Chapter 3

On the demesne side of Castlewellan, is a backway which runs the full length of the town behind the shops, and is called Claremont Avenue. The entrance to this and the new R.C. Primary School, (nearing completion in 1986), is hidden behind the corn crane as was another one of those little one bus services which operated in the 1920's and early 1930's. It was based in one of the houses in the square, and, was owned by Willie Finlay who previously ran a Horse Hackney business. Willie was a kindly man who had no fixed charge for his Castlewellan - Newcastle run. He would say to a woman with a bunch of kids "just throw us a couple o' bob". He was later helped by his two sons Eddie and Harry "Foggy" but was forced to sell to the Ulster Transport Authority when that company was expanding into all areas in Northern Ireland in 1934.

At that time Harry started a taxi business in the town and Eddie moved, and started the same in Newcastle. One day in the early fifties Harry drove to Cork, as he often did, to meet a ship and collect a passenger travelling from America to Castlewellan. On arrival at the Cork docks, he found the place crowded with hundreds of children all there to see and meet "Laurel and Hardy", the popular fat and thin funny men of the 1930-40 films. According to Harry, the expectant public were greatly disillusioned - the two ol' boys were disgruntled and far from funny. Perhaps it was hard to be entertaining after the harrowing 7 day boat journey from America. Even in those days, for the rich and famous, it was the only mode of transport. On Harry's retirement his son Maurice took over the business, but packed up the taxi work in 1970s. About the middle 1940's their neighbour Francy Murray bought a small lorry and put his son Gerry to selling paraffin oil round the country, Castlewellan had then two small oil dealers, Francy Murray and Willie "Texas" Jennings from Bunkershill.

The people in this square hadn't far to go to back a horse in the early 1930's. Brendan Maginnis, who lived there, ran an illegal bookies from his home, for a man named Cussle from Newcastle, and any young fellow could earn a few pence looking out for the police. Another family, the Heenans also lived in the Street. About the 1950's the Heenans let their front room to a local electrician called Paddy Fegan. Paddy remained in business for a few years until he and his family emigrated to Australia.

One industrious man who was born, reared in the same square, and worked all his life in the town, is Tommy Branney. He served his time in Henry Devlins in the 1930's, drove a taxi for Cunninghams, helped his wife Sarah to run her drapery shop and was a postman for 30 years. In 1940, when there was a good price for pork Tommy fattened pigs at the rear of his little listed house in the corn crane square. He quit this business when everybody seized this opportunity of making money, which soon flooded the market with pigs. Tommy, a member of the G.A.A. club in the 1960's was a fairly good cyclist in his youth, winning lots of prizes at all parochial sports, and has his trophies to this day. Cycling on the grass was very hard work in the 30's and to ease the burden a lot of the cyclists fitted cane, wooden rims to the wheels. This also had its disadvantages. It provided a cute competitor with a chance to give the rear wheel of the Leader's bike a side flick, smashing the wheel and leaving the rider on the ground unable to continue the race. This was something which could not happen with the alloy rims in 1986.

Post Man Tommy
Post Man Tommy Branney

Beside Branney, two houses nos. 15 and 17 were left by Patrick Brennan to his daughters Kate and Ann. Those two ladies opened a confectionery shop and at the time a boarding house. This shop was closed about 1930.

Corn Crane Square

This is the Corn Crane Square showing Tommy Branney entering his listed house.
The next one is where Harry Finlay lived and the double one above that had previously been Brennan's Shop and Boarding House.

Some time later, a Rates Collector attended these premises on the date that payments were due; people were then able to drop in and pay their rates with ease. A more profitable way of parting with money, was to lodge it with the Munster Leinster Bank which also atteneded there one day per week. Ann Brennan died in 1953 and her sister sold to Barney McManus in 1958. Those two houses are listed for preservation and although overhauled in the 1980's, by the present owner, High Gerald O'Neill, they are near enough original but non business today.

Almost unnoticed in the angle of the square were two small places, one was a cafe owned by Mrs. Rush and was in operation from the early 1900's till about the middle 1940's. The other was the home of the Bunker's Hill, Jennings Family at the turn of the century. The eldest son Patrick ran a confectionery and ice cream shop there before he moved to live in Dublin. After these people died, the buildings were used as private homes till about the middle 1970's when both were bought by Jim ("Rosie") Cunningham jun. Rosie completely renovated the lot and turned the two bottom floors into one shop featuring two semi-bay display windows. The top floor was retained as living quarters. Before he could proceed any further Jim died, aged 54 years and, as a result of this, the shop lay empty from 1983 to 1986. His cousin, John McKenny, then occupied the ground only as a men's and boy's outfitters, during repairs to his own premises.

John McKenny

John McKenny


Burns Butchers in the early 1900's

In the early 1900's, Mrs. Rush, a widow, served tea in front of the building (now Burns Butchers) on the Main Street before joining her brother Paddy Nelson, a widowers, in the small cafe in the Square. The Building with the two small paned bay windows was once Rush's on the left and Danny Jennings' on the right.

Situated between Rush's Cafe and what is known as 'McAleenan's Corner' is a shop and dwelling which housed a variety of tenants and businesses in it's time. One proprietor in the 1920's was Jimmy Kelly who found the times so hard that he was reduced to selling sugar in small half-penny pokes to youngsters as an alternative to sweets. Some men from the Town would whisper their order to Jimmy, "A Ha'P'Orth of the dust from the tobacco". As this "Rot Gut" came in bars about a foot long, it had to be cut to the required weight and was sold at 4 pence an ounce. (At that time, five Wild Woodbine Cigarettes sold at 2 pence and a packet of Players, 10 for 6 pence or 20 per one Shilling. One time a small packet of four free cigarettes was joined to the Shilling Size to boost sales.) This request for tobacco dust infuriated Jimmy, who was baffled as to its use; indeed it is still a mystery. When Jimmy Kelly finally threw in his towel in 1924 Jimmy Scullion from Drumaroad tried his luck at the Grocery Trade but having little more success than his predecessor moved out again in 1925. In 1926, Charles Wells, a local Bread Server bought the lot and whilst living in the dwelling, let the shop to the Munster Leinster Bank which operated there until 1951. Throughout the following five years, the Post Office under the management of Tommy Todd occupied the premises before it was moved to the Upper Square. When Charlie Wells died in 1960 the whole premises was bought by John Joe Toner from Newcastle.

Cyril Wells

School teacher and footballer, Cyril Wells in front of the buildings that was his home and his mothers dressmaking shop.
We all stand upon a treasured spot, and dream about the past, supposed to be the good old days, but glad they didn't last.

He renovated the building and opened a ladies and gents Hairdressers. John Joe lived and worked there until he retired in 1971 when he returned to Newcastle. The following year 1972, Joe Steele, a Ballylough man and a Chef by profession, took up occupation to sell vegetables, fruit, wallpaper and paint, but soon found this shop was in the wrong location for this type of business. He consequently moved to the Upper Square. Within a short time the windows were full of boots and shoes, and this place was, in 1976, a Foot Ware Store owned by Paddy King The Milkman from Drumee, who seems to be having more success than his predecessors.

Castlewellan was always well supplied with milk between the 1920's and 50's having about seven or eight delivery men at any one time. James King owner of 'The Marsh Dairy' on the Banbridge Road never missed a morning in his Tub Trap with the milk churn sitting on the seat and the tap protruding out the back. Jimmy had a brindle-coloured mare pulling the trap for a lifetime and with uncanny precision that mare would move from door to door without a single word from the driver. Archie Kirkpatrick from Dundrine had a similar set up to Jimmy King, as had Micky King from Drumee. The latter two both preferred Jennets to the pony for delivering their home produced milk. Newly introduced Government Controls were soon to put that type of business out of action. Davy Blakley from Ballybannon and two 'Town' men, Ned and Frank McKenny also had their own customers in the area. With the coming of the New Bottled Milk System, Archie Kirkpatrick retired whilst Micky King and his brother Barney introduced Motor Vans to the business. Jimmy King also stopped deliveries and sold his milk directly to the Central Dairy, while Davy Blakley moved to Clough to continue his business there. All these changes took place in the 1940's. When Micky and Barney King died in 1970 and 1976 respectively their sons Paddy and Brian took over their business and are well established now.

Frank McKenny maintained his love for the pony but expected a lot of work from any he owned. He preferred this method for his milk delivery to Newcastle as he maintained it saved "Hopping in and out of a Motor Car", and a smart pony soon got to know all the houses on the Milk Run. Frank, took over Latisha ('Tishy') McCann's Newsagent and Confectionery when she died in 1944 (situated beside McKenny's Pub), he continued her business until his own death in 1960 his wife Bridgett carried on the business while their son John was serving his time in Wadsworth in Newcastle. John finally opened a Drapery in their own shop in Castlewellan in 1970 and is successful in business to date.

Ned McKenny was one of the Milk Sales Men delivering round Annsborough and 'The Town' between 1930 and 1960 using a pony and van, but later changed to the motor. His Dairy was in the centre of the three McKenny yards and had to be entered through Frank's or Pat's.

Ned was an animal lover and every stray dog was sure of a home in McKennys. One day a Farmer asked Ned it he knew where he could get a good working collie, and of course Ned had the very one. Wanting to see it in action, they went to a field where there was a flock of sheep standing in the middle, Ned released the dog and to quote his own words "I could see the brute never saw a sheep before, and as it charged across the field there was nothing I could do, so I just roared "Divide"!

McKenny's corner around 1910

The unexpected roar soared hell out of the sheep which scattered in all directions. The Farmer thought this was powerful stuff and gave Ned 2 for the dog. Ned McKenny died in 1979. His home was later sold to John Ward from Burrenbridge about 1983, and his yard to O'Rourke Bros., the Plumbers around the same time.