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Leinster Leader 1 September 1956

Athy Over Seventy Years Ago

Editor “Leinster Leader”
Sir, I always take an interest in Athy. In my late teen age, I resided with good friends quite near it for several months in the year 1881.
   Only two of the many premises I know now remain one Mr. Jackson of Leinster Street, and the other Messrs. Doyle Brothers, of William Street. The drapers in my time were Ransbottom Foley and Company, A. Duncan and Ml. Keating. Thomas Hickey supplied groceries. Pat Knowles was a victualler. Messrs. Deegan, Stone and Miss Silke were vintners. Lumbleys were merchant tailors. Of the old gentry class was Mr. Plewman who lived in a mansion nearby. Mr. Telford in his foundry near the Chapel, constructed splendid machinery. The only bicycle in Athy was owned and ridden by Mr. James Doyle.
    Middle-aged and young country men then wore beards, though within two yards of the big ugly Courthouse in the Square was a little barber who charged only a penny for a shave.
  The town had the inevitable police station housed in a very curious looking barracks, the centuries old ruin known as “White’s Castle.” The R.I.C. barracks housed the town Sergeant Griffin and Head Constable Bodley and as many armed “Irishmen” as did their bit in holding their fellow-country men in bondage to England’s Queen Victoria.
  I was one of many thousands who attended the great demonstration held on the Square of Athy, when there were thunderous cheers and applause for Michael Davitt, who, by his Land League had abolished the centuries old evils of planter landlordism and famine, and I was also present when the news was broadcast the world over that Dr. Walsh, the great scholar, Churchman, Irish Nationalist patriot was appointed Archbishop of Dublin. In his honour candles were lighted in every house and the rejoicing couldn’t be excelled.
    In the year 1884 there were six priests in Athy. Those attached to the Parish Church were Fathers Doyle, P.P. Staples, O’Carroll and Lube C.C.s. The latter lived in a thatched house.
    In their little chapel two Fathers Duffy, O.P. and Hughes, of the Dominican Order, officiated.
  There was a little sport about Athy. I was invited to play cricket and the club had a fine supply of bats and balls. Walking was the universal physical exercise. With companions of my own age and sex one day we walked from Athy through Ballyadams and across the Slieve Bloom mountains to Stradbally, and back the same evening, doing about twelve Irish miles. Another walk would be along the peaceful Barrow river as far as Mageney in Carlow or to Ballylinan in O’Moore’s country, or Moone Chapel where Father Shurman, P.P. or Father Slattery officiated.

A letter published in the Leinster Leader on 1 September 1956 describing Athy seventy years ago

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