Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Christian Brothers School   
Growing up in Carlow

This article was written by Michael Kearns

Source: The Golden Jubilee Journal 1936-1986 (Michael Purcell)

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Being born and reared in Pollerton Road, I am a ‘top of the town’ person. The ‘top of the town’ refers to the schemes of council houses built between 1935 and 1947 on Pollerton and Staplestown Roads, as well as what’s known generally as ‘The Park’. About 400 houses were built altogether, so there was no shortage of friends to play with when we were growing up.

My first memories centre on playing football on Pollerton Road - twenty a side, big and small, stopping only to allow the occasional car to pass, and scattering like frightened rabbits whenever our lookout (usually someone’s sister) would shout “here’s the squad car”.

As traffic increased and we grew older, the ‘Plots’ became the focal point of a lot of our play. The large field at the back of St. Mary’s Park was the centre for our games of football, hurling, soccer, rounders and even golf! My father used to referee matches between about thirty of us during his fortnight’s holidays. That was serious stuff!

The plots was also a marvellous place for flying a kite, being so big and wide. Many’s the kite came down in the back- garden of a house in St. Killian’s Crescent. Following the twine to locate the crash-site was often a difficult and terror-filled job, with visions of broken windows or worse in front of you. Usually we were lucky and very little damage ever was done.

In the early sixties, the Rathnapish houses were built. This marked a new era in Carlow as it began the trend which has continued to this day of ordinary people buying private houses in estates. Up to then, nearly all the housing development had been undertaken by the Council, but as wages rose, the price of a house came in the realm of financial possibility for a lot more people.

We used to go to the matinee on Sunday afternoons. Roy Rogers, Audie Murphy, John Wayne and the Lone Ranger were special heroes. A shilling would get you into the stalls, (6d into the Pit), and you could buy an hour’s chewing for another 6d. Those were the days of the penny toffee and the ˝d chewing gum. You had to be careful though, that you were not ‘ambushed’ in the dark on your way back from the shop to your seat. So you stuck your toffees into your socks and put the chewing gum into your pockets and let on you had been to the toilet! Taytos and ice pops always created a bit more difficulty.

As we went through ‘The Brothers’, the school teams became more important to us. The street leagues, run in conjunction with carnivals, were very popular with young and old. The Park v The Crescent or The Town v Graiguecullen brought out all the local rivalries. The school U-13 and U-14 teams got great support from the townspeople of all ages. County finals in Tullow, usually against Clonegal in my time, were attended by thousands of people - or so it seemed at the time.

Brother Rodgers was the dominant personality in the C.B.S. Those were the days of the waste-paper collections. Tons and tons of waste paper were collected by us all (we never knew for what) and we got tickets for a weekly waste paper draw. One of my lasting memories is of Bro. Rodgers presiding over one of these waste paper draws in the school yard, telling us that our names would be ‘written forever in the annals of Waste-paper’. We loved it, we cheered and clapped. We never knew who won the draw or what he got - it didn’t seem to matter all that much so long as we felt we were part of some great occasion.

In l966 I went to ‘The Academy’. Our pastimes had changed as we grew. We played pitch and putt in Graiguecullen at first, and later in St. Dympna’s. It passed our summer holidays and kept us out of trouble. The Youth Centre had opened and we played and watched basketball and indoor football. We all went to the dances, especially when The Hennessys were playing. The late sixties saw us wearing bell-bottomed trousers, having long hair (the cause of many rows at home) and becoming interested in music and girls.

Park Celtic played soccer in the field where the Askea Church and schools now stand. They were the ‘top of the town’ team. Walks ‘out the country’ meant going as far as the ‘three cornered field’ at Palatine Cross or out past. Lady Denny’s. This meant passing the ‘haunted’ Casey’s Castle and the Yellow Lough in which a banshee was said to live - days of innocence! Of course, to us the countryside began at the end of St. Patrick’s Avenue, as there was no housing development in Askea. There was no housing development on Palatine Road or on Hacketstown Road. This was pre- R.T.C., pre-Braun and Lapple Carlow. The Sugar Factory, Corcoran’s, Thompson’s and the Cold Rolling Mills were the main sources of employment. The scene of hundreds of men, on bikes and walking, going to work at 8 am. and returning at 6 p.m. was familiar, as were the black faces of the coalminers coming home from their day at the coal face of Castlecomer. There was no Quinnsworth, no Penney’s or Tullow Street House. Remember the queues when Darrer’s opened?

Carlow has changed dramatically over the last thirty years. My own position has changed too. I now find myself teaching at Carlow C.B.S. working with Bro. Kavanagh, Jack Ryan and Anna Mannion who taught me. The new gym, for which staff, parents and pupils have worked so hard for so long is, at last, being built, and the dramatic changes go on! In the last year I have become a public representative for Carlow, a role in which I take great pride.

I hope that whatever changes we have before us in Carlow will be for the better. I also hope that today’s young Carlovians will have as many rich and happy memories of their childhood and teenage years as I have of mine.

Councillor Michael Kearns
Urban and County Councillor, teacher in CBS Secondary.

Source: The Golden Jubilee Journal 1936-1986 (Michael Purcell)

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