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1901 Retrospective view of the previous year - 05/01/1901

Kildare Observer 05/01/1901
A Retrospect
             With the dawning of Tuesday, we were also ushered into a new year, which marks the beginning of a new century, and accordingly the prophets are abroad with their predictions and speculations as to the future. The question, of course, naturally forces itself on one’s mind-will the coming year or the coming century be one that will compare favourably with its predecessor as far as this country is concerned? The nineteenth century has been one remarkable in most respects, and so has its last year-the old year just dead. It is not within our power to predict even what the new year will bring, much less the new century-we will leave that to the “prophets”-but if there be any truth in the assertion that “the best of Prophets of the future is the past,” a retrospect of the past twelve months may perhaps give us an insight into the ensuing year, or, at least, may form a basis of what may be expected, and guide us accordingly in out conclusions. Of course we now refer only to mattes local. If, locally in point of progress and economy, the coming twelve months is as successful as the past has been, we may enter on the first year of the new century with hope abundant. The advent of the new form of local government had the effect of stirring up the spirits of the people, into whose own hands the management of local affairs has been placed, and the new power given them has been utilised, so far as Co. Kildare is concerned, with a fair amount of judiciousness. But that is only what might be expected, for during the first sweepings of the new broom, as it were, things of course look well, but after a little wear will the broom be made to sweep as clean as at first? We only hope that it will. There has been a very natural endeavour on the part of the new boards to eclipse the efforts of the old bodies in the successful management of local affairs, and this is a useful spirit of conceit that should be encouraged. As we have intimated, the new bodies have done very good work, and we can only hope it will continue, and that in the coming year they will profit by the lessons of the past. The County Council has done some useful work during the past twelve months, having got pretty well into working order. The attendance of the members has been remarkably good from all sides of the county-from Athy, Ballytore, and the southern district, and from Celbridge, Leixlip, and Kilcock, in the north of the county, as well as from the divisions immediately adjoining Naas. Accordingly the subjects that come before that body for consideration receive the combined attention and experience of practically the full Council. One of the principal duties that the Council discharged during the year was the election of a secretary, the choice from a number of good men falling on Mr. J. T. Heffernan, who had himself been a councillor of great worth. And, so far, Mr. Heffernan has justified the action of the Council in selecting him for the very important post he now holds. The formation of the Agricultural and Technical Instruction Committee was another important undertaking, and in this the Council seemed to have acted well up to the dictates of wisdom, for no better selections could perhaps have been made than those who were placed on the committee; for, judged by the work they have already done, they are men of practical experience and administrative ability. The foundation of the scheme for the promotion of instruction in agricultural and industrial matters has been laid and promises well. An Organising Secretary will be elected at the meeting of the council on the 14th  January, after which the provisions of the Agricultural and Technical Instruction Act will be put into practical force in the county. This in itself is a record piece of work. The endeavours of the council to open up the disused jail premises in Naas as an auxiliary asylum for the care of harmless lunatics at present confined in local workhouses did not, we are sorry to say, meet with success owing to opposition that came from Carlow and from the Inspectors in Lunacy, who have ridiculously extravagant ideas as to what such an institution should be. Into the merits of this we will not enter, as we recently published an able paper from the pen of Mr. S. J. Brown, the able chairman of the Co. Council, which is explanatory of the whole subject. But we must express the hope-so clearly has Mr. Brown shown the absolute necessity for the alleviation of imbeciles in workhouses and the feasibility of converting the disused jail into an institution for their exclusive reception-that this matter will not be allowed to drop, and that it will be taken up during the new year with renewed vigour. The proposed re-opening of the County Infirmary at Kildare is a question that has proved a very contentious one and has well nigh created dissension in the council. Our readers are familiar with the details of the project. The southern portion of the county desire to have to old infirmary reopened, while the northern portion strenuously object. Much has been said in favour of and against the proposal, but the great barrier to the project seems to be that owing to the vast improvements made in the local workhouses in Naas, Athy, Celbridge, Baltinglass, and Edenderry-which unions are wholly or partly situate in Kildare county-and with the addition of the very useful and philanthropic hospital at the Curragh Edge-the Drogheda Memorial hospital-there is no necessity for a further institution that must be supported out of the rates at great cost. Though the Co. Council at a recent meeting threw out the proposal that matter does not end there but is being vigorously pursued by the promoters in Kildare and will probably come on again at the next meeting of the council on the 14th inst. The county seems to be evenly divided on the subject if we take the votes of the county councillors as a criterion, and in that case it is likely the scheme will not be allowed to drop without a struggle to the very utmost end. These are but a few of the matters that have occupied the attention of the council during the past year, and with them the council dealt in a manner that shows the members are thoroughly alive to the importance of the trust placed in them by the ratepayers. As the Council progresses it gains of course in experience, and is perceptibly profiting thereby. Thanks to the interest the members evince in their duties, and with the valuable aid afforded by the able chairman, the Council is perhaps one of the most successful in the administration of county work that exists in Ireland. Death has robbed the Council of a valued member in the person of Mr. Joseph T. Dowling, Newbridge-one of the most painstaking, conscientious, and intelligent of members. His place has been filled by the co-option of Dr. Rowan, Chairman of the Newbridge Town Commissioners-a selection that has given eminent satisfaction. The Naas Town Board cut itself adrift during the year from all connection with the Naas No. 1 Rural District Council. On April 1st the township became urbanised, and in consequence the town body has now greatly extended powers. This change was due to the progressive spirit of the town, and has been thoroughly justified if we may judge by the after results, though the urbanisation scheme did not come into effect until April last, as we have said. Yet in that short period the Urban Council has made remarkable improvements. Two streets, we may say, of pretty and comfortable houses for the accommodation of artisans have been erected; Naas Water Supply Scheme has been completed, and proved a great success; bye-laws have been framed for the township; appliances for the extinguishing of fires have been procured, and a scheme for the formation of a fire brigade set on foot; a number of labourer’s cottages in the township have been acquired; and the board has elected a Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Smyth, and a Town Surveyor in the person of Mr. J. J. Inglis-a man of proved ability in his profession. So that it will be seen from this necessarily brief survey that the town board has been most progressive and up-to-date in their transactions. All those improvements were without doubt essential to the progress of the times, and to the forward spirit that has taken hold of the people. That spirit of self-improvement which is remarkable not alone in Naas, but throughout the whole country, is to a large extent due to the absence of political strife, the existence of which for a space of a decade of years previously occupied the time and mind of the Nationalist community to their own detriment, because of the consequent neglect of their own immediate economic affairs. The change that has come is one for the best, the people profiting largely by the conduct of the past-a past which they have evidently come to recognise as one unfruitful of any good, but prolific in discord and discontent. Newbridge, too, has perceptibly progressed during the past year. An interesting spirit sprung up, resulting in the town board formulating two very essential schemes for the benefit of town and community-a water supply and sewerage system, and a scheme for the providing of housing accommodation for the working classes. At no time within the last decade of years has the board manifested such a deep interest in the welfare of the town as the present body, and we trust that they will not flag in their energies, but rather increase their endeavours to carry on the work so earnestly begun to a successful issue. Kildare by a lucky chance is becoming a rising town. A new military barracks, which will accommodate a couple of thousand men, is being erected, and will have the effect of closely allying the town to the Curragh Camp, where, for over a twelvemonth extensions on a large scale are being made. The big building in Kildare obviously increases the importance of the town. With creditable foresight, the local representatives on the Naas No.1 Rural District Council anticipated the requirements of the new barracks in the matter of the water supply and lighting, and accordingly set on foot a scheme for an increased water power, and lighting, and accordingly set on foot a scheme for an increased water power , and the erection of an electric light installation. These will vastly improve the town, and from computations that have been made will prove a source of revenue to the rates from the rents received through the military. Athy, too, is about to have its water supply. Last year a scheme for this purpose was inaugurated, and is being pushed forward with all speed. The wonder is that such an important and well-developed town as Athy should have remained so long without a waterworks. Baltinglass has been gradually developing of late years, and thanks to the enterprising and pushing spirit of the principal inhabitants of the town and district the old bridewell was converted into a town hall, racquet court, billiard and reading rooms, which supply a long felt want, and we are glad to state that the venture has so far met the expectations of the promoters, for the institution is being cordially supported by the public. Dunlavin maintained its old reputation in matters sporting, and inaugurated an athletics meeting last year in addition to its old standing coursing meets, which proved a big success despite the disagreeable weather which prevailed on the occasion. Likewise did Celbridge hold its sports, and being favoured with glorious weather proved a great attraction. In connection with Celbridge we must not forget the very useful society started there early last year. We refer to the Horticultural Association, whose first show was held in Castletown demesne by kind permission of Mr. Kelly, the new and hospitable tenant of the stately Conolly mansion, and, needless to say, the function met with remarkable success. This association will hold its annual show in different centres each year in the north of the county, and judging by its initial effort it is destined to do some good work in fostering horticulture in North Kildare. Ballymore-Eustace, thanks to the facility given by Mr. George Wolfe, High Sheriff, and to the energy of Mr. Patrick Driver and Mr. Thomas Grace, has procured its water supply, which is sure to prove a boon and blessing to the town. It will be readily seen that all the principal towns in Co. Kildare have come to recognise the necessity for a water scheme in their midst. The different local boards in Naas, Athy, Newbridge, Celbridge, Baltinglass, Edenderry, &c, have been very successful in the discharge of their new duties under the Local Government Act. Death has removed a few-fortunately only a few-of the members of our local boards, including Mr. Stephen Murphy, Co. Councillor, of Rathangan; Mr. James Malone, Celbridge Board of Guardians; Mr, Denis Headon, Silagh, Ballymore-Eustace, of Naas Board of Guardians, each of whom was a valued public representative. Amongst the notable persons identified with the county that have passed away during the last year are Surgeon Wheeler, Captain the Hon. Maurice Bourke, R. N., and Mr. David Mahony, for many years the pillar of the Kildare Hunt. In Parliamentary affairs the General Election effected a change in the representation of North Kildare, Mr. Edmund Leamy ousting Mr. O. J. Engledow. And in referring to Mr. Engledow we are reminded that he, with the assistance of several influential gentlemen in the county, brought about a settlement to the long standing dispute on the Clongorey estate, and the tenants are all now happily reinstated. In Church circles the Rev. H. B. Kennedy, B. D., for some years the Rector of St. David’s, Naas, has removed to St. Andrew’s, Dublin, and is succeeded by Ven. Archdeacon Torrens. The church has been enhanced by the erection of a valuable organ recently dedicated by his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, the instrument proving a great acquisition to the church. It will be thus seen from this brief outline that, on the whole, the last year of the nineteenth century has been one eminently satisfactory as regards this county. The success of the old year reflects abundant hope and promise for this, the first year of the new century, and we trust that the schemes on which all our public bodies may embark will meet with the full measure of success which will give an impetus to the public generally to further persevere in their legitimate enterprises and undertakings for the benefit of Kildare county in particular and Ireland in general.

An article from the Kildare Observer looking back over the events of the previous year.

[Compiled by Mario Corrigan; typed and edited by Niamh Mc Cabe]

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