Mental Hospital memories
UP to the time of the setting up of the health boards all matters relating to health in County Mayo were organised by Mayo County Council and the Board of Health, which had its offices on Ellison Street, Castlebar, in a house the property of James (Broddie) Chambers.
Dr. Alfred Sheridan was resident medical superintendent of Mayo Mental Hospital in the 1940s and 1950s. Dr. Sheridan was a member of an old Castlebar family and his son Martin was a schoolmate of mine at St. Patrick's National School.
Dr. Sheridan was succeeded by Dr. J.V. Kelly, also a native of Castlebar and popularly known as Vincent. One of his sons, John, became a doctor and has lived in Dublin for many years. In later years, Dr. Gilvarry was R.M.S. at St. Mary's.
Dr. John F. Connolly was chief psychiatrist at St. Mary's Hospital for a number of years. In keeping with many developments in the field of psychiatry, the name of the Mental Hospital was changed to St. Mary's Hospital.
In the early 1940s a scarcity of leather was causing anxiety at the mental hospital, which had its own shoemaker at the time. The hospital was self-sufficient and had a large acreage of land at Breaffy Road where a wide variety of vegetables was grown. Staff members and patients headed for the farm each morning with horses and carts.
The hospital had its own butchery and reared cattle and sheep. Paddy Kearney, Westport Road, an outstanding judge of cattle, purchased animals for the hospital. Dick Bourke, Breaffy, was butcher at the hospital.
Wool from the sheep was dyed at Castlebar hat factory from which spinning yarn was manufactured for tweed making.
Ten dozen hats were sold by the hat factory to the Mental Hospital for 2/6d each. Quarrying was also carried out by the hospital authorities and the stone was used to maintain roads in the vicinity of the institution.
Eddie Burns was storekeeper at the hospital and when he retired he was replaced by William Cameron. Paddy Rowland, Rathbawn, later held this position. The hospital had its own tailor, shoemaker and seamstress, as well as a number of other tradesmen. Paddy Walsh, Ballyheane, a master craftsman, was tailor at the hospital for some years. Tony Conway was tailor at the hospital in recent times. His father John had a tailoring business at Newantrim Street, both first-class tradesmen. Darby Mullen, Spencer Street, was the hospital's shoemaker.
In the 1940s and 1950s there were over 1,000 patients at the hospital. This figure increased in later years. It is 50 years since the high wall surrounding the hospital was removed.
A football team from the hospital regularly played in Castlebar town leagues and included such stalwarts as the great Josie Munnelly, Seán Larkin, Bill O'Donnell, Tom Quinn, Tommy Quigley, Mike Quinn, Paddy Bollingbrook and Patsy Horkan.
The hospital also had its own drama group which featured Johnny Jordan, Ballynew, Tommy Quigley, Davy Conroy, Maura Tynan, Paddy Gordon, Kathleen Treacy, Martin Lydon, Bernie Pluck, P.J. Mangan, Maureen McHale, Mary Pluck and Paddy O'Meara.
Cecil Norman, Players representative, who lived at Station Road, Castlebar, acted in an advisory capacity to the drama group.
All is changed at St. Mary's Hospital, which is now the location for Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology. Many of those who trod the stage in those days at St. Mary's have passed to their eternal reward but others are still going strong, including our good friend, Johnny Jordan, Ballynew, now in his 90s.
Likewise the majority of those who togged out for St. Mary's in many a stirring town league game have passed away. But their memories live on in the hearts and minds of all those privileged to have known them.
MARKET Square, Castlebar, has changed greatly over the years. In times past carnivals were held on the square and markets were also held there each Saturday at which a variety of vegetables were sold.
The Foresters Hall was the focal point for many activities, such as billiards, snooker and card games.
The National Union of Foresters was a charitable society and the Castlebar branch was established in 1904. The two founder members were Tom Moclair, father of Paddy Moclair, a member of the Mayo 1936 All-Ireland winning team, and Tom Wynne, great-grandfather of Richard and Gary Wynne.
For important occasions, such as the St. Patrick's Day parade, the Foresters dressed in their full regalia, an embroidered uniform, plumed hat and leggings. In those days the parade was led through the streets of Castlebar by Charlie Guthrie's fife and drum band and by Castlebar brass band.
Peter A. Horkan, father of the late Paddy Horkan, became head of the Castlebar branch and later went on to become chairman of the organisation in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
Anthony Horan was at one time caretaker of the Foresters Hall, a natural comedian and brilliant step-dancer. Dr. Faulkner was a prominent member of the Foresters in Castlebar and it was said the good doctor never charged the poor people of the town for his services. This was long before the time
when medical cards became available for people with low incomes.
Concert in a blizzard
MY old friend, Joe Minogue, furnished me with details of a concert which took place in the dining hall of Castlebar Military Barracks during the years of World War 2. This was a time when strict rationing was enforced by the state so the organisers had to make do with paraffin lamps. And to make matters worse, a howling blizzard swept through Castlebar on the night of the concert.
People were very resilient in those days and it took more than a blizzard to stop them in their tracks. Stephen Minogue, Seán Murphy, Carnacon, Rose and Kathleen McCormack, members of the Pearse School of Dancing, gave a lively exhibition of step-dancing.
There were many other contributors, including Anna O'Shaughnessy (dancing), sister of Leo O'Shaughnessy, Market Square, Andy McTigue and Éamonn Duffy, Turlough, a genius on the violin. Éamonn worked in the country registrar's office in Castlebar Courthouse and later moved to Galway, where he qualified as a solicitor. He was brother of the late Eugene Duffy, Turlough.
Stephen Minogue was an uncle of Joe Minogue and many's the time Steve and Nan Monaghan regaled us with their singing in the Travellers Friend Hotel.
YEARS ago Mayo County Council and Castlebar Urban Council organised relief schemes for the unemployed. The word relief is a throwback to famine times when schemes were devised to help the poor and downtrodden.
Work on the relief scheme entailed trimming hedges and minor roadworks. Work was even scarcer in those days than it is now and the few extra bob was a welcome guest in many houses.
I remember my father working on a relief scheme on the Moneen Road, which at the time was described as a rat run by Councillor Mick Collins. Castlebar's public dump was at that time located in the fairgreen, where the Connacht Gold stores now stand.
Thomas Halligan, Lucan Street, Jack Flannery, Lucan Street, Pake Fallon, Jack Cassidy and Larry Cresham, McHale Road, worked on the Moneen Road scheme. I am not sure who the ganger was; it may have been John Rice, Moneen, or Eddie Cusack, Springfield.
After the Moneen scheme was finished, some weeks later, I met Jack Cassidy and asked him if he was on a relief scheme. He told me he was too busy with his postering business but remarked that he saw Thomas Halligan on Staball digging deep and throwing far back. Nice one, Jack.
The Halligans are a very old Castlebar family and a number of them played with the Castlebar town band. Michael Halligan was a fine trumpeter. Mary Halligan was a very gracious lady and I remember the warmth of her welcome when I was doing a door-to-door collection for the Western Care Association over 40 years ago. They don't come any better!
EARLIER on I mentioned the name of Eddie Burns, Chapel Street, Castlebar, who was storekeeper at St. Mary's Hospital. Eddie was a perfectionist who always demanded the highest standards.
On one occasion Eddie gave details of work carried out by a tailor in the northern part of the county. A pair of trousers was produced for the authorities in the boardroom of the hospital. They were held aloft for the board members to inspect and Eddie left them in no doubt as to his dissatisfaction with the standard of the product. He was horrified and the tailor was told in no uncertain manner that the quality of his work was sub-standard.
Eddie Burns was a man of the old school with habits that died hard. He was well mannered, and a keen fisherman with a huge selection of flies. He cycled to Pontoon on a Sunday afternoon and came home with a specimen trout, a real beauty. This was to be his dinner the following day. But Max, his pet cat, had different ideas and ate Eddie's prize trout.
I was in his house with my father the following day and what Eddie said about poor Max doesn't bear repeating. The unfortunate animal was sent packing without as much as a purr.
Rosemary Carney's talent
ROSEMARY Carney, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. P.J. Carney, Castle Street, Castlebar, is best remembered as a brilliant musician. However, she was also an outstanding athlete in her younger days and a series of wins at sports throughout Mayo culminated in Rosemary winning the 100 yards event in Kiltimagh from stiff competition. It was written at the time that her speed was a source of amazement amongst her competitors.
Rosemary was sister of Pearse, Jojo and John Carney, all prominent sportsmen. Their mother was one of the first female members of Castlebar Urban Council. Rosemary was aunt of Dr. Paul Carney, Castlebar.