Amazing discovery of 51-year-old message
By: Clare Minnock (The Nationalist)
This is a tale like no other. It involves a local primary school, two
hardworking men and a cigarette packet dating back to 1959.
Last month, while renovating Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál, builders from BAM
Building came across part of a Sweet Afton cigarette packet.
Tucked behind a fitted wall press in one of the classrooms was a small
square panel, torn from the packet. Slightly faded, in pencil, on
the back, is written the following message: “Patrick Hennessy and John
Curran worked at these schools. Pray for us. 1959.” The packet was
dropped into The Nationalist offices and so began the hunt to find the
authors of this hidden message.
The Building of Scoil Muire Gan Smal
2010. workers on the renovation of Scoil Mhuire gan Smal found, hidden
behind a press fitting, part of a Sweet Afton cigarette packet on which the
following message was written "Patrick Hennessy and John Curran worked on
these schools. Pray for us, 1959. Dan Carbery remembered these two workers
very well and while they both passed away several years ago the handwriting
on the packet was identified as belonging to John (Jakes) Curran by his son
also John Curran.
Carlow company Carbery Construction built the school between 1958 and
1960 so Dan Carbery was happy to help. Dan revealed that Patrick ‘Cha’
Hennessy and John ‘Jakes’ Curran were among a team of 30 men employed to
build Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál’s school building on Green Lane.
“It may be history but to me it’s only yesterday … they would have
been very much part of my young life; that particular job would be very
special in my memory,” said Dan.
“Back then, all the men had nicknames. Patrick Hennessy would have
been 'Cha', and John Curran was known as 'Jakes',” he added. Both
men passed away years ago, but Dan was able to point us in the right
direction of the families who were shocked when contacted by The
Nationalist and told of the discovery. “I’m amazed. I wonder how
many other places he did it. Isn’t it wonderful,” laughed Jakes’ son
John Curran, from Green Road, Carlow.
Jakes was in his early 50s when he worked at Scoil Mhuire; Cha was
It was hard manual labour on the building sites back then and many
men had a habit of writing notes and leaving them hidden in the
buildings. “It’s like somebody put a message in a bottle and years later
it washed up onshore,” added John. Jakes was a long time lover of Sweet
Afton cigarettes and John is sure the packet and the handwriting
belonged to his father.
Jakes married Annie Shannon from Grange in 1930 and they had ten
children, of which John is the only one still living in Carlow.
Jakes lived his whole life in Carlow and died on 2 April 1983 at the age
Patrick ‘Cha’ Hennessy was one of a family of 13, but only his
youngest brother Michael is alive today and still living in Carlow.
When contacted, Michael was stunned but instantly recognised it was
his brother Cha. “No one would know him by anything else,” he smiled.
Cha Hennessy was born and raised on Chapel Street, Graiguecullen in
1911. The son of the famous footballer Barney Hennessy, Cha also lived
in Carlow all his life. He married Sadie Phelan and the couple had five
children together. Cha died at the age of 84 in October 1995.
Source: The Nationalist August 2010
John Jakes' Curran was Terry Curran's Granddad.
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