Lieut. Col. Austin Crowe pictured with his old schoolmaster Mister Aidan Murray in 1989 at a local history
conference in the Scots Church, Carlow, the event was organised
by Carlow County Heritage Society.
The following document was provided by
Michael Purcell and transcribed by Friend of Carlow.
Part 1, Austin Crowe on Graiguecullen.
Submitted by Selina Lawlor.
This article recorded in a copybook by
Austin was presented to Michael Purcell in 1991 for publication in
the journal "Carlow Past and Present" unfortunately it remained
Austin was one of four brothers all of
whom died in their early 60s, at the time of writing Austin was over
60; he knew his time was short.
This letter from Austin accompanied the
- Newtown Park Ave.
- 8th Feb. 1991.
- Dear Michael, Sorry for
long delay - but I had already - " almost" completed the
"job" when I had to go into hospital - two operations
within the year and had to learn to write all over
- However I've just completed the
enclosed and it may be of interest to the "Graigue fellows".
- This summer, please God, I hope
I may be able to get down to see you all for a while.
- Yours sincerely, Austin.
Austin Crowe died 11th September 1996.
The article was transcribed by J. .J.
Woods in March 2013.
“Further Reminiscences on Graigue”
By Austin Crowe.
“Gr’ig O Dionn 1554 A. D.”
An early reference to Graig was that
taken from an inquisition No. 10 of Elizabeth I on the restoration
of lands to Gerald XI, Earl of Kildare, in 1554 A.D. among which was
mentioned: Graggoden (Graig) and a castle called ‘The White Castle’.
This was a corruption of Graig O Dionn. It was from this location
that most of the attacks on the Anglo-Saxon town of Carlow were
carried out by the O M’rda (The O’Moores) in the 13, 14, and 15
In 1646 Gen. Preston, the Confederate
leader, failed to take Carlow Castle, but instead, took ‘The White
Castle’ with his artillery from the Graig side of the Barrow. Later
in 1647 Gen. Preston, continuing the siege, took the castle on May 2
and remained in possession up to July 1650.
Gen. Sir Hardress Waller took Carlow
Castle from the Graig side in 1650 by imitating Gen. Preston and
planting his artillery along the river bank called Castle View. The
portion of the bridge nearest ‘The White Castle’ was thrown down and
Waller decided on the stratagem of using the long reeds gathered in
bundles (which were growing in the Barrow) and held in place by
cables attached by pickets to either side of the river. They were
covered by wattles and were of sufficient strength to take companies
of infantry and troops of horse. Eventually ‘The White Castle’ was
taken and Carlow Castle was taken by Ireton from the Carlow side of
“The Brewery of St. Mary’s Well”
This brewery was located in Bridge
Street, next to the old G.A.A. club and was still in use up to 1873
as can be seen from O.S. Map of that date. It produced approximately
20,000 gallons of whiskey per annum and it was operated by a huge
water wheel which received its motive power from the underground
streams connected to the river Barrow. This wheel held an eerie
attraction for my pals and myself when coming home from school, it’s
creaking and swishing of the water presented to our young minds
The junction of Maryboro’ Street and
Bridge Street had a certain significance for my grandmother, Mary
Maguire. She worked as a cook in DeRochfort’s house in Clogrennan
and on one occasion she gave a loaf of bread, without permission, to
a poor beggar. Later she confessed her transgression and received as
penance ‘that she would have to walk barefooted from Rochfort’s
house to her home in Graig.’ She discovered that she could carry out
most of her penance by removing her boots on the Barrow track-line
and putting them on near the bridge before she went down the street,
thus saving face, but whether she completed her penance or not is a
matter for conjecture. When married, her name became Begley, and it
was in her house that I spent the first twenty years of my life.
“Graig Chapel of Ease”
On the left-hand side of Maryboro’ Street
(about time this street name was changed) was located the Chapel of
Ease since Killeshin was the Parish Church. Eight members of my
family were baptised here, my father being a Carlow man was
considered a runner into the village of Graig. The Chapel was built
in 1807 and perhaps was indirectly responsible for saving the lives
of the people of Mill Lane in 1814.
The Castle of Carlow overlooked Mill Lane
and at this particular time a Dr. Middleton, with the intention of
turning the castle into an asylum, had undermined the walls with
explosives, thus weakening the curtain walls and towers on the
eastern side to such an extent that they came crashing down on the
houses of Mill Lane one Sunday morning while the people were at
early Mass in the Church of Ease as a result no lives were lost.
On the building of the new Church of St.
Clare’s in 1928 the old church building became the Parish Hall of
St. Fiaac. In1937 the remains of three priests were exhumed and
transferred to the new church on the Killeshin Road. The body of
Father James Maher was found to be in a perfect state of
preservation which was attributed to his long life of holiness and
poverty during his priesthood.
“The Thatch Public House”
The last thatched pub in the town of
Carlow was located on this side of the street, but it lost its great
aura of antiquity when it was re-roofed with slates some years ago.
Its further claim to fame was due to the fact that Samuel Glover,
who wrote the music for the Rose of Tralee, was born here.
Part 2, Austin Crowe on Graiguecullen.
“The Forges of Graig”
In my time there were three forges, two
in Maryboro’ Street and one located at the junction of Chapel Street
and Killeshin Road. The fact that three forges existed almost cheek
by jowel up to the late sixties showed how important these forges
were before the mechanisation of the agricultural industry. The
forge nearest the bridge in Maryboro’ Street was owned by a Mr. Bill
Hoare, whose forte was in the shoeing of horses, donkeys, etc. On my
way home from school I often stood watching the shoeing in progress.
It never failed to impress me how these men could work in blinding
smoke when the red hot shoes were being tested for fitting on the
horses’ hoof. For my part I always stood to the windward side while
this process was taking place as I couldn’t stand the smell. The
nailing of the shoe to the hoof made me uneasy for fear the nails
might not go the right way. However, those men were professionals at
the trade and rarely if ever made mistakes.
Wrought iron work was also carried on in
this forge and I recall on one occasion at least they constructed
creels for an old Ford chassis. Of course, this very vehicle became
the enemy of the forge.
McDarby’s forge was mainly given over to
the wheelwright business. Wheels for the horse cart and, of course,
wheels for donkey carts were also manufactured here. There were
templates at the rear of the forge for the different sizes of cart
wheels. Carts were also constructed at the forge, but the most
interesting part of the work was that of fabricating the wheels. It
was fascinating to see the red hot iron hoops being attached to the
wooden rims when cold water was thrown on the wheel to expand the
wood and contract the iron hoop, making a bond that would last
anything up to twenty or thirty years. This forge closed down in the
early forties due to the war and the mechanisation of the farm.
The last forge in Graig to continue the
manufacture of horse shoes was Dan Brennan’s at the junction of
Killeshin Road and Chapel Street. The forge was in operation up to
the late ‘60s. It was a very popular place for the locals to
congregate when work was slack, and Dan, being a good humoured man,
liked the company of his neighbours during those periods. Often they
took part in games requiring great strength and agility, i.e. anvil
lifting and carrying it some distance was one requiring considerable
Micky Nolan of Sleaty was the only one I
knew who excelled in this particular contest. He was able to carry
the anvil around the forge and return it to its block with
considerable ease. Pitching old horse shoes onto a post was another
pastime and, of course, there were the experts one finds in such
locations. Alas his forge has gone and only the outline of the
foundation can be seen at ‘Brennan’s’ corner though not forgotten:
"Where many a gambol frolicked o'er the
ground, And sleights of art and feats of strength went round"
Nowadays very few people would remember
when we had no lighting other than oil lamps in our homes. There
were two public lights, one on the bridge and one located some
distance up our street. Electricity for public lighting was
generated by Alexanders of Milford from 1905 until the diesel
electric turbines were installed in the Quays, midway between this
date and the early ‘30s. In the early thirties the Electricity
Supply Board began replacing all local suppliers of electricity
which work was mainly carried out by the German company of Siemens
Schuert. As youngsters we took great interest in the erection of
poles and cables, and listening to the strange accents of the men
employed in this work. As far as I can remember they consisted
mainly of German and Belgium crews. We accordingly went home and
imitated these crews by shouting unintelligible words to one another
while digging holes in our gardens causing much damage which was not
appreciated by our parents.
The newly erected lights in our street
were a boon to those of our pals not given to early rising but to
late night gatherings under these lights.
Saturday nights were given over to late
night choral practice since the lights were not extinguished until
approximately 12.30 p.m. Among the repertoire were such songs as “By
the Bright Silvery Light of the Moon”, “Fr. Murphy of Boolavogue”,
“The Rose of Mooncoin”, “Rose of Tralee”, and many others topical of
the time. However, my father, who was a very light sleeper did not
always appreciate the late night concerts of our musical friends.
Accordingly, one night when the ‘choir’ was well into its musical
accomplishments, my father devised the stratagem of throwing a tin
can over the roof of our house (which was only a single storey). The
ensuing clatter of the can in the street was like a grenade
exploding, which in turn brought an abrupt end to the choral
activities causing the choir to scatter in several directions. The
location had the name of being haunted and the choral activities
were discontinued for a considerable time afterwards.
Part 3, Austin Crowe on
“98 Street” “Graig Bridge”
The main route from Castlecomer to Graig
prior to 1830 was via the Laurels to Chapel Street, Church Street,
Bridge Street to Graig Bridge. It can be seen from Moland’s Map of
1703 that the cutting of the line from the Laurels to Graig Bridge
did not exist at this date.
The extension of the Killeshin road to
Graig Bridge is shown on the O.S. Map of 1839. the bridge, of
course, was originally astride the boundary between Laois and Carlow
until Graig was brought into the urban area of Carlow in 1841. This
bridge holds great memories of sentimental value to me ‘the school
days which were not the happiest’ but the holidays much happier from
whence one could see the rods and lines laid along the river bank
early on Sunday mornings. All those with rods watching the
concentric circles around the lines awaiting the corks to be chucked
under the surest sign the bait had been taken.
Fish most commonly caught at this time
were perch, eel and roach. Trout were becoming scarce at this time
due mainly to the pollution from the Beet factory which lasted from
season to season and about which little was known at the time (this
was pollution cleared up and stopped some years later).
Salmon had not been caught beyond Milford
at this time, and I am convinced that this was due to river
pollution. Further effluent from the factory was transmitted by pipe
lines across the river to the swamp lands in Sleaty and this added
to the pollution when it seeped through the streams into the river.
Bird life was affected accordingly and together with insecticide,
led to the disappearance of such birds as the Corn Crake, Jack
Snipe, Bog Larks and Heron from the bogs in Graig. Eels were still
available in the drains bordering these bog lands. Some of the
drains within the boundary walls of the Barrow Navigation Company
contained eels only, which seemed to exist where other fish had long
since disappeared. It was fishing for eels that we used the system
of ‘porting’, which was simply a hazel rod with a sally quiver tied
on top to which a line, bait and hook were attached.
Then, having noted the eel’s mud trail,
one would select the most likely hole in the wall where an eel would
lay in wait for a bait. Then, placing the rod and bait close to the
mouth of the hole, one waited in trepidation for the eel to strike.
This was the moment when it was necessary to whip the rod, including
eel, from the water or otherwise the eel would entwine himself
inside the hole and might well be lost.
One of the great fishing experts was my
neighbour ‘Bucksey Donoghue’. His knowledge of the habitats of fish
far excelled that of us poor amateurs. We envied his bag full of
fish on his way home and on occasions he would throw us the odd
spratt with a look of disdain which told us something about our
capabilities as fishermen (or children).
Post Fishing Days
“Autumn and Steam Engines”
The end of the fishing and swimming
season heralded the arrival of Autumn and return to school. We
attended the last few threshings with local farmers in the evenings
or the weekends wherever they were working. A sign that the ‘happy’
season of holidays, etc., was over was the arrival of the steam
traction engines to be parked for the winter in Mary Dooley’s yard.
We cultivated the friendship of Mary’s
nephew so that we could watch the engine drivers at closer range
negotiating the narrow gateway into the parking yard. Considerable
difficulty was encountered in straightening up the engines in such
confined areas, so that it was necessary to use huge jacks to push
the rear wheels to align the engine for entry through the narrow
gateway. In later years at steam engine rallies in Stradbally the
smell of smoke, steam and oil, brought back those halcyon days of
When I thought that one day perhaps
(while dreaming and watching the engines in Mary Dooley’s yard) I
would be able to drive on of these monsters it never struck me that
such an ambition would never be achieved.
However, when all the engines were safely
parked Mary would throw a party for all those who worked with the
engines. Barrels of porter were opened upstairs but only adults or
engine drivers were given this facility.
Youngsters like myself who kept the fires
replenished with turf received lemonade in lieu of compensation.
However, my two pals having misbehaved during the day were not
allowed into the party and they took grave exception to this state
of affairs and showed their dissatisfaction that night by kicking
the door and hiding behind the shrubbery in front of the house. They
were not discovered as the night had become very dark. In the middle
of the proceedings or jollifications, since I had taken too much
lemonade I urgently required to relieve myself but was fearful of
going out to the backyard where the outdoor toilet was located. So,
I decided that discretion being the better part of valour, I would
use the shrubbery at the front of the house. It so happened that
since my pals had again kicked the door they thought the woman of
the house was trying to catch them and they jumped into the
shrubbery, where, to their great dismay, I sprayed them both with
the contents of over-loaded bladders.
Going to school for the first time was
not exactly the 'happiest time of my life'. I was introduced into
the educational requirements of the time under the sharp, incisive
eye and cane bearing hand of a lady school teacher.
Being dull of comprehension (stupid in
other words) I instinctively knew from our first meeting that
confrontation was going to be the order of the day. As a result I
usually came home with proof marks on my hands and bottom. Seeking
permission to go to the toilet was not always forthcoming since it
was the thinking of the time that recalcitrant students might make a
dash for home. Thus I found myself on one occasion, while on the top
steps of the rostrum unable to make my predicament known to the
teacher, who seemed to look everywhere but in my direction, with the
result, as every schoolboy knows, the delay led to a lake of
embarrassment forming at the bottom of the rostrum. As the school
was soon to be allowed home I tried to appear as a face in the crowd
but was jerked back into reality by the scruff of the neck and asked
to explain why a lake of water should form on the floor on such a
fine summer’ day. Since no explanation was forthcoming I received
quite a few short sharp skelps on the bottom of my wet trousers,
leaving me bawling my head off on the way home.
School days in summer seemed to be longer
and warmer in those days. It was not unusual for us to doze off over
our boards and chalk. This happened to me once but I awoke in time
to see the teacher bearing down on me but she altered course
accordingly and went for pal Jack who was bouncing "zzzz's" off his
board without coming to. Catching him by the scruff of the neck, his
nose came into contact with the desk causing blood to be shed for us
all, or me anyway, because I got a lot of it over my new jersey and
at the same time he emitted a roar sufficient to waken the whole
“Singing Jimmy Pender”
Graig produced singers of a very high
standard at school, and their choir of later years proved this to be
true. The school excelled at most of the Feiseanna held annually and
in a lot of the choral competitions came first or received very high
ratings. However, since not all of us achieved distinction in this
field we were termed ‘crows’ and I was one by name and nature.
A close neighbour of mine was a
competitor in ‘off key’ method of singing.
His name was Jimmy Pender and he attended every mission and
religious service that ever took place in the neighbourhood. He
often amazed congregations by his ability to reach heights not
normally associated with Tonic Solfa. When missions were concluded
he liked to imitate what took place during these services and while
his father was at work he would invite his pals in to celebrate
‘Mass’. He acquired his ‘vestments’ by using the daily paper with a
hole suitably cut for his head similar to the chasuble used by the
priest and the remainder of the paper covered the homemade altar
which was part of a bedroom table. A candle on either side of the
table and an egg cup for a chalice completed his ‘equipment’. He
made the lads kneel down and chanted his mumbo jumbo latin and got
the same ‘responses’ from his ‘congregation’. But while about to
give them his ‘blessing’ he turned around and found his ‘servers’
sniggering behind his back whereupon he grabbed an axe from beside
the fireplace at which moment the ‘congregation’ fled from the house
in all directions.
Jimmy was nothing if not a faithful and
obliging son to his father. When his father was on the ‘drink’ his
patience was above and beyond the ‘call of duty’, and following a
drinking session in the local pub Jimmy would take his father’s
cycle in one hand and with the other arm direct his father towards
his home. Often there was a collapse in the centre of the road but
Jimmy, having pulled himself and his father to upright position, he
was found never to have issued a word of chastisement to his father.
They have both passed to their eternal
rewards trusting that we do not forget them in our prayers. Go
ndeanaid Dia Trocaire ortha
“Other Characters of Sleaty Street”
The greater part of upper Sleaty Street
has long since disappeared due mainly to the new estates built on
O’Dwyer’s field and other pieces of land close by. There were two
small streets adjoining Sleaty Street, “viz.” Hill Street and Mill
Street. They all contained little single storied houses and some
unusual characters lived there. These houses were gradually falling
into disrepair and the ones nearest Mill Street were in ruins, and
it was here that a man called ‘Go’ Brien lived. He was not married
and it was thought that he had served in the British army during the
Boer and First World War.
It was apparent that he had served a long
time abroad since he had acquired the touch of an English accent.
The ruins of a house adjoined his and, of course, it was a place
that young adults would gather on winter nights and light bonfires
to sing songs and generally annoy this lonely old man. He did not
suffer children gladly and on several occasions had run the lads
from the gable end of the house. Some of the culprits decided one
winter’s night to further add to the unfortunate man’s misery by
running by the door of the house which all would kick and hide in
the shadows across the way in a gateway, while the poor man
threatened the dark empty space at the rear of the house armed with
a bucket of water and shouting ‘come out of the cornah or I’ll f***
a can of water on you’.
A short distance almost opposite what was
once called O’Dwyer’s Hill lived the Timmons brothers, one of whom
was called ‘Micky the Rabbit’. Both were great rabbit hunters and
kept Irish terriers for this purpose. Prior to the introduction of
Myxomatosis into the
country the rabbit was a great source of food for the average poor
person and more so during the Emergency period. Together with
vegetables which they sowed themselves these people lived on a very
healthy food source
Part 4 of Austin Crowe article.
“The Emergency Period”
With the outbreak of war in September
1939 most countries started planning to counteract invasion by the
belligerent forces. Accordingly there was a call up of soldiers who
were on the Reserve and organizations were set up to assist in local
defence. Some of these organisations were called ARP (to assist
police duties) and fire and rescue in the event of bombing; LSF, or
Local Security Force, organised for local defence in the event of
attack by belligerants. Eventually, in 1943, ARP became a purely
Anti Air Raid
Precauation for the purpose again of fire
and rescue. L.S.F. became a force to assist in police duties and the
L.D.F. became the military force for local defence under the
Graigecullen had its own company of the
LDF and commenced military training almost straight away since there
were quite a number of retired NCOs and soldiers in the area. Sgt.
Major Dinny was recalled off the reserve and returned to a reformed
reserve battalion on the Curragh. From our street alone almost ten
men joined the army to serve the state. Sometime in July 1943 the
closest we came to receiving a taste of the war was when a
Wellington bomber of the R.A.F. passed over the town in the early
morning and crashed in Colhenry not far from Ballickmoyler. No one
was killed or injured since the crew who were all Polish, parachuted
over Wexford and were interned on the Curragh for the duration of
the war. Apparently five of the crew were trainee pilots and the
plane ran out of fuel over the Atlantic and just made it back to the
coast of Ireland. L.D.F. from Graiguecullen did guard duty
surrounding the plane which was found to have scattered in small
pieces over a large area. The military from the Curragh secured any
weapons and/or ammunition from the area of the crash.
“Cholera Sheds (Pump)”
In 1870 two streets, High Street and Mill
Street, adjoined Sleaty Street almost at the County boundary between
Carlow and Laois. Both streets have long since disappeared, mainly
due to a new estate built on O’Dwyer’s field. Just beyond High
Street, almost on the county boundary, there is a pump, west of
which marked the site of the Cholera Sheds. It is still called the
Sheds pump and acquired its name from the fact that in 1870 an
outbreak of cholera took place, and those gravely ill were brought
here in a vain attempt to cure them but unfortunately most of the
sick died here.
According to local tradition the dead
were brought across the river via Connacht Lane and were buried in
the lower area of the ‘Graves’ in a mass paupers grave.
About this time also, field kitchens were
set up in the old Barrow Navigation Company Stores so that soup and
‘yellow meal’ or (as the natives called it at the time ‘An Cuid Rua’)
would be distributed to those in great poverty and who were too
proud to go into the Poorhouse otherwise known as the Workhouse. The
fear of the poorhouse was deeply ingrained in the peoples’ memory
since the famine periods of 1846-47-48. However, in the 1870s a
system of outdoor relief was available which, together with soup
kitchens, cut down on the numbers being maintained in Workhouses,
though I believe the amount given to families was barely enough to
keep body and soul together.