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
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
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
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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