Long before the Guide came along and started being a smartarse about all the goings on in this town, Greystones was covered by journalists with a lot more TLC and actual journalistic skill.
Down through the years, many of them appeared in the local rag The Wicklow People – and later, it’s Bray People off-shoot – keeping us yokels up-to-date with cake sales, mayoral elections, found engagement rings and the burning down of the teenager’s hang-out hut.
And those young tearaways Ciaran Hayden, Patrick Brady and Cyril Vickers had spent so long making that hut all warm and cosy. Heartbreaker.
Just to show how much life in Greystones has changed, and how much of it has stayed the same, we’re reproducing two of installments of Gwen’s Week, published as part of The Bray People‘s weekly Greystones Roundabout – one from Friday, September 23rd 1983, the other from Friday, March 16th 1984.
Gwen McNiff – and her husband, Peter – have worked wonders in the field of Irish journalism, especially when it comes to recording local Greystones history. Taking time away from his work with RTE and the BBC, Peter’s 2004 book, Stories From A Small Town, is a treasure trove of local characters, whilst his brief photo album history of our old main street delicatessen, Tino’s, captured a taste ofGreystones forever.
We’re hoping to catch up with the McNiffs in 2017, to talk about their sterling work down through the decades when it comes to chronicling life in Greystones. Right now, they need a little more time, and, given the greatness of their contribution to the town, we’re certainly willing to wait…
Below, we’ve added new images, or, where possible, what we believe to be the relevant pic to a story. If we’ve gotten any of them wrong, hey, Gwen, let us know…
Gwen’s Diary Friday, September 23rd, 1983 Page 15
It Was Nicorra
I returned from my holidays to find many of the old timers waiting to pounce and tell me that the name on one of my pictures was wrong. The third man in the picture of the three fishermen was not Star Lynch at all, but Nicorra Murphy. Bray People – 9th Sept. Then Mrs Anne Hayden phoned to say that he was her grand-uncle, and was indeed a Mr. Jim Murphy, always known as Nicorra, but she wasn’t too sure how to spell it either, so, I’ve had a guess at it. Nicorra never married and didn’t live to be an old man. His brother, Mrs Hayden’s grandfather, sold the fish that Nicorra and others caught, and there is a promise of a picture of him with his horse and cart.
Co. Council Praised
For once there is praise on all sides for the Co. Council and the builders of the newest local authority housing in the town, known as Kenmare Heights. Before the houses were handed over, the area was landscaped and grassed. The entire treatment shows originality and thought for the people. In return, the people are taking care, and dire threats are made to those who walk on the grass until it gets established.
A Lovely World
Talking to some of the people who, through various organisations, help the elderly in the community, what comes over most strongly is how much benefit everyone gets. One woman said how much she enjoyed these events, even though they were hard work. She marvelled at the talent that was waiting there, untapped, in the town, and that came to the surface when there was a need. Another woman said it was amazing, the offers of help that had come in. One person had offered paints for the art classes, another gave hard board to paint on. The Lions Club came forward to transport people on outings if needed. “If only we could expand this interchange of goodwill, service and friendship to a wider number of people, what a lovely world we could make to live in.” This was a heartfelt expression from one speaker, and there was none to disagree with her. The elderly too, have so much to offer. They remember facts from the past clearly, and if we only ask, they can make a great contribution to local knowledge. Many of the men can name every member of a team that they played with in the ’20s, and fill in personal details that are not in the record books. In these times of recession, perhaps we should have many of the women who brought up families in hard times lecturing us on ways to cut costs that were second nature to them in their young married days.
Don’t let anyone kid you about how the Irish are known far and wide throughout the world. It’s not true, at least not in France. They are our almost next door EEC neighbour, and I had the feeling there recently that no one had told the vast majority there about us. No bank or exchange bureau had a sign of a punt in sight. That was not a problem as other travellers had mentioned this, and I went armed with their currency and sterling. Making a phone call home was another matter. The phone boxes listed the codes for every country from Finland to Morocco, but no word about Ireland. It didn’t matter all that much, as their phones are nearly as bad as ours, and gobble money with no return. It was a visit to a tourist office in a town called Avranches near Mont St. Michael in Normandy that really worried me. We called in to the very helpful and friendly staff to enquire about Irish Continental Line sailings to Rosslare. There were Sealink brochures everywhere, and one girl looked through these and said there were no sailings to Rosslare. We explained about ICL, and she then went to a cupboard where, in the depths of a folder, she unearthed lovely glossy brochures about Ireland. They were offering super bargain holidays in Ireland, but nobody was reading about them in that cupboard.
Things I Missed
It’s a funny thing, how you can be around all year, and nothing much happens. But go away for a short spell, and you miss lots of entertaining and interesting happenings. First of all, I missed the annual knock down of the Garda barracks wall to let the turf lorry in. That in itself, in many Euroopean towns, would have the local festival built around it. Then the Scout fundraisers had the novel idea of making people guess how many Bord na Mona briquettes were in a trailer. They kept this going on Saturday, outside the station, and on Sunday, at the harbour. Mrs E. Brennan from Heywood, Church Road, was the winner with 903 briquettes. This made around £80 for the Scout Den fund. I hear I missed a good Fashion Show on Monday night, when local girls modelled some lovely clothes from Pears of Greystones and Lavinias of Bray. This was in aid of the Lord Mayor Fund, and will benefit the Mentally Handicapped and the Greystones Ambulance Unit of the Order Of Malta.
Noel On The Run
When the four candidates for Mayor report on progress to the committee later this week, Suzanne Davis will be telling them of her smart move. Suzanne, who is seeking office as the Youth Club representative, has coaxed Noel Henry into wearing a t-shirt on his daily runs, with great scarlet letters saying ‘Suzanne For Mayor’. As Noel has recently completed a fifty-mile race, he is likely to pop up anywhere in the area with the message. By this time next week, I hope to have heard of the doings of other candidates.
Hilarie O’Dea, from the Senior Citizens Group, called to tell that they had a surprise gift of £15. Michelle Sweeney, from 11 Grattan Park, made the money for the old folk by raffling a cake. The money enabled the committee to buy prizes for the Tuesday free Bingo sessions, and they are very grateful.
At the bottom of the page, Gwen included the following archive pic…
Fishing Off The South Beach
This picture is not too clear, but it gives a good idea of how they fished from small boats in Greystones, and the type of boat they used.
The men in the photo are Jim Darcy (standing), Paddy Salmon, Willie Tucker, John Spurling, Square Byrne. A couple of weeks ago, we had a picture of three fishermen holding baskets and they were named as Beezi Whiston, Andrew ‘Bexie’ Martin and Paddy ‘Star’ Lynch. Now I’ve been told that the third man was not Star Lynch but a man called Murphy. Is this right?
Gwen’s Diary Friday, March 16th, 1984 Page 17
Do any readers remember the picture we ran a few weeks ago, showing The Wicklow Arms in Delgany, in the days before the motor car was common? Later, one reader said the name over the door was Dann, and another, Newell. They were both right, as one owner came after the other. However, in the picture, the name was Nathan R. Dann, and 83 years old Bernard Hayden from Killincarrig wrote to say that it was in gold block letters. It was such an interesting letter that it led to my having a long chat with Mr. Hayden, who had lots to tell me. He knew all the people in the picture – it was issued as a postcard. The square trap and pony was owned by W. Hayden, known as The Boss Hayden, and the pony’s name was Floss. The sidecar was Frank Kelly’s, and he had a long, hard journey back up the hill. The dog was called Jack, and is remembered as a very nice fellow. There is a little girl in the picture. She is called May Bradshaw, and she was an aunt of the golfer Harry Bradshaw. She is clutching a doll, and as she was born on May 11th, 1907, Mr. Hayden reckoned that dated the picture to around 1911 or 1912. How does he know all this? Well, he is the boy in the picture, and he grew up and married the little girl, May Bradshaw. He was born and lived where Farrelly’s shop in Delgany now is, and it was only years after they married that he was told his wife was the child in the postcard. He tells me too that I had wrong information about a picture of a garage. It was owned by a man called Batey and his uncle, W. Hempenstall, and not Tommy Walker. It was at Commercial Buildings, where Dowling’s butcher shop is now, and there was a work shop where the fish factory stands today. Tommy Walker, he says, was the Golf professional for Greystones, and he learned his motoring at classes in Greystones Library, run by Mr. Batey. He had memories too of the Redmonds – John, the MP, who lived at Glenbrook House. When he came back from London, he would be met by the Delgany Band, and the men carried homemade torches made from sticks, rags and tar. Delgany, as he remembers it, was totally separate from Greystones, and had much nice people. He has few fond memories of Greystones at that time. It was a town where, he says, one didn’t count for much if your face didn’t fit in. He considers present-day Greystones a much better place to live. In fact, he visits us here twice a week when he comes to take a stroll, do business, and maybe go for a drink.
The Horse’s Name Is Molly
Just to confuse us all when we had the story of the Delgany picture sorted out, a letter arrives from Jimmie Downey in Middlesex, England. He writes that he receives The Wicklow People regularly from his brother, Wm. Downey, of Killincarrig. He was born in Kindlestown 72 years ago, and writes that the name of the building was Newell’s Hotel, with bar and grocery. He continues, ‘I am fairly certain the sidecar standing outside was owned by a grand old chap named Jim O’Connor, who lived in Blackrock, and the horse was a remarkable animal called Molly, and was, of course, a mare. ‘I remember Jim and my father driving up the mountains in Calary point-to-point races in the side car, where, after changing Molly from harness to saddle, my dad, John Downey, rode her to win a race over a stiff 31/2 miles of walls and banks. After the races and many pints in the beer tent, Molly was again hitched to the sidecar for the return journey to Cassidy’s Hotel – now The Horse & Hounds – in Delgany, where Jim would get many pints by lifting the old wooden bar kegs high above his head. ‘On an easy day, Molly also ran and won races at a flat meeting at Kindlestown. I believe the prize money in those days was between £5 and £10.’ Mr. Downey says he enjoyed reading about Greystones and Delgany in the paper, and goes on, ‘It seems that many changes have taken place in Greystones, but it is sad those changes are also spoiling a once fairly clean seaside resort. ‘I’m sure the town has improved, but it is up to the people to help improve its present scruffy appearance, and also, its reputation.’
The extraordinary thing about the two letters is that the two men with a ten-year age gap have such different memories of a small village. By the way, the enlarged version of the photo hangs in The Wicklow Arms. It was a pleasure to hear from these two gentlemen, and I thank them both for taking the time and trouble to write.
Engagement Ring Found
While we are on the subject of The Wicklow Arms, the Spendloves, who now run the pub, asked me to mention that they have an engagement ring, which was found in the ladies cloakroom before Christmas. They think it may belong to an older person, and there is an inscription. If the own gets in touch and describes the ring, they will be delighted to give it back.
Refuge Burned Down
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that there was a need in the town for casual drop-in places for young people, and, in passing, said that one such place existed already. Well, on Monday, this small hut, which had become a kind of refuge for some of the young people, burned down in mysterious circumstances. The fire happened in the middle of the afternoon, when no one was there, and the youngsters who used it are firmly convinced that it was set alight on purpose. These boys in particular, had worked hard to make this old builder’s hut a welcoming place. They are Ciaran Hayden, Patrick Brady and Cyril Vickers. They had got some carpet, and well wishers had given them some furniture. They met their friends there, made a cup of tea, and just chatted. Ciaran said it has been going for some years now, they never did any wrong or harm to anyone, and there definitely was never any drugs at any time, in spite of what some adults were saying. He says too, that the Guards knew too that there were no drugs there. He made the point that people of his age group, both boys and girls, have a real need of such places, where they can talk to their friends, and it is somewhere to go. They are too old for the youth club – most are doing Leaving Cert – and neither want, nor can afford, to go to the pub. A game of snooker costs a few pounds, and they feel there is nowhere for them. Modern homes tend to be small and one member of a family is rarely able to bring a gang of his or her pals in for the evening. Just now, they are devastated, and see this as another example of a society that seems to care little about them, and generally suspects them of the worst. At the time that I wrote about the drop-in centres, I mentioned that Irene Murphy and her husband, Brendan, were very anxious to help. If others feel likewise, perhaps they could contact them on 875499.
The Vic Lovings Show
Among a list of good things about Greystones long ago remembered in readers’ letters was Vic Lovings and her travelling Stage Show. For Fairfield Park resident Eric Pollack, it also brought back memories of the days when he was known the length and breadth of Ireland by his stage name, Eric Powell.
He dug among his belongings and came up with this nice picture of the marquee in the Arch Field, surrounded by all the caravans of the players. Eric says that concert-goers from those days will also recall the names of Chic Kay and Frank Macari. In fact, Frank lived in Fairfield Park, but sadly is now dead.
Eric himself in recent years became well-known to all travellers on the ferry, St Patrick. He ran the cinema on board for several years until ill health forced him to retire.
Indulge in more Greystones history here, kids. But only if you’ve got a few hours to spare, of course.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.