Bonniconlon in the 1930’s - by Paddy Ruane in Co. Mayo

Bonniconlon in 1936 was a village of 30 houses. In the lodge lived Tom Loftus and his wife came from Clara, Co. Offaly and five children, Maura, Eveleen, Phlyis, Ita and Brud. We were next at the corner of the Tubbercurry Road, Tom Ruane and Ellen, nee Keane, Paddy, Seamas, Maureen, Eileen and Kathleen. James Loftus ex-NT was next with his wife and two children, Dora and Breege. Pat Thornton lived on the Bofield Road with his wife Elle Morrison from Carracrum. Bartley Foy lived in a new, slated house beside Thornton’s. He was married to Maggie McGuinness; he had seven children, May, Anthony, Lily, Kathleen, Leo, Eugene and Christy. Frank Barbour lived at Oatlands House, he was ex–RIC sergeant and his wife was Kate Beatty the sister of John Beatty of Carnaglough. They had no family.

Ned Kelly lived at the corner of the Bofield Road, the house is vacant now, he was married to Margaret McAndrew, and they had five in family, John, Michael, Joe, Eamon and Mary. Next was the Post Office, which belonged to John Cawley. John was married to Lizzie Fitzmaurice and they had two in family, Bea and Tom. Bea married Garda Bob Kelly who was stationed in the village but moved afterwards to Charlestown and Ballyhaunis. Tom married Peg Butler from Portlington about 1935. She worked in Sandy’s as a nurse with the children. Next door was Martin B Durcan, Sandy, a big shop keeper and farmer. You could get anything in Sandy’s from a needle to an anchor. He had a very big staff that worked long hours for small wages. He was born in 1880 and died in 1972 in South Africa where his wife and family had gone many years before. His wife was a Miss Foley of Sligo. He had five children; Hugh (died a child in 1924), Maura, Nuala, Imelda and Bertha.

Sandy’s father died when he was a baby about 1881 but his mother who was born in 1847 - the year of the Famine - lived up until 1935, I knew her well. She used to have the whole staff saying the rosary every night. Sandy and his brother Hugh who was a parish priest of Ardagh and died in 1963: and Patrick was a priest in the USA. I served mass for him when he was home about 1937 for which he gave me a ten-shilling note. There was a laneway dividing Sandy’s from Johnny Lawrence’s pub, Johnny was one of a family of five of John Lawrence who had a big shop across the road where The River Inn is now. The shop and house was built in 1901. Johnny had a pub and butcher shop. He also had a hackney car for a while. He was married to Bridie Lavelle from Ballycastle; she was a sister of Canon Lavelle from Ballycastle and PP Lahardane. I think they had four children, one boy John Francis and three girls; Mary and Emily were two of them. Touhy’s old house was next where lived Garda Jim Friel and his wife who was Marren from Tubbercurry. Afterwards Garda Pat Toolen from Boyle lived there.

Matt Touhy was next, Matt’s grandfather came from Co. Roscommon and he was a schoolteacher. Matt’s mother was Kelly from Templeteigan, beside Tom Igoes. Thady Kelly was an uncle of Matts and he came home from America in the early thirties. There were four children, Madeline, Nancy, Donal and Sean. Joe Carroll was on the Ballina Road opposite the Priest’s house where Mary Ellen Walsh is now. He was married to Mamie Lawrence, Joe was from Co. Tyrone. Dora Loftus and her mother lived in the next house in Mount Carmel. They were both teachers. Mrs. Loftus was the first person to be buried in the new cemetery in Bonniconlon about 1937. It cost 750 pounds to build that house in 1936. Jack Dynes built the house where Paddy Barrett is now, he married Emily Lawrence and they had one daughter Mary who married Paddy Barrett.

Jack Dynes was Post Master in Ballina and came from Co. Tyrone. Paddy Walshe’s was on the other side of the road in the little wood where Boland’s are now - that house was built in 1924. John Tommy Moran, the poet from Glenree, was working on it. Paddy Walshe was from Toomore, Foxford. He was born in 1851 and died in 1941. I knew some of his family, Paddy who was an engineer in Swinford, Julia and Bridget. He taught in the Old School and retired in 1916. Bridget lived in Bonniconlon and Dr. Lena lived at the top of Ardnaree. Dr. Peter Walsh was another member of the family, but he died young. John McAndrew lived down the boreen at the back of Paddy Walshes and he was born in 1866 and he died in 1948. I was at his wake. He was married to Mary Smith from Breaffy. He had three daughters, Nora, Breege and Maggie. Ryders lived a couple of hundred yards away; Paddy and Kathleen were both teachers. There were five in family, Marguerite, Paddy Joe, Seamas, Tomas and George. They all went to Dublin in the early fifties. Next was the Garda Barracks built by Sandy Durcan in the early twenties. John Nolan was the sergeant there from 1936 to 1947 when he died from cancer. He was a native of Westport and his wife was from Tuam. They had five children, Maureen, Eithne, Sean, Padraic and Germene. Next was the curate’s house a former RIC barracks.

Fr. O’Hara was curate from 1922 to 1938 and he then moved to Keash, he was later PP in Charlestown. He was born in Attymachugh in 1888 and he died in 1950. He was a GAA fanatic and he was very fond of us children and used to play “dailleog” with us and when I served mass for him I could hear him picking the football team too. His housekeeper was Winnie Melody from near the church in Attymass. John Cowley was next and he lived there with his sisters Nellie and Delia. Next door lived Lizzie Loftus and her son John; they went to America in the middle twenties. Kate, Michael and Bertie Hallinan later lived there, they were from Corrimbla. Next-door was John Tom McAndrew a native of Cloontia; his wife was Agnes Foody from Carralavin. They had a grocery shop and were very good to us as children. They had three in family, Terry, Terence and Mary. They all went to America in the 1950’s. Next were Ann and Bid Mullen. They had a little shop. They had a brother Michael living in Rathreedane who had been a magistrate in the Sinn Fein courts and when he came to visit them they would have The Irish Press and some stout for him. Lawrence’s shop was next and they sold everything. Pat Lawrence was a Fianna Fail Councillor for many years. His father John Lawrence died about 1920 and his mother in 1942. There was a wake for two nights with plenty of food and drink. I did not go to bed for two nights. There were three terrace houses owned by Sandy Durcan - Gerry Flynn the Garda lived in one of them, he was a native of Limerick. He left Bonniconlon in 1945 and he was stationed in the midlands for some time. Joe Hennigan from Attymass lived in the next house for some time. Garda Bill Manning lived next to him and he came to Bonniconlon in 1936 and went to Gurteen in 1950. Across on the Enniscrone Road was Flynn’s house and forge. Mick was a blacksmith and Martin looked after the land. They never married and it was a great visiting house. Next was Nappy Kelly where Josie is now, the house was built around 1928 by Annie Kelly who came home from America. Nappy lived there with her mother and her brother Eoin. She was very good to my mother in bad times when we were stuck for groceries.

Next door was Loftuses, Patrick, Maria, Cis and Bridget. They had a pub where John James Greavy is now. Maria was a teacher in Bofield, Cis looked after the pub while Bridget and Patrick were on the land. I forgot to mention there was a house across the road where James Loftus lived... He taught in Bofield and held night classes in the house and I and a few other lads went to him. James was a native of Glenree and was a first cousin of John Durkan or ‘John Nancy’ who was a knight of the road for many years. John Loftus lived on the Enniscrone Road. He was father of Sean, Kieran, Kevin and Brendan. He taught in Bonniconlon School for many years and retired in 1944. He married Claire Reilly from Ballina in 1928; he was born and reared in the pub I mentioned already. He spent many years in Dublin and was at the funeral of O’Donavan Rossa where he heard Pearse’s famous oration.

The old slaughterhouse opposite the Post Office was in use until 1938. It was owned by Sandy Durcan and Cook – McNeilly of Sligo, the Bacon curers slaughtered about 200 pigs there every Tuesday. Tom McGarry bought the pigs from the farmers every Tuesday in the street outside. People came as far away as Foxford to sell pigs in Bonniconlon. That does not seem very far today but it was a long way when the only mode of transport was the humble ass and cart. The village was packed with people and the pubs and shops did a roaring trade. People I remember working there were Tom McGarry and Eugene Sweeney from Dromore West. Pakie Joe Gillard, and Pat Sticks Kelly from Glenree used to go around the place selling haslets at 6d each.

There was no electricity in the village at the time, it was all Paraffin oil lamps with single or double lamps. Many people would put a hairpin on the globe to stop it from Breaking. Money was very scarce so the boys would gather in the village every evening for the chat outside the Post Office. There might be a wake or a dance in some house and they would all go there about 11pm and stay there until the early hours of the morning.

There were two dance halls in the village, the Palace that belonged to Pat Lawrence and the Grand Central owned by Sandy, and admission to the Palace was 1/6 and to the Grand Central was 1s. Chris Kearney who was a native of Clonmel and a barber in Ballina played at the Palace with his Laguna Dance Band. The Band included Joe Sweeney, Martin Loftus, a man named Gaffney. Martin Dempsey, Peter Ruane, and Mick Loftus played many times in the Grand Central. Johnny Madden used to play the drums. He was a native of Tuam and came to Bonniconlon in 1928 with a circus and he stayed on there to work for Sandy. He was a very witty character and very popular with everyone.