Naas Local History Group’s AGM Report 2015

Naas Local History Group in addition to our ordinary programme of 20 events Naas Local History group had a very busy year working on ongoing projects. Our book, window display of Old Photographs, talks for schools, and other groups. This is our 30th annual general meeting and as we enter our thirty first year I as your President and PRO ask you  to remember the many great and stalwart members of our group who have gone to their eternal reward over the past 31 years. In particular our former committee member Joe O’Sullivan who passed away this year. May They Rest in Peace.

Naas Local History Group held their 29th Annual General Meeting in Naas Community Library (by kind permission of Co Kildare Library and Arts Service) on Tuesday 21st January 2014. The main business of the meeting consisted of the officers reports and Treasurer Aoife O’Malley read out a detailed statement of the of the groups finances. Paddy Behan PRO gave review of the group’s many activities and events in 2013. He thanked the Local Press and Naas Parish News letter for the publicity of our group during the year. The group are very fortunate to be facilitated for all our indoor events in Naas Community Library and for this we are most grateful to Co Kildare Library and Arts Service and particularly to Naas Library staff and Caretaker John Breen.

The next business was when Group Auditor Brian Mullaney took the chair for the election of a committee for 2014. The following were elected; President; Paddy Behan, Chairperson: James Durney, Vice Chairperson; Ronnie Kinnane, Secretary; Rose McCabe, Treasurer: Ger McCarthy, PRO; Paddy Behan, Auditor: Brian Mullaney, Webmaster Sean Sourke, Committee members: Anne O’Byrne. Stan Hickey. Aoife O’Malley.

Tributes were paid to the outgoing committee and Chairman James Durney thanked everyone who contributed in any way to make the year a successful one for the group. Paddy Behan thanked the group for electing him president and the evening concluded with a fun quiz set by Stan Hickey which left the attendance doing more guessing, than answering. Another year ended and began with a most enjoyable evening.

The year began as usual with Ronnie Kinane’s annual St Brigid’s Cross making demonstration in the Library. Great credit is due to Ronnie who has been organising this demonstration for many years. Thanks Ronnie. Our Annual Ger Kinchella Memorial Night celebrated Tutty’s Shoemaking business in Naas for over 60 years.The evening consisted of the presentation of the Heritage Cup by History Group Chairperson James Durney followed by the presentation of a scroll by group president Paddy Behan. Accepting on behalf of the family George Tutty said that he and the family were really honoured to be considered for the award which would have given his late father such pride if he had been around to receive it but, he hoped and knew that he was with them in spirit. George then ably assisted by brother Eddie described how his father came to Naas in 1946 and set up the business and how his father always considered himself a whistler in the town and that he was sorry that he was not present on the night to see that notion finally put to bed and that his great contribution to Naas and his family had finally been rewarded. He thanked the group for the memorable evening which was highly appreciated by all the Tutty Family.

Lawlor’s Hotel was again the venue for the annual Luncheon when we assembled to celebrate Christmas and the beginning of our thirtieth year of history events. It was as usual a great social occasion and a great success thanks to Rose and Anne for doing the arrangements.

Two events in March; The St David’s Day annual “Welsh Flag Unfurling”  on the steps of Naas Town Hall This event has taken place for almost a quarter of a century and hopefully the history group will continue to commemorate the great St David’s and Welsh connection with our town, for many years to come.

In a well researched illustrated talk in Naas Community Library entitled “A Pompous Old Ass” on Tuesday 4th March  Liam Kenny gave us an insight into the reasons  for the so-called Curragh Mutiny of 1914. Liam devoted his entire history page in the Leinster Leader of March 4th to this event. In general, I would like to complement Liam and the Leinster Leader for this valuable contribution to local history. Liam’s history page has been appearing in the Leinster Leader for the past eight years.

Two events in April; On Tuesday 1st April again in the Naas Community Library Emma Lyons  delivered  an Illustrated talk on “ The Mansfields of Morristown Lattin”  She covered this family and their connection with Naas town and Co Kildare in general.
Walking  Sunday” in Punchestown Racecourse  for Naas people has always a great occasion of nostalgia and stories of past times at the National Hunt venue and it is only fitting that Naas Local History Group should be part of the afternoon’s activities. The Millbrook Cup race the oldest event in the Naas Athletic Clubs calendar is run over the actual racecourse. ( 6 miles 3 circuits of the course) on walking Sunday and has been since 1922. An added attraction in recent years is the involvement of the McAuley Place foundation in the afternoon’s activities. Punchestown (incidentally there is a Puncheston townland just outside St David’s City in Wales)  another Welsh/Naas connection. Punchestown was most important event in the Naas calendar when shops, schools, banks and business’s all closed down for the original meeting days. Local race goer Paddy Byrne writing in the annual Leinster Leader supplement (which has been going for over half a century) describes his difficulty “getting off” for the races from Naas Cotton Mills when Paddy told his boss that he was going and that Punchestown would still be there when the mills were gone. Paddy was right.

May Walk from Well Lane to the Fairyflax was an evening to remember all the old times and the people who lived around the “well” all forgotten but not anymore  thanks to Seamie Moore and his Tidy Town Group for restoring the well to become a centre of attraction for  all to admire and remember. Charlie Byrne’s barber shop was nearby and Charlie and Kathleen came up with a photo of the Well Lane Houses which we reproduced on page  23 of  Naas People – through the lens of time.

Saturday 21st June A group of us went to the Marble city of Kilkenny calling to Castlecomer Heritage Centre for tea and scones and a tour of the museum to view awful conditions of the coal mines and the poor men and boys who earned a hard living down in the coalmines for small but welcome pay. Onward to Kilkenny where we visited Rothe House and Gardens which was revelation with all the original type plants in the garden dating back to the 17th century. St Canice’s Cathedral with its vast wealth about the  history of the Butler’s of Kilkenny Castle, Alice Kitler, Black Tom and the Queen Elizabeth 1st  window. The day ended with a unscheduled roundabout trip back through Kilkenny countryside to Athy’s Clonard Court Hotel for afternoon tea.

In July we went by car to the beautiful Palladian Russborough House, Blessington, which was the country seat of the Leeson Family, Earls of Milltown who gave their name to Leeson Street in Dublin, and later the home of  Sir Alfred and Lady who established the world famous Beit Art Collection there and later donated the collection to the Irish State. The proposed DeBurgh Mansion at Oldtown would have been similar if it had been completed. The building of Rossborough began in 1841 and it would take  ten years to build so that the designer Richard Castle never lived to see the final stages that were carried out by his associate Francis Bindon.

August 1914 World War I commemorations for Naas Local History Group started at 11pm on the 4th when a small group of historians with lamps and candles assembled at the old Post Office at Naas to keep vigil and remember by re-enacting the scene of 100 years before, we read reports of the events of the day from the press of the day. Some passersby wondered what we were up to and others calmly walked past. The scene was now set for many other events commemorating the effect the Great War had in Naas.

During Heritage week in August the group organised two events: a talk in the Community Library by Our own James Durney entitled “In Time of War. Co Kildare 1914-1918” on Tuesday 26th August, and a “know your Naas walk” along the Corbally branch canal from the harbour to Jigginstown and back by Newbridge Road. Led by paddy Behan on Wednesday 27th August.

September got off to a bad start when James Browne the speaker of a talk entitled “James Rodgers in World War 1” was suddenly called away to duty and had to postpone his talk to some future date But all was not lost as Paddy Behan stepped into the breach with his “Naas Ancient and Modern” slideshow.

The next occasion was Thursday 25th September when they came in their hundreds to the beautiful and historic Naas Town Hall for the launch of Naas Local History Group’s latest book of pictures and nostalgia Naas People – through the lens of time  which was the highlight of the group’s 30th anniversary celebrations. The reaction to the publication was amazing people in little huddles going through the book looking at pictures of their dear ones many of whom had passed away.

The amazing cross-section of Naas people of the present who came to remember the Naas of the past ‘Wanderly Wagon’ wandering down the main street in the seventies. The Dickson brothers from Allenwood selling turf outside John Nolan’s shop at 46 South Main Street in 1956. McDermot’s and McKiernan’s shops, The Gallowglass Ceili Band, The Christy Bolger Band from Sallins, The Hi-Lites Showband, The Nás-na-Ríogh figure dance class of the 1970s, Jimmy Broughall’s Brass & Reed Band of the 1980s it’s all there.
Welcoming the large attendance group chairman James Durney spoke of the huge amount of work involved in compiling the book and thanked his fellow book committee members for their hard work in bringing it to fruition. James’s lovely wife Caroline and her family members catered for the multitude with her own cooking of delicious array of tasty tit-bits which was washed down with wine and soft drinks from Ronnie and Aoife.

Launching the book group PRO and president Paddy Behan told the large attendance that the group was founded in 1984 and mounted their first picture exhibition in 1987 which resurrected hundreds of photographs, billheads, and memorabilia. It was held upstairs in the Moat Hall. He continued “ that since it foundation just thirty years ago Naas local history group has had a major influence the promotion and propagation of local history in the town and county. In 1984 there was only one historical society Co Kildare Archaeological Society of which we are most proud.  But there was a void at local level Naas Local History Group started a trend to make people aware of the vast area of local social history.

He thanked Mario Corrigan and Bridget Loughlin of the Co Kildare Library Arts and Heritage Service for their attendance and for the excellent backup they provide to Naas and indeed all the local history groups in the county. He paid tribute to his fellow book committee members James Durney, Ger McCarthy, Sean Sourke (cover design) and especially Stan Hickey whose commitment, expertise and experience in the field of book printing has always been a major part of the group’s success since its foundation he also thanked Tony, Mark and Philip of Naas Printing for their help, patience understanding and availability at all times. He thanked the press photographers Tony Keane and the late Jim Gaffney whose contribution to recording people and events in the town is and was immense.

Stan Hickey brought along an old green banner with the inscription “I.N.V. (Irish National Volunteers)  ‘Naas and District Corps’ a group which was founded almost 100 years ago to the day in 1914. He got a great reaction when he explained the strange circumstances of how it disappeared from Naas Town Hall and the even stranger circumstances of how it re-appeared in his family home many years ago.
Ger McCarthy group treasurer thanked everyone who made the evening so successful, Rose, Aggie, Tom and John for looking after the sale of books and Pat McCormack the Town Hall caretaker for his help and patience Liam Kenny Founder member and well known historian and journalist welcomed the attendance other groups and many distinguished guests including the Sisters of Mercy who are celebrating 175th anniversary of their coming to Naas in 1839 he thanked them the many years of wonderful service they have given to the town. The book has been a huge success and is still available in Barker and Jones bookshop in Naas, or any member of the committee. Well done to all concerned.

At our October 1st meeting Kevin Kenny gave an extraordinary well researched and informative account about Athy Co Kildare born explorer Ernest Shackleton and the expedition he led to the South Pole 100 years ago. The illustrated talk entitled “Ernest Shackleton” told the amazing story of the survival and rescue by Shackleton of the members of his fellow explorers in the terrible and dangerous conditions  of  the Antarctic Continent.
Brian McCabe continued his “ A Winter’s Tale” theme in November ably assisted by Stan and Mary they looked back on the part “World War 1” played on the local, national and international scene through extracts from the local papers with music of the time. Music and song like: It’s a long way to Tipperary. Keep the home fires burning, Roses are blooming in Picardy ete.

Leinster Leader August 8th 1914 carried a war heading Gogarty supports Redmond stance. An editorial set the scene, Leader 15th August, reduced in size due to paper scarcity, “Ladies  Geraldine Burke, Mrs Weldon  and Mrs Synnott, of Kildare set up support group.
Leader 22nd August reported “Volunteers in Training” and the effects of the war on farmers. Leader 29th August “Defence of Ireland fund Collection taken up. Leader 5th Sept; Home Rule Bill postponed, disappointment, suspicion and worry, local war casualties. Killed in action; Moore and Blacker. Pte Sheridan wounded and home.
Leinster Leader 12/9; Horse business builds up, Prices increase due to war, Many poor feel the pinch. Wealthy, lay in stores, causing panic and scarcity. Funeral of Blacker, son of Johnstown injured by shrapnel at Mons and dies as a result.
Leinster Leader 26/9; I did’nt raise my boy to be a soldier. Leinster Leader 10th October; Pte McGarr killed in action.

The story continued on similar chilly and sad track for the rest of the evening only to be brightened up somewhat by the rousing music of “Its a long way to Tipperary” and many other such war time tunes. Thanks Brian Mary and Stan. On the following Saturday we had our Annual Prayers for Famine Victims at the Workhouse Cemetery.

At our December meeting Ger McCarthy took us on one his many Heritage Slideshow Trips around the county.  This was a very professional presentation as we have come to expect and get from Ger who knows his stuff about heritage houses and sites not only in Co Kildare, but, throughout Ireland. He has also written a fascinating book on the subject “The Forgotten Heritage of Co Kildare “some years ago.

A very fine presentation to end the 30th year of Naas Local history group.
Finally I wish to take the opportunity to thank the Library Service, the Local press and Radio, The Naas Parish Newsletter, my colleagues on the committee of Naas Local History Group.  And last but not by any means least to thank you the loyal members who have supported this group since its establishment thirty years ago.

Paddy Behan 2015