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THE GAUL'S OF RATHASKER ROAD, NAAS

The Gaul’s of Rathasker Road, Naas

James Durney


In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there were several families with the surname Gaul living in Naas. However, when Kathleen Gaul, of Caragh Road, Naas, married Jim Durney, of Pairc Mhuire, Newbridge, on 26 December 1958, the once popular surname disappeared completely from the annals of Naas. Kathleen Gaul was the last namesake of the Gaul’s, who had lived at Rathasker Road since the 1800s.
The first recorded Gaul in Naas was, according to the Griffith Valuation of 1848-64, a Michael Gaul living at Naas East, which included Rathasker Road. The Gauls were living in a cottage on the Rathasker Road at least in the 1890s, as the records from St. Corban’s Cemetery note when Ellen Gaul, Rathasker Road, age 50, died on 12 October 1897. She was the wife of Edward Gaul, a railway miles man. Edward died, age 76, on May 27 1909, while he was living at Railway View, Naas. Mary Gaul, ‘wife of a labourer,’ died on 8 February 1898. She was 102 years old and had been born in 1796. Her passing was noted by the Leinster Leader on 12 December 1898.

'A Naas centenarian died on Tuesday last. Mrs. Mary Gaul, who resided at Rathasker Road, has gone to her long account, after an existence of 102 years. The old lady enjoyed good health up to a short period before her demise.'

Mary was the mother of Edward and Bill Gaul. Edward and Bill Gaul were popular men in the locality. Bill was a noted Gael and supporter of the Gaelic League and was present at the funeral of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891 as a member of Naas Labour Union. In June 1902 Bill Gaul was present at a packed meeting to establish a branch of the Gaelic League in Sallins. The meeting in the National School was addressed by Mr. C. Hournihane, a teacher and fluent Gaelic speaker. He gave an outline of the movement’s programme, which consisted of the acquirement of Gaelic as the national language; the teaching of Irish history, music, singing and dancing and the promotion of Irish culture. Mr. Hournihane after an address in Irish gave a rendition of ‘John O’Dwyer of the Glens,’ which was followed by Mr. Lacey’s rendering of ‘Molly Bawn.’ Bill Gaul brought down the house by his singing of the ever popular, ‘Eileen Alannah.’ More singing and dancing followed. The meeting culminated in the formation of a committee.
In a list of subscribers towards the building of the mortuary chapel at Naas Cemetery, printed in the Kildare Observer on 8 December 1906, Edward Gaul, Rathasker Road, donated 5 shillings, quite a large sum at the time. Edward’s son, Patrick Gaul (22) married Margaret Higgins (34), a widow, in 1897. Maggie had three children at the time: John (9), Thomas (8), and Christopher (6). Patrick and Maggie’s first child, Ellen, was born on 24 December 1897. They would have four more children: Edward, or Ned, born 1899; William (1901); Maggie (1904); Katie (1905). Patrick Gaul (44), a railway labourer, died on March 24 1919 in Naas Infirmary. Maggie was left with a young family and Ned and William, or Bill, began working early as railway labourers then hired car drivers.
During the Civil War Bill Gaul was held up by anti-Treaty IRA men on the Naas to Dublin road and his cargo of yeast, bound for Carlow, confiscated. Bill and four friends from Naas attended the All-Ireland final on September 1928, at which Kildare defeated Cavan by a point. It was Kildare’s first and last time – so far – to win the Sam Maguire trophy. On the way home the car Bill was driving was in a collision with a motorbike and sidecar, in which the female passenger was concussed. Bill and all his passengers were unhurt and the injured female made a complete recovery. Two months later, on 18 November 1928 Bill Gaul died of short illness at a young age, 27. The Kildare Observer noted that,

'Much regret was felt in Naas and district at the death of Wm. Gaul, motor owner, Naas, which occurred of an illness of only two days, on Sunday 18th November. The funeral took place on Monday, 19th November to the New Cemetery, Naas, and was very largely attended.'

Bill Gaul left a young wife, Mabel, and son Liam, born in 1926. As the last male with the Gaul name Liam left Naas to work in Dublin, where he married and raised a family and ran a successful business, Shelton Stores, in Kimmage. He returned to Naas regularly to attend the Punchestown Race Festival. Liam was a man of simple tastes who enjoyed a game of cards or a game of snooker and the odd bet on a horse. Liam Gaul died in Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, on 3 October 1991 and was buried in St. Corban’s Cemetery, Naas. His wife, Ellen, or Nellie, died in 2000, age 66, and although she was a Dublin native, she was also buried in St. Corban’s. Liam’s son, Kevin, continues the Gaul name, alas not in Naas, but in Dublin. Liam’s obituary said,

'He was a very popular shopkeeper who was particularly noted for his courtesy and gentle manner… The burial was to Mr. Gaul’s native Naas where a huge local attendance joined the Dublin cortege.'

Katie, the youngest of the Gaul girls, was 26 and single, when she died on March 7 1930. Popular sisters Ellen and Maggie Gaul enjoyed the Naas social scene: they attended dances in the Town Hall where they met with British Army officers and Black and Tans – who seemed to be ‘quite decent;’ Ellen even met a German officer, an internee on the Curragh, who she exchanged letters with. The sisters were fans of cinema musicals – ‘South Pacific’ and ‘Hello Dolly,’ being personal favourites. Ellen rarely drank, while Maggie loved a nip of whiskey or a bottle of stout. When she moved to Newhall, Maggie cycled in to Swan Dowling’s for a tipple, dropped in to her sister for a cup of tea, and then cycled back to her home.
During the Second World War Rose Gaul, who had married and settled in Liverpool, sent her son, Eddie Cannon, over to Ireland to escape the Blitz. Liverpool had suffered severely from German bombing in May 1941 and many residents with family ties in Ireland sent them across the Irish Sea to stay with relatives. Liverpool, Bootle and Wirral were the most heavily bombed areas of the United Kingdom outside London, due to their importance to the British war effort. The British government was desperate to hide from the Germans just how much damage they had wreaked on the ports and so reports on the bombing of the area were kept low-key. Over 4,000 residents lost their lives during the blitz, dwarfing the number of casualties sustained in other bombed industrial areas such as Birmingham and Coventry. This death toll was second only to London. Eddie Cannon stayed with the Gaul’s of Rathasker for most of the war. One of the first things Eddie remembered was the local Garda sergeant calling to the house to tell Ellen Gaul to enrol him for school.
In 1922 Edward, or Ned Gaul, car driver, was employed temporarily at Naas Hospital as an ambulance driver, at £4.00 per week. Ned built up a small profitable business as a car driver and regularly plied his trade to and from Lawlor’s Hotel, where he met and courted a young girl, Kathleen Ryan, from Fethard, Co. Tipperary. Kathleen Ryan was the daughter of James Ryan, a Tipperary farmer. Kathleen had come to Naas to work for Mrs. Lawlor at the Nas Na Riogh Hotel. Ned Gaul and Kathleen Ryan married on 16 February 1938 in the Church of Our Lady and St. David, Naas. Ned was 34, while his bride was ten years younger. The bridesmaid was Kathleen’s sister, Ellen Ryan, who gave her address as the Curragh. The couple’s married life was short – Kathleen died on the 28 December 1940, at her home on Rathasker Road from acute bronchitis, giving birth to her daughter, Kathleen.  Her obituary in the Leinster Leader of 4 January 1941 said Kathleen Gaul was,

'A very quiet and unassuming girl, she was liked by everyone, and her death at such an early age has aroused sincere sympathy amongst all classes.'

Ned Gaul’s mother, Maggie, died some years later, at the age of 85. She was known affectionately as ‘Granny’ Gaul. The Leinster Leader of 6 November 1948 recorded that,
 
'Deceased was a member of one of the oldest and most highly respected families in town, and was extremely popular with everyone, rich and poor alike. A very kindly old lady, she was noted for her characteristic good humour and good nature. A zealous Catholic all her life, she was a faithful adherent to her religion, and while her strength remained attended regularly and consistently to her religious duties.'

Ned Gaul was associated with many leading sports figures in the racing game. He is pictured in a photograph of the presentation of prizes for the Traders Cup at the first official race meeting at Naas racecourse on 19 June 1924. (A copy hangs in Fletchers Pub, North Main Street, Naas.)  He was also pictured behind the Governor-General of the state congratulating Mr. H. H. Beasley, who at the age of 71, had just won the Maiden Plate, at Punchestown, in 1923, on his horse, Pride of Arras. Ned was also involved with greyhound coursing. He owned a number of dogs and some of them performed well on the track. Edward ‘Ned’ Gaul, Rathasker Road, died in Naas Hospital on July 11 1951, age 51, after being in failing health for a considerable time. His obituary in the Leinster Leader stated his death

'… removes a very well-known and popular personality who had been associated with the social and sporting life of the town for many years… He was very popular with everyone and his demise at a comparatively early age is sincerely regretted.'

Ellen Gaul married Michael Mahon, a widower with two children, and moved to New Row, Naas. They had no children. Ellen and Mickey Mahon lived in the last occupied house on New Row, which was facing demolition, and were re-housed at 14 Caragh Road, Naas, in early 1958. Mickey Mahon worked in Odlums Canal Mill. He died in 1963; Ellen died on 25 December 1979, at 11 Sarto Park, Naas. She was 81 the day before having being born on 24 December 1897. Maggie Gaul married John Byrne, a native of Wicklow. They had one daughter, Margaret, or Rita, who married another Naas native, Bernard Wheeler. (Rita Wheeler, nee Byrne, died on 2 May 2010, age 66.) John Byrne worked in Scotland during WWI and served in the National Army during the Civil War. Maggie and John Byrne moved to Newhall, Naas,around 1958. John Byrne died in 1984; Maggie died on 25 January 1985, age 81.
Kathleen Durney, nee Gaul, died on 10 November 1989, age 48. She was the last of the Gaul’s of Rathasker Road, Naas.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there were several families with the surname Gaul living in Naas.


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