything in" for Mahons, where I worked at the time, and Jim Clarke would say "Here comes Somer in the middle of Winter". There was a small office where Rosy Fitzpatrick’s (now Mrs Paddy Regan) father worked as clerk.

Next on the way up towards the town, as there was no Garda Station there at the time, came Miko Cronnolly’s house. He worked as a lorry driver for the Railway and his wife May later became the Church Sacristan and only died recently.

Where John Joe Brady lives now was Burke’s, Michael, Merrill and Claire lived there with their mother and her sister Mrs Stack. Next then was Brady’s butcher shop, owned then by Eddie Brady, John Joe’s father. Where John Joe has his butcher shop now was a drapery shop owned by Johnny and Roddy Brady.

Aggie Coffey, now Mrs Kilkelly, worked there. Next was Clarkes shop. Mr Clarke was a water inspector for the County Council. Later it was taken over by Tony McLoughlin who called it “The Peoples Shop". He was a famous character and was the first man to bring Santa Claus to the town, or even to the county. That first "Santa Claus" was Buster Walsh, another character. Nano Kennedy and Joe Rabbitte worked there. There is a story told that Tony asked Joe Rabbitte to go down to the station after 1.30 p.m. on a Thursday. Now Thursday was "Half-day" in the town at the time but Joe, who should be off duty, went to the station and did his job. When he came back it was after 2 p.m. and he was "fed up" so he said "Mr Mcloughlin, from now on one o’clock here is half past one and not half past two".

Nellie Regan and her sister Bridie lived next door. Nellie was the Church Sacristan and I was one of the alter boys at this time. She was a hard taskmaster. If you did not do your job well you were sent home, but behind it all she had a heart of gold. Mary O’Neill has her Hairdressing Salon there now.

Next came Bane’s where Kathleen lives now. Her husband John, who died some years ago, and his four sisters lived there. Tom, their father, worked par-time down at the station. He pumped water into the engines. Tom was a great pipe smoker. I sold him a pipe once that turned out to be so good and suitable that from then on he told anyone who wanted a pipe to go to Jimmy Somers.

Mrs Bane’s father, Michael Shaughnessy, lived there also. I think he was the oldest man alive in the town at the time. He had a lovely character. Next came Sonny Glynn and his sister, now Bridgie Feeney. The house is still much the same. Next came O’Malley’s. Rudie, Annie and Eileen, now Mrs Qualter, lived there. Rudie died a young man. Greg, Frank and Joe Rabbitte lived next door. Their father Paddy worked in the Farmyard (Agricultural College). Greg now lives down the New Line. Frank lives in London. He helped to organise the recent London Reunion. Joe died about five years ago. Next came Miss Rabbitte. She had a dressmaking shop and was helped by Annie Carroll.

The next house belonged to Ned and Paddy Grealy. Ned was well known as he was the Church Door Collector and was there for every Mass. Paddy, who worked in Taylor’s Mill, got married late in life and lived the rest of his days in Swangate. Their house has been renovated recently and Joe Rooney has retired there now.

Jimmy Somers for the Athenry Journal August 1996    




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