In the following I will try to give you, as far as my memory serves
me, a description of Burrin Street a hundred years ago, as I got it from
my grandfather, who came to Carlow from Boakfield, Ballytore about the
year 1825. He was a pupil in Shackleton's famous school in 1812; his
name appears in the "Annals of Ballytore."
He was an acquaintance of Hugh Cullen, who was a kinsman of Father
Starting from the Market Cross I will endeavour to trace the
occupants of the houses along the street to the Kilkenny Road. The
Market Cross, by the way, got its name from the fact that at the time I
speak of a very big market was held there practically every day in the
week. These were stalls at which all classes of goods could be
purchased: Vegetables of all descriptions, salt herrings (which were
then a popular fish), fresh meat, old clothes, locks and keys etc. This
market was a successor of the famous market held previously at the
"Carlow Wall", which extended from the site of the Provincial Bank down
to Haymarket in a laneway that existed there.
The house at the Market Cross, at present occupied by Mr. Gillespie
and the one next it in Burrin St, ( at present the central Café) was
then built by the late James Morris who conducted an extensive Italian
Warehouse. The house was also used for the quarterly meetings of the
Society of Friends, who came there in large numbers from as far away as
Mountmellick, Mountrath and Edenderry. It was the custom of Mr. Morris
to close his establishment during these meetings, even to the extent of
leaving up the shutters on the windows. Imagine his surprise to find on
a morning, during the progress of one of those meetings, the
inscription: "Gone to the Races" painted on the shutters. In future he
had the shutters taken down.
The house on the opposite side if the street (now Governey's Boot
Depot) was owned by a Mr. John Keating, who made soap, tallow and "dip"
candles, which succeeded the old "rush light."
This John Keating had a brother, Michael, who carried on a
victualling business in Dublin St. and was generally known as "Mickey
Old Shirt," which he resented very much. Some 50 years ago an Excise
Officer came to Carlow, who had a very exalted opinion of himself and
wishing to mix with the upper circles proposed joining the County Polo
Club. Some of the "bright boys" of the town heard this and promptly
informed the gentleman that Mickey Keating had a pair of grand polo
ponies he was willing to sell, but that if the gentleman intended buying
one he should insist on getting the pony called "Old Shirt". A few days
later the Excise Officer called on Keating and on asking to be shown the
animal with the fancy name, was promptly chased from the shop by the
irate owner, armed with a huge butcher's knife.
Crossing Burrin Street to the opposite side we come to the premises
now occupied by Mr. Quinn. At the time I speak of this shop was owned by
a Martin Maxwell, who carried on business as a linen draper and also did
an extensive trade in ropes and twine. He had a "rope walk" up at
Staplestown Road in field now occupied by Mr. Peter Jones. Ropes were
made at this "rope walk" up to about 45 years ago, and when the business
was in full swing it was patronised by farmers and carters from over a
very wide area.
Directly opposite this premises were two small shops, one was owned
by Patsy Byrne the Butcher, and in his declining years, when his
business had grown very small, it used to be said that " he only killed
half a cow at a time." Near him lived – I think in the premises now
occupied by the Regal Saloon – a man named James Voss, who was a
locksmith by trade. He was a well- educated old man with a literary
bent. Crowned by a mop of snow white hair he was a well- known
character, and was always anxious to convey to others the beauties of
At night was his favourite time for working which he did by the side
of a little American stove on which he used brew himself mugs of tea so
strong that he used boast "you could trot a mouse on it".
Next door – the present Deighton Hall – was the County Courthouse. At
the time I speak of this building was much larger than at present. There
was another apartment as large as the present hall which extended into
Water Lane. This portion was taken down some 70 years ago in order to
widen the thoroughfare. At the beginning of the last century the County
Assizes were held in this Courthouse when the majority of the accused
were sheep stealers. The famous Lord Norbury, known as "The Hanging
Judge" presided at the Assizes here about the years 1810 and 1811, at
each of which more than twenty executions were ordered for sheep
Bridewell Lane opposite led to the County Bridewell or Jail, now
known as Whelan's Corn Stores and in occupation of the Barrow Milling
Co. The Lane at that time was practically a cul- de-sac, as it
terminated at the Bridewell, the road out to Hanover not having then
been built. Consequently when the prisoner crossed Burrin Street and
entered the Lane he was to all intents and purposes in jail.
LABOUR IN VAIN INN.
But to return to Burrin Street, The site formally occupied by the
Cinema and Garage was in former years the site of four shops and a Mill.
The first of these shops at the Lane Corner was owned by Dr. Salter, who
was then Carlow's only apothecary, the next shop was tenanted by Mr.
Gale, a tailor and the other two by my grandfather, (Mr Boake). The site
of these houses was formally "The Labour in Vain Inn", a well-known
coaching inn. This must have been a very old building, as on one of the
windows in the top storey of my grandfather's house was scraped the name
of the Executioner of Charles I , who it was said, stopped the night
there on his way to England. The sign over this Inn was the picture of a
man washing a black boy and bore the following inscription:
- "You may scrub from morning till night,
- But you'll never make a Blackman White."
Dr. Salter, the apothecary, was a well known figure in Carlow, His
fame as a dispenser of medicines spread far and wide. He boasted he used
to taste every bottle of medicine he made up, and that his tongue was
practically worn away from this practice. He had a fine pump in his
yard, which he claimed was worth a fortune to him as it provided all the
"aqua pura" for his concoctions. The late Charlie Johnson was Dr .Salters
apprentice and succeeded him in the business.
The tailoring premises of Mr. Gale next door was later occupied by
Misses Bailey who carried on a stationery business and the remaining two
shops which comprised my grandfather's business premises, were known as
Boake's "Woollen Hall". The entire block was completely burned out by a
great fire which occurred on October 1st 1906, the heat of which was so
great that it cracked the glass in the windows of the Deighton Hall
The site between my grandfather's shops and the bridge was occupied
by Kelly's Mill, which in those days did a big trade in the grinding of
corn for farmers.
It was badly damaged by the fire referred to and was rebuilt as a
garage in 1914 when the Cinema was also built.
I would like to mention here that the first electric light in Carlow
was from current generated by the old millwheel of this mill.
This brings us to Burrin Bridge, which one hundred years ago was a
narrow stone structure only wide enough to admit the passage of one
vehicle at a time. There was also a narrow footbridge for pedestrians.
This bridge must have been a toll bridge as there were gates on it. It
was replaced by an iron structure about 1860, which was later widened,
and this remained there till 1932, when the present concrete bridge was
On the plot between the bridge and the public house at Pembroke
Corner was a building which was used as an Office and Stores by the old
Town Commission before the Town Hall was built. There is a story told
that the Commission owed a small sum of money to a local blacksmith, and
the money not being forthcoming, this worthy, finding the Commissioners
in session, locked the door outside and refused to release the Civic
Fathers until his demand was satisfied, I might remark in passing that
the rate at that time was only one shilling to the pound.
Pembroke Road in those days was a tree-shaded walk having trees on
both sides right down to the end. It was a private road and was kept in
repair by one of the Haughtons who owned property there and other
residents. It was only taken over as a public roadway in the nineties of
the last century. The field at the end was known as the "Tobacco
Meadows" as the fragrant weed was extensively grown there. Pembroke Road
has now lost its sheltered seclusion, as it is the home of Mr .W.
Kehoe's thriving business on one side and Messrs. Drummond's extensive
nurseries at the other. So is Carlow advancing!
Proceeding from Pembroke towards the Kilkenny Road we come to the
Yellow lion Inn, now in the occupation of Mrs. Jackson and the Labour
Exchange, I might here remark that the late Wm. J. Jackson preserved the
identity of this premises by having a sign bearing the inscription "The
Yellow Lion" erected on his house. ( later the site for Carlow Credit
Union when it was situated in Burrin Street) One hundred years ago this
was one of the largest coaching inns in Carlow being the principal depot
of the Dublin-Kilkenny coaches. It was used as a hotel up to about sixty
years ago, and was also for a time a police station before the present
Barracks in Tullow Street was built.
Opposite the Yellow Lion is Hanover House at present occupied by Dr.
Brendan Doyle. This house one hundred years ago was tenanted by Dr.
Middleton who was a specialist of his time in Mental Diseases. He was responsible for the destruction of Carlow Castle. He had
obtained possession of the Castle and intended to convert it into an
hospital for mental cases. In order to provide more accommodation
inside, he put several barrels of gunpowder in the basement thinking he
could demolish the inside thick walls and leave the outer walls
standing. When he touched off the gunpowder he blew down the entire
structure leaving only one wall and two towers standing as it is to-day.
Judged by his action I think you will agree he qualified to be the first
inmate of his proposed hospital. Hanover House was later the residence
of Mr Darby Herring Cooper, who was succeeded there by the Slocock
family, who made Hanover House famous as a horse-breeding establishment.
The large house beside Hanover House gate was at that time the Post
Office. Below that was the Staff House of the Carlow Militia. On the
opposite side of the street in the houses now occupied by the Misses
Brophy and Misses Mullally lived Mr. Jos. Deighton, who carried on a
foundry and plumbing business. He was also for many years the chairman
of the Carlow Gas Company, and took a deep interest in this concern. He
was the donor of the Deighton Hall to the Vestry of St. Mary's Parish
Another branch of the Morris Family occupied the house now owned by
Mr. Robinson, and had a furniture Show-room in the premises beside it.
On the opposite side of the Street in the house now occupied by Mr.
Restrick and the one next to it, a Mrs. Williams and her three daughters
lived, where they carried on a Young Ladies' Seminary. To this school
came, as boarders, girls from all over the county, as well as from
Wicklow and Wexford; day pupils also attended.
This brings us to Burrin Place, the residence of the late Paul A
Brown, Solicitor. One hundred years ago this premises housed a branch of
the Tipperary Bank owned by the notorious swindler, John Sadlier, a
Tipperary man and Member of Parliament for the Borough of Carlow. He was
a prosperous solicitor in Dublin, where he began to practice in 1837,
and gifted with good looks and charm of manner, he was a great social
success and soon built up a lucrative practice.
Finding Dublin too small to gratify his ambitions he quit his
profession in 1846 and went to London where he engaged in financial
transactions, and soon gained the reputation of being one of the ablest
financiers in that city. He became a "lion" in West End circles and to
gratify his rising ambitions decided to enter Parliament.
In the general election of 1847 he was elected Member for Carlow, on
the then limited franchise, receiving 112 votes against 95 cast for
Robert Clayton Browne, grandfather of the late General Brown-Clayton of
Browne's Hill (great grandfather of the present day head of the family
Robert Browne-Clayton, who handed over most of the surviving family
archive to Carlow County Library in 2007). .
At this time his "Tipperary Joint Stock Bank" was from the Shannon to
the Barrow, looked upon with as much confidence as the Bank of England,
it was largely availed of by small depositors- farmers and traders- and
had supplanted that venerable institution " the old stocking" as a
receptacle for those people's savings. So great was Sadlier's success
that he was appointed Lord of the Treasury in Lord Aberdeen's Cabinet in
1852, and it was even suggested that he would be the next Prime Minister
He was featured largely in the newspapers, his palatial home, his
philanthropy and social success making great "copy", But his dabblings
in high finance were to lead to his undoing, and his mode of living also
contributed to his downfall. He had in addition to the Tipperary Bank,
formed a " land Company" to purchase properties then being sold in the
Encumbered Estates Court; he was Chairman of the London and County Joint
Stock Bank and a large stock-holder in Italian, American, Swedish and
In 1855 the whisper went round that all was not well with Sadlier,
and this was confirmed when he resigned his Government Office as Lord of
These facts soon became known in Ireland, and depositors in the
Tipperary Bank began demanding their deposits. His brother, who helped
in running the Irish Bank asked John for £30,000 to meet these demands;
this sum was beyond his power to supply, and he resorted to every device
of a reckless gambler to retrieve his fall in fortunes.
The failure of the Bank resulted in disaster to thousands of his
Irish investors, there being many of them in Carlow even in living
memory. Not being able to meet his commitments, Sadlier on the Sunday,
17th February, 1856, committed suicide on Hampstead Heath. Thus ended
the career of a remarkable man at the age of 42.
On the side of the House at Burrin Place next to where the entrance
to the County Library was, ( Iona McLeod established the County Library
in the premises during the 1930s) can be seen the façade where the name
of the Bank was painted as well as a bricked-up opening, which was the
entrance to the Bank premises. It was estimated that the total of
Sadlier's defalcations amounted to the then colossal sum of £1,250,000.
- Burrin Street c.2007 Source:
Across the road from Burrin Place is Barrowville, now occupied by
Mrs. Governey. It was in years gone by the residence of Dr. Rawson, one
of Carlow's oldest doctors. He was Surgeon of Carlow Jail and also
Surgeon-Colonel of the Carlow Militia. On the opposite side of Kilkenny
Road is the Manse, and Roseville. This latter house was occupied by the
Misses Sponge, and was the Judges' lodgings for the Assize Judges in the
old days, and from there they used be escorted to the Courthouse by a
squadron of cavalry and mounted policemen.
Next to Roseville is the Rectory, the residence of the Venerable
Archdeacon Ridgeway. This residence was built in 1885 for Dean King, the
then Rector of Carlow, and was later occupied by the late Dean Finlay,
whom many Carlow people still remember with affection.
Opposite the rectory is Otterholt the residence of Mr. Hadden. this
was the home of Dr. Charles McDowell, who gave free treatment for one
hour each day to people who could not afford to pay a fee. Dr.
McDowell's father was the Governor of Carlow Gaol. Just beyond the
Workhouse buildings are two houses known as "The Green Dragon."
This was an inn in the coaching days, but with the advent of the
railway it fell into disuse, and was converted into two private houses.
An old Carlow resident, not long dead, told me he remembered the inn
being used as a public house about sixty years ago. Before I close I
would like to refer to the former occupant of another house in that
district – Shamrock Lodge here lived the late Robert Malcomson, who
wrote some books about old Carlow, including "A Vindication of the late
Sir Edward Crosbie" of Viewmount House, who was hanged in Carlow in
1798, and also "Members of Parliament for the Borough and County of
- From: "Carloviana 1947 Vol
1. No. 1 submitted by Michael Purcell c2008
- Transcribed by Shirley Fleming,