Kells Archaeological & Historical Society
Oral History Project
Hello this is Danny Cusack on Thursday 25th November 2010 and Im here at 22 The Park, Athlumney Abbey in Navan and Im 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.
I was born in Kells, in
DC: The princely sum!
GH: For 48 hours .hard work from 8 oclock in the morning until 6 oclock 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 Im 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.
You finished your career in
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
was the midland railway station up at the back of Páirc
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
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 wasnt a easy-go
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
Id 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 didnt 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 at your own expense
your own car
I was on that relieve staff for 16 years
eventually ended up
I was transferred into Houston station
in Dublin. I finished my career in
DC: Thats 14 years ago.
GH: Thats right Im 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 Id forget if you havent 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.
You might have sold me a ticket or two in the early
90s or the late 80s when I went into
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.
GH: One of them asked Sam, What kind of dog it was Sam said ah jaysus I dont 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 couldnt 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 couldnt 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: Thats true .I suppose getting back to Kells, youre 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 Ill 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 dont 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 werent 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 wouldnt 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 wouldnt be commuting from one place to another so there wouldnt 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 couldnt compete with their own transport and now it is all in powder form, it comes from bulk cement and silos.
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 didnt 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 didnt 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 didnt know if its before or after Seans 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 couldnt 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.
The station master was Mr Michael Keenan very few people in Kells
knew Mick Keenans history
Mick Keenan took part in
the 1916 rebellion in
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 didnt 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 didnt 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 didnt 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 didnt show up that day and he said I dont 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 doesnt 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 thats 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 wouldnt 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 didnt 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 its a fair way to do it.
DC There is a degree of dignity there now that wasnt 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 its 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 dont want to give them up ..I suppose that it human nature.
DC: It is human nature, thats power and the reluctance to give up power thats a very interesting little interlude Was Mick Keenan a Dub .where was he from originally.
GH: He was from Monaghan .North Monaghan.
DC: Thats 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 couldnt 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 Id 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 wouldnt have done him any good like health wise.
DC: No his long term health wouldnt be.
GH: Thats 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 Seans 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 wouldnt 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 couldnt believe the strength of the man .said he was as strong as a horse.
DC: And confidence to go with it Id 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 wouldnt have to get a bottle opener at all he would take them off with his teeth.
Gone for a cup of Tea.
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 didnt 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 Monaghans 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 Conartys .Sean Conartys .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 Conartys 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 wouldnt know the place, with converging housing estates and all the Dubs commuting.
GH: It all arrived later.
DC: Its 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 .
Cause the train went from Kells to Navan to Drogheda to
Yeah it went to
Yeah thats right then you changed
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: Thats 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: Its 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 its 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.
GH: Yeah they really hit it you see that must extend across to Donegal there must be oil underground up there I mean its a very short distance across the North Sea that oil is a few thousand feet down and gas and it just wouldnt be confined to the area around Norway.
DC: You wouldnt think so anyway, but to actually explore and tap into it and make it economically viable another days work.
GH: Thats 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: Thats what we said it would get to a stage where you cant 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.
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
Five of them
Brian Houston and there was another guy Albert
there was a guy called
DC: There certainly was that night now thats a thing just getting back to the Kells station for me .thats a thing Sean Flanagan mentioned .there seemed to be a big number of Healys working there, there was yourself there, your brother ..but there was a couple of other Healys who worked there.
GH: Thats 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 Healys 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 couldnt 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 thats when they settled around Kells they got work on the railway it was a kind of a closed shop if you werent a Healy or a Flanagan or a Smith you werent 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 wouldnt 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 Paddys explanation it wouldnt fit in one.
DC: Any of the other Healys.
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 wasnt convinced that it was heart trouble he said it was organised to get rid of the old fellow thats 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 thats about twenty pence in old money .it would be about 30 cents in todays about .once on medical grounds you could draw social welfare and you got 15 shillings a week from social welfare .it wasnt a princely sum you wouldnt 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 couldnt 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 55 or 56 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 McGoverns 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 couldnt 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 couldnt do it very well I had to pack it in I couldnt be available when they wanted you know when I was working in Navan for Matinees I just couldnt get off you know.
DC: Well thats great, thanks a lot.
GH: Dont mention it.
DC: Its great to have all that down for the record.
GH: For posterity.
DC: For posterity as they say.