Kells Archaeological & Historical Society

 

 

Oral History Project

 

 

Audio

GUS HEALY (1931-2016)

 

Gus grew up in Carrick Street, Kells. He worked on the railways for almost fifty years (1947-96) at various places including Kells, Drogheda, Balbriggan, Dublin and Navan. He now (2010) lives in retirement at Athlumney Abbey, Navan.

 

Interview with Gus Healy

 

Hello this is Danny Cusack on Thursday 25th November 2010 and I’m here at 22 The Park, Athlumney Abbey in Navan and I’m talking to Gus Healy ……thanks Gus for agreeing to talk to me today and I believe you were the Station master.

 

GH:    No, My brother was the stationmaster.

 

DC:     You worked on the railways in Kells at one time….so we will kick off perhaps at the beginning if you just say a few words about your own background and where you were born and grew up and where you came from.

GH:     I was born in Kells, in Carrick Street and I went to school in the local Christian Brothers school and when  finished my Junior Cert at the time, I was approached by a local builder to know would I be interested in serving my time as a Carpenter ….Mattie Tevlin was his name …..I went to work for him for a short while…for about three months and at that stage I was asked would I be interested in taking a job on the railway…..my brother was actually working there at the time and I was asked would I be interested in taking a job what was known as a office messenger…..that would be a junior clerk in the office…doing filing and transcribing documents and all that sort of thing …..I said ok because the pay would have been a lot better as an apprentice carpenter ….I never forget the pay it was 7 shillings and 6 pence in old money a week

DC:         The princely sum!

 

GH:     For 48 hours ….hard work from 8 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock in the evening and no time off for your dinner you took the dinner in as a meal break….I went to work on the railway in 1947…I can remember the date it was the 24th June 1947….the pay for the office messenger job was  1pound 12 shillings and 6 pence a week which was four times more than what I would be earning as an apprentice carpenter …..I took on that job ….they has an entrance examination for the clerical grade for the northern railway and I applied for that and had to go to Dublin to sit an exam and that exam was held in the Metropolitan hall in Abbey Street ….went there did the exam and about six weeks later got the results of the exam …..it was successful in being admitted to the clerical grade….I was told then that it would entail moving house…..I had to move to Drogheda …..I was appointed to Drogheda in August 1948……my first or longest memory of starting work was the first day I arrived into the office in Kells….I met a man there called Larry Smith….he was the signal man …in the signal cabin…he was an uncle of Sean Flanagan …….but Larry was a nice man he welcomed me to joining the staff ……and I asked how long are you in the job Mr Smith….he said I’m 28 years …..I thought at that stage my god 28 years it seemed a lifetime ….but at the end of my career when I look back on it …..I worked for the railway company for 49 years and ten months.

 

DC:         Just two months shy of 50 years.

 

GH:     Two months shy of 50 but it was compulsory to retire at 65...but even at that doing 49, almost 50 years in it was unheard of …it was the longest serving clerical man in the job…but getting back to Drogheda…I moved to Drogheda in August 1948…I was sent to work in Balbriggan in 1949 doing Butlins Mosney holiday camp … the Balbriggan station master at the time needed extra staff there in the summer with the busy period….I was working there for the period of the summer holidays for about three months and at the end of the holiday season I was transferred to Dublin …I was in Dublin then until October ’49 and then I was transferred to Navan …I was on the move ….as one Boss said to me later in my career, well son you should have known when you joined the railway its your house on wheels…I was back in Navan in ’49 and then I was there for four years until ’53 and in ’53 I was transferred back to a vacancy in Drogheda  and I was in Drogheda until ’54……my brother who was the clerks officer in Kells was transferred to Navan and got a promotion up to Navan and I was sent back to Kells to replace him and I was four years in Kells until ’58 until the passenger trains were withdrawn from the Oldcastle branch and I became redundant at that stage in Kells and I was transferred up to Dublin.

DC:         You finished your career in Dublin.

 

GH:     No I came back to Navan after that …that was in ’58 when CIE took over the great northern railway in ’58 and I was put on area relief staff at the time and eventually in 1960 the station master in Navan …in early 1960 he died, Mr Rice ….there was two stations in Navan at that time …there was the midland railway station up at the back of Páirc Tailteann …there was a station master there, Joe Connolly and the station master in the town station the northern station ….they transferred the business CIE station the midland railway down to the northern office and Mr Connolly was transferred down and charged he was an elderly man he only had a year or so to go to his retirement...he had a lot of work to do there so I was transferred off the relief staff down to Navan permanently to assist Mr Connolly and I was there with him until he retired and then Mr Grimes the station master in Ardee replaced him and I was there for eleven years with him until 1974, then I was put on the permanent relief staff which meant I was based in the office in Dublin….and I was sent around the country when clerical staff would go ill or holidays or that …I was sent down to cover their absence… it meant travelling from…the area we had to cover was as far north as Dundalk and as far west as Tullamore and as far south as PortLaoise and Arklow on the Wexford line….you were on the move all of the time it was a very...it wasn’t a easy-go job…you had a lot of early mornings …when I was living in Navan at the time I was married at that stage …I was sent to work in Arklow …I’d have to drive my car to Dublin at 5 ‘o clock in the morning and travel on a train to Arklow to book the passengers for the first train out of Arklow at 7:15 in the morning …you could work there until 4 ‘o clock four fifteen in the afternoon …you could go home then but the reason for doing that was I didn’t want to be staying away from home….if you wanted to stay at any of these stations you could ….you were paid an overnight allowance for staying away from home….but you were still paid that if you travelled…you travelled at your own expense…you had your own car…I was on that relieve staff for 16 years…I eventually ended up…I was transferred into Houston station in Dublin. I finished my career in Houston, Dublin in 1996.

DC:         That’s 14 years ago.

 

GH:        That’s right I’m 79 now heading for the big “8”  “0” 

 

DC:         The four score, the four score a big cause for a celebration ….fifty years almost.

 

GH:     I got to know so many fellows in the job …you meet them out afterwards …I’d forget …if you haven’t seen them      in a year or two…they would know you and you would know them…the same with passengers …working in      Houston I was in the booking office in Houston station… so many people coming up buying tickets of you on the ticket desk…they would get to know you and maybe you would meet them in the city and they would say. I know you from somewhere, trying to figure out where they met you before …the face was familiar to them, you were just out of your normal area …they would be just curious to know where they met you before.

 

DC:         You might have sold me a ticket or two in the early ‘90’s or the late 80’s when I went into Houston to buy a Ticket.

 

GH:     Probably did but sure you could write a book about your experiences in Houston especially …there were some great characters there …there was one guy there and he was station supervisor his name was Sam Langford ….Sam was a real Dub…you know he had a great Dublin accent ….he was a very witty guy altogether …in his young days he was a champion ballroom dancer …Sam was a very flamboyant character …but he was standing at the ticket checker at the gate one day when people were passing through and there was a couple of the other men standing around ….this lady passed by she had a …do you know those dogs with the bulging eyes.

DC:         Pekinese.

 

GH:     One of them asked Sam, What kind of dog it was …Sam said ah jaysus I don’t know …what would I know …and this other fellow spoke up and said I think he is a Road Island Red and Sam said how would he be a Road Island Red sure any ejit would know a Road Island Red is a cow ….he was very witty…of course the big experience of my time in Houston is when the papal visited in 1979…I was sent to work with the station masters office I was an assistant to him on the day of the papal visit…my god there was 50,000 people came in on trains …there were 28 special trains in that day from all over the country…we were in there from 5 ‘o clock in the morning until 10 ‘o clock that night, and what happened was the papal ceremony  in the Phoenix park overran a lot of the time and the people were very late coming back to the station to get their trains home with the result that the whole schedule for trains been available for people to get on was thrown into chaos….what happened was the normal trains that would come up from the country were blocked outside Houston they couldn’t take the trains into the station because they had empty trains waiting inside the station for the people from the park and when the people from the Phoenix Park arrived …when 50,000 people arrived in at the station ….it was worse than Croke Park on the day of an all Ireland final…when the trains got in, people loaded up, they couldn’t get the trains out of the station because the incoming trains were blocking the lines a few miles down the line…there was total chaos there but they eventually sorted it out and it was 11 ‘o clock that night before the last train got away …it was a day that most men want to forget .

DC:         The tempers might have been a bit frayed there at the end.

 

GH:        That’s true ….I suppose getting back to Kells, you’re more interested in and what happened around Kells.

 

DC:         Yes this background is interesting, but can you talk about Kells.

 

GH:     Well I can remember every fellow that worked in the station I can…I’ll name them for you….the history of  the railway in Kells…the railway in Kells opened in 1853 it came to Navan in 1850 and it was extended to Kells in 1853 I think then it was extended further on to Oldcastle ten years later in 1863…the reason for the long delay, 10 years… if anyone remembers the railway line between Kells and Oldcastle a few miles out the Oldcastle line there is a place called Sheeney ...they came into a large quarry …stone on the track…when they were building the track...it had to be removed in those days of course manually and I don’t know if they had gelignite or explosives available for to blast the rock but it delayed the building of the line for a considerable period…but they eventually got there …it was intended I think to extend that line on from Oldcastle to Cavan town….to Cavan town and connect up with the line to Armagh, Belfast and that direction…but of course all the railways in those days were financed from a private fund and the money was scarce in those days …the same as today …people weren’t willing to put the investment into it on a long term basis …it could take them quit a while to get a return on their investment …they were reluctant to throw good money after bad as they thought of it at the time because in those days most of the towns around were sparsely populated …there was a big rural population…Ireland in those days…there wouldn’t have been any large centres of population that railways would go through…but then the employment of the country was almost non existent outside of agriculture…the large towns…people remained in the town …they wouldn’t be commuting from one place to another …so there wouldn’t be much business for the railways except at weekends and holiday traffic and a odd trip to the seaside in the summer months.

DC:         And freight for cattle I suppose.

 

GH:     Oh yeah…In Kells now….every month they had a fair day in Kells with cattle, sheep and horses on fair days …I think that was held on the second Friday of the month …you could check on the connection of dates …the town clerk ….their the people that arranged it …the urban council …so there were particular days in the year when they had very large fairs …the 9th of September that was one for selling sheep ….it cleared out probably all the sheep they had on the land before the winter came in ….there was a big sale of sheep ….The 16th of October was the big day and then at Christmas they had a fat stock show sale, they held down at the park…the GAA grounds …every year there was at least …well over ….probably, 100 maybe 110 wagons of cattle shipped out from the local station to Dublin to be shipped on to England….you know to the markets in England and that was certainly a busy day for the railways….and then they had similar fair days in Oldcastle …they had a multi-fair in Oldcastle ….they probably have two trailer loads of cattle out of it ….of every fair ….it was a pretty busy time for freight loads on the line….I can remember I was in Oldcastle when the service through it was terminated it was 1959, that time the cement company had an agreement with the traders ….or the company had an agreement with the cement manufactures, Irish Cement Ltd factory  in Drogheda that the freight would be carried on its own basis any station within 50 miles radius of Drogheda had a flat rate per tonne for hauling the cement ….the next zone then would be possibly double the charge for the additional mileage ….but Oldcastle was the nearest point to the places in Longford part of Roscommon and quit a large part of Cavan….they used to sell a lot of the cement to …they would come and collect it at the railway station in Oldcastle…and I remember the last day when the last service was withdrawn….there was over a hundred wagons of cement in the railway station in Oldcastle ….most of that was shipped in by Mr BD Flood….he had a block manufacturing business there ….he was a big customer. ..but when the service was withdrawn, all that traffic went on road it was brought by lorry …but that was the end of the freight traffic on the Oldcastle line.

 

DC:         Cause it was really lorries and roads that killed the railway.

 

GH:     Oh defiantly, but then the conveyance of a lorry …it seems silly for somebody with 10-12 tonnes of cement in a wagon at Drogheda, and bring it over on a train to Navan to have to unload it onto a lorry to deliver it to Trim…you know like you had double handling on it …it was expensive too…like they couldn’t compete with their own transport and now it is all in powder form, it comes from bulk cement and silo’s.

 

DC:         The fair days in Kells and the cattle, you must have some memories.

 

GH:     I could remember one of the characters…a cattle trader at that time a fellow called Barney Mullen…he was a great Irish…international rugby player …well Barney was a bit of a character …he was a regular there at every fair …there was another guy Mr Mc Mulligan …he was from Northern Ireland. No, Mick Mc Mulligan was from Dublin but his colleague was from Northern Ireland …a man called Hamilton Coulter, I can remember the names…they were the three biggest cattle traders …the station master there Mick Keelan, he was always in the office when these men were booking out the cattle …there was only one telephone in the office that time…it was like the phones you would see with the Key stone cops, There was a separate ear piece form the microphone part… and you would have to wind up the generator to ring the post office … to put a call through to Dublin each of the cattle traders would want to ring their agent in Dublin to advise them of the numbers and the wagon numbers and cattle numbers they were sending on the train into North Wall and the local agent in Dublin would arrange shipping for them from North wall, across to England….they were always in a hurry naturally…ring the post office, no answer…Mick Keelan always used to say to me will you hop on your bike and go down to the post office and ask that “so and so” would she answer the phone …he didn’t realise that the girl was on top of her head down in the office with all the lines from the different post offices in the area …Kells was the head post office for the most of Cavan and the wide area of North Meath and all the phone lines were based into the telephone exchange in Kells….the girls there would be on to of …at their wits end trying to please everybody.

DC:         But the dealers didn’t want to know that.

 

GH:        Oh no they all wanted their job done yesterday.

 

DC:         And just to clarify that for me Gus, what were the years you worked in Kells.

 

GH:     That year was from 54 ….no that was when I was a young lad in 47… when I went in originally 47 to 48 and then…from 54 to 58 I was there back on my own with Sean Flanagan, was there at one stage and then another young lad, I didn’t know if its before or after Sean’s time …Pat Thompson, he came into a good              fortune …when he came to 16, he had to move into the adult grade, and Pat would have moved to Dublin, he got a job in Connolly station in Dublin and good fortune befell him when he got married, he won the lotto.

 

DC:         He was made.

 

GH:     Oh yeah he was, that was years later, a nicer of a man couldn’t have won it, he was a lovely little fellow…..Pat was from Carlanstown ….he was a very pleasant guy to work with.

 

DC:         During that second spell 54 to 58 what was your position in Kells.

 

GH:        I was the goods clerk…..in charge of the goods at the office.

 

DC:         The goods clerk…..and who was the station master.

 

GH:     The station master was Mr Michael Keenan very few people in Kells knew Mick Keenan’s history …Mick Keenan took part in the 1916 rebellion in Dublin.

 

DC:         Did He.

 

GH:     He was telling me about it…he spoke very little about it …one day we had a great chat about it…he told me how he was taken into custody when the rising failed and they were taking prisoners they were put on the football ground in front of Collins barracks down there at Houston Station ….he said they were there all day and it was nice sunny weather that summer ….they were there all day and eventually they were lined up and hand cuffed in pairs and they were marched with a line of soldiers drawing bayonets, each side of them, down to the north wall and they were put on a ship ….he said they were put down in the hold of the ship where the cattle were ….he said it was a terrible experience ….they were shipped over to Liverpool and from Liverpool they were put on a train …most of them had never been outside of Ireland, they didn’t know where they were going …but they were shipped by train from Liverpool….down to Wandsworth, a little station at the time outside London ….but he didn’t know they were been brought to Wandsworth prison….he said eventually they were taken of the train at Wandsworth and were lining up on the platform …and all the ladies passing by with their ….wheeling out babies with their parasols …he said it was lovely spring weather and they were all waving at them …good old King George …they thought they were German prisoners coming form ….the First World War was on at the time…but he said we wished them the time of day in un-parliamentary language.

DC:         I can imagine …and so he kind of kept that under his hat ….he didn’t talk about it much.

 

GH:    And you ask him did he take part in the civil war… And he said no ….he said when they started shooting each other I decided it was time to cut my ties with the organisation and that was it…the Republican Brotherhood the called it at the time ….he had a rough time when he was in Wandsworth prison in London….he said they were made …they were handcuffed behind their back and when the warden would bring in their dinner ….they got their meal in the cell….they used to empty the plate of food on the floor….he said they would get down on their knees and eat the food off the floor ah he said it was tough…but then they were shipped up to Wales to Frongoch, in Wales that was a disused brewery that was converted into a detention centre for prisoners of war…..these Irish rebels.

 

DC:         Their was… a good documentary on the television.

 

GH:     He was there until 1918 …he said there, at Liberty hall before they marched up to O Connell Street on Easter Monday…..one of the leading men in the movement was Sean …the famous Sean Russell ….he said Sean Russell was the only man that didn’t show up that day and he said I don’t know for what reason …but I was the guy that was sent around to his house to collect him and the instruction I got was if he doesn’t come you know what to do with him…..ill leave it to yourself I was the guy that brought him around ….he made a name for himself afterwards he was on e of the leaders of it, they have a statue of him in Fairview park in Dublin.

 

DC:         But the head is missing.

 

GH:        The head was blown off …

 

DC:         He was regarded as a sort of Nazi calibrator.

 

GH:    Yeah he was that’s true…he was in Germany… a lot of them that were in the IRA…they never gave up the fight they thought the fight against the Brits …you know they just wouldn’t accept it …look what happened since all the thousands are being killed …you wonder was it worth while…they say will an Irish man kill an Irish man no matter what their political believe was …even in the 1998 agreement we have now they didn’t get much more than they were offered in 1922.

 

DC:         No they still have the partition.

 

GH:    They have a form of government where they have a say ….I suppose it’s a fair way to do it.

 

DC      There is a degree of dignity there now that wasn’t there before.

 

GH:    The majority were unionist population so they ruled the roost and of course when people get power they re very reluctant to let it go …it’s the same as the world over.

 

DC:         We know that just too well.

 

GH:    With our own government here the mercs and perks as they call it in the Dail…..they don’t want to give them up …..I suppose that it human nature.

 

DC:     It is human nature, that’s power and the reluctance to give up power …that’s a very interesting little interlude…Was Mick Keenan a Dub ….where was he from originally.

GH:    He was from Monaghan ….North Monaghan.

 

DC:     That’s interesting.

 

GH:    Mick got sick …he was due to retire ….I always remember the day the 13th September was his date of retirement 1957 when he got a heart attack a couple of weeks before that….he went out ill …he couldn’t be retired           when he was on sick leave so he actually he never got his official retirement ….he died in October …he only lived about a month….he died suddenly in October, he died I think on the 30th October 1957.

 

DC:     He was just shy of retirement.

 

GH:     He was just 65 and a month …but then we often thought like he suffered from hearth trouble and I’d say like his experience in his lifetime ….like on the run…he told me at one time the tans arrived up at the house where he lived in Monaghan after he got out of Frongoch …there was somebody killed up there, and they were picking up all the usual suspects….they broke into his house and he had to get out the bedroom window at night and jump across the hedge into a field …just across the yard in front of the house ….he said there was snow on the ground and he was there in his bare feet in the snow for two hours until they left, you know that wouldn’t have done him any good like…health wise.

DC:     No his long term health wouldn’t be.

 

GH:     That’s true.

 

DC:     Yeah its interesting these stories that have come out about peoples lives now ….any other interesting individuals in the railways in Kells and Navan in that sense…..that would stand out.

 

GH:     I remember a cousin of Sean’s… Christy Smith he was a lorry driver, he was a son of Larry the signalman     there, I can remember on one occasion Christy was saying he got a large Stanley cooker to deliver to a hardware shop in the town, Connolly brothers and of course no trouble loading it at the station but the problem was getting it off the lorry when he got to Connolly brothers and unfortunately they were ….the lads in Connolly brothers were only kids they wouldn’t of been able to lift this cooker from a lorry down onto a truck and Christy saw a guy down at the corner called Andy O Malley ….Andy was from Mayo…I think Mayo or Galway but he was from the west of Ireland anyhow…he had been give one of these…..provided estates out at Allenstown he was one of the migrants that came from Clonbur that was relocated to Meath …but Andy was a strong man, he fancied himself as a strong man actually he was built like a tank …but he went down and asked would you give me a lift with this cooker down off a truck up here at Connolly Brothers …certainly Andy said  to Christy… he pushed Christy out of the way ….he just took the cooker about three or four hundred weight and just took it into his arms and carried it in through Connolly Brothers shop and put it down at the ground at the end of the shop in Connolly Brothers shop, they sold  a lot of earthenware….he said they had it inside the door in a glass case with lovely tea sets and dinner sets and services and all that on shelves….he was walking down the shop ….the wooden floor in the shop …the shelves were actually rattling….he said all I was afraid of was the valuable dinner services falling off the shelves ….then we would have right trouble on our hands ….he said he couldn’t believe the strength of the man ….said he was as strong as a horse.

 

 

DC:     And confidence to go with it I’d say….

 

GH:     One of his favourite tricks was when he would go into the pub he would take the caps of the bannon bottles of the Guinness bottles with his teeth….the metal caps …….you wouldn’t have to get a bottle opener at all …he would take them off with his teeth.

Gone for a cup of Tea.

 

 

 

INTERVIEW PART TWO

 

GH:     They made deliveries to Mullagh, Carlanstown Moynalty and Mullagh …that was one of the delivery routes and on one occasion they were delivering to Mullagh town …a guy called Tom Caffrey he had a bottling plant in Mullagh ….he was a wholesale bottler ….he got three or four large Hogs of beer in on the train until it went by lorry down to Mr Caffreys premises and they were rolled up on the front of the lorry and the rest of the goods were stacked behind and as they delivered up the town in Mullagh all the goods behind the Hogs, were delivered to the premises and the lorry was outside the last one …the helper got in behind the wheel and started driving the lorry across the road but what he didn’t realise was the Hogs were loose on the back of the lorry and the four Hogs Of beer rolled off the back of the lorry onto the street and burst on the street ….they said there was froth and beer two foot high on the street in Mullagh ….Id say there was some row over that.

DC:     I bet there was ….yeah…..the street was flowing with beer literally…where in the village would have been Caffreys now?

 

GH:     Just at the top end of the town ….when you come in from Kells, and go up the street in Mullagh ….the last premises on the left hand side as you drive up….to the road for Maghera Cross. (Tea being stirred)

 

DC:     Near where Monaghan’s post office is? Where the shop is now…..up that end of the town.

 

GH:     Caffrey was on the left hand side …there was a shop there …a pub and a hardware premises there Conarty’s ….Sean Conarty’s….Tom Conarty was the father ….that was a thriving village at that stage I can tell you that …they did great business in it …they had a fair the last Friday of the month…the fair day in Mullagh….all the people in the area ….around that part of Cavan …I suppose in Cavan generally …people had 5, 10, 15 acres of land …they would breed pigs and they paid the rent, they would buy all the meal, all the feeding stuff for the animals in Conarty’s shop.

 

DC:     When I first cycled through Mullagh I think it was the summer of 1988…it was a quiet sleepy little village, and if you went down now you wouldn’t know the place, with converging housing estates and all the Dubs commuting.

GH:        It all arrived later.

 

DC:         It’s a different place altogether now.

 

GH:     That time when I started first …they had a passenger service as well as a goods service on that line to Oldcastle, the first train out in the morning was from Kells at 7:30am with a connection to Dublin from Drogheda ….you would arrive into Dublin at 10:00…the only other service home to Oldcastle was at night ….left Drogheda around 7:00 in the evening …it served Navan Kells and Oldcastle …but the service during the day ….the service between Navan and Drogheda was operated by a rail bus …it was a converted road bus….converted with wheels    that could run on the rail …they ran that service between Navan and Drogheda during the day, a more frequent          service .

 

DC:     Cause the train went from Kells to Navan to Drogheda to Dublin …not Kells to Navan to Dublin which most people would assume.

GH:     Yeah it went to Drogheda.

DC:     Yeah that’s right then you changed ….to Dublin.

GH:     You see at that time there was no service on the line between Navan and the midland line to Dublin ….this one went to Navan to Kilmessan where the station House Hotel is now ….that was the railway station in Kilmessan, it went on up through Batterstown and into Dunboyne and from Dunboyne into Clonsilla …it has been reopened now as far as Dunboyne.

 

DC:     That’s right.

GH:     With a promise to open it to Navan.

DC:     2015 touch wood.

GH:     Did you say two thousand one hundred and fifteen!!  If they are lucky….they might come across a goldmine when they are exploring off the west coast …maybe a couple of oil wells

DC:     It’s much needed and would be much appreciated when it is in place.

GH:     Well it was reported in the papers there a couple of years back that they had discovered oil off the coast down in Mayo or Clare of the west coast ….it was on the….. what do the call it ….the porcupine bank.

DC:     Is that where it was.

GH:     It was extremely deep out there …a few thousand feet deep …it’s kind of on a shelf…but of course they have the equipment now to put down these submersible oil rigs and they can drill down from the sea bed …it would be great if they got a discovery like that.

DC:     Like Scotland and the North Sea.

GH:     Yeah they really hit it …you see that must extend across to Donegal …there must be oil underground up there …I mean it’s a very short distance across the North Sea …that oil is a few thousand feet down and gas and it just wouldn’t be confined to the area around Norway.

DC:     You wouldn’t think so anyway, but to actually explore and tap into it and make it economically viable another day’s work.

GH:     That’s true.

DC:     So rather than move your house all around all of the time as your man said ….you got married and you based yourself here in Navan and then you drove.

GH:     Yeah here in Navan …but then when I was put on the permanent relief staff our family got ….we either needed to extend our house or to get a larger house …we decided to sell out in Navan….we lived up past near where the Mullaghboy estate is now ….on the Athboy road.

DC:     Oh you lived out that way.

 

GH:     We sold our house there and we moved to Dublin  from there…..we lived in Dublin from….let me see now….we moved out to Clonee in 1994….we stayed there from ’94 to ’99  no no…I have it the wrong way around…we went to live in Maynooth…it was really a house on wheels ….we were living in Maynooth until 1994 and from ’94 to ’99 we moved to Dublin and then from ’99 we moved to Clonee…we stayed in Clonee until 2004….in 2004 my son was in the police …he was living beside us …he was been transferred to Cavan…we decided we would sell out and move back to Navan cause we have two daughters living in Navan on the Trim road and another daughter living in Kentstown.

DC:     It made sense to be close.

GH:     That’s what we said it would get to a stage where you can’t look after yourselves at least you would have someone to drop in and see you and keep an eye on you when you get to the stage where your no longer in the Ronnie Delaney league.

 

DC:     Ronnie Delaney style, he actually spoke in Navan Library a few years ago…Ronnie Delaney ….he is looking really well for his age.

GH:     Yeah he is a good age yeah he must be 75 or 76.

 

DC:         At least….in Melbourne he won the mile.

 

GH:     He would, I remember I was in Dublin in 58 when he ran the invitation mile in Santry ….Billy Morton was an optician  in Blessington Street in Dublin …he was a great man to be involved in the athletics …he organised  these invitation miles and he invited Brain Houston, Ronnie Delaney…..who else now….oh I cant remember them now but I know ….in Santry that night it was ….the rain was coming down like stair rods …and these guys were running around and the first five guys over the line broke the world record …five of them broke the old world record…I was down at the edge along the paling and these guys were passing by ….my god they were just moving like antelopes ….going by knocking spots out of the ground …even though it was spilling rain  …by gum they were fairly moving …for five of them.

DC:     They must have been and in under those conditions

GH:     Five of them …Brian Houston and there was another guy Albert Murray …there was a guy called Murray …I can’t just remember his name now ….I remember the five of them …they broke the old world record …there was a bit of history been made.

DC:     There certainly was that night …now that’s a thing just getting back to the Kells station for me ….that’s a thing Sean Flanagan mentioned….there seemed to be a big number of Healy’s working there, there was yourself there, your brother …..but there was a couple of other Healy’s who worked there.

GH:     That’s right …there were cousins and another man there Paddy Healy …Ill tell you a funny one Paddy was very witty in his own way…..the origin how the Healy’s came to be on the railway ….they were originally tenant farmers over near Trim at the time of the Famine in 1846 or ’47 the crops failed and they couldn’t pay the rent and they were evicted by the Landlord and they had to look for employment….they nearest source of employment that time, was the building of the railway in Drogheda to Navan….so the got to Navan and moved onto Kells when it was extended there and that’s when they settled around Kells …they got work on the railway…it was a kind of a closed shop if you weren’t a Healy or a Flanagan or a Smith you weren’t considered.

DC:     I got that impression from Sean actually.

GH:     Well, Paddy was a first cousin of my fathers ….Paddy was a bit of a character …..he came into the office one day and there were two guys who had to come down from Head Office in Dublin and they were going through the invoices to see the level of traffic that was being carried on the trains ….they came across one invoice where the board of works were transferring a ladder from Kells to Portarlington …apparently they had been down doing some work on the round tower or St. Colmcilles house and they had these very long three piece extension ladders to go up almost a hundred feet ….the ladder was loaded on the train and they guys when the looked at the invoice they noticed that they put two wagon numbers down for the one ladder ….one of them asked Paddy ….Mr Healy can you explain to us why it was necessary to use two wagons to carry a ladder from Kells to Portarlington  ….Paddy said I can of course…..it wouldn’t fit in one! …..the object they were carrying on the train extended over the wagon…..you had to have a runner wagon behind to prevent a collision of vehicles coming behind it….that was Paddy’s explanation …it wouldn’t fit in one.

DC:     Any of the other Healy’s.

GH:     My Grandfather worked originally on the railway…my father worked on it before me …my father was the signal man …with Larry Smith he had to retire because he had heart trouble ….in 1946….he died in 1948 he only lived 15 months after he left cause he probably had a defective heart …the day he died he wasn’t convinced that it was heart trouble…he said it was organised to get rid of the old fellow that’s what he said…… cause you had a lot of the young guys coming up out of the service in Northern Ireland from the army been demobilised …the army had to get jobs for these young guys ...been in the war he said …. All the old guys were told to move out …..and take your pension…but they had some pension…they paid into a pension fund….do you know how much they were earning…how much the pension was….6 shillings and eight pence a week…that’s about twenty pence in old money ….it would be about 30 cents in today’s about…….once on medical grounds you could draw social welfare and you got 15 shillings a week from social welfare ….it wasn’t a princely sum…you wouldn’t go wild on that kind of money.

DC:     So overall was it a good experience ….a good happy experience.

GH:     Ah definitely …we always had guys coming from ….we were next door to the Tara shoe company and you had all the fellows coming in and out every day …there was a fellow there he was the commercial rep for Tara shoes company…Mick Mc Govern… Mick was a well known character in the town …..beautiful singer…Mick emigrated to London at the start of the war….he was working in some night-club in Piccadilly …and he came home for a break and he couldn’t get back…he needed a visa a work permit to go back during the war….so he remained at home he never went back to England…Mick was a great character he was as strong as a horse…one day I will never forget there came in a wagon with an axle and a pair of balloon tyres on a huge massive tyres and we discovered afterwards that it was part of a fighter aircraft…..the steel part of it was the axle….and the two tyres were the actual tyres of the plane…a man called Mr Austin …he was an English man…but he had a large farm outside Kells….he bought these someplace in England or some place in Dublin he took them in to make a land trailer thing …..they were in the wagon and all they guys were out….it was like a gigantic dumbbell and all the strong men came out to see who could lift them up and they were all trying and nobody could lift them up,. Nobody could lift those things past their chest and put them over their head no matter how they tried …..who arrived in only Mick Mc Govern from the shoe factory ….he was a short man maybe 5’5” or 5’6” but he was broad as he was tall he was as strong as anything …he went over, somebody said he just took off his coat and with one jerk he put the axles clean over his head and let them bounce off the ground and they weighed the wheels when he was gone I think they were about 600 weight ….he would have been a great weight lifter …he just had the use….he was so short…..his arms on him like Charles Atlas…he was a great character Mick…..and he died suddenly afterwards poor fellow he was only 46 when he died ….he died in 1964.

 

DC:     There is a big crowd of McGovern’s in Kells and in the Athboy direction.

GH:     Ah Kells….lots…I think their father had a brother in Athboy I think ….Danny McGovern …they were all beautiful singers…ill tell you that ….if they were in their prime today they would make a fortune when you see some of the guys that would come on the X-Factor….they couldn’t sing for nuts some of them, and they make it big…..some of them are quite good ….Ill tell all of these Mc Governs had really great talent.

DC:     There is still some of them that do a bit of acting and singing.

GH:     John Grant ...his mother was Rosie McGovern …I was in one of the Pantomimes with Rosie when I was in Kells, she was a beautiful singer a lovely girl she married the postman Paddy Grant …Paddy was a Drogheda Man.

DC:     I see so you were involved a bit in the Drama in Kells as well.

GH:     I was in a very small way…I was in the pantomime…in the annual pantomime they kept at Easter …when I was working away from home...I couldn’t do it very well I had to pack it in…I couldn’t be available when they wanted …you know…when I was working in Navan for Matinees…I just couldn’t get off you know.

DC:     Well that’s great, thanks a lot.

GH:     Don’t mention it.

DC:     It’s great to have all that down for the record.

GH:     For posterity.

DC:     For posterity as they say.

 

 

END