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MICHEÁL CAMPBELL

(born 1931)

 

Micheál grew up at Loyd. He worked in the Regal Brewery, then for Fitzsimons’ Bakery and finally for Spicer’s Bakery in Navan. He is married to Jean O’Reilly from Crossakiel and lives at Febog outside Kells.

 

Interview with Micheál Campbell

Hello this is Danny Cusack on Thursday 2nd February 2010, I’m here at Febog, just outside Kells and I’m talking to Micheál Campbell about his time in the Regal Brewery ……so Micheál over to you…..perhaps tell us how you came to be working in the Brewery and all the rest of it.

MC:        Well I was just after leaving school…..well I left school when I was just 14 and then the brothers came out and asked my Mam would she send me back to it…I went back for a week I think and I had enough of the brothers at that time….I thought it might have changed …..Things were still going on …..so I left it …a Miss Flanagan she was an accountant for the brewery …it was in motion at the time and she was friendly with my Mum and she said….they are looking for…..you will laugh at this….they are looking for an assistant bottle washer…I was 15 anyway I didn’t know what to expect …I knew there was a man down the road from me where I lived at the time and he was working in it…..so I went down on the night before the Sunday evening and he said…yeah you will be working with me ….be here in the morning at 7:40 and you will be in with me…..Joe Black was his name…lovely man Lord have Mercy on him….so I didn’t know what to expect when I went in that morning….he put me on the bar of his bike and we went into the brewery.  All the staff were there getting ready ….Colm Mulvany, Gerry Dolan….there was 10 maybe 15 of them and I thought you know the way a young fellow coming in they would be doing this and …….they were the nicest chaps of staff that I have ever met in my lifetime…..they were absolutely lovely and I was very happy in it …so my job in the brewery was….were you ever through the brewery.

DC:         No No….I did Oliver Usher’s auction rooms ….I was never in the old.

MC:        Well there’s where they were….you know like…there was two foremen…we never saw the Fitzsimons people that owned it like…..to be honest with you they were eccentric they never mixed with people in Kells they weren’t popular do you know what I mean but they were very fair ….I have never seen anything like them in all my life….they were very fair they wouldn’t be bullying you or anything like that…..do you know that was it….it was my first job and I was trilled at it…..when I be finished on a Friday the foreman would be going around with your wages and I got one pound 3 and 11 pence…..I never forgot it and the other fellows were getting maybe 2.50 or something….so I was trilled and that went on …but it was a summer trade…we did nothing in the winter only cleaning everything was spotless…..you would have to be cleaning and cleaning and cleaning and then come the summer and you would be doing two shifts….and they came to me…I remember Raymond Fitzsimons he is dead too Lord have mercy on him…..and he came to me and he said to me …that was the only time he was ever talking to me….he said young man you don’t mind working a bit extra and you will get paid….I said no sir…….I didn’t know what he meant so the boys were telling me Colm and Gerry Dolan we will be doing double shifts twice what we will be doing and I remember getting nearly five pound…4.19 and something and bringing that home and giving it to your mother in hard times…..she was trilled do you know that was it   the place itself it’s the greatest shame that it ever fell through….you know I was young at the time I didn’t know what was going on but …apparently they didn’t let anybody wisk, It was completely run by their own firm ….by their own lads there was three sons and they were all specialised in their own …one fellow was a scientist ….they were all trying to improve on their beer and at that time I remember it too….it was dearer than the porter that was going at the time like…there was the brewer then was it Paddy Donagh…and he was the man that was responsible for getting the stuff ready putting the corn into it and all the necessities….and then there was a walking floor foreman….Hughie Murray was his name from Drumbaragh and he was the man …when we done all the stuff you see…..he stored it in a place and then it was brought ….the pubs in town bought it off them all right ….and the surrounding villages and all that…but there main outlet that time was the had a depot in Dublin and their was a man by the name of Goggins…I think he was related to Colm Mulvany…or Colm Mulvany’s sister was married to ….or something …Colm would tell you if you go back….it’s a pity you didn’t bring him out with you.

DC:         Yeah the two together…

MC:        You know he would say yes or no because …a very nice man Colm….but they brought it you would see the truck….I’ll never forget it ….it was something like you would see out of dark ages…a big left hand drive thing…..and it would bring maybe three or four hundred cases…..they had their own thing….they made their own crates for two dozen beer like you know….. and they had a full time Carpenter there….who was Colm Mulvany’s brother and his father before him was making them…..they wee all carpenters….there was Dolans….there was a father and son Gerry Dolan…..when you went in where the Auction room is now …..there was small places you see  each one would hold so many dozen of beer…..there was a man there Eddie Dolan and his father and it was pasteurised in that …..and it had to be at a certain temperature   ….he would have big rubber gloves and he would have a thermometer going around to make sure that….and then the next place is where I was working …. It was a big tank of what do you call that stuff…. Caustic Soda …and it was forever like it was from here ….to the chair there ….it was on an axel …you pulled the switch and pulled it down and it would hold maybe eight dozen of bottles, but you had to have it full…if there was two or three bottles missing it wouldn’t be tight proof….they would roll around the thing and break and you would be in trouble…then you moved that one and put on the next time and by the time you got round….when the four of them were full you were back to the first one…..and all the old labels would have been taken off with the caustic soda and you took them out and put them on a big…..and they went around to the next man and they went around the whole place and that’s the way they were bottled…eventually they got a railway line in to take the bottles…there was so many fellows …there was myself and Joe Black ….he put the bottles up and they went through ….not a machine it was a bulb to see if there was a crack in it…….it was no good you see……or maybe there could have been a cork in it ……that went on to the next fellow……and if there was a crack in it going to him …it would explode and then Colm Mulvany was the bottler ….he would have a dozen bottles going around and he would hand them to the next fellow….which would be Gerry Dolan and he would be capping them…..the machine just going up and down capping them …..and the next fellow would be taking them off Eddie Dolan’s father and he would be brought over heaps of them and there would be a man sitting one at a time labelling them ….that was it and then they were put in ….maybe put in four or five dozen square boxes and they were put out in the store…that was it…..I was too young at the time but the boys used to narking over it…oh I did it last week…..where the hops where the beer was made ….it was a big copper vat…..it would hold 3 or 4 men and all the grains was left in out of the loft …they would do it by computer and it would fall in …and added water …..but when it was all over and done with ….they would have to go in manually and take off all their clothes and put it out with a shovel…..the farmers around that time knew when they would be taking out the and would come with barrels and little pickup lorries and maybe horses and carts and it would come down the shoot and it would fill the barrel ……I don’t know what they were giving for it…..I would be telling a lie if I said they were giving a pound …I don’t know but they brought it all with them and everything was scrubbed out again….it happened twice some days and the fellow would have to go …he would be red with the heat of it and down for a cold shower and that was it ….they did it and that was it …but it was a lovely place to work…..and they had Fitzsimons ….you could never speak ill of them …..they were gentlemen and we were workmen….Colm and Gerry Dolan were at school with them when they were younger and they always called them Godfrey, Raymond and Colm and they called them by their names but they were always a Mr to me….there was a couple of fellows a couple of years older than me ……we always called them Mr and that ….I think I ever only saw the Boss we called him ….I think it was old Jim Fitzsimons I don’t know…..once I only saw him….he was a small little man….what happened them was that there was a government in at the time….this is what I was told the story after and they didn’t give shares to somebody or something and the whole place was flooded with German Larger and that… and Peter Fitzsimons were left stranded and things started to go against them.  They had two shops in the town at the time…..one in Cross Street and the other one ….do you know where the top of John Street…I think it’s a cleaning place at the moment and there was two Flanagan’s that worked there…at that time there was a lot of people on Fair days and Market days ….the shop they had in Cross Street was a Bonanza altogether and when things started going for them the sold that and then they sold the other shop…and they owned do you know where the church is below now.

DC:         I do.

MC:        They owned all that land right up to the cemetery….up there they had a farm and that was my job …you would have to bring down maybe two three cases and maybe two dozen in each case …maybe I cant say for definite …I had to bring it down and you had to ring a bell and they would put a big dog in an Alsatian ….and then you would bring it up to the house and leave it there and bring back the empties….it was for their own use like….that was it…..they owned a bakery at the time…they owned a bakery I forgot about that…wasn’t it amazing when that went wallop….everyone was sorry for them….I remember getting the thing in my package…..your service ….we are sorry to say your services …..everyone got them…..your services will no longer be required…but they got in a manager he was an English fellow, a small little man …he was supposed to do the devil and all…all he got was big wages and done nothing….Clydesdale was his name.

DC:         Clydesdale….Colm mentioned him already.

MC:        He didn’t tell you about when I was a young fellow what they done on me one day….

DC:         No.

MC:        They told me….they bet me that they wanted me to go up to him…..I used to have to light the fire for him in the winter time and I got friendly with him …..he was alright I didn’t know anything about him ….but the boys asked me would I go up….and it was a real slippery day…there was a big hill outside the bakery ….would he let us out to slide…..we were doing nothing anyway, but Clydesdale was the man….Hughie Murray was the foreman and Paddy Donagh was the brewer, and that was that we would never see any of them before that…we used to go and get buns out of the bakery …the fact that it was adjacent to us there was a back way in….we didn’t ask for them and we didn’t pay for them so you will have to draw your own conclusion how we got them…ah we didn’t take many of them.  When the brewery went then ….I had a first cousin who was working in the bakery ….he got a job in the bakery and I went to work for a farmer for a year or two …George Armstrong was his name.

DC:         Oh yes.

MC:        He was a gentleman, my god…such a gentleman…when I was ill here...imagine a man like him with six or seven hundred acres…..and he came over to visit me….and the two sisters Miss Hazel and Miss Daphne they came out to see me too….cause I got on like a house on fire with them, he was a gentleman there was no doubt… but this man got a job in the bakery Paddy Brady was his name …there was a fellow at that time…the sweep was worth 50,000…do you remember …you wouldn’t remember that.  

DC:         I wouldn’t remember that.

MC:        That was the Irish Hospital sweep stakes.

DC:         I heard about them.

MC:        This fellow won it anyway…so your man was below in Virginia… Brady ….Lord have Mercy on him …he died afterwards ….he was stretching into the van to get out bread to bring it in to Mr Governs thing ….and the fellow behind him was after buying a car when he won the 50,000 you see…and it was in gear and it kept hopping and jumped into your man and broke his two legs above the knee…..so his job was going and again I had to go for an interview….and they didn’t know and they looked at me and said …didn’t you work in the brewery with us….I said yes Sir I did ah well then he said you start in the morning …come in the morning, that was it ….no how are you or have you a CD or whatever you call them.

DC:         CV.

MC:        That was it …I was there in that place you won’t believe it for 50 years.

DC:         50 years be god…that’s a long time.

MC:        Spicers took it over then ….they had hard times, Fitzsimons ….nobody gave them any credit….there was a chap working… he was a baker …a great baker… Alfie Farrelly was his name…and when there mother died ….it will just show you what I’m telling you at the start they never mixed with people or anything….there was about a dozen people and they gave great employment with horse men…..the bakery when there was men with horses and carts and that’s why they had the farm and they had there own room below for the horses at night when they would be coming in they would be fed the best of everything and that was it and this fellow was only an apprentice in the bakery….the woman died anyway,…Lord have Mercy on her …we went to the funeral and when we were below at it …..there was about a dozen of people and everyone walked away and your man looked at me and said don’t go…..it was spilling out of the heavens ….I had good clothes on me and everything….there was two shovels there and we were the two that covered the grave …….there was nobody to do anything ….the wettest day ever…nobody ever said it to us…..well we didn’t want recognition  anyway….well that’s true…I couldn’t believe it and then Raymond was killed coming home.

DC:         I heard that yes.

MC:        Poor Colm went berserk altogether….people ask me who owns that bakery and as far as I know they only had it leased… the Spicers.

DC:         You’re probably right…I can check that but I think your right.

MC:        They had property there worth a fortune in the good times and actually below at the very end …do you know where the market is ….you would see a big yard and if you went down to the bottom that’s where the vats were I think there was six vats they were made of pitch…..everything had to be cleaned ….everything that was in it had to be spotless…Colm Mulvany would probably tell you that them lads they had to be there cause you were handling stuff…oh they did a marvellous business in the summer time…but one thing about them come the winter…they wouldn’t say go home paid us our basic rate and kept us on all over the winter….isn’t that amazing now other people would say this that and the other ….and when it started to go down then, poor Raymond he went up getting the big gas things and sure he was killed….he pulled it up suddenly and sure it went …his wife was there for a long time after it ….a lovely woman, Mrs Fitzsimons and she came from owning half the town down to making lampshades …do you know where you go in the Auction thing…

DC:         Yes.

MC:        Well the first little door there …that’s where she finished up living after coming from …and she made lampshades there….there was a bookies shop there at the front of it ….I think Jack Fitzsimons he is an architect.

DC:         That’s right he has his office there.

MC:        That’s where she made the lampshades……she started on her own and she finished up employing five or six people….a lovely woman I think she had a son and a daughter …..but like everything else …I said at the start  the Fitzsimons were eccentrics but they never done any harm on people…..they were just together people…..they were distant ….that’s what you would call them but they were very fair….I have to say that.

(Interruption) Time for Tae.

DC:         Well given that its nearly 60 years ago since you worked there you have a very clear and vivid memory of everything that was involved including all the process of the brewery so I get the impression that it was a good experience and a good employers and you liked your workmates…is that a fair match.

MC:        Oh that’s exactly it….they would tell you the same the same lads and the same fellows……we would have a bit of a difference of opinions because I was Drumbaragh and I was playing football and I was only 16 and they were Kells and there was two parish teams and the crack would be mighty but I have to say the staff made it…..they were so nice and genuine …… they were gentlemen they all got jobs after that a new factory started in Kells there…a shoe factory and they all  went to work in it …Paddy Brady got a lot of  money …the fellow ….he went to England was there for maybe two years and fell off a stool and was stone dead ….he was only thirty something.

DC:         So apart from 1946 I think what happened was Sean Lamass was minister for Industry and commerce and they applied to him for an export licence and he came down to Mr Fitzsimons and said I’ll give it to you if we get shares in it as well …meaning not him personally the government …and he knocked them back ….and it was kind of down hill after that.

MC:        that’s right, the place was then flooded with German Larger…

DC:         Dutch beer as well…..

MC:        They gave quite a lot of employment ….Id say they had thirty men…..they had a lot of bread men, bakers …they had checker outs…they had foremen you know…they had confectionery and they had ladies in the shops and everything…it was an industry …there is no question at all about it.

DC:         I didn’t realise until now Micheál that you worked in the bakery as well and I haven’t spoken to anyone about the bakery …..so given you were there such a long time …do you want to say a little bit more about your experience in the bakery …now that I have you!

MC:        I was happy….if I went in that day…..you know the way a young fellow would go into a place and he would hate every minute of it cause he would be getting hassle from all sides….but that never happened to me and even in the bakery when your man got the job and there was an old man in there…Charlie Geraghty was his name ….and Charlie was the top man in Fitzsimons’ even though he was an old man when I was there ….any painting that had to be done on the house….it was beautiful ….he would bring me with him on a Saturday…you would get a half a crown or something ….down to give him a hand and he would show me how to fold paper ….they spared no money when they had it …it was beautiful you know a big big house…Charlie finished up being the labelling man on sitting at a big chair and that was it…and when it went he got a job in the bakery….they wouldn’t let him go he got a job in the bakery….Colm and all the rest went away….but your man I was telling you about that got his legs broke when he went from the brewery he got a job in the bakery but he only got a job…he wasn’t a bread man like me …he got a job driving an old man …when the changed from the horses to the vans…and the old man couldn’t drive but they didn’t sack him …they got this Brady fellow to go with him and that would be it….Frank Farrelly, he was there for a hundred years I think…..but it was a lovely place to work ….if you don’t mind me saying this …it was the last resort they had to get money out of to keep afloat …it was as simple as that …and they had vans then…sure we were young lads we didn’t know how to use them they were old when we got them and something would go wrong, you were all the time on the road…..half the time you couldn’t get going and all this and then the last thing was the bakers went in on a Monday morning ….not a stitch of bread had they in the place  ….the flour didn’t come…they wouldn’t give them any more credit……here was a man that lived down the road from me here …Mattie Gaynor….he was there a long time too….well he worked as a bread man…as a horse and cart man, with another bakery that was in Kells, Kiernans.

DC:         I have heard about Kiernans.

MC:        Well he worked in Kiernans and it closed ….it was over there beside …do you know where Vincent Cahill …you don’t know where Vincent Cahill had the shop ….do you know where,   what will I call it ….the Sheeney bar…

DC:         Yes.

MC:        Well when you go by that the bakery was in it…..Matt worked there and then got a job in Fitzsimons when they started to get the vans and he would have to go at four o clock in the mornings ….we would have the cash….whatever be sold that day we would bring it in and give it to him that night ….and he might get ten bags of stuff …he would have a good van ….and he would come back and the bakers would be there with the result of that is not the way it was done …..another industry in itself ….they would have to have so much flour ….10 tonne above on the loft ….they had a crane for lifting it up and everything …..it was well organised and it had to be proofed …..do you know they just couldn’t take it in off the lorry and start baking with it ….with the result it was going from hand to mouth the stuff wasn’t the same thing at all ….so it started going and the next thing was Spicer, came down and we were told that he took it over and that was it…..I got on well with him he was a gentleman…..but it was sorry to see them all going you know…Raymond went Lord have mercy on him and Godfrey got married to a girl from Virginia, I think he is the only one that is alive ….they were very educated lads ….I always say or claimed that they were very fair you know like…I saw them coming to try and talk to us when we would be ….will you have the money in this evening …you know this is the way they would be talking to us ….a bundle of nerves and you would be so sorry for them ….I was really very sorry for them you know cause they came from ….its great when you come from nothing and get up there but when your up there and come down  ….I was sorry for them there was no doubt about it.

DC:         A long way to fall…so where was most of the bread sold, that was produced.

MC:        Well most of the bread we did it in the country shops, at the end of it the Kells shops let them down …at the time when I started up there was myself and Lawlor’s in Navan then Boland’s came on the scene that was it…I was doing an area, I was doing Athboy and I was doing Clonmellon and Virginia and all that country ….the three of them that was it.

DC:         So you delivered to all those places……so you travelled.

MC:        It was a long day like…

DC:         It certainly was.

MC:        And some of the other fellows were going to Kingscourt ….it was very good and still is ….that old man used to do it you see he was there for so long ….he would be bringing loads and loads of bread and said I to him one day come Christmas do you know ….Do you sell Mr Farrelly do you sell many bracks ….do you know it was a big thing ….a couple of tonne and he did …you know he was telling me the truth you know ….and then there was fellows that went up to Navan …they would have a few places, Bohermeen and all the surrounding areas, Crossakiel, Ballinlough, Oldcastle….they did a great trade down in Oldcastle ….I think it was Caddens was the name of the place ….they had vans also …they bought the bread off us and were bringing it all around the country ….probably getting a cut of it ….I don’t know ….and then when things…everything got modernised, they had different bakeries and everything the came you had Kelly’s of Killcock and all these other fellows ….Pat the baker, it fell dead that was it ….Spicer, even we would be up against Spicer’s too…at the time….

DC:         This is Spicer’s in Navan is it? Its still there I think.

MC:        When Fitzsimons was there we would be against them ….its not like….it was all friendly and that was it …..everyone had there outlets for it and that was it …but the money was no good in the bakery it was very poor you know you couldn’t live on it ….you were trying to live on nothing and only for I was young and then somebody said to me “ do you have milk no milk man comes here so I started getting milk and I was making maybe 2 pence on a bottle of milk out of a hundred it was 200 pence it was 16s and 8p at the time, was 8 and four pence.

DC:         Of course it was.

MC:        It was good at the end of the week you could have a fiver ……and that subsidised you for what you were getting and nobody passed any remarks like…when Spicer was taking over I said I do this and he said nobody will say one word to you ….Lord have Mercy on him he said you go ahead and do what your doing he said ill be happy and that’s it ….but I had a good name for minding vans you know….I wouldn’t be wrecking them like everybody else …..then we had a lovely man down Mickey McGrane was his name …he was a gentleman he was the foreman of the bakery he was a lovely man ….mad into the soccer he asked me would I go …I said no I was a GAA and he would be mad I wouldn’t go …he would have tickets you know for big games ….his son is now the general manger in Spicer’s.

DC:         Is he in Navan?

MC:        I… in Navan…..Kells is closed and Balbriggan is closed, Balbriggan Navan and Trim ….when I was with the Meath team in 1970 and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into I remember Spicer coming down to me ….I was the manager of the team in 1970 and we got to the All Ireland Final and of course I hate saying this now ….everybody wanted to shake your hand ….Spicer saw the outlet there and made me a manager ….and here I was with my friends and pals and everything and going with them and making sure …but when I saw what was going on …the pilferage and everything and how any firm would stick it ….so I stuck it for a year and I went back to him ..I was on the staff you see ….at the time I had me own car and everything and when I saw what was going on I just said ….no I’ll just do it for a year and I went back on the road …and when I went back on the road this fellow came before and he said your going off the road I said I am he said will you get me the job….I said I will ….I got him the job and said I might now be back and he said indeed you won’t bla bla ,….. now whats the first thing he done….he got a hundred pound at the time for the milk run I was after building up……sold it there and then and he came up one evening to me and said I want to bring the two of you out to dinner do you know and I said why would you do that ….if you had two for dinner that time it would be a pound for dinner for two…it was very cheap you know…and when he told me I nearly had a fit ….so when I came back of course the fellow that bought it ……I started on my milk run again and the fellow said you cant do that and said I …..I can did you give me anything for this he said no…..so I said you may go back and get your money of the other fellow ….so I don’t know how it finished up but that was it...end of story.

DC:         That’s how it finished up anyway….

MC:        Yes.

DC:         You said the pay wasn’t great in the bakery …..were you in a trade union or was their any industrial trouble or strikes during your time there….

MC:        You heard this, did you?

DC:         No, No ……no

MC:        When Spicers took it over you see …the manager was the man ….you didn’t have to go to Mr Spicer for anything ….if you didn’t get by the manager that was it ….he was the boss he was representing John Spicer …that was it end of story….but I remember this man down the road….this was true now…we were getting one pound five shillings at the time I’m not too sure it was pittance you know….for a responsible job…say I sold you two pounds of bread and you didn’t pay me….I had to pay that …that night when you go in like….you know what I mean ….the thing was that the government came and ….just like now and said no one pound five shillings so they gave us two pound 10 shillings of a rise….that was a general thing all over ….that’s how far back is that ….and I remember a man Des Ward from Spicers …he was the top man and I finished up friendly with him after ….he said they came down and we had a meeting below in the bakery I said nothing….he said we are thinking of giving yis a …doubling your wages and giving you one pound five shillings ….sure I was ten foot tall ….I was delighted but the man down there an experienced man ….lord have mercy on him and he said everything was nearly signed sealed and delivered ….when he called me one side and he says no they cant do this cause it’s a government thing and they have to give us two pound 10 shillings …they cant give us two pound and 5 or 6 pence …..they have to give us two pound ten shillings and we will have three pound 15 a week ….so he said I’m going to them and I want you….I was only a young fellow…I was about 20  ….no I was about 17 or 18 ….so he explained the whole thing to Ward and he knew it ….so he said that was it ….so he said if that is the way we will take it but you will have to sell more and all this bull shit ….so we got it …only for the man down the road we wouldn’t have got anything and then we had fellows working the bakery …..they wanted us to join the union ……we had no union and I said I’m not joining any union I think you had to pay a shilling a week ….it was at the time ….this is true anyway …they got ….the mans name that was over the union ….they had a meeting and we all had to go to it ….it was John Swift was his name…I never forgot it like…and he came down and he was an old man at the time ….and he said the way it tis ….he mentioned the two Grimes Tommy and Seamus Grimes ….they were bakers at the time ….Id say this to their faces still though …they were bakers and they were Labour people. Finn Gael and everything and they were going to not work for us, and they were in the union, And paying the union and bla bla …..I said well I’m not joining it we will get sacked anyway …so didn’t Mr Spicer come down another night with John Swift and another man by the name of Young …he was taking over from John Swift, he was retiring ….they were all brought down to the bakery and before I went in ….you see the way ….the money was stopped out of your wages …we didn’t know this …it was stopped and the firm sent it on ….so just as I was going in to the meeting ..Spicer tipped me on the shoulder and he called me back and he said just that you would know Tommy and Seamus Grimes and somebody else ….they haven’t paid union money for the past two years …he said, and now he stood out there and said, Micheál I want you to join the union ……I said well if that’s it, and I went in anyway and said nothing for a while ….we all agreed ….you had to pay two shillings to be a member and then a shilling a week it could have been six pence…I don’t know ….and I said does that mean now that these people have paid up ….dead silence …and Young said actually no he said…we were going to talk to them privately …no I said you talk to them in front of us all here….I was elected as Spokesman for them all and Mattie Gaynor and the whole lot of them …..I knew I had them you see…..I said these man stood out here on a floor and this is what all these meetings are about and they haven’t been paid up …I said this is wrong why and they said they have to pay their arrears or what ever you call it …..but anyway they were that good with themselves …it was only discovered ….we were drivers out the country ….now what union would we join only a transport union right…..so we were saying that bla bla ….the next thing was Seamus and Tommy Grimes got in it and when they discovered that we were going to be in the Transport union and they were in the bakers union that we wouldn’t have a branch…you had to have so many members to have a branch …..but they got on to a fellow in Navan who was over the whole Meath and everything…..Connolly was his name ……I never forgot him ….Andy Connolly I think …..

DC:         Of yes I know of him yes…

MC:        And he came down then and told us we couldn’t join the Transport union that we had to join the bakers union.

 

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INTERVIEW 2 Audio Interview 2

 

This is Danny Cusack and I’m back here with Micheál Campbell again and it’s the 15th February and we will take up where we left off the last day.  Micheál you were mentioning your time in Fitzsimons and joining the bakers union would you just take over from there and round off the story…..

MC:        Well what happened at the time we were in no Union …..the government was bringing in a law that we were entitled to a day off on a Monday if we wanted it….so we were asked to join the union as a matter of fact we didn’t want to Join the union but Mr Spicer had taken over at this stage and he came down and said look Micheál…..that was his exact words he said I would like you to join the union so I did …we had no choice and I was made the representative secretary to get all the boys cards and all this …so when we joined ….what other union would you join as salesmen only the transport union …..and when we went to apply to the transport union we got cards and all….Tommy Grimes was the man for the bakers union ….they discovered if we join the transport union …there was about six of us …they had six bakers but between the two they could have a branch of a union …they would have a say at conventions and all of that …so they got on to some Connolly man …..I said I am not joining the bakers union …so that would mean I would come in and show you my card and start baking bread ….and they said no you wont we are not joining that    so…..there was controversy over that anyway and they got on to a Connolly man in Navan and he wouldn’t let us join the transport union and we eventually had to join the bakers union …so we were going around my time in it I had a bakers card….which it wasn’t my profession at the time ….it took seven years to serve your time as a baker ….that’s it.

DC:         That’s how the problem was resolved.

MC:        But they worked in Fitzsimons time too…..Fitzsimons at the time …he would still be there but what happened him …..I told you this before….the brewery folded and they tried to keep the brewery going by selling assets ….shops you name it ….they poured everything in to keep it going and they brought everything else down with them …..the whole thing folded…it was an awful pity cause it could be going to this day in the town and that was it …the government played a big part in it too….I believe some Lamass or somebody that was it.

DC:         That was right I checked that with somebody…..Lamass came up and what was the story ….he would grant them an export licence if they gave him shares ….and they refused that.

MC:        And the next thing that when the summer came and we were looking forward to it because it was carrying them over for the winter ….it was only about 1/10th of what they were selling …the next thing the whole place was flooded with German Larger ….it was cheap and all this and that was it….the whole thing folded up.

DC:         That was the end of the story.

MC:        And brought the whole lot of them down with it and that was it.

DC:         And Spicer’s eventually closed and moved to Navan in 1993/94.

MC:        That’s right yes and we were all asked by him if we didn’t want to move he would pay us all for whatever…..but sure I was young enough in 93 and I said well I’m not going so they gave them £25 a week for disturbance money …some fellows took the lump sum ….I said no I would take a chunk at the end of the week cause at that stage I wasn’t paying any tax….I was a pensioner it was great and that is what happened….the killing part of the whole Fitzsimons bakery ….even though they had a whole lot of trouble with the Grimes and I’m not afraid to say it to them you know…and to this day it’s a shame to me they closed Spicers in Kells ….they said they...Didn’t…Seamus Grimes said to me ….who said it I said you said it ….and Tommy and them fellows ….Alfie Farrelly was a master baker …Martin Sheridan was a master baker ….Jimmy O Brien…..but they were gentlemen ….do you know what I mean they just got on with their work and done their work but the others had to be unions and threatening this that and the other ….they were no asset to the job at all…..but the had recipes for bracks ……they were all lost and they were really a treasure…..and for the plain batch ….it was unequal ….people would be coming from England and would be bringing them back with them ….that’s a fact ….and half dozens at a time ...bring them back with them because they couldn’t be got …they were all lost all them recipes when the bakery closed…so that was it and of course that time they were baked on the anthracite ….which made for better bread…..but that was all lost it was a pity ….

DC:         It was a big loss as they say ….good well that’s the bakery ….you mentioned briefly that Helen King and Joe used to have the sweet shop up in Cannon Street.

MC:        That’s right Helen was the secretary of the brewery ….she was the secretary to Mr Clydesdale was his name… he was an English man I think ….but she got married then…..she was a lovely lovely young woman…like myself too, she might have been a year older or two at the time, she got married to Joe Eustace when the bakery folded ….and he died a young man ….her husband and she opened a bed and breakfast or something and carried on …I don’t know where she ever went… she had family I believe but where they went after that I don’t know….I don’t know she died in Kells anyway ….that’s where she finished up the rest of her life  was in Kells.

DC:         Right and did they have the sweet shop in cannon street for a while….

MC:        That’s right …her father in law….it was a little saloon where you could go in and have a glass of ice-cream or a mineral or a bun or something like that …..old people went be on their way home would go in …Paddy Eustace was his name and Joe Eustace  was a plasterer or some effect well that was to my memory ….which I would bet money on it ……

DC:         Oh I trust your memory….is it where May Caffrey was later

MC:        No May Caffrey was in …a man by the name of Charlie Bell he was the tailor and he lived at the very corner ….do you know where there is an antique shop or there is something there now.

DC:         A gift shop.

MC:        The gift shop that’s right yes…but May Caffrey was there on the very corner ….there was nothing going down Suffolk Street ….she had a wonderful ….ah she built up a good business in it May, and you used to see it at Easter…..well you couldn’t get in the shop with eggs ….people used to come and take photographs and she wouldn’t have one left out of maybe a thousand eggs would you believe that …that’s true and she would probable tell you herself .

DC:         Yeah she did, I have spoken to her.

MC:        Ah if you seen them and at that time they could have been ten pound …do you know which was two weeks wages ….and they would be sold.

DC:         She cornered the market ….in Kells anyway.

MC:        Her dad worked in the bakery ….he was the man that checked out the bread…..Benny Caffrey …he worked with Fitzsimons …..but he didn’t work with Spicers ….he retired at that stage and the old man that used to label the beer in the brewery Charlie Geraghty ….he took over he was the man and at that time they were put into wooden boxes they weren’t modernised at all….you know they would be two dozen in a wooden box ….that’s the way you were handed them for your van or whatever….

DC:         I wonder would you say a little bit more about your own personal background. Maudlin and Loyd, just your early life in the town until you got married and moved out here .

MC:        I was born in Maudlin as I told you before, me Dad and Mum moved to Loyd….they got a house …one of those houses in Loyd it must have been 1933 when they moved there ….I think it was the big snow at the time ….you will find out anyway from a more intelligent fellow than me …..but growing up there was six houses and of all those six houses there is only fellow that grew up with me ….is living in all them houses ….the rest of them went to England…..they died in England ….the nieces went to Australia …the Smiths went out of Loyd, there is none of them left in it at all …..one of them is the main dealer for Curran oil down in Oldcastle ….we had a great relationship at the time ….the war was just on when we were going to school at the finish of the war I was about 15 ….yeah 13 and you just couldn’t get anything….we had it all …..you never had to buy anything only bread…..which was loaf bread for sandwiches or something …bread and tea we had our own milk …we had our own vegetables everything like that potatoes everything was just handmade eggs and everything, and I remember my mum used to bring in a basket of eggs she would have nearly six dozen but she had to walk to the town with them …everyone walked everywhere and trading them in…..she wouldn’t get money she would get butter …country butter…..that’s the way it was and you would go to the shop and she would be trading in something else for a bag of flour ……that was a big bag of flour ….nothing went to waste at the time….when that bag of flour was empty ….the sack was cut and the next place you saw it was maybe in a couple of months time there would be three bags and it was a sheet for the beds that was it and every …..and I remember then ah sure we were ……Id say we were as bold as the next fellow was at trashing and things like that and we would be playing cowboys and Indians …….we had a great life and we never wanted anything ….we never wanted food….ah you might have been looking for a pair of boots or something like that ….but you always got them at Christmas ….if you didn’t get them at Christmas you wouldn’t get them at tall …..and the first thing that was done with them is your dad ….the man of the house put two rows of nails around the edge of them so they would last you the whole year ….you would play football with them we done everything with them …..and at the summer we hung them up and walked in our bare foot to school….I had three brother’s and seven sisters in my family ….there is only four of us left out of the whole lot now…..the four sisters worked in the shoe factory in Kells at the time I remember ….I didn’t understand it at the time but I was working with George Armstrong at the time riding out horses with him and I remember the day …they were earning 3 or 4 pound each and bringing it home and at time it was marvellous….mum started to relax she didn’t need to be working like a slave …..I can remember all them things and every house was in the same boat ….I spent the day here with Noel V Ginnity and Noel came down to see me and he spent the day with me ….and he was going through the whole thing and I was laughing  as the fellow out was famous and I said do you remember the times that I’m after telling you about going to the town and he said I remember me dad…..he was a detective and he coming home every month….once a month he would come home he said and we would have to go into Skelly’s ….that was the local store ….where everybody dealt and that man would have to be paid £12 and that was he said …we were good then for another…..Noel V if he was here he would tell you the same thing ….not ashamed he is a wealthy man now  and sure he is one of the tops in Ireland ….top comedians ….we were all in the same boat at the time…..and even if you had money you couldn’t get a tyre for your bike or anything like that ….everyone would tell you the same thing .

DC:         Recycling is fashionable now ….you were recycling everything then as a matter of cause .

MC:        I’ll never forgive my parents if they were here now I wouldn’t give them …As Gaeilge ….for sending me to school in Kells…I would have preferred to have gone to school in Drumbaragh …where I was playing my football and it was just unfortunate……but I survived ….I think I’m a good survivor….I met a girl for Kilskyre then, ah we went out with people and I went out with girls I don’t know why we came back and met each other and fell in love that was it and we got married …..we have four of a family …a son is in America he has three children, boys twins who are mad footballers they are nine year old and a baby who is a year and a half….I have a daughter in Scotland and another working above in the North for the British government or something up there ….and another in America …what do you call it …holiday business in America   …that’s it I never regret anything ….the whole big transport thing at the time was the train ….it was the most important thing to all the people in Loyd….as a matter of fact it was better than anything ….the buses are nothing but the train ….it came …if we were working and we would have no watches or anything at the time…..the train came at five o clock every evening and if you wanted to get the train to Dublin in the morning it went at half eight……you left here at eight o clock and you got up to Dublin for maybe a half crown you might have wanted to shopping for clothes for us and they were back that evening at six o Clock ……you would be met at the station with a pram ….to wheel home whatever she bought ….that was it, but the train was thee thing at the time ….for farmers getting down  manure for their land …..bringing cattle when they would sell them ….the good straits they would call them ….up to Dublin or whatever…that was it…I’d say it was one of the most important things ever that hit the town and it was a shame it ever stopped.

DC:         It was important for freight and passengers you know….and I have spoken to Gus Healy and Sean Flanagan…both who have worked with the railway….they told me a lot about the railway.

MC:        That’s right …and a man who we are talking about he used to have a special train come down with his manure for his land ….he had a lot of land, George Armstrong ….we as young fellows that time, me self and Pad Black and another fellow, we would have to go…..and the bags were only that size ….but there was 200 weight in them and you would have to get a loan of a wheelbarrow to shove them on to a tractor that time …Flanagan’s father, Josie Flanagan worked ...he was the maintenance man along the line …..do you know the little blocks for keeping it …he would have to make sure that they were secured in the thing…for the trains at the time…..at that time you would race the train it wouldn’t be going that fast …we knew them all and we would be down at the bridge ….they would come and the smoke out of it and do you know you would be running then and hiding …..

DC:         Ah the sooner we get a train line back the better …it wont be tomorrow or the next day but

MC:        It went through George Armstrong’s land ….it divided it in two the train ….from Sheeney bridge down there …..do you know where Kieran well is ….the train line ran across that ….right up into George Armstrong’s land and came out at the railway where it is now …..He owned that land where the new houses are built on the Mullingar road and the far side of it….right down the whole way to Sheeney which is about four mile and the Drummonds …..he still owns it actually ….and that man I think Jim Armstrong he bought land do you know where the Spire lane is going up to the tower ….well the bought the land there…there is a little house right opposite the gate …..they bought all that land on your left ….it runs into their land at the back….they excavated the whole thing….they are lovely lads I only know two of them …I wouldn’t know the young lad George …I think he is in England all of the time .

DC:         They own an enormous amount of land the Armstrong’s and down that side of Kells …..

MC:        There was Armstrong’s down in Chapelbride but they weren’t related….down where Johnny Brady the TD lives ….you wouldn’t know that country now ….if you’re going to Balrath …going to Mullingar and you come to Balrath cross ….do you know where Balrath Cross is ? well Balrath Cross is only over there …it would be left to me but if you turn right well they live down there Chapelbride….is the name of the place ….there was supposed to have been a chapel in it at some time I heard….did you ever hear anything of the hanging field .

DC:         No I was going to come on to that….you mentioned that the last day …and would you just explain about the butchers hanging out their carcasses ….

MC:        I’m not sure about that …but I know me dad lord have mercy on him …and what happened was that he ….they used to call it the hanging field …..there was the Wild Loyd, the hanging field , the Assocker …but I said to him Dad why did the call it the hanging field …oh he said the butchers used to kill the cattle and hang them there or something to that effect…..and I remember a shed being in it alright ….galvanised shed …maybe it was some fellow it wasn’t a butcher…..at that times you had fellows going around collecting dead calves and all whatever…..but they called it the hanging field …..I’m sure it’s on the Council map.

DC:         I can make enquiries and see… what was the story…

MC:        Well if there is a story will you do me a favour ….just give me a buzz or drop in but let me know because I remember it being called the hanging field and I didn’t know I thought somebody was hanged in it ..you know but it wasn’t that at all ….then there was the race course …I don’t remember that …the horse racing…but I remember we used to have to go catching hares for the coursing and that was a big day ….you know…..all the towns people were in that Tommy Morris and any fellow that had Greyhounds and Jimmy Murray …was the slipper they called him and how I know all this I had to supply the horse for the referee …or the man what would you call him ….the fellow he would have two hankies a white and a red…and he would take it out of his pocket and I would have to go down …..George Armstrong would supply the horse ….I was the young fellow I would have to have him down the day of the course …..your man would get it up on the horse with the dogs and whatever dogs ….the dogs would have a white or a red colour and he would take out the white and that’s it the bookies would start paying out……but Jimmy Murray and his three brothers worked in Armstrong’s …there was Tommy and Paddy all their lives. They were there and they were old men when they died ….Jimmy Murray was the slipper …he was married to a girl who had a ….I don’t know if you know Lynch’s Pharmacy in Kells …

DC:         I do.

MC:        Well she owned that ….she was a chemist ….his wife she was Roseanne Carolan ….I think you told me something about her brother here the last time ….Benny Carolan …..

DC:         That’s right who is Kitty Carolans husband.

MC:        This woman was a sister of ….she was Roseanne Carolan who was married to Jimmy Murray and they lived out in Grangegodden ….now the funny thing is ….you would say where Grange godden ….there is is three houses there is this house and Sullivan’s is next and you go down do you know where the football field is .

DC:         I could hear them shouting when I parked the car.

MC:        Well you see there is no house and then there is …when you go by the football field there is another cottage …..well that is where Grangegodden starts and it goes right round and up the Cookstown road for about three miles….and this is Febog here ….and Grangegodden starts there and it goes in right through the town and right up …that’s where Jimmy Murray lived Grangegodden….all the different addresses

DC:         You mentioned the Y Loyd …is that what you mentioned …whats that now?

MC:        The Wild Loyd is below on the Kieran well road ….because it was never tilled and it was always just for cattle with humps and lumps in it and then they came along and bulldozed it and levelled it and it wasn’t Wild Loyd anymore ….but they do call it Wild Loyd and put potatoes in it and everything…I remember digging spuds in it …well I was married even and the council done it…you pay so much for a drill or two and whatever and they done you for the whole year ……well that hanging field ….do you know where Loyd where they have all the shop below …

DC:         Oh yeah the business centre?

MC:        Yes the business centre ….just when you turn in there …there is a big hill up to your left you can see the tower …that’s the hanging field to my reckoning I think that’s the hanging field …so what ever is after that….we used to ….all you had to was come up to the Spire and walk down one field…we lived in them houses for the coursing …we always got in for nothing cause we would go on a Sunday hunting / catching the hares for the men and you got a little trupenny bottle of lemonade that’s what we went for and a bun ….but all them men are dead and gone …..Tommy Morris was over it…..all Greyhound men ...but it was a big day…..I remember meeting Noel Purcell I was introduced to him ….Noel Purcell came down to it…Jimmy O `Dea …..I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw this fellow Jim Cumiskey he was in Kells and he ….do you know this man and sure I knew him to see.

DC:         From Carrick Street…..the Cumiskeys from Carrick Street ….

MC:        No this man was from Cross Carrick ...he was a …he must have been in England or something and knew all these fellows and used to come down visiting him ….I don’t know was he a mechanic or what now ….ah he is long dead and gone but a real quiet man ….I remember meeting Noel Purcell and Jimmy O `Dea used to come down to the coursing …that’s a long time ago…

DC:         So they would come down from Dublin on a day trip

MC:        Yes that’s it for the day but I don’t remember the horse racing it was before my time….but they said it never should have happened…

DC:         That was on the other side of the road ….I think where Zenith is or where Zenith was that was the race course….

MC:        Yes it started at the end of the town where the new Super Valu or not Super Valu.

DC:         Aldi.

MC:        Yes that’s right but then they have the water reservoir up beside it …that’s up on the top of Loyd …that filters the water going in from the Blackwater that came from Oldcastle, Lough Bawn is it …Lough Sheelin….they used to have problems there with the water …they wouldn’t have enough...Kells got to be a big spot like ….do you know where you are going out of Loyd now …when you’re leaving the town going out to the tower …People walking ….I remember there was noting ….do you know where St Kiernans well is now …there was no houses …there was one house from there up to Loyd ….just one house and now there is houses on both sides ..factories and bla bla ….do you know and we would run across the fields from school and we would rob an old garden on the way and the Kells fellows would be waiting for us with the lovely red apples ah sure nobody ever past any heed of us anyway ….it was the devilment of it and that was it ….

DC:         You mentioned the Armstrong’s the obviously had a big role in the life of the town …could you say a little bit more about them perhaps and the racing of cattle and the Friday market day and Pairc Colmcille and just that aspect ….

MC:        My recollection of the Armstrong’s was the father was a Solicitor WO Armstrong and the boss man …we used to call him master George when he took over …but they would have maybe a hundred cattle …now we were only young lads and we would have to have them in the fair on the green at four o clock on fair day…..now they wouldn’t have ….maybe once every couple of months …but they would meet a man …they were Wood’s…big cattle buyers …Willie Woods and the sons …there is none of them left at all now …..and he kept the three sons……they would go around….Tommy Willie, and Paddy and John…he had four sons and they would go around them hundred cattle …now there could have been ninety or there could have been 120 and look for faults in the cattle and they would come back …….I remember seeing them and they would look at there father and nod …he would get Old Armstrong’s hand….Lord have Mercy on him he was a gentleman and would be slapping and in two minuets they would have the deal done…..and we would go with them over to the station …we had no dogs we had no nothing and drive them cattle over to the station and there would be a big pen where you would put them and there was a fellow there ……his name was Dan Cross…..I never forgot him …he was the contraryiost …he would load the cattle so many to a thing …them cattle would be there all day and then they would head off and the whole train would be full …there was a fellow that used to buy them ….by the name of Van Lanegan and he went bust ….and some of the farmers got an awful kick with him ….I think he was Dutch or something anyway ….it sounds Dutch to me…..

DC:         It does …

MC:        But the fatstock show that Armstrong’s ran …it was a great chance for the farmers all around…that’s why they appreciated …..all farmers maybe would have one good heifer or a bullock and they never got to show it only at the fatstock show….we put up the things once a year and it would always be before Christmas and maybe a small farmer would win a prize or come second and he would get top prize for a heifer that maybe he would only get a hundred pound ….he might get maybe three or four hundred pound for the fact that maybe the butcher would want the best to display in the shop you see…..and that was great for the farmers all around ….so there would be hundreds of cattle in it …that was it and they sold them in the ring then after …they made up a big ring and a shed ..where maybe you could have ten cattle and put them in and you bid on them and they were sold in minuets like you know….that was it…but they were always a great asset to the town …I saw as much as twenty men working in Armstrong’s….I wouldn’t be doing physical work I would be riding out the horses …they would be making hay…there was only a tractor at the time …there was no balers..there was no nothing …the hay had to be cut and turned with forks and put up …you know cropped and brought in on a horse and cart and they would call it a slide …I remember working too and put the whole crop on top of the slide and brought it …then our job was to pitch it up and you had to pack it ….sure we would be sleeping in it half of the time …that’s what we would do on a wet day …on a day you would be supposed to be packing it and sure we would get a rest ….but I have to say about Armstrong’s anything you ever worked for you got paid for it and you never had to ask for it …do you know you never had to ask for it …if you done anything at all you got paid for it ….and the two girls that are in there now …Daphne never worked while Hazel did ….she was the Solicitor’s clerk ….she only got so much pay ….like the same as everyone else like.

DC:         That’s Daphne now ….

MC:        No Daphne was the elder one, Hazel was the solicitor’s clerk…..there was another one I forget she was a Mrs. O Neil, or something ….she is dead anyway she died ….one lived to be a marvellous age ….George was 88 or something.

DC:         He was.

MC:        And the father was an old man too and the mother she was from Bonnington down in Westmeath….she was an O’Neill …..I remember she was a lovely lovely woman when I would be going at the horses, she would have to collect his horse ….down to Jimmy Wilson in Bolton and collect the horse on a frosty morning and bring them down to Dromone in Oldcastle and be there….I would be going in the dark and I would arrive there at about half ten in the evening …and he would come in a little car …and he would get up on the horse and say did you get on all right…they didn’t know ……and I would think he would never go, because I would have a big case of sandwiches, tea…egg and onion sandwiches and there was another fellow there that worked for John C Brady and he used to hunt too…I remember him ….did you ever hear of John C Brady down in Blackwater House .

DC:         Oh yes the Brady’s.

MC:        Yes and his man was Dessie Thornton ….but ya see Dessie was a bachelor at the time and Brady’s would have no one working and he would have no sandwiches, and he would look at me and wink ….we would have enough for the two of us all day …he died a young man too.

DC:         Did he?

MC:        Dessie Thornton …my father worked for him after …I suppose the fact that I was friendly with him ….like he kept him there all the time.

DC:         The O’Neill’s married into the Armstrong’s ….are any of those O ‘Neill’s left around Kells.

MC:        No, oh there is one in Kilskyre …eh what was his name at all …he is first cousins of the Armstrong’s anyway.

DC:         He is not David by any chance is he?

MC:        No he is Frank ….Frank O Neill and he lives… and I don’t know do you know Scurlogstown.

DC:         Oh I do yes…

MC:        Well if you were going from Scurlogstown over to Kilskyre...on that road there is big iron gates, and that is where he lives ….ah you would get him in the book anyway.

DC:         No I was just curious.

MC:        Oh you might get information of him.

DC:         Sure …

MC:        But Hazel would tell you….she would know too …like you know….they are very very well read like. Do you know what I mean ….I hope you do get…?

DC:         Oh I will I will……I’ll make it my business to go through Sam now…..and try and line up an audience ….

MC:        And if you got them in a good mood …..they are lovely, and they would love the chat with you cause nobody ever goes in to them ….I used to go into them to collect the pools of them there and Jesus I would be an hour …they wouldn’t let me out, a cup of tea and all that …it would be Micheál do you remember such a thing and all that …ah sure it was this that and the other….do you know….that was it.

DC:         You would be able to bounce of each other because you know people and places in common ….they would enjoy you for that …..Drumbaragh and the football club I think was a big part of your life would you just say a few words about that ……

MC:        O yes, Drumbaragh my god ….Drumbaragh was always …that’s why I always missed out because …in 1937 I did a history of Drumbaragh football club….and I didn’t know this but when I went to do it….it took me 5 years to write it …I was looking at …all the old people are dead …the last one of them died there last week, he was prayed for …but they had no football club and the war,`37 was coming on and bla bla and they couldn’t get this that and the other….but they decided that they were going to have a football team and a fellow went around with a hat ….now this is what I was told ….it was the young fellow that was there ….he was the first to fire the penny …he had a penny and fired it into the hat and that was me…..they told me I was only seven year old ….but they told me I was the first to put a penny in the hat for Drumbaragh but it was my club down the years ….I was secretary, I was chairman, I was everything and a wonderful man came to our district that time …Basil Jordan if he heard me calling him that ……Basil Mac Suilatean …he never spoke anything to me only Irish …..

DC:         You mentioned him before yes.

MC:        I did yes ….he was a lovely man and he put everything together for us and you know like ….and its still there the club like …but they were all backed up by Uncles of mine and sons of fellows that helped out you know like….the Smith’s….Terry Smiths…the Blacks ….that was it.

DC:         And that’s what Jordan did….did he teach in the school…he was an Irish Teacher.

MC:        He was a native speaker.

DC:         And he taught in Drumbaragh School.

MC:        He came here in 1947…..I told you about him coming on the bike.

DC:         You didn’t no…

MC:        Well he came here in 1947, because it was the year of the bad harvest ….we heard that when he was coming that he had …..I told him all this in Irish and if he heard me ….he had two of a family and sure we were delighted hoping that they were boys, about six or seven to play football…and the next thing was they were two girls …..and to this day I know them ….they might call to see me an odd time they are married and bla bla ….but he came at that time and he came up from Roscommon on his Bicycle and he went down to the Parish Priest, was Fr. Mc Cullen at the time in a interview for the job in Drumbaragh and he got the job….and he rode back the same day to Roscommon on his bicycle and the next thing after the couple of years …he got a little car….he used to go to Mass every morning and he was telling me all this afterwards and the school now if you saw it …a lovely school ….but when he had to get up in the wintertime at seven O Clock and he would have to go out and light a fire and there was a big boiler in the school, for pipes went around heating it up………there was a special boiler at the side of the thing it had ….to make a long story short….and by the time he came back from Mass went in and had his breakfast and the school would start at half nine ..the kids would come in and a ten o clock the water would be boiling and he made them all a cup of coco…now not tea cause he couldn’t get tea and that was it but he was ….he was an old man when he died but he had a lovely wife …you know ...now to this day if the girls meet me ….we speak in Irish …they will not speak English….you know …I haven’t all that much Irish but I have a good bit…but they will speak Irish to ya…I was looking for a book that I wanted to get something out of it and I rang and she said I got that …it was all Irish and she said I’ll send it to you …I got it later on.

DC:         And how did you get your gra for the Irish was it through a particular teacher in the Christian Brothers or did you just pick it up.

MC:        No, I had no choice….well (Micheál speaks in Irish) so what I’m telling you is I had a great gra for it when I was going to school and when I was finished school, I went to night school and people tell me you have a bit of Irish from Munster so I’m saying the teachers I had at the time came from the four corners of Ireland do you know what I mean.

DC:         As they say you have a bit of the four dialects..

MC:        Well you would have to, cause you would have one Brother from Cork another one from Kerry and then we would have teachers from Connemara you know….but it is lovely like …my girls did honours Irish when they were growing up going to school and then I would laugh at them ….when they wanted to get something off me without their mum knowing ….she hasn’t a word …they would be asking in Irish ….she would say what do they want now (Idle chat) More Táe.

DC:         Of course down the road in Rathcairn, it is all Connemara Irish of course because it…

MC:        It is yes. 

DC:         I’ll just throw a few names at you…Johnny Olohan, the Bells and the Doyle’s ….Pat Tady and Kanes…would you just say a couple of words about them .

MC:        Yes, Johnny Olohan at the time there was only the one Auctioneer and he was Johnny Olohan but he worked for Armstrong Auctioneers and they were very well respected ….he was George Armstrong’s right hand man ….as a matter of fact I would safely say that young George Armstrong at the time learned from him …there father was a Solicitor and George was ….and they sold everything …land everything …now that Johnny Olohan, then he started out on his own…he got married …his wife died …he started out on his own the second time and sure when George came on the scene that was it….who did you say then !

DC:         The Bells and the Doyle’s ….do you know what was the contacts then…..

MC:        There was Bells they were great handballers now ….oh the Bell’s were groceries, they were business people I used to see ads at the time, we used to see it, Bell’s of Kells giving a speedy service ….they had a shop now where a big shop ….do you know where young Doyle has a jewellery shop that was a  ….right opposite Fitzsimons well they owned the shop the far side and then they moved from there over to the ….do you know where the post office is now ….they had a big shop there… Bell’s...and they used to go and deliver everywhere …there was a bottling place in Kells, Reilly Brothers….did you know where that was …the bottlers the Taypots the called it .

DC:         Oh yea, the Taypots Reilly’s …

MC:        The young lad has the name out there, Jimmy… he does…

DC:         B &B and breakfasts…..

MC:        That’s right…His old grandfather ….do you know where McGee’s pub is now ….well that was a bottling store and where they bottled the Guinness and they delivered it around the country …and there is caves…(cellars)...my son has the rent of it now within, in town…

DC:         Of course he does ….

MC:        They were Reilly Brothers and they would be on the go, Joe Kellett worked for them, Terry Hook Tom Freeman ….such names… but they were Taypots…but Pat Thady was a different man he was up where Dukes was… I think and there was two Miss Gingles… lived up beside them and they used to sell fish every Friday…just at the bottom of Church Lane ….and then the next one was Pat Daly’s but he had the pub on one side and the shop on the other where Dukes was ….Pat Thady they used to call him Thady Dick ….I remember that was it ….there was a story told about him whats this I used to hear……..the Guards were raiding him one night and he shouted you know… would be a few fellows in after hours ……is it a drink you want or a transfer …that was the story….but I remember him well he was a big 6’2” man and had a big moustache do you know at the time… and always dressed immaculate and next door to him at the time there was Fox’s …..Paddy Fox I think he used to box for Ireland …..they had a drapers ….Bell’s were tailors …there was Jimmy Bell and there was Charlie Bell and there son is there today, Bobbie, there was only the one Bell, he is left ….the fathers were Tailors they were Protestant people …but that didn’t make them bad people ….they were grand people everyone dealt with them you know like…you know what I mean.

DC:         You mentioned the Pantomimes ...names like Billy Woods senior.

MC:        Willie Woods…ah they were brilliant ….Willie Woods wrote all the funny scripts for it and then they would fill it with songs ….Fr. Rispin,  built that chapel down there with the proceeds from the Pantomime….it was meant to go on for a fortnight and it would go on for six weeks …and we would get fed up of it you know doing the same things over and over all the time and you got nothing ….not even into the dance free …we used to go cause all the young ones would be into the dancing …..dancing with them at the time…..sure they were marvellous ….they would be dancing for the year what do they call them the Proms and we were all pioneers at the time….you wouldn’t have had any money for drink…they had great artists at that time …the woman I walked the dogs for …she was Joan Hammond….did you ever hear Joan Hammond singing or Lorraine Page …..she sings at weddings and she sings at funerals …Ave Maria and all that stuff….and you had a fellow over here from Lynch’s Cross on the way to Clonmellon …Sean Murray….but now, they have to pay professionals for Pantomimes and they are losing money on it …do you know and I said this before to you only for John Grant I don’t know if you know John…

DC:         Oh, I know John well …..

MC:        Well John Grant and Ill say this for him …only for him there would be nothing in the town ….he has the pantomime still going ….he has the drama still going ….he is teaching kids drama …fair play to him I’d hate to see all that going to .

DC:         He is dynamic alright.

MC:        I said to my wife the other day Jean I said, I hope Danny is watching that….Danny who she said, Danny Cusack ….it was on the news at 6 O Clock or after six or something it was all about Kells.

DC:         I was down in Dublin at the time and I missed it …but I keep on hearing about it.

MC:        They showed the old bakery going down John Street, and all the shops that were closed and still closing, and they were saying this that and the other… and what do you call him… Kiernan who has the boot shop beside young Doyle ….Jacksie, and Vincent Duff below in the hotel …they said whoever did it only showed the doom and gloom ……they edited it, they said good things about Kells, Jacksie Kiernan said good things and so did Vincent Duff but they… didn’t put that on the news ….Mr Duff was saying he was mad with them do you know that they only showed the down and out side of it….

DC:         They just wanted the doom and gloom story….

MC:        But you look at all the places that have closed ….garages you name it ….

DC:         And Jack Murphy’s just recently…

MC:        Exactly…Sure I remember Paddy Laraceys is closed now, and next door was Frank Gray had a big garage….where the woman has the sweet shop and Kelly the vet had a place next door to it…the vet had a office there ..you could bring your animals in…there was a guest house…ah sure it was there for a hundred years …she was a Miss Murphy, related to Joe Murphy ….Joe had a pub in Kells and Sonny Murphy …and all the dealers that would come to the fair day and she’d have there dinner and they would stay the night if they got drunk …she had ten or twelve rooms….you know….Cissie Murphy was her name ….you probably heard about her now.

DC:         Was she in Suffolk Street or down in Bective Street or Farrell Street

MC:        She was in Farrell Street beside Paddy Laraceys on the same side …there is a big wide opening there where Butlers lived, that owned the shop there that Fitzsimons had …Annie and one of them got married to a man in Crossakiel …they are all dead ….you know they were very old people, It’s a shame to see them dead.

DC:         So the Pantomimes and the annual one, just finished the other night in Kells …they are very much the centre of life in Kells over the years…

CM:        Oh yes …..I took a good part in the pantomimes ….I was the giant in Jack and I did the desert song with Marionabove we were the leading role……when there was no one else …..John Grant would tell you they lost …the chaps that are in it ...they had something going there …they would have to bring someone down to do it….Joseph and his amazing dream coat.

DC:         Technicolor dream coat.

MC:        Or whatever I’m not into it ….but they lost 7 or 8 grand on that ….do you know because they had to pay the fellow ….it’s a shame.

DC:         And you mentioned some of the other talent …George Mc Govern.

MC:        Ah yes, George is still there and there is a lot of his brothers…there is only two of them left I think. Addie and George …..George was a kind of a comedian …he never had much to say all he could do was come out on the stage and an old cap on him and say “yeah” the place would erupt …he would have no dialect at all.

DC:         No script or dialogue?

MC:        And Jesus… is was a pantomime….oh indeed I was in it with him…..had parts with him …we were wooing the same one up here ….it was a play what was the name of it …..a match made in heaven….Tick Tock or whatever the name of it was and George was in it and he finished up with her anyway and I didn’t….ah he was great but all the McGovern’s were great singers and the Mulvany’s were something else…they were brilliant singers …the Mulvany’s ….Colm Mulvaney was in…Mickey Berne was thee king at the time…I don’t know if anyone told you about him…..

DC:         I know the name …he was in Tara Shoes

 

MC:        Yes, but he was in the Pantomimes every one of them with Willie Woods and Mickey Berrill …..I’m sure if you got chatting to him….if you wanted stuff on the pantomime ….he has old tapes and everything on the pantomimes and you would hear some of the stuff you know ….but he is an old man now ….but he was brilliant absolutely brilliant  …he was the dame all the time ….

DC:         Was he?

MC:        Oh yeah …and Charlie Mc Entrée was another lad ….what do you call him…..Charlie that buries the people?

DC:         Cathal? That it the son…

MC:        Cathal is the solicitor …

DC:         Rory is the solicitor…

MC:        I…and Cathal was in the pantomimes… But they had great talent ….Margie Rourke and Brian O Neill and them …they are all in the Pantomimes ….stage managers and all that you know …..they were absolutely brilliant stuff …but that time the Pantomimes would be packed out to the door every night…..Monday, Tuesday,  whatever night it would be on it would be packed…..the built the new church with that ….you know Fr. Rispin ….

DC:         A credit to them ….the Woods now of Latimore house ….what are they to Willie Woods?

MC:        Willie Woods that was his home.

DC:         That’s right he was the father.

MC:        Willie was the father that was in the Pantomimes now….and he got married to a girl and the opened that place….he was the buyer for cattle that was him…and then Paddy and John lived opposite the church that is where the home place was ….and Willie got married of course and went on …and that was the first bed and breakfast that was around there ….it was there for a hundred years Id say ….and Willie died a young man ….its still going out there Latimore house …its still B & B and young Willie is in it now .

DC:         Billy…

MC:        And the other young lad used to come in the bread van with me…he has the pub now adin (within) …the Archers….Edmond ….and Bernard was killed of course ….they had no sister as far as I know ….I remember Willie telling me …she was Malone his wife …Mrs Woods a lovely woman from Drogheda or someplace and they never let us …when they had a new song a parody ….they would never let us hear it cause we would go and be telling everyone ….they went to reach us all on the night of the thing ….so we would be all …fellows with minor parts so we would be put …they would rehearse and that was it.

DC:         A couple of other names just to finish off with, Helen Hunt and then you mentioned Brian Farrelly and Dick Farrelly ….just a word about them.

MC:        Helen Hunt she was later on ….she was in the shows  …she was in the South Pacific with Sean Monaghan ….they came on the scene after the pantomime and she was a choreographer I think …she was big into whatever productions and all that …..Dick Farrelly owned…there was two Dick Farrelly’s ……there was a Dick Farrelly that wrote the Isle of Innisfree …well he lived up beside where Dr Lappin had the dispensary there. 

DC:         Oh is that where he lived.

MC:        His father had a pub …its gone anyway….that’s another pub that is gone.

DC:         Was it the Stray Acre most recently?

MC:        Its gone it’s closed altogether …what’s in it now...Dr. Lappin bought it …it’s his now where he had the reception room …..but his father I remember him …he used to wear the stiff collars…we would only be young at the time and we see it and a hard hat and that was it …and Charlie O Hay used to be another man over there right beside the old school …Dick Farrelly was another man…Brian Farrelly and sons ….it was the merchants and Philly Sheridan ….did you ever get talking to Philly?

DC:         I did not, No….

MC:        Philly Sheridan now is about 80 and he was in all the Pantomimes with me and Colm Mulvany, Paddy Curran would be another man but he was only in the Musicals later on …Kells goes way back, Danny, to when they used to come from Athboy ….the operettas and they done all them ..I know men that were in it and they are old men now...ninety and all and they used to come to Kells to do the operettas and would come to the place up in Carrick Street …Joe Cumiskey… Tom Cumiskey …they were all brilliant singers and Vera Cumiskey was in the Pantomimes …she took a big part, she would always be the Robin Hood…the lady always took the lead of a man….she was beautiful singer too….and Margo Kiernan…..Margo Davis…..?

DC:         Yes grew up in Suffolk Street

MC:        That’s right did you ever read her book….

DC:         I did ….I have it…I flicked through it anyway…..

MC:        I had it to…I would be ….she was very nice …every photograph she has in it she is sitting on my knee…I never went out with her ….it just worked that way …and she said Micheál Campbell was one of the rat pack ….there was Marie and Jimmy the Cricket (Morris)….were you talking to him. How did he…

DC:         Ah he was grand ….I had to go back to him the other day after you to photograph him …no he was grand.

MC:        He would be telling you the same as I am telling you …

DC:         I told him I was out with you alright you know…he just said you are very good with the Irish and all that...

MC:        They used to copy off me at school, that’s why, and I used to copy something else off them…ah Cricket we were great and poor Paddy Duff died …a young man you know ...we were great friends …you couldn’t imagine… I never knew… when you were that young the women that Jimmy could pull ...you know at the time…he had a car ya see, and that was the attraction ….that’s why he would say to me, I’m the best man for 5’1” and look at you six foot! Every time I do meet him I’d say you’re the best man….even to this day you’re the best man for 5’1”….but his father was a sheep man he would go to the west and buy lorry loads of sheep, come on the train here… and he would sell them to all the farmers around ….that was the job. Paddy Morris and Tommy Morris lives up Suffolk Street beside May Caffrey ….and his father was a dealer in calves, and go down and buy a load of calves somewhere in the north and in the west and he would come home and sell them you know… they would be lucky and he would be dealing with them ….that was it ...they were big into that like.

DC:         Is there any connections between those Morris’s? Between Jimmy’s father and Tommy’s father or are they …..

MC:        They were brothers.

DC:         Ah I see….

MC:        And then there was Francie Morris who was the….Francie was a barber and there was Jimmy Morris…they were all brothers …..Jimmy and Francie and Tommy and Paddy below in Maudlin…Tommy lived up in Church Lane up near where Seamie Grimes lives ….his son is Tommy Morris he had a little shop …and you would see him walking a little dog around here every day out this road …he would have a tide of stories to tell you too and Flanagan….were you ever talking to Joe Flanagan? You were talking to Sean?

DC:         I was.

MC:        I’d say Joe would be more into it he is older like….he is over eighty years of age and he would know more ….very nice fellows you know.

DC:         And you mentioned the Tevlins and the Blacksmiths?

MC:        I think there was three Blacksmiths in the town at that time…..there was him and Frank Fitzsimons and Pa Gibney was the man’s name…yeah he was married to an aunt of mine …no he was married to my uncles wife ...it was his daughter ….they lived opposite May Caffrey .

DC:         That’s right she pointed it out to me.

MC:        She told you that to….well I’m fairly right then so…

DC:         You’re dead on….that exactly where it was.

MC:        Tevlin’s were the hard men you know …they would think nothing you bring in a donkey and you would have to tell them he was a kicker …ah don’t worry we will straighten him out …they would catch the donkey and turn him upside down ….do you know and they were only small little fellows ….they used to go on shows doing tricks and everything like that they were wild characters ...I was at school with one of them Jodi…..and when Jodi would be late for school …..would you believe this….when Jodi would be late for school you would hear him coming at the gate and if he didn’t he would have been beat senseless …he would have to sing I’m coming I’m coming by the time he would get to the door poor old Joe ….do you know that song?  I’m coming I’m coming and if he didn’t…and the master said here is Tevlin and that was it he would sit down….hard men.   But they did a great trade  like…you know everyone at that time was very respectful people and of course Conlons were one of the best in the town, Anthony Conlon owned the cinema and he owned the two boots shops ...one where the Takeaway is now at the Cross and the other one where Dom Tighe had …there is a bookies in it now ….well they were big …my wife worked there when she got married doing book keeping for them and they had a mannequin for women …they were very very big into the business like you know.

DC:         It strikes me when you are rattling off all these family names you have seen big changes in Kells over the years with all the business and families gone

MC:        We would go in for a drink now off a Sunday morning and there is fellows that are a couple of years younger than me and they would make sure they would tell me every Sunday….we would be talking about the government …they helped the didn’t help anything you know…Fianna Fail didn’t help anything…the statements that Johnny Brady made ….that he couldn’t live on 200,000 a year…..do you know like….and his wife has a job of 40,000 …so what chance has a fellow that’s only getting a hundred and eighty on the dole….he has no chance at all….and that’s what we are talking about all the places that are closed and they remember them and they remember the whole countryside when you couldn’t get up the town of a market day not a fair day….with horses and carts and chickens and eggs and you name it  was there for the taken ….do you know where Market street is now …there is New Market Street and Market Street and then they had the market yard …..it would be packed with people and bags of spuds and everything ….you would get them for maybe 2 shillings at the time that was it and the best of everything …..and I remember my mum buying calves adin in that place too…..and you would get the calf for maybe two or three pound ….it was a lot of money like but we would have to halter him and bring him home ….young lads that time and you would be delighted with a new calf in the garden giving him milk and all that ….that was our life….

DC:         Of course it was.

MC:        That was the way we were reared and that was it ……but I remember getting the job in Fitzsimons in the bakery and the man said to me didn’t you work for us in the brewery and I said yes at this stage they had sunk everything …..I didn’t realise it at the time …..but the bakery was gone …it was from hand to mouth …you had to pay in your money every night….but it didn’t matter …..you would be so sorry for them because …I cant say they were the friendliest  of people but they were very fair do you know….they didn’t know how to woo the customer they just stayed on their own and that was a draw back….do you know what I mean..

DC:         And in a small town you have to bring people with you and get them on side.

MC:        I don’t believe that the mother was ever talking to anyone ...she would just look at you and that was it and the father…they were all descent people …but they didn’t know how to mix ….do you know I would consider myself a good mixer with people.

DC:         I’m sure you are.

MC:        Well that’s what life is all about ….I could put a chat on with anybody or whatever that’s it.

DC:         That’s great Micheál …we done well there and we covered at lot of ground.

MC:        Well if it helps the community and helps the town of Kells to preserve some of the things I am after telling you I wou

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ld be delighted.