Carlow Past & Present


Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow Past & Present

By Mrs. Annie Parker-Byrne for the CARLOVIANA 2005 Edition p. 81.

Carlow Past and Present

by Annie C. Parker-Byrne

“Where 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 pocket.

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 furnace.

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.

Dance Halls

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


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