Tales of my Father, Tony Henry 1900-1982
Alec McCabe and Mr Brady of Ballymote were on hunger strike in Sligo Jail in the year 1917-1918. I was going to Summerhill college at the time and my pal was J Keane, whose father was Governor of Sligo Jail. There was a Ball-court in the Jail and my pal and I often went in for a game. On one occasion we were passing by a cell and Alec McCabe called me and said: 'Hello Tony, get me some cigarettes'. I told my Aunt, Mrs McDonagh, and the next day she gave me the cigarettes. We went for a game of hand-ball and when I got the opportunity I gave Mr McCabe the cigarettes, not letting my pal see me. He thanked me very much afterwards.
After Mr McCabe's release from Jail, he was elected a TD for Sligo-Leitrim and later on founded the Educational Building Society in Dublin.
On the day the Truce between the British and Irish was signed, Captain Marren of the old IRA, a native of Ballymote, was drowned in Strandhill. Matt Brennan and myself went to the funeral. The firing party consisted of Alec McCabe, Jim Hunt, Joe Finnegan and B Brady. When all was over we came home and Matt went into our Bar for a drink. In the Bar was Captain Harte and Lieutenant Leyrode.
Leyrode was a small man, Harte a big man and Matt Brennan was telling them about all the Black and Tans he shot. My mother, who was formerly Margaret Filan, heard the loud talk and called Matt out to see if he had a gun. She would not let him back in. Lieutenant Leyrode said: 'I will search him if he comes back in'. I said : 'You will not while I am here'. I brought Leyrode outside and put him on the ground. 'Good man Tony' said Captain Harte, 'he cannot search him because the truce is still on'.
Andrew Walsh, Fred O'Doherty and others kidnapped a Rate Collector named Jordan in Ballaghadereen and took him to Cloontia. Some weeks afterwards, Fred O'Doherty of Charlestown asked me one night to take him from Cloonmore to Carn, which I did, with two other IRA men and gave him up to Commandant Pake Finn and others who were present.
Some years later on a Sunday morning, two men came into our Bar for a drink. Now I never saw Jordan's face as it was night time when I drove him to Carn. One of the men asked me if I knew a Henry from Charlestown who had a car for hire. I said 'yes, but the man is now dead'. 'Well' said Jordan' that was the man who kidnapped me in Ballaghadereen, and dead he should be'. Jordan did not recognise me, thank God.
The Railway line
Around the year 1892 The Claremorris and Swinford Unions appointed James McGarry, Conor O'Kelly, Tommy Kelly and my father Mark Henry, to meet with the British Prime Minister, Mr Bonar Law to convince the Government of the day to run the Railway line from Claremorris through Swinford and Charlestown to Collooney in Sligo. As we now know they succeeded.
The first Station Master was a Mr Broderick, the last Station Master was a Mr Currid. Bill Henderson was the first Signal Man. The first passenger train to run through Charlestown was on the first Wednesday of February 1895, driven by a Mr Jones. The last train to run was in October 1975, and the driver was Mr James O'Grady, and the Guard was Mr Paddy Bree from Sligo.
On one occasion my wife Delia and I were discussing Bushfield Church, and when it may have been built. Delia spoke to her cousin Mike Lenehan of Kileen and asked him to talk to Thomas Durkan, his neighbour. Thomas was then eighty-two years old. He said that he was in Bushfield Church in 1912 on the day Fr TP Gallagher came to say his first Mass, having been appointed Curate in Charlestown Parish.
Fr Gallagher said to some men who were standing outside the Church: 'You have a very nice Church here, can you tell me what year it was built'? A man named Peter Higgins from Killeen spoke up and said: 'Twenty five years ago', as far as he could tell, which would make the building of Bushfield Church 1887.
The first Solicitor in Charlestown was Mr John Hardiman, a Limerick man and related to the family who owned the Limerick Leader. His son Willie moved to Florida later on and died there some years ago. In September 1915, the Charlestown AOH had a meeting to raise funds for the widow and orphans of the late John Hardiman.
The family had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. The treasurers of that fund-raising committee were: Mr J Howley, Solicitor, Tubbercurry, Mr P O'Connor, Solicitor, Swinford, Mr R Fitzmaurice, Hibernian Bank, Tubbercurry, and Mr MC Henry, Charlestown.
My great-grand father John Mulligan whose wife was Elizabeth Haran, built the first house in Charlestown in 1846 for his soon to be married daughter Mary. She married Michael Henry from Swinford and set up shop in the new Town.
Many years later their son Mark got a bill for £60.00. for rent from Loughlynn House, where Charles Strickland lived. He asked what the Bill was for as he was told that the house was rent free forever. Mark duly went to Loughlynn and met Charles Strickland and Sir Henry Doran.
My father said he could not pay all of the £60.00. So said Henry Doran, give me £5.00. and the house will be rent free for ever. My father paid the £5.00. and of course the house became rent free forever.
The Charlestown Electric Light and Power Co Ltd, was set up by Canon Keveney, in the early 1900s. It is said that Charlestown was the first town in the West to generate it's own electricity. The following receipts will show the cost of electricity at that time:
Received from Canon Keveney: Five shillings and four pence for sixteen units at four pence a unit, M C Henry: One pound and five shillings for seventy five units at four pence a unit, P A Mulligan: nine shillings for twenty seven units at four pence a unit,: J J Murray: Five shillings and four pence for sixteen units at four pence a unit, all receipts were for the month of September 1911.
The Power station was situated where the New Health Centre now stands. Michael Brennan was the Station manager. The authorised collector for the company was the father of the late Andy Vesey of Tavneena.
The Achonry Diocesan Feis was held in Charlestown on the 23rd and 24th of August 1904. The Patron was Most Rev J Lester, Lord Bishop of Achonry, President: Rev M Keveney, PP, Vice-Presidents: Rev P Mulligan, PP, Curry, Mr M J O'Doherty NT, Rev J Daly Ballaghadereen, Treasurers: M C Henry, D Marren, Swinford, Rev J Spellman, Kilmactigue, Secretaries: Rev M Devine,CC, and Mr J E O'Doherty, Charlestown.
Rev Michael Filan: 1828, Rev W McHugh: 1828-1848, Rev J Higgins: 1848-1878, Canon T Loftus: 1878-1894, Canon M Keveney: 1894, Canon McDonnell, Rev C Gildea, Canon Blane (later Dean Blane), Fr Eddy O'Hara, Canon O'Connor, Canon Gallagher, Canon Kelly.
Dispensary Doctors from 1846
Dr Phillips, Dr Stritch, Dr McDermott, Dr Carmody from Dublin, Dr Murray from Dublin, Dr Sweeney from Ballina, Dr O'Sullivan who was married to Willie Doherty's sister, Dr Ahern, Dr Rowland from Crosmolina, Dr Mulligan,Charlestown, Dr Noble, a lady Doctor from Dublin, Dr Byrne from Ballaghadereen, Dr P Carney, Swinford, Dr Gleeson from Cork, and Dr Martin O'Brien from County Galway.
The Ball Alley
The old Ball Alley, or Hand Ball court, was situated behind what is now the new Fire Station headquaters near the Town Hall. The Hand Ball court was opened on the 31st of May 1928 by Dr Morrisroe, Bishop of Achonry, who hailed from Charlestown.
It cost over £300.00 to build and it complied with all the regulations for championship matches. The committee responsible for making it happen were: Patron: Rev C Gildea PP, President: Rev Denis Gildea CC, Vice President: Jim Morrisroe, Treasurers: PJ Honan, and Willie Moffitt, Secretaries: Tony Henry and Bernie Cassidy., General Manager: Paddy Brennan, General committee: James Parsons, P Collins, Luke Colleran and Leo Cahill. The Ball Court was built by the Regan family of Barrack St.
Value for money
My grand-mother Mulligan had four or five neighbours helping with the hay in her land in Ballyglass one Summer's day in the year 1887. One of the men was Dick McGowan. His little son then aged about seven or eight years of age was in the field with them. She had gone up to the fields with a drink for the men, she wore a white bonnet and apron.
She called young McGowan and said to him: 'What is your name'? He said: 'Jim McGowan, Mam' 'Are you Dick's son'? He said he was. She put her hand in her apron pocket to see if she had a halfpenny or a penny,. All she had was a shilling. She gave it to young Jim. Dick, his father called him and asked: 'why did she give you the shilling'? Jim said that she would not take it back.
Dick McGowan told him to go down to the town and get the following items: Two ounces of tobacco, one loaf of bread, one pint of lamp oil, and a halfpenny worth of sweets. Well young Jim did that and when he came back up, he had one penny and a halfpenny left from the shilling.
Mr Devine wrote this information as it was told to him by his Uncle Fr M Devine who was a Curate in Charlestown at the time. Mr William Bolfin, who wrote famous tales from all over Ireland, entitled: 'Rambles in Eireann'.
In 1904, during the great Feis that was been held in Charlestown, Mr William Bolfin had supper in Henry's Hotel with Dr Douglas Hyde and Padraic Pearce. William Bolfin's tales had a great influence on the clauses that led up to 1916. His writings gave us all a greater pride in our country and in some a desire to fight for it.
© Cathal Henry