Carlow Past and Present
Annie C. Parker-Byrne
have all Carlow's Bakeries, Tailors, Seamstresses, Shoemakers, Forges,
Pawnbrokers, Cinemas, Dance Halls etc disappeared to?"
Sadly over the last 50 years, old family
residential businesses and old familiar names, for more reasons than
one, are long gone.
In the mid I900's all the premises in Tullow
Street, Dublin Street and Castle Street were occupied by shop owners and
their families. The "Heart of The Town" was alive with family homes,
shops, and the steady flow of customers. There were no "Lock up Shops"
with “offices overhead" during those years.
Carlow Town Bakeries
1 - Shevlin's Bakery, grocery and bar once
stood in front of what is today Jim Doyle's "SuperValue" store. Upper
Tullow Street, Shevlin's specially as far as children were concerned,
was the "Big Chester Cake" costing a half-penny.
Two children often shared a Chester cake
between them which proved good value for your half-penny!
2 - Mary Walsh's Bakery, beside "Dinty"
Delaney's Pub (now The Med Bar) Tullow Street, was like a ginger-bread
house filled with all types of delicious cakes and bread. Finger cakes,
rock-buns, queen cakes, turnovers, ducks and baskets, to name but a few
of the delicious mouth-watering confectionery and bread which was baked
in the ovens at the rear of the shop.
3 - Also in Tullow Street near the Ritz
Cinema was Slater's Bakery which later became the property of Crony's.
- Unfortunately with the closure of Crotty's not that many years ago,
Carlow lost its last Old Family Bakery.
- Many a Crotty's "Brown Soda and Batch Loaf
crossed the Irish Sea to be enjoyed by our exiles.
- Crotty's cakes were equally as popular as
their bread. There was only one problem with Crotty's Bakery - It was
hard to decide what to buy as "You were always spoilt for choice!"
4 - McDonalds (The Buzzes) Tullow Street was
another popular bakery, grocery and bar.
5 - The Carlow Bakery, situated at
Montgomery Street, sold its bread and cakes from what was formerly
Kealy's Pub, facing the Presentation Convent.
The owners of the Carlow Bakery were the
late Jack Wynne, Tommy Stafford and Jack Ruth. The pub was to the rear
of the shop. When the Company closed down The Carlow Bakery reverted
back to a full time Pub retaining the name - The Carlow Bakery'.
Other well-remembered Family Bakeries were -
Dunny's Bakery and grocery, Castle Street and McDarby's Bakery and
grocery (The Fair Green) Staplestown Road. Alas, no more is the sweet
smell of freshly baked bread and cakes in the Heart of Carlow.
Supermarket bakeries could not, and never will "hold a candle" to the
smell and taste of Carlow's family bakeries and the personal service
provided by the family and staff.
Years back, men enjoyed going to the local
Tailor to be "Measured and Kitted" for a new suit. The local tailor was
very exact about his work, so one could expect to have to visit the
Tailor a few limes before he was satisfied with his work. Tailors took
great pride in their work.
"Off the Peg" ready-made suits had, nearly
always, to be altered, adding to the price. No doubt Tailors got
satisfaction thinking "It serves them right".
Some of the well-remembered reliable Carlow
Tailors were - Johnson's, Graigue Bridge. The Curran Brothers. Little
Barrack Street, Molloy's Tullow Street (now Starsave - Rainbow Records),
Cuddy's, Tullow Street, (facing the Presentation Convent) Peter Cashin,
Potato Market. The City Tailors, Dublin Street, (beside the Little
Church) and Hanley's - The House for Men. Hanley's situated in Dublin
Street still serve the public as does the late Peter Cashin's son Alan,
who is located in The Foresters Hall. College Street.
Women were gifted with their hands and made
good use of their talents - be it sewing or knitting. It would be
inadvisable to try recall and name the many women who faithfully served
the people of Carlow in years long gone.
Every Street in Carlow had at least one if
not more talented lady. Rest assured their work was appreciated and they
are still remembered.
"The Cobblers Last" was part of nearly every
home in years long gone. Through necessity many men and women learned
how to cut leather, and "stud" boots and shoes. Their work may not have
been as good as the Cobbler tradesmen but it suited the purpose and the
Lewis's, Dublin Street, Deere's, Tullow
Street, Fitzpatrick's. Potato Market and Hayden's, Bridge Street.
Graiguecullen, are the Cobblers I personally remember. These well know
Cobblers, long gone to their reward. "Heeled and Toed' at reasonable
prices. Unfortunately they would not make their living "cobbling" today
in Carlow. N.B. Jim Murphy "Murph's" Tullow Street, is the only Carlow
Family Cobbler that "Heels and Toes" today.
Imagine - a Forge in the centre of Carlow
Town! Believe it or not not many people still recall
Purser's Forge. Barrack Street, the original premises consist of offices,
fast food outlets and Dean's shop etc today.
It was a child's delight on a cold day
heading home from School to watch old Mr. Purser and his son Fred, at
their work. Cheeks quickly became "Rosy" from the heat of the blazing
Two other well remembered Blacksmiths were
the late Mick "The Guy" Brennan, Accommodation Road, Carlow, (Leo's
father) and Dan Brennan, "The Forge" Graiguecullen. 50 years ago, horses
were more plentiful in Carlow than motorcars. The Blacksmith's Forge was
a great meeting place. As the "Smithy" went about his business the Lads
enjoyed "the craic and chat" especially on a cold Winter's day as they
enjoyed the heat provided - free of charge!
The Pawnshop sign was "Three Brass Balls". I
can't say 1 remember the signs, but 1 was aware of two pawnshops in
Carlow Town - Lawler's Pawn Shop, near the Presentation School, Tullow
Street and Comerford's Pawn Shop. Governey Square.
Times were hard and money was scarce. Food
had to be put on the table at meal times and a fire in the grate to cook
and throw out a bit of heat.
These two Pawn Shops were a blessing in
disguise to many people.
Many a suit of clothes would find its way to
the Pawn Shop on Monday morning as security for a loan that would have
to be repaid by the weekend. By hook or by crook the "Boss-man's" suit
had to be redeemed by Friday evening or else! Many men were not aware
that their good suit was "in hock" and not hanging safely in the
wardrobe during the week.
1 recall an old lady, who handing me a brown
paper parcel and a three-penny bit, asked me to go to "Uncle Isaac" and
ask him for 7 shillings and 6 pence until Friday. Knowing no better my
pal and I were happy to oblige. The old lady received her 7s/6d and we
enjoyed the Peggy's legs and Black Jacks bought in Leonard's sweet-shop.
But say no more - our black teeth gave us away - it was our first and
last visit to "Uncle Isaac!"
The first Picture House in Carlow was within
the Assembly Rooms. Dublin Street. In 1912 the wisecracks of the Town
stated that the Silvester brothers (who leased the rooms for 5 years at
a yearly rent of 55 pounds) were foolish men to think the people of
Carlow would go to the pictures every night of the week! Competition
arrived in 1915 when a Cinema built by the late Fred Thompson was opened
at Burrin Street. Unfortunately this cinema was later burnt to the
ground. (Carlow Post Office now occupies the site)
Two well remembered Cinemas, alas now
demolished, were The Coliseum (The Col) Upper Tullow Street and The
Ritz. Lower Tullow Street. In each Cinema on alternate nights there were
two showings, namely the First House and the Last House. Children were
allowed into the First House which commenced at 6.15 or 6.30, The Second
House was for adults only.
"Courting Couples' reserved their seats for
the last house. If they booked early enough, they could decide where
they wished to sit, usually "at the back and beside the wall". Whether
they watched the film or not was beside the point.
The entrance price varied, depending on what
sealing you could afford. The Pit. The Middle or The Gods.
One remembered old lady always gave a
running commentary to her friend during the film. She was also liable to
jump up from her seat shouting "Watch out for the Indians, they're
behind the hills" or "Watch out! He has a gun in his pocket"! Laughter
would fill the cinema as the Usherette/Usher shone their torch on the
excited lady who was quickly pulled back into her seat by her friend. It
was sad to witness The Ritz and The Col being demolished. It is doubtful
if new cinemas will provide as much entertainment as did these Old
Carlow Picture Houses.
Now taken over by Hotel/ Lounge Dance Floors.
The Town Hall, Haymarket, had a beautiful
large room with a good dance floor that combined as a Theatre/Dance Hall
providing entertainment for many. Admission to the Dances was half a
crown or maybe three and six, depending on the Band that was playing.
The concerts and plays that were staged in the Town Hall are still
talked about by those who do not forget!
Dances were held every Sunday night in St.
Fiaccs Hall, Graiguecullen. Admission: Two shillings for women - Two and
sixpence for men.
I never asked "Why the difference?" as I
never had to pay the admission.
Jack Byrne and his Band and Casey Dempsey
and his Band were the two Bands contracted by The Parish to play on
alternative Sunday nights at Graigue Hall.
The lads stayed to the back of the Hall, or
near the Supper room door, while the lassies were at the sides or near
the stage. Half-sets. Quicksteps, Waltzes. Foxtrots and Tangoes were
very popular. When the Rock and Roll era arrived, one Sunday night the
adventurous band played a tune to suit this new trend. One beautiful
dancer and her partner were quickly on the floor to show how it should
be danced. The following Sunday night the late Fr. Paddy Byrne, PP came
into the hall and instructed the Band that "Rock and Roll" was forbidden
in St. Fiaccs Hall. Nobody dared argue with the P.P but many were
disappointed with the ruling.
The Ritz Ballroom, with one of the best
dance-floors in Ireland, was for the more "Elite" dances; to name a few
- The Farmers, Guards and Shop Assistants Annual Dances. I doubt if any
half-sets were danced on these occasions. Admission was more costly to
the Ritz as there was nearly always a Bar-extension for these dances.
"The Buttery" Lounge was part of The Ritz complex.
Good use was made of the Dancing Boards at
Rossmore and Ballickmoyler. Local musicians entertained the gathering.
The lads paid two pence every time they took a girl out to dance on the
boards. A half-set cost them three-pence. It gave many a girl a great
feeling to realize that they were worth three-pence to dance with! All
monies paid by the lads for the privilege of dancing with the girls went
to pay the musicians.
"Thank God for The
Memories That No Man Can Take From Us".
Source: CARLOVIANA 2005 Edition