Kells Archaeological & Historical Society


Oral History




Jimmy grew up at Normanstown ,Carlanstown. After being apprenticed as a mechanic he went to work in a garage in Navan, then in Doyle’s garage in Kells (now Supervalu) and finally – for 16 years – in Breslin’s garage. Jimmy lives at St Colmcille’s Villas and is married to Alish from Moynalty.





This is Danny Cusack on Thursday 23 October 2010 and I’m here at 18 Colmcille’s Villas Kells talking to Jimmy Murphy.



DC:     Jimmy, perhaps you’d like to start off by talking a little about your circumstances. Did you grow up in Kells, go to school here …

JM:      I grew up in Normanstown and went to school in Carlanstown. I went to school when I was seven year old and the school teachers, the principal was Master Keaveney and Miss Brogan was the junior teacher and the senior teacher was Miss Smith. I played football, a lot of games on the school team. Later on when I was 10-11 years old Master Keaveney had a garden, an acre and a half, and he’d grow a lot of apples, strawberries and raspberries. When it came to go home at 3pm we’d go and do a bit of gardening and could be there until 6 o’clock in the evening.  I was great friends with Jack Fitzsimons; he was a classmate of mine. Jack is an architect here in the town. Kevin Hegarty (he’s dead), Billy Briens, Owen Collins, John Smith, Tommy Collins … they were all friends of mine. Then in my holiday time – my father worked as a butcher – and I used to go with him and kill pigs, all with local people, farmers. They’d feed a pig and you could have it for Christmas. He used to do the killing and I used to go with him as a young fellow. That was most of my time. Football after that in the evenings. And out hunting, I loved hunting, coursing ... with dogs. I spent a lot of my time at that and football. When my school days were over I went to England to serve my time. [Then] in Kells I worked at [Pipe Island] Engineering Works – that’s where Hetherton’s is now – in 1945. The war was over and my first job was … they put gas cylinders on the cars because petrol was scarce. They used to start the car on petrol and then they’d switch over to charcoal. There’d be two big cylinders on the front of the car and they’d be fired by the charcoal. And there was a special carburettor to switch over from the petrol to the charcoal because the petrol was so scarce they wouldn’t have enough. There were men called Woods, they were cattle dealers in Kells. There was a father and three sons and they were all dealers and they’d have an old car apiece. And that’s the way they’d get round all the fairs …Longford, down to the west of Ireland. There were two doctors – a Dr Brannigan and Dr Irwin - and because they were doctors they got more coupons and they’d be on the road all hours of the night. If you were a dealer selling cattle or someone drawing turf you only got two coupons I think. That was first job, and then I went on to Beggans, importing the first combines, second hand.  The canvas on them used be very rotten and we had to get new canvas made for them. And our job was to clean them down and spray them. And prepare the big chains or anything like that. That was an apprenticed job I was at for about two years. Then we’d import in all the tractors….small tractors Ferguson 20’s so they were at that time….so I was there until 1951/2,….we were transferred on to Navan …we bought another garage in Navan …its Smiths garage now…the Renault-Norris place …the garage I was transferred from …Paddy Beggan was the man that I served my time but bought another garage in Navan its where Smiths or Norris’s are now like…they moved out of it now ...on the way into Navan there...there is a little vegetable shop there beside it …on the way into Navan..

DC:     Oh I think I know it …

JM:      Well we worked there for 2 years and then I came back so I did to Kells in 1954 August’54 to a place called Doyles Garage and that was above where Super Valu is now and I was there for ten years with Doyle’s and then after that Breslin’s bought it and I was 16 years with Breslin’s and then I finished up in breslin’s …by the way I had to do a five year to six or seven serving my time ….that was the lot of it….that’s mostly it as regards working end of it …..

DC:     So you were a lifetime in Garage’s …

JM:      A life time in it ...yeah ...then I came to live in Kells in 1954 ….got married and lived in Kells where I am today ….

DC:     And have you lived in this house all of the time?

JM:      All the time that is what about…54/5 years …so what would be the next one? The changes I have seen…

DC:     Yeah work away the changes you saw in Kells in your life time….

JM:      I remember the Fairs in Kells …the fair would be on the street in Kells …Farrell Street and it used to be a very busy day for us …the fair days the farmers would leave in old tractors and cars and what ya have it……I remember the fairs and plenty of rows with the travellers …fighting outside the pubs in the evenings and we would be coming home from work and sure we would stand and see the fights …so I don’t know anymore about that …the famous characters that I knew was  …a fellow called the “Gauson Dolan” …..

DC:     I think I heard that name before ……

JM:      And Gemma Molloy was another ….they were famous characters you know like …I remember them around the town ……

DC:     Were they noted for anything in particular

JM:      There antics and all that sort of thing …the guards and stuff…fellows that would be up to no…….and there was a fellow too called it was a funny name…..Itchy Mc Cormack they called him he was a character too so he was he had the shakes and that why they called him it ….he was another character ...he used to come into us in the garage to pass the time you know and the boys would be running away from him …..

DC:     Like he was contagious for something….would you say it’s a big difference the change….you know the Fairs and the cattle dealers have all gone so some of the characters have gone ….would you say there is a big difference….

JM:      There has been a big change in the town that time ….there was a place called Mc Minnions it was beyond where the old ESB office is now… would be lined on a fair day and on especially on a Saturday as well with delph selling delph on the street….stalls you could buy anything from a pair of boots/shoes to delph ….that was all the changes I see now …….the bread carts and the horses …and the messenger boys on the bikes that time with baskets in front of them….the delivery boys we used to call them you know …that’s all big change you know… from what today is….people would not realise that that went on ...the way it was….like

DC:     Sure…..that’s exactly why I want to record it….

JM:      That time too on Fair days they used to come in and camp around the town so they would ….the boys with the stalls and that know to sell all the different things and like ...the guards the policemen that time shoving them into yards and off the streets ….they would see two or three stalls on the middle of the street you know ….you don’t see it…well you would see it a bit when they brought back this thing now…you know the Fair day in Mullagh and Kells ….that’s bringing back something that was….the way it used to be my time ….not a whole lot more I suppose….my time in Kells was more into the football ….I remember the races in Loyd when Gymkhanas and John C Brady started it up you know like and they held it one year…… two years like that time the hill of Loyd was for the people standing on the left hand side and the races was down where the factories is now ….the land out around it there used to be belonging to Mc Donagh’s….. farmers and they used to give a certain amount of them fields to the racing for the day of the racing….and when John C Brady tried to start it …the people all built house in the middle of it …you know down the years and they destroyed it…you know you couldn’t never get the land enough to make a decent racecourse out of it…so that put an end to that …so I don’t know what else I can think of now……yeah probably should have told you that one day the boss’s sister Paddy Beggan and her work mate in the office May Barrett used to go to dances this would be…..I wasn’t married at the time I was young ..they used to take a car out of the garage and get me to drive it and I went with them to a dance in Castlepollard one night ….and sure it was three or four o Clock in the morning ….it was a hunt ball it was four in the morning when I was home and I hadn’t much sleep but they came out looking for me from the Garage to go to a breakdown that was over in Kilcock…. And I had the car with me and a brother of mine he was coming in from the town and I put his bike on the back of the car and we were coming onto Maudlin Bridge …and an old man came up the back road on a bike ……and it was an awful windy morning … wipped him across the road in front of me …I jammed on and swung and hit the corner of the bridge and the bike flew off the back of the car into the river and there was a fellow painting the bridge on a ladder below at the back of the bridge, called the Mag Maguire ...he fell off the ladder into the river ...with the belt of the car and the bike going in and he came up out of the river….I was up the far side of the bridge…there was a woman coming onto the bridge Mrs Mc Namee and her daughter …they fainted and they were lying on the path the mother fainted the daughter was holding her by the hand and she was trying to bring her to.  The fright they got…..Mick Maguire came up with his cap in his hand and he drowned (wet) where he fell …..`Ill kill him I’ll kill him` he would say `when I get me hands on him I’ll kill him' …..I ran up the road at the time I was young I forgot I should have told you that in the beginning …..

DC:     You were not going to hang around …

JM:      You couldn’t cause they were all gunning for us …it was actually I saved your man’s life on the bike so I did cause he just blew out….he came up off the back road and the wind caught him he didn’t get to wheel in …the wind swept him right across in front of me and I had to swerve away from him leaving me …and I went around him with the car and that was the time I hit the bridge…..If I hadn’t of it would have been a lot more serious….so that was another experience I had like in my time…I don’t know what more ones I have …

DC:     You mentioned you grew up in Carlanstown out in the country…..would you have scene a big difference between country people and Kells people when you first moved in or did you get on well …..

JM:      I got on fairly well but there was a big difference ….we would come in from Carlanstown on a Saturday evening and we would all be standing around the corners and there was a place called Billy Mc Giverens …its where Gavigans shop /office is now …well Brigit Mc Giverens that was a collecting place….and if you were  making a date with a girl or anything you would always make it for there so you would …….it was called Mc Giverans corner….she used to sell fish and rabbits and all that sort of thing ….it was a meeting place so it was for the country fellows…..all the townies would be on  a different side ….they would more or less be sneering and laughing at us ….some of them might have been a little more dressed than what we would be like… know what I mean ….we would be rough and ready from the country you know ….it was sort of a distant thing you know the town and the country … did remain that way for a long long number of years but it gradually all changed then ….Id say all the work that people were working from the country and they became mixed more ….like you could imagine them years ago in the 1950’s and 47 48 and 49 ……’47 was my first time to stand in Croke Park at the all Ireland semi final between Meath and Kerry ….the photograph ….Paddy Beggan my boss put a van under us…..he had an old van that time and their must have been ten of us and that was my first time to see Croke Park in 1947 ….so that is a long time ago ….I seen all the other finals in Croke Park I seen a good many of them ……so I did but I was always into football ….there was a couple of us including my brother ….we didn’t mind what teams……we wouldn’t be one-sided ….we would go to Croke Park no matter what teams were in the All Ireland ….the atmosphere and all that ….. Carlanstown is a changed place today so it is ……from my days the was only the old school …they have the new school there now and many many new houses there now …it was funny…the houses were always on the left hand side and all that was on the right hand side was two pubs …Kiernans old pub there and Briodys ….that’s all that was there the rest was fields after that like you know….

DC:     There is a lot more now….

JM:      Oh yeah its completely changed you know with estates now ….well that’s nearly my whole life hood you know like …….I retired…..I fell into the pit in Breslins the ladder came down with me …..i went down and broke this shoulder badly and I damaged that finger there ….I finished up that and I didn’t go back to work …they changed the sold there and they left and moved up near Navan so I didn’t move ….that was my storey ……

DC:     Overall how did you find a lifetime working in a garage was it generally a good experience?

JM:      Ah yeah a good experience I had great …..I met an awful lot of people not from just Kells but from the surrounding counties….Meath Cavan …..I knew an awful lot of people from Cavan …there was a lot of Cavan people ….down and around and into Westmeath over to Mullingar you know Castlepollard that was an area where we used to get a lot of work and even over around Kinnegad…..Ballivor that part too….you see that that time…my time in Doyle’s garage from ’54 on he was the main agent for Austin Cars do you see for Co. Meath and he had the Hillman agency as well which was the roots group common cars ….he had them and he sold a lot of cars in different counties like you know….and that’s how I got to know an awful lot of people…..and met an awful lot of people and still meet them yet…some of them rings me home from America, Canada often…you know ..fellows that served my time with me and any time they come home they always come to see me…

DC:     So you have built up a whole network of friends

JM:      England as well…I would have a good few of my friends are in England too….they all went off there wasn’t much work that time …..all emigrated you know ….sure got married in England, America Canada and Australia… know……..Tommy Collins was one of my very good friends and he is a lifetime in Australia……he has a garage out there ...that Tommy Collins and Noel they are cousins they are related to the Keavenys ….do you know the Keaveny’s, the hairdressers ….they are very wealthy….they would be uncles of Peter’s…their mother was Peter Mark’s sister?……there sister was Peter Mark’s mother…she was married to Keaveny….Master Keaveny….

DC:     So that’s the connection….that’s interesting….. I think a  cousin of my fathers Jean Cusack who grew up at Petersville Moynalty ….I think he served a short spell in Doyle’s ….he was born in 1940…so your probably talking the mid late ‘50’s now before he went off to America and he is still there …..

JM:      He wouldn’t be a Cusack from Mapreath?

DC:     No a different Cusack……..Petersville, Moynalty…..down the Ughtyneil road

Alish:   That’s Peter Finnegan that died lord have mercy on him….

DC:     That would be next door…..Jean Cusack was raised by his Aunt ….Helen Finnegan, Helen and Michael Finnegan on the next farm to Peter……cause his parents died young.

Alish:   Did that Michael Finnegan come home from America?

DC:     No….he was always there in Petersville….there is a couple of Michael Finnegan’s on that road…….

Alish:   And then there was a John Finnegan and he was adopted by ….

DC:     That was the same family……

Alish:   He was adopted by….

DC:     Helen and Michael…..

Alish:   But they came home from America…..

DC:     Helen did.

Alish:   And the storey about them is ...he was going out with Helen before she went to America and she went off to America and spent years and years in it and came home and met up and got married and adopted John  ….

DC:     John died just a few months ago….

Alish:   And I remember that Helen Finnegan, so I do….

DC:     Well she was my Grand Aunt.

JM:      And you were saying that he worked …..

DC:     I don’t know if he was there long …when his younger brother Jim was home over the summer I remember him saying that Jean served some of his time in Doyle’s……it might have been briefly six months or something…

JM:      You don’t know what year it was….

DC:     I could find out…

JM:      In August ’54 I went into Doyle’s ….I went into it as a foreman …..

DC:     Well he was born in 1940 so he would have been at least 15 or 16 so I’m guessing around the mid 50’s or late 50’s cause he went off to the States around 1959…….I just thought I would mention it …..

JM:      I was trying to think back on the fellows that was…you know…in it you see some of the lads that came in and they only do a year or two and then go off to America or England you know like and its hard to remember them all ……

DC:     That would have been Jean I would say it was just for a year ….small world..

JM:      It is ……..

Alish:   I remember John Finnegan and I remember Helen but I don’t remember the husband ….but she used to go to Moynalty mass that’s how I would know….cause Im originally from Moynalty…

DC:     What’s your…

Alish:   I was Govern…my father was James Govern he was an over seer on the council and my mother was from Oldcastle….

DC:     Were you from the village or outside…..

Alish:   Between Kells and Moynalty ...the only cul-de-sac…we lived up in off the road at Mc Cartan’s …….Mc Cartan’s were racehorse ….

JM:      You know Mc Cartan’s

DC:     Oh I know the name it’s a cul-de-sac anyway….

JM:      There is a lodge at the entrance ….up to Mc Cartan’s …..

DC:     Another person who adopted Kells!

Alish:   I served my time in Bell’s of Cross Street….its not a grocery shop any more its Doyle’s…a lot of changes too……

DC:     On going changes….

Alish:   I remember long ago and they done it every Saturday night …we were working and you would work that time until 10 O clock at night … and all the fellows from the country used to dress them selves up and come out to Kells and stand at all the different corners and walk around the town…….and stay until maybe 10 or half ten and walk home…..

DC:     Just like that…

Alish:   Some of them would have a lamp on their bicycle and some of them would have none….

DC:     They were risking it….

Alish:   Every Saturday night without fail….they would come into the town…..

JM:      That was their weekends ...back to work on a Monday morning…

DC:     So your involved in the football….you follow the football are involved with any other groups or activities around the town…

JM:      I was in the FCA, I was in them years ‘48/49..and I done my holiday time in Gormanstown…I did a few years with them…I enjoyed it with the lads you know…..used to look forward to Gormanstown for a fortnights training…..we would get the holidays from work….mostly that now and the fishing…I was very much into the fishing ….I loved fishing and the football and coursing with dogs…..hunting…that’s where I used to spend many a Sunday when I was a young fellow out hunting….the fields for hares and that you know……

DC:     So you still enjoyed the countryside even though you lived in the town….

JM:      I always went out every weekend to the country…..I was telling you about my father when he used to kill the pigs …..he would kill pigs for this man and they used to half the pig …one half would go to a farmer down the road and then when he would kill his pig a couple of months after ……..that’s the way they used to do it…because the whole pig would be too much and they used to divide you see….and that’s the way they done it that time in the hard times you know…..  it wasn’t going to the shop every time to buy …they had their own bacon so they had eggs, butter ,all that stuff and growing their own cabbage,  carrots, parsnips onions all that stuff …you never had to go to the shop for anything like that …it was all grown at home …that’s why the pig was very important for a lot of people it was there means to feed 2/3 pigs and have 1 /2 to sell a week or fortnight before Christmas…and that would be the money to buy a lot of things for Christmas you know…

DC:     Of course yes…..

JM:      ah indeed many the times in my spare time in the evenings we would have to go out to pick potatoes and we would pick for the local farmers we would pick a few bags of the rubbish and that was for feeding pigs …the big farmers wouldn’t bother with the rubbish of the potatoes…. They would give you the pick of them and we would pick them out of the know…and sure it was great feeding for the pigs like…..that and a fistful of mashed oats or barley  ….that’s when the bacon was so nice that time..

DC:     It was more natural…..

JM:      It would melt in your mouth… know….

DC:     Were their many gardens in Kells when you first moved in …

JM:      There was I put that shed in but there was a big garden it goes right the way up nearly about to Monaghan’s Sports place …it’s a very long garden I used to plant that every year and put potatoes in it and vegetables and done it for several years until later years I gave it up got of sort of spun out would need a 4 or 5 of topsoil in it because the topsoil got spun out and all you have is rubbish you know like….a horticultural fellow told be one day you are only wasting your time the ground is all spun out…he said you need a couple of loads of topsoil .

DC:     To revive it …

JM:      And another couple of loads of good farmyard manure....and bury the whole lot it and leave it there for a year and then you will have good soil the next year

DC:     He knew what he was talking about…. And now we have the allotments out at Loyd so that’s ……

JM:      Its making a come back….to give people an idea of what it was like …there is a lot of people today who enjoy doing that …..if you were in a garage like I was all my life …you would love to get out to the country…you know…to do something like that we used to go down would be called out to break downs to tractors out in the field ….I used to love it out in the fresh air you know…away from all the fumes and everything ..

DC:     Especially growing up in the country …..

JM:      You had a graw for it like you know…..I had a great graw for the country always you know ….it would never worry me…even in the winter time we used to …a lot of people would say I hate the winter …..

DC:     You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy….as the saying goes…..

JM:      That’s it exactly

DC:     Well thanks for that Jimmy and if there is any other little things that come to mind

JM:      I’ll let you know ….it could come to your mind later on you know…important things in years gone by ….if I think of them I’ll drop you a line …..Willie Carr, I know Willie well

DC:     Well we will finish there for today, thanks Jimmy for talking to us today and all the best…



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