UP to the installation of the Lough Mask regional water supply scheme over 20 years ago, Castlebar had an ongoing water crisis, which was particularly serious during the summer months.
In the 1930s, Castlebar Urban Council decided to tackle the problem and have a proper water supply provided for the county capital. It would be many more years before Castlebar became part of the Lough Mask scheme.
In 1939 the council engaged the services of Mr. Charles McNamara, B.E., and he came up with a number of recommendations.
At that time, Castlebar had four sources of water supply. They were the Crimlin supply, constructed in 1892; Ardvarney supply, constructed in 1915, which was fed from Clydagh river; Tucker's Lake supply scheme, which was constructed in 1930; and the 'Black Wells' scheme, consisting of water stored in a tank near the County Home.
The Castlebar water supply was the subject of much heated debate for a number of years and two of the supply systems were founded to be deficient.
Several lakes in the Castlebar area were pinpointed as sources and Tucker's Lake, it would appear, became the final choice.
Mr. McNamara's report was described by one councillor as too long; another councillor remarked if the councillors didn't take time to read it, they could leave the council.
I have a faint recollection of one so-called expert maintaining that the supply from the source opposite the County Home would flood Castlebar with water.
The argument went on for many years, so much so that Mr. McNamara's report was humorously described as 'McNamara's Band'.
Castlebar has come a long way in the past 40 years and the councillors of the time, along with councillors in later years, must be given credit for providing the town with an excellent water supply.
Still on water supplies, Castlebar Bacon Company provided its own supply from Saleen Lake with a pumphouse and a pipeline which crossed the back of Murray's shop on Station Road and made its way along McHale Road, on the opposite side to McHale Park, to the factory.
The remains of the old pumphouse still stand at Saleen Lake. Mick and Bill Lacey, Saleen, Paul Holmes, McHale Road, Vinnie Garvey, St. Patrick's Avenue, and Johnny Timlin kept the machinery in motion for many years. Later on Alan Fallon, Charles Street, Tom Aird, and Martin Halligan, McHale Road, were involved in looking after the Saleen pumphouse.
When the pipeline was being laid at McHale Road the night watchmen were Tom Scott and Myles Sweeney, McHale Road. I believe Tom Scott's family originally came from Tubber Hill, Westport, and Myles Sweeney was related to the Cresham families, very much old Castlebar stock.
Tom Scott was married to Annie Giblin, a lovely little woman who, according to herself, could foretell the future from tea leaves, an innocent pastime from an innocent age.
Castlebar's oldest pubs
IN former times there were a number of public houses in Castlebar, which have gone out of business for many years. The two oldest pubs in Castlebar are Coady's, Linenhall Street, Castlebar, and Byrne's, Main Street.
Many years ago there was a pub in Staball (Thomas Street, if you prefer), which was run by the McEvilly family. The family later moved to Main Street when their business expanded.
A member of the McEvilly family, Captain Séamus McEvilly, lost his life in the Kilmeena ambush and is buried in the republican plot in the Old Cemetery on the Westport Road. His brother Gerry ran a mobile meat business and lived next to Cathal Duffy's garage, Station Road. His wife Nancy was a public health nurse and they had two sons, Myles and Michael.
Over 90 years ago a family named Taylor operated a pub from the premises now occupied by Gerry Tolster, Spencer Street. The Taylors had a well-known slogan at the time: "When friends you're meetin', inclined for treatin' . . . Call into Taylors, the Spencer Bar . . . No place so nice in, half enticin' . . . Within the confines of Castlebar."
James Haughey was the proprietor of the Humbert House, Main Street, Castlebar, many years ago. This was another pub with an appropriate motto: "Where will we go? Such is the cry . . . In Castlebar's old town . . . With one acclaim we shout the name . . . to James Haughey's of renown."
There were many other pubs in Castlebar in the past, most of them now closed and long forgotten. For such is the way of the world: everything changes in time.
When Michael Ludden from St. Bridget's Crescent was serving with the Irish Guards in the trenches of France during World War 1, he was telling one of his comrades where he came from and where he had a pint. "My local pub is Jim Haughey's on Main Street, Castlebar," he told his friend.
A shout came from a nearby trench: "It's also my pub and I come from Islandeady, Castlebar."
A small world indeed.
Jim Haughey was brother of Mrs. Delia Byrne who, with her husband Jim, head nurse at St. Mary's Hospital, ran a very successful pub in Spencer Street for many years, later taken over by her son Séamus who retired from business some time ago.
Maureen O'Hara in Castlebar
MAUREEN O'Hara, one of Hollywood's most glamorous film stars for over the past fifty years, visited Castlebar in 1939. She was then known by her family name, Maureen Fitzsimons.
Maureen was accompanied by her mother and was guest of C. W. Ryan, whose wife was a cousin of hers. She became friendly with a number of local people, including the Collins family, Linenhall Street and Davitt's Terrace.
During her time in Castlebar she made the trip to Glenisland to sympathise with the Gillen family who had lost two sons, Patrick and John, in a drowning accident in a local lake. The Gillen family lived at Tawneena, Glenisland, and their brother Michael lived in the family home up to his death some years ago. I believe my grandmother, Mary Kirby, was born in this house.
I remember talking to Tony McGowan, Glenisland, an elderly man at the time and he told me he was working with members of the Gillen family in England when word came through of the drowning tragedy. Sad times indeed for a decent family.
Laughter in the Fairgreen
MANY years there were travelling groups, known as the fit-ups, who went from town to town, set up their tents and provided entertainment for a few nights.
Many such groups came to the Fairgreen in Castlebar and amongst the actors were Gaby Taylor, Harry Bailey and Bob Carrickford. In later years Bob made a number of appearances on The Riordans.
On the opening night of one particular show in the Fairgreen the menu on offer was a tear-jerker, and boy, they did jerk tears in those days. This was before the era of television, when even radios were not all that common.
I suppose people were more innocent in some ways. In the opening scene, Gaby Taylor was holding a sick infant at the front of the stage; there was much sniffling and people were almost at breaking point when a member of the audience, who originally came from Cavan, overcome with emotion, sobbed loudly, "Jesus Christ, that's tough, God help the father of that child."
Pandemonium erupted and the gentleman in question was hastily escorted from the tent and told never again to show his face at the shows.
There was another show in the County Cinema when the star turn was Hal Roach. The usual request for help from the audience was made and when a young man went to assist in the proceedings, Hal asked him to remove his gloves. The young man said he wasn't wearing gloves: he had come straight from a day's work in Kilboyne bog and hadn't time to wash his hands.
People are better educated nowadays and think they are more sophisticated, but there is a lot to be said about days gone by when people had more common sense and fewer big ideas.
Blackberries in Ellison Street
IN the early 1900s, Henry Faul, water inspector with Castlebar Urban Council, was a busy man. It was his job to inspect local drains to ensure they were kept free from any rubbish, which might cause pollution. Hasn't that part of his job a familiar ring in more recent times when some people think they can dump rubbish wherever they like?
In one report to the council, Mr. Faul stated there was a constant stream of effluent running into the town river from a drain at Newtown. Waste water was also flowing from a local motor works. The situation worsened when engines were left running. Strange indeed.
Peter Horkan, a local plumber, was sent to investigate the matter and despite a thorough search he couldn't find any evidence of a burst main.
Mr. Faul was a relative of the late Moggie Downes, Blackfort, Castlebar, Donal Downes, Galway, and Henry Faul, Rahins. I mentioned in this column some weeks ago that a man named Faul owned property where the Irish House, Ellison Street, now stands. The piece caught the eye of Donal Downes and he said his mother told him many years ago that this Mr. Faul actually picked blackberries at the rear of the Irish House. Hasn't Castlebar changed a lot since those days? The same Mr. Downes is a mine of information about Castlebar going back many years.
The Peter Horkan, mentioned earlier, was a member of the well-known Horkan families, Castlebar. I hear Patsy Horkan, Blackfort, Castlebar, is celebrating a special birthday in the near future. A fine footballer with Castlebar Mitchels and Mayo in his younger days, he is now a keen golfer and can show his younger friends a thing or two on the golf course.
A hoax at Lough Lannagh
CANON Geoffrey Prendergast, parish priest of Castlebar, over 70 years ago, was a much loved and respected pastor. His work on behalf of the poor and sick of the parish was legendary. No task was too great for him when it came to helping the downtrodden.
But back in the early years of the 1900s he was confronted with a rather unusual problem. A young boy named Cunningham, employed by John O'Brien, RIC District Inspector, who at that time lived at Creagh Villa, overlooking Lough Lannagh, told him he had heard cries for help, "quick, save me, I'm drowning," coming from Lough Lannagh.
A posse of policemen headed for Lough Lannagh and Canon Prendergast was summoned to the lake in case a body was found. A large crowd gathered at the lakeside to watch the proceedings as boats were launched in an effort to find a body.
Policemen visited all the houses in the area but no one was reported missing. The story turned out to be a complete hoax and young Cunningham was something of a hero for a number of days after pulling a fast one on District Inspector O'Brien. The RIC weren't the flavour of the month at the time for a variety of reasons.
What Canon Prendergast thought of the entire affair was not recorded, but sensible man that he was he probably took it in his stride. As my old boss used to say, "Damn it to hell, I can see the humour in that."
Creagh Villa was later purchased by Thomas H. Gillespie, editor of The Connaught Telegraph, and grandfather of the current editor, Tom Gillespie.
I was a frequent visitor to Creagh Villa in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At that time the Gillespie family had an Alsatian dog, a German Shepherd if you like, named Major. He was Alfie Gillespie's faithful pet and he followed him everywhere. There are many interesting stories told about Alfie and Major, some of them definitely not repeatable. We'll leave it at that.
Dan Hogan again
I HAVE referred to Dan Hogan in the past and I do so again because of his many escapades. In 1909 he was elected mayor and premier magistrate of Castlebar. At that time the local authority was described as the Municipal Council.
Councillor Horan was hotly tipped to become mayor; six members of the council had promised him their vote, but in the end not one of them voted for him and Dan Hogan took the chair to much handshaking and back-clapping
A few weeks later Dan Hogan was hauled before Castlebar petty sessions charged with having an unlicensed dog. Hogan was also charged with assaulting his brother Johnnie.
It was a long, drawn out case containing some real gems, such as Dan's mother saying: "The Mayor of Castlebar is killed," and "Go in and pull out the lunatic."
In his defence, Dan said he was courting a girl and his brother Johnnie took her from him.
There was much banter in the courtroom before Dan said he would take the pledge and, dead or alive, he would take no more drink.
Dan was fined £1 for assaulting his brother.
The case against Johnnie Hogan was dismissed and the decision was greeted with loud applause.
And so ended another saga in the colourful life of Dan Hogan.
GREETINGS to Nial Garavan, son of Charlie and Tony Garavan, Sarnaught, Castlebar, who lives in Stansted, outside London. I am told Nial is a regular reader of this column and a keen sportsman, like his father Charlie. Up the 'Bar!