OUR TOWN c. 1850 - 2000


Originally two separate houses. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, the one on your left had a fairly rapid turnover of occupants: Elizabeth Langton, Michael Whelan, Pierce Manning (1860's), Margaret Haslam (1870's) and James Farrell. Elizabeth Langton was probably the Eliza Langton who, in the 1830's and '40's, was a shopkeeper in the town and possibly related to Denis Langton, a publican listed in a directory from 1824.

In the early 1900's, William Grant, a retired asylum attendant, was living here with his wife Mary, a seamstress, and their four children: Ellen, also a seamstress; Annie, Mary Agnes and John, all scholars. Listed on the 1901 Census are three boarders: James and Nicholas Harding, both blacksmiths from County Kilkenny, and James Crowe, a tailor from Tipperary. Ten years later, Ellen is listed as a dressmaker; Annie a schoolteacher; John a carpenter, and Mary Agnes still a scholar. This time there were just two boarders- Christopher Dooley, a blacksmith from Dublin City, and James Donnolly, a carpenter from County Meath.

The Grant family were Newsagents, Tobacconists, and Fancy Goods Merchants here for many years (John 'Jack' Grant was remembered by almost everyone I spoke to) and, until it finally closed in the late 1970's, the business was run by his cousin Kate McEvoy and her friend, Mary Mulhall.

[Winter 1962. On a magazine rack in Grant's, I saw my first-ever picture of The Beatles. I remember envying their 'long' hair and thinking that it made them look like four brothers. But, most of all, I remember gazing at John Lennon and George Harrison's guitars. Years later, I learned that they were Gibson J-160E's. My first guitar was a small sunburst Egmond and, as I discovered recently, the exact same model - the cheapest in our range - as the first one George Harrison ever owned. I've seen his on display at the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool. According to Beatles' lore, it is worth an estimated $800,000) while mine, I imagine, has long since gone back to nature. But listen, what's that...? The wind.... the wind whistling through a landfill somewhere, my strings still searching for that lost chord....1)]

In the 1930's, the second house was acquired by the Grant family and, in later years, the above-mentioned Kate McEvoy lived there. Eighty years previously, it was the private residence of John Byrne, succeeded by Thomas Kavanagh (1861), William Mullen (1872), Mary Farrell (1882) and Edward Loughan (1892). In 1901, the latter's wife Kate, a clothes dealer, was living here with her daughter Mary Ann, a shop assistant, and sons Edward Francis, a clerk, and Martin a scholar. Initially, I thought that Edward's absence on Census Night was probably explained by Eddie Boylan where he writes2 that "the father was in the British army". I had the notion - inspired by childhood adventure stories still lurking in my head? - that soldier Loughan was off fighting in the Boer War, but, given that he was 51 in 1901, now I'm not so sure.

From the small village of Colle San Magno about 110 km from Rome, Nino Ciamberlano originally came to Ireland in 1969. After some years working for the Macari family in Dublin, he and his wife Stella opened their own shop in Oldcastle, Co. Meath in 1976. The following year, they moved to Mountmellick and, in July 1982, opened the above business. Over the years, Nino's became one of the town's landmarks and, after he retired in 2004, he leased the premises to Francesco and Gabriella Caperna (sister of Dino Forte, owner of the Golden Grill in Lower Main Street.) Nino and Stella had four daughters, Rosaria, Claudia, Silvia and Cristina. Claudia is married to Christy Bannon, the well-known local cycling enthusiast and man of many parts - Buttons, Captain Colombo, Montgomery Marmaduke, half of Hale & Hearty - with the town's Pantomime Group.


1 My Egmond's only public performance was a nervous stab at Elvis Presley's Wooden Heart at a Talent Contest in St Mary's Hall. Thanks for asking, but no, I didn't. Not even Highly Recommended.

2 In one of his unpublished notebooks in Laois County Library Headquarters, Portlaoise.