OUR TOWN c. 1850 - 2000


Three occupants are listed here in the 1850's and '60's- John O'Brien, William Hogan and James Higgins. In the 1870's, the building was acquired by the aforementioned Walsh family as their private residence. In 1901, John, a baker, his wife Mary and their two children, Patrick and Joseph - a baker and scholar respectively - were living here. Also present on Census Night was John's teenage niece Margaret, described as 'assistant housekeeper'. She eventually married John Conroy who we already met in the Market Square and who we'll meet again further down Main Street. In 1911, John and Mary were still living there. Joseph was now also a baker, upholding a family tradition that extended well into living memory. Almost everyone I spoke to, incidentally, remembered his nephew John 'Jack' Walsh of Grattan Street delivering bread around the town.

Browne's Jewellers was originally established in the early 1960's by Gerry's father D. J., popularly known as Des. It occupied premises - Than Loi today - further down the street. As well as his jeweller's eye for detail, Gerry was also adept at keeping his eye on the ball: He and his brother Colm were members of the Laois team that won the 1986 National Football League final. Colm, in fact, captained the team and also won an All-Star award for his performances that year. The names of Colm and Gerry Browne appear regularly in any discussion of the greatest Laois footballers of the past fifty years

The man in charge of the Trophy Centre at the rere of the shop is Gerry's father-in-law Alfie Lewis, who, way back in 1967, led the Town Senior Footballers to victory in the County Final. Almost a decade earlier, this formidable centre-back had played in the controversial 1958 final where his exploits were celebrated in A Tribute to the Portlaoise Footballers by local man Tommy Flynn:

"My first respects to Alfie Lewis, the captain of them all,
As fine and game a sportsman as ever kicked a ball."

Alfie Lewis, one of the town's great personalities, passed away on Saturday, May 31, 2014. May he Rest in Peace.