A walk around Rosses Point

By Alec Doherty, 1933


Now grown dim through mist of age, In those days my humble habitation was a house almost at the church gate in the Upper Rosses, it was a small house, just a kitchen and one room. It had one great advantage over most of the houses in Rosses Point at that time, It had a slate roof, like the church.

We spent a number of happy years in it, We got to like the Point very much, In fact we formed the opinion that it was one of the best spots in Ireland. I spent any idle time that I had, wandering around. Contributing odd bits and scraps to newspapers and other publications, above all, getting to know the people.

On this particular evening, I decided to walk right round the village, then home by way of Rosses Lane. I headed westwards - the first person I saw, Johnny McGowan, a merchant seaman, he was standing outside a neatly thatched house, called Woodbine Cottage, with both hands above his eyes, to shade them from the sun, he was watching the water near the East end of Oyster Island. See that one, he shouted to me, I said nothing or saw nothing. There he is again, Did you see him? I said No. Then he informed me that the fish were jumping for the fly, that was something I did not understand, then he explained to me all about the sea and fishing, I found him interesting. Thanking him for the information, I continued on my way westward.

The next house I came to, George Gillen was painting a wrought iron gate, I knew a little about that work, and told him how difficult it was to prevent rust, he told me that he was busy getting the place into shape for summer visitors, his sister Delia was cleaning the windows of a long, low, tidy looking thatched house. He informed me that he was a green keeper on the golf links, and was taking advantage of the fine evening. I said Good luck to the work and he was well pleased.

The next I came in contact with was Tommy Conway. He was scrubbing litchen from the stones on top of a low wall. I had just stopped to speak to him when a man and woman passed on their way to the Golf Club. The woman was in trousers like her husband. It was a strange sight in those days. Mr. Conway stopped work, put his foot up on the wall and said to me in a low voice, Mark my word, Sir, the day is near when we will not know the man from the woman. That remark abides with me, I knew it would, because it was special.

Next I came to a red roofed Cottage, by the name of Olwen, a small, stout, very cross-looking woman came briskly out on the lawn, well passed middle age, but active. She complained to me that my children had called her something she had never been christened, and threw stones at her door. I told her that I was very sorry and I did not think that it was my children. After a few more sharp exchanges, I just came off second best. She ordered me to Clear off to Donegal and the goats, where I had come from and never mind interfering with decent people. That was my first taste of rough water.

At that time the road ended there, and one stepped out on The Greenlands.

Just then a strong looking, rough, but well built man overtook me, he was clad in a blue serge suit and was wearing a cheese cutter cap, (if you know what I mean). He had an oilskin coat slung over his right arm, and had both hands cupped teasing tobacco for a pipe that was dangling in his teeth.

He greeted me in a friendly way. He was Joe Kilgallon, a retired seaman, now a River Pilot. He invited me to walk with him towards the watchouse, so called because Pilots watched there when a ship was expected.

And when a ship entered the Bay, a flag was run up on the flagpole to warn all ashore she was underway, and to let the master know that a pilot would put to sea to bring her safely in. Redmond Bruen, known as Wow" (so many people at Rosses Point were of the same name), those little handles were added to help Postmen, and all others, in the course of business. In other words to prevent mistaken identity. He was leaning against the south gable, looking through glasses. How I longed for a peep through the glasses. He was a big man who had sailed the seven seas, a bit gruff, but very nice when you got to know him. He was known as the Chief Pilot and handled all the heavy stuff.

Also at the watchouse I met Pat McGowan and his brother Mickey, with their shirt necks open, and as white as snow. I left them talking sea talk which I did not very well understand. I made my way to the Golf Club yard, where Martin Gillen, known as Kenny was raking rough gravel. Major Benson, O.B.E., was standing at a corner of the verandah, stroking his chin and looking out towards Knocknarea.

Electricity arrives in Rosses Point 1939Proceeding on towards Ewing's hotel, I stopped to speak to James Mahon Senior. He was reading a book in the shelter of a large evergreen which was growing at the door. Just then, a tall well-built, athletic looking man passed up the road to the Club-house. He said it was a blustery sort of day, and we agreed. I took him to be a Doctor or something high up in the Law, K.C. S.C., or something like that. In any case I reckoned he was something out of the ordinary. I asked Mr. Mahon who the gentleman was, and he informed me that he was a Mr. Mathews, a Banker from the south of Ireland. It's a strange thing, is it not?, both Mr. Mahon and Myself were to know that man as Frank Mathews, and that both our lives would, in a way, be tied up with him to our mutual advantage.

Just then Arthur Jackson passed up to the Golf Club, followed by Cecil Lyons and an old solicitor, Alex.Donald Shine, N.T. was on the putting green with a few others whom I did not know.

Proceeding on my ramble, I slipped round to the back of the Hotel, where I ordered a bottle of stout, which was handed to me through a little window for that purpose by Mr. Ewing, better known as Tommy Ewing. What a pity we did not drink half enough when it was cheap! In a little house in the Hotel yard, John Gillen, we knew him as "Post" was busy bottling stout. A nice old fellow to know was "Post". I met Nurse Sandes with her black bag, she was on her way to Lower Rosses, which was a full time job for her around that time. A grand old lady with a great knowledge of the business.

In I went to Mr. Boyers for a paper. There was no conversation. A Mr. R. Leonard, K.C, a Law man from Dublin, was looking over the pages of The Irish Times. He asked me "Was the weather up?". I told him that we were in for a few fine days and my forecast pleased him very much. As I came out of the shop, D.M. Hanley and Archie Henderson passed up in their car.

Joseph McGowan was a Light-keeper. He was trimming up around his cottage. Elizabeth McGowan was talking to Mrs. Devaney on the lawn in front of "St. Michael's". Archie Cooke and Sandy Sutherland passed up for their evening Golf. Redmond John was mending a net in his own yard. He took no notice of me as I passed into the Bar and ordered a bottle of stout from Mrs. Bruen. While in the Elsinore, I met Josie Haran, his brother Packie, Michael James Ward and Martin McGowan, all from Coney Island. Peg Kilgallon came into the Bar for matches.

As I came out of Elsinore, Nellie Bruen was talking to her brother Martin, who was on short leave from sea. At that time Redmond (Long), as we knew him, was away at sea. Years later I was to know old Redmond John much better, The L.D.F. and F.C.A. days, the tacked boots and the maple floor.

As I mounted the stone steps to the road, I met Mrs. McMahon and her husband. She taught in our local school. She had a fine singing voice. I crossed the road to the Post Office, where I had a conversation with Mrs. Moffat. It was mostly question and answer. Mr. Moffat, N.T. and his son Arthur were standing at the P.O. door.

Owen Gillen was Pilot-Master. He had the cut and dignity of a King. He lived in Melrose Lodge, and had a weather glass high up on an outside wall, which I often read.

Mrs. Bruen, mother of Eddie, was cleaning her front windows. Ivor Thomas was reading a book. He was sitting on a chair at his door. Mrs. Thomas was looking out of the window. When it came to singing, she was a Nightingale. What a voice, what a volume!

Tommy O'Rorke was away at sea. James Gillen and family had a shop in "Rock House", where Paddy Curley and Myra reside now.

Edward O'Carroll was a head P.O. Linesman. Mrs. O'Carroll kept the front of her little house in great shape. The next person I spoke to was Chief Feeney. He had a public House, where Mrs. Hackett is now established. Mr. Feeney was a Marine Engineer, a real nice old gentleman and very knowledgeable, never tired talking about the sea and ships.

I next spoke to Davey McNamara and his wife. I met old Maggie who was always saying her prayers, and an old brother of hers who was very short-sighted. His name was Gillen, local people knew him by another name. I forget what it was, not too nice I thought. He poked his way around with a stick, and Boy Oh, could he give off, if you tried to put over anything, even in fun. That same day I spoke to Captain P. Bruen, home from sea at Shamrock Cottage.

Mickey Higgins was setting off for town with his Bus. The fare was six-pence of good úS.D. money each way, and as much goods as you could pile on, free gratis and for nothing. The Good old days.

I met Hubert and Mary Ann O'Boyle, returning from their evening walk. They resided in a nice thatched cottage, near to Captain Bruen. What a pity it had to be demolished to make way for nothing.

Mrs. Burns had a shop where Pat and Mrs. Kivlehan now reside. One was always sure to meet Valey Bruen somewhere on the Point Street, on the scout for news and local gossip. He lived with Redmond (Rock) and Lily, his sister.

Walking on I spoke for a few minutes to Johnny and Mrs. Feeney. Mick Healy was thatching his own house. Mrs. Healey was gathering up straw around the door-step. John Patrick Bruen was doing a spot of painting at Stella Maris.

Lenny Gilmartin's big house had a weather-beaten look about it.

Mrs. Capt. Michael Gillen was out on the lawn at Crescent Lodge, a grand old lady. I was interested when I learned that she had sailed around the world with her husband.

John Gillen was whitewashing Green Lodge. A grand little man, full of yarns and fun. I spoke to Tommy Brown and his Mother as I passed into The Royal Hotel for tobacco and matches. I got matches only, so I went into the Victoria Hotel, and bought tobacco from Pat Smith.

I next spoke to Tom Devaney and Rosie. Tom was a seaman, a real nice man to know, provided there was no contradiction. I next met Jamie Kilgallon and Marcella, out for an evening walk. They resided in Lily Cottage. He was a seaman, but now he was a River Pilot. He smoked a pipe and carried an endless supply of matches in his waistcoat pocket. Just as I was passing Mullaney's farm house, and before I had got as far as Brian Reddy, I heard a tap on the window. I stopped on my step. Mr. Mullaney opened the door and informed me that he had a heffer about to calve in the field behind the house, and if I knew anything about the business would I give him some help, as there was no-one to be seen around. Sometimes a heffer with her first calf can be difficult. However, having been brought up on a sixty-acre plot, I had some knowledge of such a situation. Anyone brought up on a farm is never at any time very far from nature. I had seen all this before. In fact there was nothing I had not seen, from a hen laying an egg to a mare giving birth to a foal. I found the heffer well advanced in labour. Taking off my coat and turning up my shirt sleeves, I instructed Mr. Mullaney to go to his yard and get me a length of soft rope, with which he returned in no time. I fixed a front leg loop and with a little assistance the calf was born. Just then Jim Ennis came into the field and ran over to where we were. By this time all was over and Mother and Calf were doing well.

Mr. Mullaney invited us to his house, where after washing my hands and drying them on a hard towel which hung on a roller in the pantry, each of us drank a little whiskey. After thanking me for my help, I continued my ramble, having earned the friendship of Mr. Mullaney to the very day of his death.

Brian Reddy gave me a wave of his hand as he sat at a small window in his cottage, across the street from the old drinking fountain. The next house was a police station, since then, it was the residence of Miss. Brisco and a number of others. Mrs. Anne Curran-McLaughlin, in a few well selected words, spoke to me as I passed. Jack Foster was painting a concrete ornamental wall in front of his house. I knew him and I knew John Gilbride, where he worked, keeping the Model T. on the road. Jack was a fine singer, and used his voice to advantage in the church choir during Sunday Mass.

The next house tickled me quite a lot, known as Shell Cottage, owned by a family named McLaughlin. The front of the house was a shell pattern, sea shells embedded in the plaster, a grand thatched cottage, What a pity it had to be demolished!

I had a conversation with Willie Gillen and his wife Maggie. They ran a fine Bus service. Maggie was the driver, Willie acted as conductor. Very nice people, I oftimes travelled with them to and from Sligo. The grand old man was Tommy Gillen. He interested me because he was a great man to handle horses. In his young days he drove the once famous long cars, and in later years he sold and delivered coal in this district, with a horse cart, best English coat in Cwt. bags at 2/6 per bag. I remember when the price went up to 2/9, my wife Mary told him she would not buy it. He said: It's the ring, Madam, the Merchants, I have no say. He gave the reins a tug, and called back over his shoulder, Pictures, plays and parties, and nothing for the man on the road!. I never forgot that one.

Tom Bofin was doing plaster work on a window sill at "Virginia Lodge" and Maggie was sorting wallflowers along each side.

Out of the next house came a fine hardy looking man, with a heavy bicycle, with a bundle on the carrier. I learned he was an Engine Driver, employed by Sligo County Council. This was the golden age of steam, I asked him where his plant was situated, he informed me that they were crushing and rolling at Enniscrone. I told him that there would never be men like us again! That man was John Kelly. Just fancy that for an evening cycle run!

Passing "Harbour View", the Devaney family were not in residence. They had a town house. I knew Captain Devaney very well when he was Harbour Master. I often saw himself and Choppy marching up and down when a Laird's boat "The Sligo" and other ships were due to berth. Rosses Point has produced a long line of brilliant sailors, Officers and men whose ancestors have sailed the seas hundreds of years before the advent of steam, and in this age of power, their decendents continue to uphold the best traditions of their profession.

On my way to the "Thatch", Christy Bellow and Willie passed in their car, followed by Frank Nally and Bill Feeney. "The Thatch", that well known tavern, long since demolished, owned by a man named McLaughlin - a cultured and well-spoken gentleman, who had spent much time in America and was a passenger on a liner when she sank off the coast of Cork. It was said that he reached the Irish Coast on a ten foot plank, I cannot record if that statement was the whole truth. However, I bought a piece of boiling bacon from him.

Proceeding towards "The Erin Hotel", I had a word or two with old Peter Gillen at "Erin Cottage". I went on and spoke to Pat Gillen and his sister. Then turning homeward, T.P. Toher and Dr. Charlie McCarthy passed up towards the Golf Club.

I came to the Rosses Lane, which at that time was only a sheep track between two massive banks of bramble. At the upper end of the lane, Aggie Gillen was painting the door of her cottage which was neat and well thatched. Maggie Tracey was in conversation with Johnny Higgins near the Pump. Michael Higgins (Luckie) was milking a cow in the field in front of his house. Mrs. Gaffney, (Birdie), was shaking crumbs from a demask table-cloth on her own street surrounded by many hens and ducks. Tommy Higgins was heading off to Bowmore, talking back to her as he went.

Birney and Toner passed down the lane, must have been a date or a dance, both had on their Sunday best.

Pat Leydon, who was Sexton of our church, came out of his cottage on the hill on his way to the church. I was with him part of the way. He was keen on the horses and asked me if I had anything for the big race. I went into the church with him and said a few prayers, crossed the road into my house where Mary made me a cup of tea and reminded me that I had the smell of drink and that I was a long time out. She was pleased when I told her what I was doing and all the people I had met.

After tea she handed me six old pence and told me to "take a grip and go up the field at the back to Thomas John Devaney for a stone of Golden Wonders". So ended my ramble, I hope you enjoyed the ramble and the talk.