OUR TOWN c. 1850 - 2000



The fine red-brick building which houses both premises in these pictures was built in 1896. It replaced two smaller houses, the first of which, in the 1850's, was occupied by William Moore. Described in a contemporary document as a clothes dealer, he was leasing from a William Murphy. He was succeded by William O'Connor, and then Patrick of the same surname. The occupier of the second house was Thomas Young, grocer and spirit dealer, whose immediate lessor was William Clarke.

A week before Christmas 1909, George Mills opened a new drapery establishment here. According to his ad in the Leinster Express, he had a few special lines in ladies' knickers, chems, nights & camisoles and assured us that prices were right. Cash terms will ensure full value. On Census Night 1911, Mr Mills, a native of County Leitrim, his wife Mary Elizabeth and her sister Georgina Boyd, both from the Queen's County, were all present here.

For many years, Kelly's, 'Family Grocer, Confectioner and  Model Bakery' was situated here. On Census Night 1901, John Kelly ("shopkeeper and farmer") and his wife Anne were on the premises, as were their son John (a scholar aged 21), and three daughters, Margaret (25), Lucy (23) and twelve-year-old Ellen. Their five "servants" (cook, confectioner, general labourer, shop assistant and van driver) and a baker's apprentice, are an indication of just how substantial was their business. Ten years later, Mrs Kelly, now a widow, was still here with four adult children ('assistants') and four servants.

After being occupied by an ESB office in the late 1920's and 30's, the building was reconstructed and, in 1947, Miss Kathleen Cussen from Mountrath set up a ladies hairdressing salon in the premises on the left. Despite the relatively recent timescale, there was disagreement among my informants as to where exactly she plied her trade. On the second floor above the betting office? On the ground floor in what eventually housed the Building Society? Upstairs, but extending over both businesses below? You are all probably too young to have ever put your head in her hands, but if you know anything about Miss Cussen's salon, I'd love to hear from you. Anyway, Richard Power's Betting office (Telegrams: 'Hockey', Maryborough), here since the 1930's, eventually became part of the Paddy Power chain of outlets which was formed in 1988 by the merger of three existing Irish bookmakers.

From the early 2000's, Campion Sparrow Insurances were located here, succeeded by periods of being vacant, and then Wired Internet Cafe. In subsequent years, the premises served as a advertising display for the Store Yard, (Architectural Salvage & Antiques, situated in Kea-Lew Business Park) until Christmas 2017 when la Lola, a tapas and pintxos restaurant opened here. The international flavour was continued when it was replaced by Akayu sushi & noodle bar in August 2019.


Kelly's had a farm out the Borris Road and many people recalled how, until the mid 1950's, Jim Muldoon used to drive cows from the farm up the Main Street to be milked in the farmyard which, like the bakery, was accessed through a gate behind the hotel in Railway Street. I'm still wondering why the cows weren't milked on the farm and the milk brought into town, but there you are!

As well as their cowman, Jim Muldoon was also Kelly's breadman, and a familiar sight around the town with his ass-and-cart laden with baskets of standard, wholewheat, Bermaline and Vienna Bread. In 1910, incidentally, Kellys - in what might be described as a burst of gastronomic patriotism? - proudly proclaimed: No Foreign Fats Used.

Premises on the right: Bradury's, originally located just across the street at the corner of Lyster's Lane, moved here in the mid-1970's. Their new shop also accomodated a deli and café. The bread and confectionery were baked in Athy - the firm is still in business there today - and delivered each morning to Portlaoise. May Delaney, who worked here for many years was, incidentally, the sister of Eddie Boylan, and her husband Tony owned a pub (Andy Bergin's today) on the other side of Main Street. Bradbury's - once dubbed 'The Bewleys of Portlaoise' - closed in 1985.

2006 saw the arrival of Heartbeat City music shop, followed by Black Jack Clothing and Friction Clothing. The premises were vacant from 2013 until December 2014 when Property Properly - Propertry Sales, Letting & Management - opened an office here.