nitially, Gord Newel got in touch to correct a caption on his family’s old hotel in our Delgany archives, but the mention of an early 20th century diary by a young girl who lived there had us intrigued.
Entitled Happenings In Delgany, and covering the years from 1900 to 1914, Lucy Mary Dann Blomfield – half-sister to Gord’s grandfather – wanted to put down on paper all that she remembered about those childhood years.
At the time, her parents, Walter Atkin Newel (Gord’s grandfather) and Annie Newel (nee Keegan), ran the hotel, the young Lucy happiest, she says, when hanging out with the maids, in the big kitchen, where the coachmen would gather while their horses rested. Pointing out that Irish servants ‘are usually very loyal’, Lucy was delighted that one high-spirited woman by the name of Maggie Gormley never liked being scolded by the strict lady of the house, responding regularly with the line, “I don’t give a rip!“.
Lucy waxes lyrical about the garden at the back of the hotel, the scent of the flowers, the vegetable patch, the fruit trees, and trying to ride her mother’s stubborn little donkey around by the summer house, and forever being turfed off.
There are colourful characters aplenty, including parlor maid Mary Bradshaw, donkey & trap taxi driver and supercook, washerwoman Mrs Doyle up in the Glen (doing the laundry for the hotel with a little help from a local stream), Mad Jack over in Dromin (encouraged to kiss-chase Lucy by the scurrilous Young brothers), Dr Archer and his La Touche heiress wife abandoning the decaying Bellevue House and taking refuge in the village (staying financially afloat by turning some of their grounds into a golf course), and fainting women and children who often found the 8-mile round-trip walk to Sunday mass up at the Carmelite church a little too much, especially during the Easter fast.
Then there was the ‘swanky weekend’ spent at Ned Doyle’s fancy Dublin abode, their former bachelor neighbour with hardly a penny to rub together having become surprisingly wealthy, and The Most Unforgettable Character that Lucy ever did meet – Johnny Lawless. His parents ran the public house, hotel and grocery establishment up the road from Lucy – now The Horse & Hound – and when they passed, their younger son, Tommy [right, years later], took over the business, whilst Johnny took to wandering the hills, having been, it seems, devastated when the love of his life left him for a wealthier man. Some in the town regarded the nomadic Johnny as ‘a disgrace’, but Lucy was fascinated, especially by the man’s fixation with sheep. Johnny told the young girl that, to him, ‘the sheep seemed human, and he never felt lonely when with them‘.
There was tragedy too, such as Mrs Donegan drowning herself ‘among the watercresses in a lovely little brook with a stone bridge‘ (most likely The Glebe) after her only daughter died of peritonitis. Or Major Wellesley’s son blowing himself up as he cleaned out a supposedly dud World War 1 bomb in the family garage.
Oh, and given that this little girl’s little village was seen as the big cheese in the area at the time, Lucy points out that ‘Greystones was not nearly so pretty or comfortable a place to live in as Delgany’. How times haven’t changed.
So, thanking you, young Gord, for this incredible find. We’ve reproduced below all 12 pages of this fascinating account of life in Delgany village over 100 years ago…
And here’s a newspaper cutting from March 12th 1926, announcing the sale of Newell’s [sic] Hotel…