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Newbridge on Easter Monday 1907

Leinster Leader 5 April 2007

Dark and dusty Easter Monday in Newbridge

by

Liam Kenny

Newbridge on Easter Monday 1907 presented a challenge for the senses according to the Leinster Leader local notes columnist of April 1907.  The Liffeyside town resembled a scene from a western movie with dust blowing down the Main Street, the street lamps turned off, and unpleasant odours permeating the atmosphere – all upsetting the holiday amenity for the inhabitants. Even the moon got in on the act, depriving the ratepayers of Newbridge of much needed illumination when the parsimonious Town Commission turned off the streetlamps:

‘On Monday evening it was decided that the town lamps should observe the usual Easter Holiday and that the moon should be allowed perform its duty in the ordinary way.’  However influential the Town Commissioners may have been their mandate did not extend to celestial bodies, as the columnist noted wryly: ‘The latter (the moon) went on strike and neither on Monday or Tuesday night did it even peep from behind a cloud.’

 It was not the only incident where the elements played a part in Newbridge over Easter 1907.  Our columnist noted: ‘There was a regular whirlwind of dust round Newbridge on Easter Monday, and everyone was lookingfor the appearance of the watering cart.’  However the municipal emergency plan was clearly on holiday too and it took representations from prominent townspeople to alleviate the Newbridge dust bowl: ‘On Tuesday morning, two influential local gentlemen waited on some of the Commissioners with the result that the watering cart, which recently did duty in Naas, made its appearance quickly on the streets.’

 And if the dust-filled streets of the town were not oppressive enough for locals there was more to come: ‘The ratepayers of Newbridge are asking what is the cause of the great delay starting the sewerage works. Complaints are being made of the constant stench arising round the town, especially now that fine weather is approaching. It is said that this grievance is  more pronounced at the lower end of the town.’

 The Newbridge Town Commissioners were not the only public body in the firing line in Easter week 1907.  The Baltinglass Board of Guardians, responsible for public health in west Wicklow,  found themselves in a quandary which, to the modern reader, shows that controversies in the health service are nothing new. The report  under the ‘In Wicklow’ local notes column set out the position: ‘ The Baltinglass Board of Guardians have been placed in a rather awkward position with reference to the providing of temporary medical offices to act in the Kiltegan and Hacketstown dispensary districts, in the places of Doctors Walsh and Kidd, both of whom have been ill for some time. The two substitute doctors appointed to act in their place have declined to continue to do duty at a lower rate of remuneration than five guineas per week.’

The Baltinglass officials attempted a solution by recruiting Dr Hartigan who had been acting in the Kiltegan district on the basis that he would be paid five guineas per week.  However their local initiative was scuppered by central budgetary concerns when the Local Government Board based in the Custom House, Dublin wrote to say it would not sanction payment higher than four guineas per week.

This bureaucratic tussle annoyed the Leader correspondent who spoke up for the unfortunate people of west Wicklow, deprived of a doctor while the office holders argued over budgets. He wrote pointedly: ‘The leaving of a large district without the services of a doctor is a matter which might lead to very serious consequences. Those who are charged with providing for the wants of the sick poor would not be doing that duty well if they were to leave a district unprovided for while fighting the question of “terms” with the only doctor who could be found available.’

 Thus an absent moon in Newbridge and an absent doctor in Baltinglass animated the Leinster leader readers of  Easter exactly a century ago.

An article on Newbridge in 1907 by Liam Kenny from his column in the Leinster Leader, 'Nothing New Under the Sun.' Our thanks to Liam.


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