In September, 1988, the Bell
brothers paid a nostalgic return visit to Carlow. Many memories
came back to them of the town they knew in their youth. They
agreed to share some of those memories with our readers. In the
following two articles, they give us a glimpse of how much
times have changed in Carlow over the past seventy years.
Carlow - A Reminiscence of 70 Years Ago.
By J. Keith Bell
I was only a young lad 70 years ago - to be exact 12
years of age -but I can remember even further back than that.
Little instances, names of people, names of places seem to
stick in a young mind.
My father, Robert Bell, was one of the local auctioneers
and had an office in College Street. When he died in 1928, his
Chief Clerk took over the business - his name John H. Traynor
and as far as I know the business continued until he died. I
remember he married a local girl, a Miss McElwee. The other
auctioneer in the town was Paddy Bergin in Dublin Street.
My grandparents - on my father's side, lived in Pembroke
Street (Road) and on my mother's side, Walkers, lived at Shrule
Castle. The house there was burnt down many years ago. I
distinctly remember playing on the lawn there many times - one
was a special occasion. My aunt (mother's sister) was about to
depart for Canada with her husband, where she remained all her
life never returning. On a visit to Canada myself in 1968 I had
the pleasure of meeting up with her after all the years - she
died since. So even then, 1911, there was emigration of sorts.
We lived in Borlum (since renamed) on the Ki1kenny Road,
bounded on one side by the Presbyterian Manse - Rev. Joseph
Dempster and on the other by Roseneath where lived a Miss Spong
and later by a family called Phipps.
Further along the road was the Church of Ireland Rectory,
the incumbent was a Dean Finlay and later the Rev. Ridgeway.
Opposite the Rectory was Otterholt where lived two bachelor
brothers called Carter - later the Haddens lived there. Then
also opposite two houses Grosvenor where we lived before moving
across to Borlum, later occupied by a family called Reid. I
have a faint notion that Mr. Reid was an R.I.C. man. In the
adjoining house their lived a Doctor Ryan and his family. His
two boys, Paddy and Dan, were playmates of ours.
Now people and places I remember. Misses Casey -lived at
Pollerton Castle. David Gray - Postmaster. Mr. Young - Manager,
Gas Co. Alexander's - who owned Electric Light Co. Mr. Martin -
Bank Manager, Provincial Bank. Mr. O'Donnell - Bank Manager,
National Bank. Mr. Allison - Sub-Agent, Bank of Ireland. Mr.
Millar - Manager, Leverett Frye, Dublin St. William Burns -
Grocer, Castle St. Mr, Henry - lived at Burren St., had
hardware shop Tullow St. Royal Hotel - then the Royal Arms
Hotel. Tynan's Hotel - in Tullow St.
I also remember St. Anne's Church on the Athy Road not
used in my days but it was a large building with a high
steeple. [Stone to Graiguecullen later removed stone by stone.
It is now St. Clare's Church]. I well remember the Railway
Station then the G.S. & W. Railway - where we often got a train
to Dublin at 8.20 am and returned by one arriving in Carlow
about 8 pm - there was always a rush to get the Dublin Evening
Mail when the train arrived.
Just for the record - of our family of 4 boys 3 are still
living - one died in the war of 1939-'45.
Carlow in the in the twenties
By A. Bell
When thinking back over 65 years one wonders where to
start, which is the most interesting subject of all the things
a ten year old gets up to.
But seriously, I'm sure my father told me that Carlow was
one of the first towns in Ireland, if not in the British
Isles, to have its own electricity supply. The generator, I
think, was powered by a 'donkey engine' which had a
massive 'fly wheel,' to my young mind about 8 feet in
diameter. The powerhouse was in a shed situated on the wharf
by the river Barrow. Close by was a crane (swivel-type) used
for loading and unloading canal barges, a fascinating sight
when operating - for an inquisitive youngster. Barges on the
river had two means of power, horsepower and motor power,
the latter was much more interesting!
The Barrow in those years was the scene of many sporting
events, principally the Annual Regatta. I can remember my
father, one of the major Officials, stationed in the middle of
the river in the 'stake boat,' his job - 'Official Starter'.
There were crews from many towns such as Athlone, Waterford,
Kilkenny, Wexford, Mullingar and Chapelizod.
I understand from my eldest brother, Keith, that 'Daddy'
some years earlier stroked the Carlow Crew.
My expeditions on the Barrow included family outings by
rowing boat up river as far as the weir where we disembarked to
the bank for a picnic and a swim. I also accompanied my father
by boat when he went fishing. I believe this boat was shared
with my father's companion; a Mr. J. Duggan - who was a 'Seeds
man' with a shop in Dublin Street.
In my younger years (under-10) I attended school at the
Methodist Church Hall in Athy Road. It seemed a long walk from
our house on the Kilkenny Road. Sundays, we attended Church at
the Scot's Church where my father was Treasurer and my mother
ably played the harmonium. This journey, like school, was a
long walk, too, but the car was not used on Sundays, not even
to go to Church!
I commenced writing this as I remember 'Carlow in the
Twenties' but I fear it has concluded by being more a 'Bell
family' history. As the youngest member my connections with
Carlow ended in 1928 when our father died and we left the town
to live in Dublin.
'Finally, a word of thanks to the members of the Carlow
County Heritage Society for prompting these articles when we
visited Carlow. Their kindness, good humour and endless
patience enabled two old, past residents to enjoy a nostalgic
return visit to Carlow.
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