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September 29, 2010


Obituaries, Week of July  18th 1953, Leinster Leader, July 18th 1953

Mr. Michael Lagrue, Caragh Road, Naas

Mr. Michael Lagrue, Caragh Road Naas, whose death has occurred was amongst the last of the old Dublin Fusiliers in Naas. A native of Co. Wicklow, he was a veteran of the 1914-18 war and had not been enjoying good health for years past. An amiable, good-natured man, he was popular with everyone in the town. To his sorrowing widow, sons and daughters, the deepest sympathy is extended.
The remains were removed to the Church of our Lady and St. David on Sunday evening last, and the funeral which took place to St. Corban’s Cemetery on Monday was very large and representative. The chief mourners were- Mrs. Elizabeth Lagrue (widow); Messrs Peter and Joseph (sons), Misses Anna May, Lily Margaret, Claire and Olive (daughters); Messrs. N. Lagrue, Peter Lagrue and James Lagrue (nephews).

Mr. Thomas Hughes, Athy

Mr. Thomas Hughes, Duke St., Athy, who died rather unexpectedly on Saturday at the age of 83 years, belonged to an old and highly esteemed local family. During his active years he owned and operated a barge on the Grand Canal and was noted for his honesty and straight dealing.
Some years ago he purchased a business premises in Duke St. He was respected by all classes. Messrs. Wm. Hughes, Duke St; Thomas Hughes, Stanhope St., and Edward Hughes, Woodstock St., Athy are sons. He was interred in St. Michael’s Cemetery, Athy. Rev. John McLaughlin, C.C. officiated at the graveside.

Mr. Thomas Martin, Newtown, Rathangan

Mr. Thomas Martin (71) Newtown, Rathangan, who died recently, was widely known and highly respected over a wide area. A fine type of Irishman, the late Mr. Martin came of a good farming stock, and was noted for his industry and his honest and upright character.
He was the father of a large family, four of his sons being stalwart pillars of Gaeldom in Kildare for over a quarter of a century. Best known of these are Messrs. Paddy and Thomas Martin, who played for the All Whites on many occasions. Paddy Martin guided the Rathangan club as Chairman and Secretary for a number of years and resigned only last year through ill-health. He played with the All-Whites when they lost to the All-Ireland to Kerry in 1931. John and Tommy Martin helped to win a Leader Cup game for Rathangan in 1938, and another son, Hames, also played for Rathangan. The football and athletic tradition of the Martin family is being kept alive by young Tommy Martin, a grandson of the deceased, who is an outstanding members of this year’s Kildare minor team. Three other grandsons play with the local schools’ team.
There was a very large and representative attendance at the funeral to Rathangan cemetery. Mr. Liam Geraghty, Chairman of the Kildare County Board, represented the G.A.A. The chief mourners were-Mrs. Rose Ann Martin (widow), Misses Mary and Annie Martin, Mrs. MI Daly, Mullingar; Mrs. Rose Keogh Coolelan; Mrs. Margaret Delaney, Curragh (daughters), Messrs. Paddy, Thomas, James and Joe Martin (sons) and a large number of grand-children, cousins etc. Rev. T. Kennedy, C.C. Rathangan, officiated.

Obituaries of three Kildare men for the week of July 18th 1953, from the Leinster Leader of that date. Re-typed by Roy O'Brien and posted by James Durney. Our thanks to Roy.


Kildare Observer, March 9th 1912

Death Of A Military Veteran In Newbridge

On Sunday last the death took place at Newbridge of Timothy O’Keefe, whose demise severs the one locally remaining link with the Indian mutiny. The deceased, who was about 75 years of age, had belonged to the 108th Bengal Regiment, and full military honours were paid to the veteran’s remains on Tuesday, when the funeral took place from the Roman Catholic Church, Newbridge at 2.30 o’clock. The band & drums of the Connaught Rangers were present, and the firing party was also supplied by this Regiment (2nd Batt.) the gun carriage of the Royal Horse Artillery taking place in the cortege. The cost of the funeral was defrayed by Mr. P. Charleton, T.C., R.D.C., out of Lord Roberts’ fund for Crimean and Indian mutiny veterans.

A Kildare Observer report on the death of a Newbridge military veteran in 1912. Re-typed by Roy O'Brien. Our thanks to Roy.

September 28, 2010


Naas Workhouse Famine Fare. Black '47

James Durney

During the Great Hunger it became the work of the Poor Law Unions to house and feed the destitute and starving millions in Ireland. The British government had earlier established a workhouse system as a possible solution to the problem of the able-bodied but destitute poor in Ireland. Based on the English workhouse system 130 Poor Law Unions were established across the country, Naas Union being the first one declared. The system was controlled by the Poor Law Commission based in Dublin and was administered by eight assistant commissioners who acted as inspectors over the activities of the unions. The Naas Union comprised of 23 electoral divisions. These were Naas, Kill, Bodenstown, Rathmore, Killashee, Carnalway, Gilltown, Kilcullen, Usk, Clane, Timahoe, Downings, Caragh, Kilmeague, Rathernan, Old Connell, Newbridge, Moorefield, Kildare, Ballysax, Ballymore-Eustace, Blessington, and Boystown. Naas was one of three unions established in the county, with the other two in Athy and Celbridge.
In September 1845 the first signs of potato blight began to appear in Ireland and by November the disease had reached County Kildare. From early in 1846 the Poor Law system began to feel the effects of the potato crop failure and its total inadequacy to handle the growing numbers of destitute people seeking relief. The Naas workhouse – built in 1839 – had a capacity for 550 inmates, but in 1846 there were 771 admissions. The following year – Black ’47 – admissions were much the same, but, because of the rising poverty, collectors in some of the poorer districts were finding it difficult to collect rates. The supply and quality of food in the workhouse depended on the number of paupers in the house and other external factors. In its early days the workhouse was comfortably able to provide enough fare for the inmates but, by 1847 this was not so and in December of that year a proposal to increase the quantities of food on Christmas Day was turned down by the board.
On the week ending 29 May 1847 there were 736 inmates in the Naas Poor Law Union workhouse. There were fourteen deaths or discharges and thirteen admittances that week. These inmates required 125 gallons of new milk daily; six gallons of buttermilk; 156 four pound loaves; and 186 lbs of meat weekly. The medical officer approved the following fare for that week:

Classes        Breakfast                            Dinner                                      Supper

Adults         3oz rice                                8oz bread and 1 pint of                  None
                    3oz Indian meal                    soup made from 3oz
                    2 naggins buttermilk              of meat on Sunday and 
                    1 naggin new milk mixed       Thursday each week
                    3oz Indian meal and 3oz
                    oatmeal with 2 naggins
                    buttermilk and 1 new
                    milk mixed for
                    remaining five days

9-15 years   2oz rice                                6oz bread and 1 pint soup         4oz bread
                    2oz Indian meal                   two days as above
                    ½ pint new milk                   2oz Indian meal and
                    2oz oatmeal ½ pint
                    new milk remaining 5 days 

2-9 years    1½oz rice                    4oz bread and ½ pint new                  3oz bread
                   1½oz Indian meal                  milk on 5 days
                   ½ pint new milk                    soup instead of milk on
                    2 days

Infants          ½ lb of bread and one pint of new milk for the day
under 2

Naas Workhouse Famine Fare. Black '47. An article reproduced from the Naas Poor Law Union Minute Books. Our thanks to James.

September 22, 2010


Kildare Town set to shine on Culture Night

Please come along and take advantage of what promises to be a unique set of events in Kildare Town next Friday.

‘The Only Glow of the Day,’  a new book by local author Martin Malone, will be launched in Kildare Town Library from 8-9 pm on Friday 24th September. The book will be launched by another well known author, Mae Leonard with some introductory remarks by Mario Corrigan, Executive Librarian and Chairman of the Heritage Committee.

A work of fiction, The Only Glow of the Day, is based on historical fact and centres around the experiences of the ‘Wrens of the Curragh.’ The Wrens were prostitutes who lived on the plain under extreme conditions in the 1860’s. They were there because of the nearby barracks at Newbridge and the new camp built for the military on the Curragh in the 1850’s. Their plight came to the attention of the media when the Wrens were visited by a reporter, James Greenwood, and his encounter with these ‘fallen women’ was published in the Charles Dickens edited Pall Mall Gazette (search for wrens in the search box on EHistory for the original account in 3 parts). The story of their existence and their treatment at the hands of the elements, the local population and military authorities forms the background for this remarkable new venture for Martin Malone. It is published by New Island Books

All are welcome
and we hope people will turn out and support the event.

The launch is facilitated by Kildare Town Heritage Company, Kildare Library & Arts Services and New Island Books.

Full details of nationwide schedule for Culture Night at

Japanese Gardens Guided Tour & Centenary Talk –
Time: 5.00pm – 7.00pm
Location: Japanese Gardens, Tully Road, Kildare
Email: friedaoconnell@instourism.net
Phone: 045 520001
Website: www.irish-national-stud.ie
The Gardens, planned to symbolise the ‘Life of Man’, are acclaimed as the finest
Japanese Gardens in Europe. In celebration of the Japanese Garden’s Centenary year
1910 – 2010 and Culture Night, free guided tours are available. Marjorie Moore presents
an illustrated talk at the Visitor Centre celebrating 100 wonderful years.
Booking for Guided Tours Essential

White Abbey Literary Walking Tour
Time: 6.30pm
Location: White Abbey, Kildare Town
Phone: 045 448328
Supported by the Kildare Historical Society, the literary tour is led by author and
Sunday Miscellany regular, Mae Leonard. The tour is inspired by Kildare Manuscripts,
the Curragh, surrounding countryside, and writings by Kildare authors and poets.
Assembly at the White Abbey for 6.30pm, final destination St. Brigid’s Cathderal.
Please dress for the weather.

“The Only Glow Of The Day” by Martin Malone. Book Launch
Time: 8.00pm
Location: Kildare Library, Kildare Town Centre, Claregate Street.
Email: kildarelib@kildarecoco.ie
Phone: 045 520235
Website: www.kildare.ie/Library/Library/KildareTownLibrary
In association with The Kildare Town Heritage Centre, established local writer, Martin
Malone will launch his new novel, The Only Glow of The Day in Kildare Library. The
novel is based on an episode in the life of the Curragh Wrens. Published by New
Island Books, the novel will go to print just days before the launch. Get your copy hot
off the press!

St. Brigid’s Cathedral Concert with KCC Orchestra
Time: 9.00pm - 10.00pm
Location: St. Brigid’s Cathedral
Phone: 045 448328
Website: www.kildare.ie/local-history
End Culture Night on a high note - in the atmospheric surroundings of St Brigids
Cathedral as the County Kildare Orchestra performs works from Elgar, Bach, O’Carroll,
Fauré and Carolan. Ita O’Donovan conducts, with guest Aaron Doyle, boy soprano.

Kildare Town set to shine on Culture Night

Please come along and take advantage of what promises to be a unique set of events in Kildare Town next Friday.

September 15, 2010


The Leinster Leader – thundering of the presses since 1880

The Leinster Leader celebrates a modest birthday this year – 130 years ago the first edition of the paper rolled off the presses in Naas. It brought news, opinion and comment to a readership thirsty for vigorous journalism as the 1880s saw Irish society consumed in a period of political and social turmoil. And the pioneering editors and journalists delivered such vigour in columns of passionate opinion and lively reporting. From the start the Leader was a campaigning newspaper – unapologetic in its demands for Home Rule for Ireland and for Land Reform. Politics, meetings, speeches and proclamations filled the columns. Sport would come a little later and then in the most intimate way when the Leinster Leader had a ring-side seat at the inception of the Gaelic Athletic Association – beginning a relationship between the Leader and the GAA which has endured to the present day. Over thirteen decades of publication the paper has seen Ireland transform from being an integral part of the British Empire through Free State status and, in time, becoming a Republic. The Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War triggered turmoil in Irish society yet the Leader never missed an issue – thundering off the presses each week adding its own salvos to the cauldron of nationalist politics.
In sporting terms the Leader saw Kildare take four All Irelands – 1905, 1919, 1927 & 1928. By the time of the 1928 All-Ireland sport had become a key part of the paper’s offering perhaps reflecting the fact that sport was one of the few uncontested spaces in post Civil War Ireland.
For the local economy, the paper fulfilled an essential function through its advertising columns which provided a popular platform for shopkeepers, merchants and auctioneers. For decades the front page was comprised entirely of advertisements. From Athy, for example,  the Leinster Arms hotel advertised its hospitality which featured ‘the most comfortable and commodious accommodation in the county’ including ‘beds for one shilling to two shillings each.’ In Newbridge Quinn’s Bakery proclaimed a product line comprising of ‘Plain, fancy and Hovis bread’ with ‘bread-van deliveries twice daily to the Curragh and surrounding districts.’ In the same advertising columns the Irish Peat Moss Litter company of Monasterevin advertised the merits of ‘The Shamrock Brand – made from the best air-dried absorbent peat.’ 
The paper’s idealism was, of course, tempered by commercial realities and it made sure never to stray far away from the interests of its readers and advertisers. The interests of farmers were championed in the paper’s campaign for the redistribution of land from the landlords to the tenants, at least those tenants who farmed on middle-sized holdings. The paper was strongly represented at local protest meetings in support of the Land League. So close was the Leader to the action that the first editor, Laois man Patrick Cahill, was imprisoned by the authorities for publishing seditious material. Cahill’s successor was another firebrand, John Wyse Power, who had strong connections with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. His tenure in the Leader newsroom was short but he connected the paper with one of the totems of Irish identity. In October 1884 he responded to a call from Michael Cusack to participate in the foundation of a sporting association dedicated to putting an Irish stamp on an emerging interest in athletics and field games. Wyse Power’s attendance at the meeting on 1st November 1884 conferred on him the enduring status of being one of the seven founders of the GAA.
The first issues of the Leader in July/August 1880 remain enigmatic; no copies are to be found in libraries or archives until well into 1881. However it is known that the early editions had just four pages and sold for a pricey four pennies. Within three years the paper had doubled its number of pages, increased the page content to seven columns from six, and halved its price. By 1901 there was a further reduction to one penny and the paper could claim a circulation area that covered Kildare, east Offaly, west Wicklow, and parts of counties Meath, Dublin and Laois. Whatever about changes in its commercial profile the editorial line of the paper remained fearless and in its early years rejected any retreat into the status of a passive paper of record. The Leader set out to provide its readers with a particular interpretation of events and to add fuel to the fires of nationalism and land reform. It is a stance that might seem remarkably partisan to modern notions of objectivity but the Ireland of 1880 was a turbulent place and the Leinster Leader was forged in the flames of activism imbuing it with a journalistic vigour and resilience that remains a hallmark of the Leinster Leader to the present day.  Series no: 191

Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 26th August 2010 reflects on 130 years of the Leinster Leader newspaper. Our thanks to Liam.


From Avoca to Leixlip – Heritage Week beckons.

In between all the excitement on the GAA front another annual fixture for heritage enthusiasts has crept up on the calendar. The end of August is marked by Heritage Week, a week in which the country’s mosaic of historical and natural heritage sites is promoted to the public. A survey of the 2010 event booklet issued by the Heritage Council shows that Kildare is well represented among the compendium of heritage events and activities during the week which runs from Saturday, 21 August to Sunday, 29 August. Heritage enthusiasts in North Kildare are particularly well served with a series of events clustered around the stellar historical and architectural resource that is Castletown House at Celbridge. Period themed tours, garden walks, children’s tours and workshops, and atmospheric evening tours are all part of the programme being offered by the OPW staff at Castletown. Telephone booking is advised for some of the events so it is worth giving Castletown a ring at 01-6288252. Celbridge is a hotbed of heritage activity with the industrious Community Council making a big effort to highlight the town’s heritage apart from the riches of Castletown. On Saturday at 11am there will be a visit to Kildrought House, a Dublin Merchant’s House from 1719, in the heart of Celbridge.  Floating downstream in the Liffey valley to Leixlip, the gem that is St. Mary’s Church of Ireland will be open from Saturday, 21st August for the week. A very early Norman foundation built circa 1190, St. Mary’s was destroyed in 1317, and rebuilt in the 15th century. Contact Helen Ryan on 01-6240976 for opening times. Turning west on the M4 belt, Maynooth also has an attractive range of events. It is great to see an effort being made to interest the younger folk in their heritage and the OPW staff at Maynooth Castle (beside the college gate) come up trumps with a children’s themed tour of the castle, complete with knights and princesses, at 11am and 1.30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Still on a childhood note but one which will echo with adults of a certain vintage, the Maynooth Local History Group is leading a walk to the grave of Fr. Eoghan O’Growney, known to a generation of Irish school-children for his primer ‘Simple Lessons in Irish.’ Meath native Eoghan O’Growney was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, and he became an inspiration for the intense revival of interest in things Gaelic in the early 1900s. Meet at  the College gate at 3.30 on Sunday. Declan O’Connor of the Maynooth Society at 01 6286043 has full details.  Still in Maynooth, Matt Kennedy of the Royal Canal Amenity Group, is organising a walk along the placid waters of the canal, meet at the Harbour on Saturday at 2.30pm. This is a big year for the Royal as it will be reopened to full navigation from the Shannon to Dublin in the autumn, the first time that it has been fully in service since its closure to commercial boats in the late 1950s. Continuing on a waterways note but in the county town, the Naas Local History Group is having a walk to the harbour area at Naas: meeting point is the Town Hall on Saturday at 3pm. This is the first of three walks which the Naas group is contributing to Heritage week; Charles O’Malley on 045 866899 has all the information. One of the most innovative events for Heritage week will take place in Kilcullen on Monday at 8pm with a walk (meeting at the Heritage centre) through the town highlighting the key buildings and families linked through the huge archival resource of the 1911 Census recently put on line by the National Archives. This promises to be an intriguing exercise, connecting the source documents with the physical evidence on the streetscape. Not all events with a Kildare interest are taking place within the county. A display at the library in Trim, Co. Meath during Heritage Week promises to interest historians of the Curragh Camp. The exhibition will feature images from a 116 page autograph book compiled at the Rath Internment Camp from September to October 1921. Mention must be made too of a walk at Avoca, Co. Wicklow where Naas resident and Heritage Week veteran Nick Coy will lead his annual trek over one of Ireland’s key mining history sites. The walk takes place on Sunday at 3pm; ring Nick on 086 3706731 for essential directions.  Intending participants in any of the above events should check all details on the Heritage Week website, www.heritageweek.ie, or consult the bulging Heritage Week programme booklet available in libraries. Series no: 190.


Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 19th August 2010 promotes the arrival of Heritage Week. Our thanks to Liam. 


Yellow jersey for Lilywhite cycling hero

The sport of cycling has a relatively low profile in modern Ireland. The glory days of the 1980s when Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche in the Tour de France and other prestige races on the European cycling circuit marked a high point in the Irish public’s interest in cycling. However fifty years ago, Kildare had its own cycling hero, a Nurney man whose exploits on the bicycle made him a household name. The success of Paddy Flanagan in the 1960 Rás Tailteann marked one of the rare occasions when a sports story was given lead position on the front page of an issue of the Leinster Leader.  The intro paragraph sizzled with excitement as it described how Flanagan had powered to victory in the premier cycling event in the Irish sports calendar: ‘Paddy Flanagan reached the highest pinnacle of his successful cycling career last week when he won the blue riband of Irish cycling and most coveted race of all – the eight day 900 mile Rás Tailteann.’

The writer quickly went on to draw Flanagan’s colleagues from the Kildare team into the limelight: ‘This however was not Paddy Flanagan’s victory alone. When the laurel wreath was placed over his shoulders those who followed the race felt that it should have been big enough to encompass five other Kildare men – Murt Logan, Eamonn Ryan, Liam Baxter, Michael Wright, and Eamonn Flanagan, brother of the winner.’

Praise was also due to the Kildare team manager, Hal Conway, who was described as being both ‘master and servant’ to his team during the week’s gruelling circuit through the country’s most challenging terrain. Conway’s assistant, Seamus Dowling also came in for commendation – he was said to have combined perfectly with Dowling and the pair worked in perfect harmony watching from the team car, or at the daily manager’s meetings, or working out tactics for the riders.

And it is clear that the Kildare management pair had its work cut out over the eight day duration of the race judging from the mishaps that befell the team’s cyclists. The first blow to Kildare came before the start of the Rás when Paddy McCormack had to cry off. Then on the morning of the start the team’s support motor-cycle failed to turn up. The motorcycle was meant to accompany the race passing on messages to the riders from Conway and Dowling in the team car following the race. The absence of the motorcycle proved to be a big loss especially on the second stage when two Kildare men, Ryan and Baxter crashed. Word could not be passed back to the team manager’s car and valuable time was lost before the pair was on the road again. Worse was to follow for Kildare  as the race progressed: the Leader report described Conn Carr’s accident on the first day as ‘tragic’. More tragic still was Michael Wright’s smash-up on stage five and then on stage six Noel Flanagan went over the top of his handlebars.

The loss of such key riders from the Kildare team might have spelled the end of its competitive chances were it not for the outstanding leadership of team captain Murt Logan who, according to the Leader writer, ‘played a real team captain’s part – right from the off he set an example to his team-mates and his clever riding and never say die efforts will be spoken for many a day.’ Crucial too in rallying the morale of the remaining team members were the stalwats of the team’s support crew. Paddy Nugent of Kilcullen put his van at the disposal of the team. No doubt the van was used to transport the supply of cooked chickens which Joe McTernan sent to the Kildare cyclists to sustain them on each stage of the race. Joe, described as a great sportsman, was also waiting for the Kildare cyclists at the Rás finish in the Phoenix Park. From there he brought them to his premises in Newbridge where Councillor Michael St. Ledger congratulated the Kildare team on behalf of the people of the county. However the twin powerhouses behind Kildare’s great performance were the Flanagan brothers. Twice during the week Eamonn Flanagan had saved the day when all seemed lost and the manner in which he tackled the stages over the Kerry mountains was, according to the Leader, equal to any cycling feat seen on the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

And as for his brother, Paddy, the Leader writer struggled for superlatives to mark his stunning achievement in one of Ireland’s blue riband sporting events. Flanagan had taken the yellow jersey on stage two and held on to it for the following six days despite the efforts of cyclists from fifteen other counties to take it from him. He stormed through the last stage into the Phoenix Park with three minutes to spare on his nearest rival, Dan Ahearne of Kerry. Perhaps the most eloquent summing up of Kildare’s pride in their cycling champion is through the photograph which accompanied the story and which shows the leading bunch racing past the Moore Abbey gate on the Dublin road out of Monasterevin. The roadside is lined with spectators cheering on their local hero, Paddy Flanagan, who conspicuous in the yellow jersey which he wore with such style as the champion of Irish cycling’s premier event, fifty years ago. Series no: 189.


Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 12th August 2010 reflects on Kildare's cycling hero, Paddy Flanagan. Our thanks to Liam. 


All-Whites lose out to Metropolitans in rousing game

The excitement for fans of GAA ramps up at this time of year as the All-Ireland championships approach the semi-final stage. Fifty years ago, in August, 1960, this seasonal pattern held true with much coverage of GAA in Kildare and its adjoining counties. Although Kildare were out of the 1960 Championship stakes they were still playing competitive games right into August through such competitions as the Byrne Cup. The Leinster Leader’s coverage was as extensive and as supportive of the Lilywhites as if they had been heading for an All-Ireland semi-final. Although in the O’Byrne cup game reported Kildare lost to Dublin by 1-10 to 1-6, the Leader’s sportswriter was enthusiastic about the loser’s performance stating that it ‘certainly was a rousing game’ and those in charge of Kildare could be well satisfied.

To digress for a moment, the Kildare team is referred to in August 1960 as the ‘All Whites’ and not as the ‘Lilywhites.’  It would be an interesting study to establish when the term ‘Lilywhites’ supplanted ‘All Whites’ as the catch word for the Kildare team.

Commenting on the game the Leader reporter referred to individual player’s performances. He said that ‘Curtis played a good game, the best he has ever played up to the present.’ In similar vein he remarked that the other members of the back-line, Flood and McCarthy, were safe also. However he chastised them over the nature in which the conceded the Dublin goal pointing out that ‘The goal came as a result of slapping down the ball, a habit that should not be indulged by the defence lines.’ Next to come under his scrutiny was the half-back line: ‘Carolan has greatly improved and seems to have overcome the handicap of an injured ankle.’  The Leader reporter went on to say that Coughlan fitted in well at left-back and was a back not a forward. Jim Connolly, a recruit, could do better with further trial. The centre pair, Maguire and P. Moore, was praised for holding the upper-hand and gave the forwards plenty of ball, especially in the last fifteen minutes when Kildare could have pulled the game out of the fire.  Of the forwards Aldridge, Cummins and O’Malley were hard workers.

As regards the flow of the game proper, Dublin took their chances every time and mounted up the scores. They were well held during the first half and it looked rosy for Kildare when they were forward by a point. Kildare however, seemed bottled-up when they got near the Dublin and two goal chances went abegging by slow thinking and acting. 

The weather conditions on the day helped neither side. It was so wet on that Sunday in August that even the characteristics of the match ball were affected: ‘The rain seldom ceased with the results that the ball towards the end became utterly unreliable.’ While the Leader commentator agreed that each player ‘did his best under the circumstances’ he went on to highlight aspects of team selection and performance which would not be strange in modern sports analysis. He felt that the team management changed players too often which gave the players no chance of developing ‘combination’, a word  used in early sports-writing to indicate team play and cohesion.  He identified another bad habit on the part of the Kildare players which was their frequent practice, when awarded a free, to attempt to go for a goal.  He pronounced that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ and advised the Kildare forwards that the ‘securing of a goal is often problematical but a fairly accurate player should be able to secure a point when suitably placed.’ However all told the Kildare performance was commendable and, presumably on the basis of a visit to the victor’s dressing room, the Leader man claimed that the match winners, Dublin, had conceded that Kildare was the better team. How even the must chivalrous winner could come to that conclusion with a four point margin between teams is something of a mystery. Such questions aside, he maintained that the praise from the Metropolitans must be deserved and this praise was lavished on the ‘All Whites’ for their great display on that Sunday in August, fifty years ago.  Series no: 188.


Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 5th August 2010 reflects on when the term ‘Lilywhites’ supplanted ‘All Whites’ as the catch word for the Kildare team. Our thanks to Liam. 


September 07, 2010


Summer snow on the Kildare hills

Have Irish summers taken an irreversible turn for the worst? For the fourth year running the month of July has been marked by deluges sluicing down from rain-laden black clouds. At a time of the year when the sun should be beating down, the Irish public have once again been sloshing around in wellington boots and rain coats. And while the trend this year has been for stay at home holidays, even the most philosophical stay-at-home holidaymaker would find it hard to maintain morale in the likes of Tramore, Bundoran or Kilkee as the rain drums relentlessly on the caravan roof. 

If it is any consolation, summers in years past – contrary to the nostalgic impression of golden summers – have been just as bad. A glance at the Leinster Leader for June 1926 reveals an intriguing report of mid-summer snow. The report relates that there was a heavy snow fall over portions of County Kildare during the early hours of the Saturday morning of 12th June 1926. By 4 o’clock the summit of the Red Hills (between Kildare and Rathangan) was completely capped with white. Local residents were could not believe what they were seeing with the report relating: ‘Some of the older inhabitants of the district say that they cannot remember anything like such a fall of snow in the month of the roses.’

Farther back in time, the rain threatened to put a damper on summer activities in July 1910, just one hundred years ago. Among those whose fun was threatened in that summer by the weather gods were the parishioners of the Blessington and Kilbride union of Church of Ireland parishes. They had been looking forward to their annual outing which was described  by a report in the Kildare Observer newspaper as being ‘inter parochial reunion, as numbers of  people meet who all the year round have practically no other opportunity of seeing each other.’ The destination for the 1910 trip was Howth Head and the excursionists travelled on that much-storied fixture in West Wicklow’s travel network, the Blessington tram, which stopped at The Lamb to pick up the Kilbride parishioners. From the Blessington tram terminus at Terenure two more trams took the party across the city to Amiens Street station. It was on this journey that heavy rain made its first onslaught on the day-trippers with the report recalling that ‘this was a trying experience to some of the party, as a somewhat heavy shower was falling at the time.’ From Amiens the train took the party to Sutton where another famous transport link, the Howth tram, carried them on to the summit of Howth Head. Again the rain intruded: ‘Some rain was falling when the summit was reached.’ However shelter was at hand by way of the Great Northern Railway’s pavilion where an ample lunch was served. Back out to the exposed heights of Howth summit and the rain filled the skies over Dublin Bay. However the Blessington people are hardy folk and made the best of the occasion. As the Observer report remarked: ‘ The showers which fell at intervals detracted somewhat from the day’s pleasure, but the general good humour of the excursionists, and the remarkably cheerful way in which they bore the discomfort caused by the rain, could not escape notice.’ 

Making light of the rain the group visited the Bailey Lighthouse which stands sentinel at the north arm of Dublin Bay. A return to the pavilion for afternoon tea was next on the itinerary and happily the rain cleared for a short while allowing the group to indulge in sports and games with the amusement maintained in a vigorous manner through the evening. The return journey, involving three tram trips and one rail link, was again marred by heavy rain. However spirits remained high and the excursionists reached their home destination of Blessington ‘feeling that in spite of the adverse conditions they had a pleasant outing.’

The Blessington excursion was not the only event interfered with by rain in early July 2010. At the County Kildare club, located off the Dublin road out of Naas, the opening Tuesday of the club tennis tournament for 1910 was a washout: ‘the courts were deluged with ‘the most incessant rain and not a match could be played.’ On the Wednesday the weather cleared and although the courts were in a most sodden condition, a great number of matches were got through.  Their neighbours on the club grounds, the cricket enthusiasts also had a frustrating summer with the first eleven team inactive for several causes – ‘the wretched weather’ being the main culprit.

So perhaps the many reminiscences of halcyon summers in times past do not tell the full story and the summers of bygone years were not a great deal better than the sodden July weather that has become the lot of the Irish holidaymaker in recent years. Series no: 187.


Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 29th July 2010 reflects on the dramatic change in our summer climate. Our thanks to Liam.  


Grit, grime and gore – Kildare’s industrial past.

Mention the words ‘historic monument’ and the first images that come to mind are those of ruined castles and churches, round towers, high crosses, and raths and ring forts. Kildare has an abundance of such sites – from the early Christian glories of Moone and Castledermot to medieval masterpieces such as Maynooth Castle. However there is a class of monument which has been overlooked in the county and yet one which gives strong evidence of how people made a living in the locality in bygone years. However the grit, grime and gore involved in sites such as sand pits, sewage plants and knackeries does not have the same historical glamour appeal as picturesque old castles and churches. As a result it is only in recent times that a scientific effort has been made to quantify and identify the county’s rich resource of industrial history known in technical terms as ‘industrial archaeology.’

Kildare County Council’s Heritage Office commissioned a map-based survey of the county’s industrial archaeology with a view to compiling a database and basic description of sites throughout the county. The results are impressive in both quantity and variety. Virtually every townsland in the county was found to have some evidence of a site where people had worked to shape or process materials as part of the sinews of a local economy.

This outcome is a necessary correction to the image that the history of Ireland’s countryside is exclusive an agricultural one. Other types of enterprise, albeit related to agriculture, flourished in every corner over the generations. And even though Kildare’s towns were small until the expansion of the late 20th century they too were the location of a variety of industrial and ancillary operations. The survey – entitled  the Kildare Industrial Archaeological Heritage Project (KDIAH) -- identified an impressive 2,463 sites related to the county’s industrial archaeology heritage. The largest single category of enterprise was in the extractive industries with more than 1,000 sites identified in relation to pits and quarries of all kinds.  Manufacturing and mill sites (mostly water mills but some wind mills) accounted for another 662 locations while transport -- embracing the county’s heritage of historical road, canal and rail features -- accounted for another 536 sites.

And after all that thirsty work in the quarries and peat workings of Kildare, the workers needed to have their thirst slaked and the county was not found wanting in that respect with the survey category of ‘ Breweries, distilleries and malthouses’ revealing twenty-one sites. Preparing the raw material for brewing which involved the malting of the barley prompted the building of malt-houses many of which remain distinctive features on the Kildare sky-line. The barley (invariably locally grown) was spread, heated and steeped in the maltings before conveyance to breweries and distilleries. Malt-houses at Athy (Rathstewart and Ballyroe), Rathanagan, Monasterevin and Athgarvan operated in parallel with the milling industry and the malt-houses and mill buildings remaining in these locations are impressive reminders of an earlier approach to industrialisation. The early 19th century Maltings at Athgarvan on the Liffey, upriver of Newbridge, are regarded as among the best surviving malt buildings in the country.

The roast cereals were then sent on for the distinct processes of brewing or distilling. The KDIAH map survey identified breweries in Kilcock, Maynooth, Celbridge and Athy. Of course the county’s most famous brewing son, Arthur Guinness, is said to have brewed his first beverages a century earlier in Leixlip, before moving to bigger things at James’ Gate, Dublin in 1759.

The more refined practice of distilling was also a significant enterprise in Kildare in the period covered by the KDIAH assessment. Evidence of distilleries was found in Kilcock and Leixlip. Much the biggest distilling enterprise in the county was at Monasterevin where the Cassidy distillery included the full apparatus of kilns, mash houses, workshops, offices, grain stores and warehouses.  A key factor in the establishment of distilleries, maltings and mills in the county was proximity to the canal network which began to be laid out from the late 18th century. In this respect Monasterevin, now referred to as the ‘Venice of Ireland’ given its proliferation of bridges and waterways, was in a key position on the Barrow branch of the Grand Canal and thence the flourishing of the Cassidy distillery over many generations.

Kildare County Council is to be commended for commissioning such a thorough and revealing survey of the industrial history of the county. Much credit must go to KCC Heritage Officer Brigid Loughlin, and the report’s compilers Antoine Giacometti, Siobhan Duffy and Mairín Ní Cheallagh of Archaeological Technology Ltd. for the report’s quality and range of information. They have helped restore a neglected aspect of local history – our industrial monuments – to a position where they should be taken as seriously as the more high-profile historic monuments in the county. Series no: 186.

Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 22nd July 2010 reflects on Kildare's rich industrial past. Our thanks to Liam.  


No take-off for factory plan

The Ireland of the early 1960s was a forward-looking place. After the grey and insular post-war years of the 1940s and 50s there was a momentum to look outwards and take on exciting new  possibilities and projects. An entrepreneurial culture emerged in Irish government and business circles which placed a particular emphasis on encouraging investment by foreign industrialists.

A legacy of this drive to embrace new projects is the landmark building near Baldonnel cross, familiar to  Kildare commuters who travel the N7, and now occupied by Lufthansa Airmotive. Although more than four decades old, the office building still retains an aura of 1960s modernity. Behind the offices is a very large factory building which towards the perimeter of Baldonnel aerodrome.

In the early 1960s a leading figure in the French aviation industry, Monsieur Potez, approach the Irish government with a plan to establish an aircraft manufacturing plant in Ireland. The Potez brand was virtually a household name among the French – the firm had made aircraft for military and civilian operators in France since the First World War.  The aeroplane intended manufacture for the Irish plant was a new four-engined propeller plane with capacity for ten passengers in a high-spec executive fit out or up to eighteen in a standard passenger layout.

The Irish government was clearly impressed with M. Potez’s approach – all the more so when his projections indicated that the plant would employ a phenomenal 1,700 workers.  The Government dug deep into the Exchequer and delivered a grant of £405,000 to Potez as well as taking a shareholding of £914,900 in the holding company set up to establish the Irish venture. This was very serious money by the standards of 1960s prices. No doubt the Government facilitated the purchase of the land for the factory at Baldonnel with a view to completed aircraft coming off the assembly line and on to the runways at the existing military aerodrome for testing and delivery.

In the meantime Mr. Potez was busy getting his dream aircraft – designated the Potez 840 – into the air. The first model was built in France in 1961 and initial reaction among airlines was promising. A second prototype was built in France and undertook a sales tour of North America.

News of such a major new employer attracted much interest in the North Kildare/West Dublin areas and led to a humorous exchange in the Dail in April 1962 when Dr. Noel Browne, T.D., expressed concern that the new aircraft factory might sell aircraft to NATO countries despite Ireland’s policy of strict neutrality. The Minister for Industry and Commerce Jack Lynch TD diffused the criticism by saying that for every plane that the Potez factory made for NATO he would ask them to make another for the Warsaw Pact!

However there was less levity three years later in June 1965 when the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Dr. Patrick Hillery T.D. was challenged on the fact that while the State had given over a million pounds to the Potez project, and the huge factory had been constructed, there was only a handful of staff on site, nothing like the 1,700 that had been predicted.  A year later the signs were ominous that the grand project was falling way short of target. Mr. Clinton, T.D., challenged the Minister, Mr. George Colley T.D, with the fact that there were only 54 employed on site. Mr. Colley could give no assurances but insisted that the Potez family had put up their investment in the Baldonnel project before any State money had been handed over. However behind the scenes the project was unravelling; the Potez family travelled to Dublin for a meeting with the Irish government but the outcome was unsatisfactory as the demonstration aircraft built in France had failed to attract enough order. In August 1968 a liquidator was appointed to Potez Ireland Ltd. and the Baldonnel factory closed, never having employed more than 133 workers, a long way short of the 1,700 predicted by M. Potez when he first put the proposal to the Irish government. Eventually the premises were sold to Roadstone as a corporate headquarters. The State recovered just £344,000 of the £1,489,000 it had invested in the Potez project. An acknowledged low-point in the Government’s effort to encourage multinational industry some saw a humorous side with Deputy Gerry L’Estrange making the remark that the modern office premises would ‘make a lovely rest home for defeated Ministers!’

In a twist of fate, forty years later the former Potez plant now hums to the sound of the aviation industry it was originally intended for. In the hands of Lufthansa Airmotive it accommodates highly skilled services for the overhaul of the big jet engines which power modern jet airliners.

Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 15th July 2010 reflects on the investment by foreign industrialists on 1960s Ireland. Our thanks to Liam.  

September 04, 2010


Jet plane screams through the Newbridge sky

High balls dropping out of the air over St. Conleth’s GAA grounds in Newbridge regularly feature in the reports filed by the sports correspondents of the Leader reporting on games at county GAA headquarters. But footballs have not been the only object seen at high altitude over St. Conleths. On a few memorable occasions in the early 1970s the GAA grounds was the centrepiece of an impressive military tattoo which followed a parade by all elements of the Defence Forces down the main street of Newbridge.

The spectacle organised by the Army included demonstrations of athletics from the School of Physical Training on the Curragh and exhibitions of precision drill by the trainee officers of the Cadet school, distinctive by the white bands on their green peaked caps. Even more spectacular were displays of motorcycle manoeuvres by personnel of the Cavalry Corps including a trick where four or five soldiers lay side –by-side on the ground while a colleague gunned his bike up a small ramp and took to the air in a jump which would hopefully carry him over his plucky comrades lying under his trajectory. Clearly no health and safety worries in that era!

The finale of the evening comprised a mock battle in which the Defence Forces rolled out all their hardware including the thunderous discharge of blank rounds from the big 25-pounder field guns – the shock waves all but lifting spectators off their seats. There was further drama when three Air Corps helicopters came in line abreast and dropped assault troops on the pitch. The helicopters departed and the mock battle on the pitch continued. Playing the role of the opposition were local units of the FCA, the reserve defence forces. For some reason the FCA always seemed to lose the battle.

All in all the Newbridge tattoo was a spectacular opportunity for the public to see the professionalism of the Defence Forces in operation  But the most startling episode in the tattoo was heralded by a scream-like sound coming from the west, its source hidden from view by the stand, until a bizarre looking silver-and-orange object burst over the field. The object turned out to be one of the Air Corp’s Vampire jet trainer aircraft – it made a stunning sight as the pilot rolled it upside down while it climbed away over the Liffey at high speed.

The Vampire was often seen in the sky over east Kildare during its twenty years of service as the Air Corp’s first jet training aircraft. Recently at Air Corps headquarters at Casement a number of current and retired personnel (many resident in Co. Kildare) gathered for a reunion to reminisce on the challenges of operating what was a state of the art aircraft when it arrived into Irish service in the mid 1950s. The Vampire had first been seen in the skies over the Curragh in 1948 when a demonstration aircraft from England flew a low pass over the Camp. The Irish Government, anxious to ensure that Ireland’s aviation capacity should be kept up to date ordered three of the aircraft in 1956 at a cost of £49,000 each. They were the first jet aircraft in Irish state ownership, pre-dating by some years the acquisition of jets by Aer Lingus. In fact one of the main outcomes of the Vampire fleet – three more came to Baldonnel in 1961 – was to form a pool of pilots with jet flying experience from which Aer Lingus could draw personnel for more advanced training on its multi-engined passenger jets. Another well-remembered public demonstration of the Vampires was their fly past at the annual Easter Parade when four aircraft in formation rent the air over O’Connell Street.

The Air Corps maintenance crews had to work hard on the Baldonnel ramp to keep the demanding Vampires serviceable – they were a high-maintenance machine with a big appetite for fuel, new tyres and spare parts. The Irish Government never had enough money to keep the spares coming so the Vampire’s forays into the skies over West Dublin and North Kildare were few but spectacular. The aircraft were taken out of service after twenty years in 1976. The then Minister for Defence, Mr. Paddy Donegan TD, squeezed into the two-man cockpit for a farewell flight.

 However any reader who was present for the Newbridge military tattoo in St. Conleth’s park in the early 1970s when this startling shape screamed over the grounds, its vibrations threatening to pop every rivet in the old stand, will not easily forget this iconic aircraft which brought the jet age to Ireland.

Thanks to Brig. Gen. Ralph James, GOC Air Corps and Airman Michael Whelan, MA for their help in recalling the Vampire’s service. Series no: 184.

Liam Kenny in his column 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 8th July 2010 reflects on the military displays in 1970s Newbridge. Our thanks to Liam.  

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