Bonniconlon Post Office 1866 - 2010, in Co. Mayo
The earliest reference to a Post Office that we have to date is 1866 in Thom’s Directory and in the earlier sources of The Lewis Dictionary and The Griffith Valuation there is no reference to the Post Office but Bonniconlon is referred to as a Post Town and a Bianconi coach would have passed by as it was on the route from Ballina to Boyle and Dublin.
Information received from Mayo County Library states:
The earliest date for which I can be certain that a Post Office existed in Bonniconlon is 1866 based on consulting our copy of Thom’s Directory for that year.( the earliest in our collection) in which the town is listed as a post town. There is no reference to a Post Office in either Griffith’s Valuation (1857) or Lewis’s Topographical Directory (1837).
This does not mean that the Post Office did not predate 1866 but in order to give a more exact date it would be necessary to consult earlier annual editions of Thom’s, which was published from 1844. It was preceeded by Pigott’s Directory from 1820.
The only copy that Mayo holds of the latter (that for 1824) only mentions the larger towns such as Ballina and Castlebar in the case of Mayo.
The first Post Master was Michael Fitzmaurice who came from Keash, Co. Sligo and his daughter Lizzie succeeded him as Post Office Assistant. He died in 1913.
The people there in the Post Office family in 1911 on the 2 April were Michael Fitzmaurice who was born in 1829, then aged 82, his daughter Lizzie, John Cawley, Thomas Cawley and Bridget Cawley. Tom Cawley would later take over the post of Post Office Assistant.
The Post Man for Bonniconlon in 1911 was George Kelly. John Cawley was a carpenter by trade and a native of Castleconnor, Co. Sligo.
In his recollections of the village of his youth in the 1930’s Paddy Ruane writes “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.”
The Post Office was not immune from the Troubles that were in the country and on the 30 June 1921 around the time of the ambush at Culleens the post office was reported in the local papers as being robbed, this was more than likely a diversionary tactic to cause some trouble before the ambush which was planned for the next day. Earlier that year in April 1921 John Cawley was beaten by the Tans after the ambush in the village.
At this time the village of Bonniconlon was a busy place with a weekly market and the Cawleys’ had a grocer shop as well as the Post Office and they sold a few items that would be needed for the household, tea, sugar and things like that.
The post office was also a telephone exchange and telegraph centre when the Phone system came along and this was the switchboard for the area until the direct dialling system as introduced in the 1980’s.
There was a room at the back that housed the exchange and this was a wooden panel connected to the central exchange and the various homes in the village then, at that time there would have been few phones and people went by the name of the village and the number, for example, Gallagher’s today is 45014 but at that time it would have been Bonniconlon 14 and that number would have been there with its socket and cable for connection.
The Post Office was then part of the Department of Post and Telegraphs a Department that would last from 1924 – 1984 when the name changed and the Post Office exchange was no more.
In the last few years it developed an automated system and also had banking facilities as part of the further modernisation of the Post Office.
Bonniconlon Post office was located on the corner of the street and also had a grocer shop and its corner was a popular meeting place for people in years gone by. Paddy Ruane writes; “money was very scarce so the boys would gather in the village every evening for the chat outside the Post Office.”
It closed down in January of 2010 after being there, we can say from the sources given, for the past 140 years. Christine Carey was the last Post Office Assistant there.
The new post office transferred to the Day Break Convenience store on the 1 February 2010.