We are well into the town of Boyle on our walking tour of the history of this beautiful place.
7. Main Street
We are on Main Street with the main gates of King House behind us. An impressive street acting as the main approach to King House or the Barracks as it was, with three storey terraces of Georgian/Victorian houses on both sides. The properties were all built in the late18th/ early 19th Century to reflect the increasing wealth the barracks were bringing to the town. Nowadays the upper floors of most are unused with the ground floor housing a business. In the present climate even these commercial premises are empty.
Because I class myself as an historian I want to conjure up the street as it was 110 years ago so that the reader can have a taste of life then and compare it to the present.
At the turn of the 20th century this street was a mad bustle of people. Take the 1911 census and consider its inhabitants, their religions and their feel for life. It’s interesting and makes one see how reasonable life was then compared to the Covid skulduggery of today.
We start with No 25 of the Census book the first on the left as you leave King House, nowadays with the name McNamara over the front door. The McNamara family were the fuel merchants for the town and I think he still plays that game now but in a slightly diluted form. Central heating oil and electricity has taken over. Even then 110 years ago electricity was common in the town. The Stewart family pioneering their own DC supply to the town which was fully supplied by 1901. This continued until 1966 when the town was connected to the main ESB supply.
No 25 was from its construction in 1822 always the barracks of the Royal Irish Constabulary, an armed police force set up by the British Government to represent the population’s religious beliefs and ensure there was no bias. Therefore they were mainly Catholic with a sprinkling of Methodists and Presbyterians but nearly all the senior officers from Inspector upwards were Protestants.
In the barracks this night of the 6th April 1911 was the Head Constable, Thomas Gallagher, the Sergeant, Mark Killeen and 11 constables. All 13 were strapping farmer’s sons. Size mattered in this occupation. They were all single men except the Sergeant who was widowed and one of the constables who was married. They were originally from all over Ireland, three from Cavan, three from Sligo, two from Galway, and one each from Fermanagh, Kerry, Antrim, Armagh and Down. It was a rule of those days that you did not serve in your county of origin. They were mainly Catholic but two were Church of Ireland and two were Presbyterian and three of them could speak Irish. They were an armed police force to deal with the civil unrest that marked out Ireland in the 19th, early 20th Century. Although mainly Catholic in the ranks they came under massive attack during the War of Independence 1917 – 192 with many of their ranks killed by the Irish Republican Army led by Michael Collins. So much so with their ranks depleted, the notorious Black and Tans and Auxillaries were called in by the British Government to try and install law in the lawless society Ireland became from 1919 onwards.
In No 24 lived Jane Barbara Mason and her daughter Audrey and they had a lodger Charles Sweeney who was a manager of a business in town and from Antrim. They were all Church of Ireland.
In No 23 lived Lewis D McClean who was a solicitors managing clerk and Annie his wife both of whom were Presbyterians. They had two lodgers, Alice Grey who was a bookkeeper and Presbyterian and John Hutchison who was a customs officer and a Catholic. Lewis was originally from Donegal and his wife from Scotland, Alice was from Dublin and John from Roscommon and he could speak English and Irish.
In no 22 which consisted of two apartments. In one was Charle O’Sullivan and his new wife Mary and a servant Bridget Malone. They were all Catholics. Charles was 32 and a Captain in the Connaught Rangers and at that time also Adjutant. Mary nee Fraser was born in Tientan in China. Her father was Surgeon General in the Royal Navy. Charles was badly wounded on the Aisne in September 1914 whilst commanding the 2nd Battalion. His brother in law John Irwin Fraser was a Lieutenant in the same battalion and was killed rescuing Charles. The Fraser family at that time lived in Knockvicar. Mary was heavily pregnant at this time giving birth a month later to Maureen O’Sullivan, the famous Hollywood actress of the 1930s and 40s
In the other apartment at 22 lived Mary Judge, a single woman who ran a drapers business with three assistants. Two of them were from Geevagh in Sligo and the other two were from Frenchpark and Knock.
At No 21 lived William Johnston and his wife Margaret with their six children. William also had a drapers business and the whole family were members of the Plymouth Bretheren. They had been married for 22 years and 8 of their 10 children were still living. William was from Mayo and Margaret from Monaghan, all their children were born in Roscommon. They had a servant, Katie Farrell who was a Catholic from Roscommon.
At No 20 lived Edward J Egan, his wife Mary and their five children along with Mary’s Sister Lizzie Morahan and 14 year old Bridget McDermott, a servant. They were all Catholic and from Roscommon. Edward ran a pub from these premises.
At No 19 lived William Robinson a 57 year old Solicitor from Limerick, a Church of Ireland man.
At No 18 lived Bridget Priest and her sister Annie and a lodger Mary Wyer and Bridget’s neice Mary Kelly. They were all Catholic and Bridget ran a grocers shop from these premises. Mary Wyer was also the housekeeper had been married for 24 years but recently widowed, she was from Offaly or Kings County as it was known then. The rest were all from Roscommon.
At No 17 lived Sarah Jane McPartlan, age 26 with her three children aged , 5, 4 and 1. They were all catholic. Sarah Jane was from Roscommon whilst her three children were born in England. Which suggests her absent husband must still be working there.
At No 16 lived the famous Jasper Tully with his brother George and sister Annie. They were all Catholic. Jasper had been Member of Parliament for South Leitrim from 1892 to 1906 and was now the Editor of the Roscommon Herald, a paper of some stature then. George was a journalist on the paper and Annie was housekeeper.
At No 15 lived John Hudson and his wife Mary and their 8 children. They were all Catholic. john was from Donegal the son of an RIC man and his wife was from Westmeath. They met whilst he was stationed in Athlone with the newly formed Irish Guards and his first five children were born there, his 6th child in Galway whilst derving at Renmore and his last two in Roscommon whilst stationed in Boyle. In 1911 John was Quarter Master Sergeant with the Fourth Battalion, Connaught Rangers having rejoined the regiment in 1906. He had a long and interesting career in the Army winning a Distinguished Medal in South Africa with the Irish Guards and another in Gallipoli with the 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers when he was then Regimental Sergeant Major. I could talk forever about the bravery and strength of this man. In July1912 he was discharged to pension after 19 years service and he entered civvy street as a civil servant in Belfast but war broke out in August 1914 and longing for what he knew best, he enlisted again in the newly formed 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers on 8th September 1914 as a private soldier 5/3010 and was appointed Company Quarter Master Sergeant the same day and Regimental Sergeant Major on 19th October 1914. His reputation being known. Wounded at Gallipoli he recovered and was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on 30th November 1915 and in July 1916 posted to 1st Battalion in Mesopotamia where he was awarded the Military Cross and promoted to Lieutenant on 1st July 1917. Moving to Israel in !918 he was promoted to Captain and Acting Major whilst stationed at Nazareth. After the war he was discharged from service on 13th October 1919 and returned to his civil service post in Belfast. For the rest of his life he argued with the Pension Office of the Army to say he should have received his officer’s pension but because he was a wartime enlistee he did not receive pension money so he was listed as Quarter Master Sergeant and received that pension only. A case of logic defying gallantry. The poor man died in Rhyll in North Wales in 1957 aged 82 and still fighting his corner.
At No 14 lived Thomas Goff with his wife Georgina Dorinda and their two children Benjamin Morris and Aileen Maude. Their names give them away, they were Church Of Ireland. They had a servant Mary Gleeson and a porter James Cockburn Thomas was an agent for the Bank of Ireland and ran the bank from these premises. The Bank of Ireland did not move to its preseny premisese near King House until the !930s. Thomas and family were all from Waterford whilst Mary was from Limerick and James from Kerry
At No 13 lived James Kielty and his wife Winifred. They ran a drapers business from these [premises and employedPatrick Clancy, Michael McHugh, Mary Conlon,Mary Lenaghan and Jerome Clancy as assistants who all lived here and Mary Kelly was a servant. They could all read and write, they were all Catholics and all from Roscommon except Michael from Fermanagh and Mary Conlon who was fromSligo.
In No 11 lived James J Carroll a singleman aged 44 who could speak English and Irish and his brother Martin. James was a draper with Martin his assistant. They were both Catholic and both from Sligo.
So that is the left hand side of the street down to where the bike shop is today and where McDonagh’s Newsagents was since shortly after the civil war in the 1920s. That shop entrance on Bridge Street was originally part of Bole’s Store opposite.