OUR TOWN c. 1850 - 2000


If your hair is long and woolly,
Just drop into Rocky Scully.
We do our work well, you may be quite sure,
We are always found ready for action,
It makes no difference if you are rich or poor,
You all get the same satisfaction....

This little jingle (written, I hope, by someone more adept with the scissors than the pen) gives no idea of the social importance of what was one of the town's great institutions: talking shop, gossip centre, sports and political forum, etc. etc. etc. But Roch 'Rocky' Scully did more than just talk about sport; as a young man, he, so to speak, put his hurley and his boot where his mouth was. Many of the people I spoke to recalled his skill as a hurler and footballer and, without exception, mentioned what a great loss this great character, 'a pure gentleman', was to the town.

The shop remained vacant for some time and was eventually acquired by John Egan next door who opened a Juice Bar here (Sandwiches, paninis, wraps, bagels). This was succeeded by Egan's short-lived Hamper Haven and today (since August 2014), the premises are occupied by Cally's Barbers.

The family business began in the 1920's when Rocky's father, Paddy, welcomed the first customer to his 'Antiseptol Hairdressing Salon'. (We specialise in sharpening scissors) and continued until the former's death in October 2004. For years, I could never pass the door without thinking of the Beatles' line about the "barber showing photographs / of every head he's had the pleasure to know".

In 1850, the premises were occupied by Mrs Margaret Brandon, mother of harness-maker Stephen who we've already met back up the street. She was leasing from Henry Francis Seymour Moore, officially known as the Marquis of Drogheda. He resided at Moore Abbey, Monasterevin and, as well as his great interest in horse-racing and coursing, carried out extensive improvements to both his residence and the town. He died in 1892. One of his ancestors, Charles Moore, was Governor of Maryborough in the previous century, and in a remarkable document found among his papers - now in the National Library - there's a list of about 400 voters in the town and notes on who they were likely to support. Would even the most scurrilous tabloid today name names and get away with stuff like: "Will serve whoever gives him most money", "He is so bad a man there can be no dependence on him"?

In 1925, Moore Abbey was leased by the famous tenor John McCormack. It was here that certain scenes from his film with Maureen O’Sullivan, Song O’ My Heart - according to some historians, the first ‘talkie’ to be made in Ireland - were shot. He and his family lived in Moore Abbey for twelve years and it was subsequently acquired by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. Today it is a residential centre for people with special needs.

The house in the picture above was built circa 1880 and, according to Eddie Boylan's notebooks, a Mrs Lowe once lived here. In the first decades of the 20th century, it was a delph, stationery and newspaper shop run by sisters Margaret and Ellen Fitzpatrick. A Seasonal Shopping Guide from 1901 advised that "those who wish to supply themselves with Christmas reading could not do better than pay a visit to the establishment of the Misses Fitzpatrick next the Post Office".

In 1925, incidentally, after treating yourself to a cut, flatcomb and tonic from Paddy Scully, you could also have your teeth looked after by visiting dentist, Mr Lionel Wigoder. I'm sure that was a less painful procedure that those carried out in medieval times when barbers also performed surgery and bloodletting. Hence the barber's pole which represents bloody bandages wrapped around the pole grasped by patients to encourage blood flow. Finally, a short Public Service Announcement. If you happen to find yourself in South Korea, be warned: The barber's pole can also signify a brothel.

In 2010, John Egan (see next page) opened a Juice Bar here and, over Christmas 2013, replaced this with a short-lived Hamper Haven. The premises were then vacant for some months until August 2014 when, coming full circle, they became Cally's Barber's shop. Which was replaced by the Midtown Bar in 2016 and it, in turn, by Studio 26, a hairdressing salon, in 2020.