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Pages from the Past

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 10th November, 2010 4:40pm


Hallowe’en prank ends in death

The Westmeath Independent reported in November 1860 that a young man named Hartnett, son of the town bellman, met his death on Halloween night.

The paper said he was “engaged with a number of other lands in that foolish and annoying custom peculiar to this town, of knocking at the doors of the houses on Hallow’s eve, he was knocked down with a blow from a stick by a person named Hubert Farrell, living in Connaught Street, whose door had suffered under the battering rows of those young scamps.

Whether the deceased was one of the party we have not learned, Farrell accused him of being the aggressor, which the other denied, some words ensured, terminating, as we have stated, in the death of the boy. Farrell has been taken into custody, awaiting the result of an inquest.

Meanwhile, the level of incidents in Athlone on public holidays were referred to by one of the magistrates at the town’s petty sessions.

Lord Castlemaine remarked on the number of cases of drunkenness and assaults that usually followed a holiday.

The people came into town ostensibly for the purpose of going to their places of worship and instead of going home quietly they spent their day in public houses and giving annoyance whenever an opportunity offered.

His tenants complained of the injury done to their gardens on the road all along to Baylin, where their cabbages were torn up and strewed along the road for no other purpose but a love of mischief”.


Death on the Lusitania

Attempts to emigrate to America didn’t always end kindly, as this little snippet from the Westmeath Independent in November 1910 revealed:

“Mr Thomas Burke, who, up to a couple of months ago, carried on business as a draper in O’Connell Street, left about a month ago for America, travelling by the Lusitania. On the voyage he took sick and three days out from Queenstown the end came.”

Lighting fags on street lamps

Gas street lamps in Athlone facilitated a novel and unusual use, as this piece explained:

“Mr M.J. Lennon UDC brought under the notice of the urban council on Wednesday that the street lamps near Percy’s Cottages were being used by youngsters to light their cigarettes. It was therefore ordered that they be made unclimbable by having barbed wire twisted round them on the upper half, thus making the post an artificial monkey puzzle.”

Extension planned for Friary church

“During the past few weeks extensive repairs and decorated have been carried out in the Franciscan Fathers’ House in Athlone. It is sometime since similar improvements have been effected in the house though the little church attached has, within the last couple of years, been painted all over on a very elaborate scale.

It has now been found necessary to effect some improvements in the residence of the friars.

The works were to consist of extensive interior repairs and repainting. The work was carried out under the supervision of Joseph Concannon, contractor.

The fathers also propose to put on two additional wings to the church. For this purpose they have secured a large quantity of stones, the ruins of the ancient Franciscan Abbey, from Athlone Woollen Mills Co. Ltd.

For this gratuitous gift the fathers wish to sincerely thank the company. The proposed additions will be carried out at no distant date.


Plan to upgrade town’s promenade

A tentative plan for major improvement on the promenade was placed before a meeting of Athlone Urban Council in early November 1960 by Mr Michael Heavey.

The report said: “It envisages the removal of the existing boundary wall and the raising of the promenade to the level of the adjoining road, and a layout that includes flower beds, bandstand and water fountains.

“Estimated to cost over £6,000, the idea is that it would be financed by the council, the local development company, and by way of a grant from Bord Failte.

“Mr Heavey said that within recent years a colossal sum of money has been invested in Athlone by enterprising firms and individuals and thanks to the courage and foresight of the people concerned Athlone now had first-class hotels, restaurants, modern shops, factories, distributing depots, dance halls, cinemas, schools, beautiful churches and private houses.

“Now that major building schemes in Athlone were coming to an end, he thought they would baulking in their duty to the people who had invested their money in Athlone, and, indeed, to the ratepayers as a whole, if they did not adopt a vigorous policy to clean and beautify the town.”Mr Heavey said the most neglected public place which would be really worthwhile improving was the promenade.