A Carlow Man Remembers
I paid a visit to the Heritage Centre in Carlow, Lilian Moran of Carlow County
Heritage Society, gave me a copy of the Centenary Issue of the "Nationalist and
Leihster Times." As I read through the pages I was transported back to the early
thirties when as a child I lived in Carlow. I was born in No. 4 Potato Market on
a cold March morning. I was told later by our neighbours that I was a very noisy
child and that they could not get a wink of sleep for several days after the
event of my birth. My mother claimed that she was tempted to swap me for a dozen
clothes pegs from an old gypsy woman who called around from time to time.
a loud mouthed brat to be sure hence the humorous way I have started this story.
I had so much fun and happiness when I was growing up in Carlow that I could not
start to tell you in a serious manner about some of my experiences as a
youngster. Memories like mitching from school to rob apples from Slococks
orchard, dodging the school "mitching man", Mr. Yarnell. He would tour the most
unexpected places on a very big bike, with a carrier the size of a railway
float, on which he would tie any culprit he caught. He would then transport them
with severe dignity back to school. The usual chastisement was in the shape of a
big thick leather strap. Ah yes, dear readers, in them days we learned the hard
way to keep on the right side of the law.
of my friends came from Bridewell Lane, one of the most friendly areas in
Carlow. There was not much money about then — , if anyone was lucky enough to
own a wireless they were well off indeed. There were no snobs in Bridewell Lane,
there was a closeness and neighbourness that was found nowhere else, and
certainly would not be found today. The characters that the town produced were
marvellous. Each one had a nickname and no harm meant. One such gentleman was
persuaded to buy a bike which he painted post-office red, saddle and all. He had
never learned to ride a bike so some of the local boys decided to teach him this
master art. They took him to the hill which runs adjacent to the old Fever
they tied his feet to the pedals. The bike was a fixed wheel, so the inevitable
happened — 200 yards down the road was the town cemetery surrounded by a low
wall. The learner had to keep going until he hit the wall. He was somersaulted,
still tied to the bike, into the graveyard where he was discovered having landed
on his back, wedged securely between two tombstones, still peddling frantically.
His cries of anguish could be heard in the middle of the town. Such was the
harmless fun we used to enjoy.
Bob Young with his wife Debby at the wedding of his son
Peter. Bob is wearing the McRea kilt.
Bob Young now living in Somerset, England, visited Carlow in March, 1988. He
agreed to jot down a few recollections of his early years spent in Carlow.
During his visit he presented Carlow County Heritage Society with a video of the
life and times of General Myles Kehoe, 7th U.S. Cavalry.
Perhaps Carlow is not as wild these days but neither is it as mischievously
happy. The Garda had a great way about them, they were treated with respect.
Everyone knew them by name and sight. There were Guards Wren, Flynn, McGrath,
Kelly, McHugh and if you misbehaved you could be sure of a clip on the ear and
sent home, hoping your mother would not hear about it.
last visited Carlow I was surprised to see approaching me a very pretty young
lady attired in Garda uniform. I just had to stop her and comment on her
smartness. She smiled and explained that she was part of a new force helping to
enforce law and order. Such are the changes in the place of the "Fort on the
to get back to my early years. I got a primary education and many a hiding from
the Principal in Barrack Street School. By the time I left I had learned if I
may quote an old Gaelic proverb "Abair ach beag is abair go maith e", meaning,
"say little but say it well."
remind you reader that in the thirties we had very little pocket money. Lucky we
were to get to the fourpenny rush in the Palace Picture House to see Tom Mix
defeat the baddies. But we did not worry, for one thing we had the Barrow. We
all loved that old river. The adventures of cooking sausages and drinking smokey
tea at Nixon's Lock near Knockbeg College. My introduction to the river and all
its delights had to be when I first learned to swim up the Burrin at a spot
called "The Horseshoe". Then the big moment when I plucked up the courage to
take the plunge in the Barrow. There was an old disused Guinness store on the
Barrow track near Cox's Lane. It was at this spot that all the young blades from
Carlow-Graigue, Montgomery Street, and on any other points of the Carlow compass
used to swim. One gentleman we all respected was a butcher named Firk. He worked
for Brennans. He had a great personality and the ability to float in the Barrow
without the slightest movement of his arms or legs. We wondered in amazement at
how he could float from Cox's s Lane to near Graigue Bridge. One day I decided
to ask him how he was able to accomplish such a feat without moving. His answer
came as a great surprise, "It's the corks under my arms."
day Firk called us all together and asked what we would think of starting a
swimming club. He decided that he would create public interest by releasing some
ducks on the river at Cox's lane. Sure enough when the day came for this event
to take place a fair crowd gathered to see what was in store for them. As soon
as the ducks were set free, a dozen young lads with great inspiration took the
plunge. A duck on ones Sunday table was a treat not to be missed. One of the
boys was from Carlow-Graigue called Farrell, Ned I think. Both of us spotted one
of the ducks diving under a turf boat which was moored about one hundred yards
away. I raced, neck and neck, but Ned beat me to it, under the boat he went and
emerged within a minute with the duck. Such were the beginnings of the "Carlow
Half Moon Swimming Club".
old age of 14, 1 tried to improve my knowledge by enrolling in the Technical
School. There I was under the scholarly eyes of Mr, O'Neill and Mr. Merne. Two
of the finest gentlemen I have ever met or had the honour to confuse. After
about 18 months of learning in Bernard Shaw's old structure I got a chance to
work, doing store work and general dogsbody in Stathams garage earning the large
sum of 5 shillings (25 pence in today's currency) per week. There were many
working there, some of whom have now passed on. All good, honest people like Mr.
Brady who manned the petrol pumps for many years and Sam Moore, later to own his
decided to immigrate to Britain where I joined the army. I served in India,
Burma, China, France, Belgium and Germany. Recently I was talking to a friend
who like myself spent most of his life as a soldier. He had been a Hussar and as
I had been a Horse Gunner we had a lot in common. He was interested in his
regiment’s history and had kept a record of all the battles the 4th Hussars were
involved in. One such battle was the famous "Charge of the Light Brigade". Six
hundred men charged the Russian artillery in the Crimea on that fateful morning
in 1842 in the attempt to capture Russian guns. Captain Nolan, an Irishman, led
the charge. With him was a Carlow man, Trooper Patrick Horan, born in Carlow
about 1820. He joined the 8th Hussars on the 4th of June 1841. Horan was
captured and taken prisoner directly after the charge. I have searched for
information about this brave Carlow man. Did he return to Carlow following his
release? Can any reader help with information? If so would they please contact
Carlow County Heritage Society. I would be delighted to learn what became of
this point may I take the opportunity of congratulating Carlow County Heritage
Society. I am proud to know they are doing so much to establish an interest in
the peoples' minds about the history, ancient and recent, concerning our beloved
last Carlow connection from my army days. When we were in India taking a well
earned rest after a close encounter in Burma with the Japanese Imperial Guard,
we were invited by the Loreto nuns to visit their convent in Darjeeling. Many of
the Sisters were Irish and I was greatly honoured to be singled out for special
attention. Some of them had been there for years and were delighted to meet
someone from Ireland. One of them told me that there was a Brother Brennan from
Milford, Carlow in North Point College about 12 miles away. I could not wait to
get out to the gate in order to hitch a lift and meet a fellow Carlow man. I can
clearly recall my first meeting with him. He smoked charoots incessantly, a very
tall, lean man with a hooked nose, you could smell his presence as he was always
surrounded by a benign cloud of cigar smoke. We had great chats exchanging news
of Carlow and Ireland. He had been attached to this Jesuit College for about 15
years. I heard many years after that he was ordained to the Priesthood and moved
to Calcutta. Does any reader know what became of him?
eventually left to return to the Arakan, a never ending jungle, to face the
Japanese, I knew that I went with the prayers of the good Sisters and Brothers
who had been so kind to our party.
years ago I decided that after 35 years enough was enough, so now in retirement
I approach my late sixties. I am inclined to look back and recall my many
memories. Remembering friends passed on, may I ask you dear reader to remember
them and me in your prayers.
Previously published in Carlow Past & Present Vol. 1. No. 3. 1990
p. 104 & 105
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