During the 1940 War, life was very quiet in Castlewellan. There wasn't much work and what little there was, was in the Army Camps surrounding the Town. Most of the Building Trade men travelled to Belfast and this meant getting up at 5.00 a.m., riding a bicycle to Newcastle to catch a train leaving for Belfast at 6.00 a.m. Those trains were packed with about fifteen hundred people each trip, and the weekly return fare was 12 / 6 or 65p. After arriving home again (about 7.30 p.m.), some locals would stroll up the Street and on one of those occasions a few of them were stopped by an Army Officer who told them there was a show for the troops in the Markethouse and if they wished to attend to just walk right in. This was a real God send and the offer was immediately accepted. On entering the Markethouse the first thing observed was about a dozen large murals painted on the walls in brilliant colours and most likely by some art student drafted into the Army. Many a thought has been given to this man and what happened to him later. Only one word could describe that Show, fantastic. It was presented by E.N.S.A. an organisation to entertain troops overseas and was performed by the very top stage personalities from England and America. If the Markethouse could speak it would surely boast about that night as well as the Conservation Award it won in 1980.
This large building, known as the Court House, stands in the Upper Square facing the entrance to the Annesley Estate and a bench mark at the door shows it to be on the same level as the Markethouse in Rathfriland. This building was owned by the Annesleys.
The top floor could have been rented for any type of entertainment or function for ten shillings per night. Friday was the most usual night for dancing, with an entrance fee of one or two shillings a head. To overcome the expense of buying new shoes for dances young girls would get the old ones spray painted, by the local Garage Man, to the colour of their choice for any particular night. Thisvery oldbuilding was once the Court House and a Dole Office, and in 1979 the lower part, previously used as a store, was converted into a Public Library and is kept up to date with literature.
Under a very large veranda at the rear of the Market House the Farmers gathered every Monday to sell eggs. The main buyer was a tiny man, thought to be from Banbridge and known to everyone by nothing else but 'Wee Tommy the Egg Man'. Government Regulations later changed this type of open trading in eggs. The veranda was then removed and a massive high walled cattle Mart, was built by Seamus Fitzpatrick in the early 1960's for a local group. This auction Mart functioned well for a good few years, but, was also removed when the Squares were surfaced and laid out. The remains of the Mart is now a little seated park. Another permanent fixture on the Market House steps in the 1940's was 'The Clock McAlinden' from Rathfriland. The 'Clock' always stood there with his box of herrings, and, "Herrons Alive"! Could be heard all over the Town. He disappeared some years ago and must be presumed dead.
About 1928 Show No 1 properly named a Menagerie, had a tent which covered the greater part of the Upper Square. Inside was a complete circle of cages which housed a wide range of foreign animals even sea lions in special water wagons. There were two performances each day with the artists doing stunts with various animals. This was preceded by a great procession of glamour and music through the Town to lure people to the tent, but there was no need, because at that time there was enough support to pack this Show for a full week. The Entrance Fee 6 pence or 2 -1/2p.
In the Tower in the Annesley Grange Yard hung a large bell, rung when the Farm Hands were to start or finish work. As the bell was unused for some time it was presented to the Rev. Warren by Mr. Annesley, in the early 1970's, for his Church on the Rock in Newcastle. The Rev. Warren previously lived in Castlewellan and was Minister in St. Paul's Church of Ireland in the Town. Patsy Mullen made the iron frame to hold the bell and when collecting this the Rev. Warren remarked "Every time I will hear the bell ring I will pray for you and think of all the work you have done for us". Patsy appreciated this but felt a little guilty for the small part he played in the removal of one of Castlewellan's ancient relics. St. Paul's Church was built in 1853 of Backaderry Granite at a cost of £7,500.00 three quarters of which was paid by the Annesley Estate and an Endowment of £100 per year left for the services of a Clergyman. At the present time, the needs of the Church of Ireland community are being ministered to by the Rev. R.F. Greer.
At the beginning of the Century there was a group of small houses in the Grange Yard for the workers, but, almost all of those have disappeared now and made into Forestry Offices. The last known resident in the Yard was Phil Harrison, a Forestry Employee. He and his family moved out in 1981.
Castlewellan In Spired
Of all the songs that were ever sung
And poems that were written down
No reference there was ever made
To Castlewellan town.
So neat, so still as no doubt it will
For a thousand years or more
And all the while after long weary mile
There's that ever open door.
Two beautiful spires stand a half mile apart
And in between a wee village serene
From each spire tolls a bell
Which both clearly spell
This is real and not just a dream.
On the Markethouse Tower a clock tells the hour
Not the time yet to come or has been
For each separate day
Just makes its own way
And tomorrow if it comes well it comes.
The moon shines so bright
Way out there in space
And the people all swear there's a smile on its face
'Cos someone once told them from out there can be seen
The beautiful spires with the village between.
In the County of Down
Lies this quaint little town
And it's said that right from the starts
Its trees its squares
With traditional fairs
Were put there to capture the heart.P. Mullen