What Dramatic Changes To Historic Newry Streets

WHAT vast changes have taken place over the past half-century, to that historic area from Chapel Street to River Street, whose past and present residents, along with ex-pats, were invited to a unique re-union in 2005.

For example, William Street was wiped away by the dual carriageway; Chapel Street and River Street have been completely transformed, while Boat Street, as well as the little avenues adjoining, are almost devoid of dwellings.

Many professional, business and trades people originated in that district. And one reason was academic and sporting rivalry between the various schools, which enabled those from a working-class background to achieve their full potential, according to a top local accountant, Tommy Price.

The retired Company Secretary explained: “ The Christian Brothers and the Poor Clares were determined to prove that their students, from a lower social class, had the ability to succeed in any walk of life, just like those at St Colman’s College or Our Lady’s who, in the 40’s and 50’s, catered mainly for the elite.”

In fact, three of the Price brothers, all accountants, are testimony to that thesis. Apart from Tommy, John has been managing-director of CARS Ltd, while Matt has held the post of Financial Consultant to Dunnes Stores. Their father was Chief Ranger of the Irish National Foresters, and produced the definitive history of Newry’s John Mitchel Branch.

Other examples were the Bannon, Carr, Mathers, Murtagh, McCourt, Traynor, McGuinness, Tumilty, Heaney, Quinn, Kelly and Campbell families, etc. Paddy McGuinness, Deputy Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide; the late Raymond McCourt was vice-principal of St Joseph’s High School; Irene and Brian were also teachers; the late Sean Heaney became vice-principal at St Joe’s; while his brother, Henry, is an eminent librarian.

One of the most select areas of the town, the Chapel Street and Boat Street area, - location of the famous `Dutch houses`, - was the home of Sir Isaac Corry; MP for South Down, Max Keogh; ex-council chairman Pat McElroy, cllrs Quinn-Bennett, Niall McAteer and Owen McKevitt, while Tommy Price and Tommy Byrne had thriving ice-cream businesses.

The legendary Arthur Burns, along with Lily Fox and Sadie Fearon, put Irish dancing on the map; Joe Hughes was a long-time manager of Newry Credit Union; Michael Mathers was Market Superintendent, and starred with the Newry Musical Society; while his brother, Maurice, has been proprietor of Apollo Blinds.

Hugh O’Hare was a book-maker; Joe McGrath a garage proprietor; Joe Murphy a fowl-dealer; Peter Tumilty became a director of Newry Credit Union; Donal Quinn owned the Catholic Repository on Hill Street; Paddy Traynor, a Scoutmaster, had a shoe-shop on Monaghan Street; while his brother Oscar was a Post Office employee; John Teggart was a bread-server, while Tom Tumilty played a major role in the St John Bosco Club, while Joe Fearon was a bank employee.

Pat Carr, who spent over 30 years at sea, was in the Postal service, also his son, Jimmy. A daughter, Bridie was married to the popular Newry Shamrocks stalwart, Terry Kane (RIP). A brother, Willie, became doorman at the Independent Club, while Luke, employed in the Ardmore Hotel, died some years ago.

Meanwhile Eddie Campbell, who has been in the Postal Service, can recall his first job as a messenger-boy at Jimmy Boyle’s grocery shop in Mill Street. Other members of the staff included Peggy Phillips, Thomas Hanratty, Jimmy McClure and Colm Boyle. And Frank Bradley was employed at the local Gasworks.

A joiner, the late Gerry Murphy was married to Kathleen McCaul from High Street, while his sister, Mrs Molly Boyle, who lived in River Street, had two daughters, Madeline and Mary, who appeared in many pantomimes; also two sons, Michael and Ronald. Meanwhile, a long-time resident of Kilmorey Street, Mrs Molly Campbell, sister of former councillor Gerry Mulholland, died recently.

Principal feature of William Street, - apart from Dowdalls and the Dublin House public houses, - was the Unitarian Church, where a previous minister was the father of Irish patriot, John Mitchel. Billy Little, whose father was the caretaker, has fond memories of “the many friends and great community spirit in the street.”

However, heroism and tragedy have also been experienced in that locality. 19-year-old Raymond Kelly sacrificed his life in rescuing passengers from a sinking ship in the Bay of Biscay. His mother was presented with a posthumous George Cross, while his portrait hangs in the foyer of Newry City Hall. Raymond had three sisters, - Rebecca, who was married to the late Joe Morgan, Newry Urban Council’s Finance Officer; Rosaleen, the wife of bookmaker, Pat O’Hare, while Mary is Mrs Barney Larkin.

A brother, Robert, was goalkeeper on the Shamrock Rovers side, which included future superstar, Peter McParland. By coincidence, he has resided at Raymond Kelly Park. A second brother, William, has been well-known in `doggie` circles.

Another native of River Street, bookmaker Hugh O’Hare, along with his sister, were among five people drowned when their boat capsized on Carlingford Lough in the 50’s. Meanwhile, Paddy Casey lost his life in a drowning incident, near the Boathouse at Newry Canal in 1950.

One person, playing a leading role in the present Asian Tsunami disaster as Deputy Chief Executive of Concern, Paddy McGuinness, spent many years dealing with the consequences of earthquakes, famine, floods and civil strife around the world. He and his brother Oliver were also part of a dedicated team of volunteers, responsible for transforming the derelict Abbey Secondary School into the modern complex, known as Clanrye Abbey Developments.

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© Fabian Boyle 2001-2008