OUR TOWN C. 1850-2000


This lane once led to a slaughterhouse where, sometime in the early 1960's, I witnessed my first and, thankfully, only, killing of an animal. It's strange, but what I remember most is the thickness of the rope that held the beast. Amateur Freudians among you will discern all sorts of symbolism there... And when I tell you that that the small building was once, apparently, a Penal Mass House - the ecclesiastical windows are still visible from the rear of de Brún's public house - you'll have a psychoanalytic field day.... :-)

The advertised services were available through the door on the right and up the stairs. Over the years, the premises housed a wide variety of enterprises. In the 1930's, for instance, Mary Byrne's (the late Mrs Mary Dunne, New Road, mother of local journalist, Seamus) dress-making business. In 1969, the newly-formed Portlaoise Credit Union1: in the '70's, an insurance company and Thomas Coughlan Construction; in the next decade, the Folio Press, Printers and Publishers and, most memorably of all, Midland Community Radio (Broadcasting on 260 metres (sic) to the heart of Ireland. A varied and interesting selection of programmes from 7 am to 1 pm). I have vivid memories of carting armfuls of vinyl up the stairs where DJ extraordinaire Fergal Carroll and I produced programmes that were certainly varied and, to us at any rate, interesting! Somewhere in this room I'm typing in, unplayed for a quarter of a century, are cassette tapes of those enthusiastic broadcasts. I'm going searching for them now....2


1 In 1972, the Credit Union moved to new premises - a house owned by Odlums's Mill and long-since demolished - in Church Avenue. Subsequent locations included the New Road (office opened in 1981), Lyster Square (1986) and, since 2002, the present imposing building on James Fintan Lalor Avenue.

2 Found them! At the risk of boring all but the most ardent of music archaeologists, these are the first three tracks I played on August 7, 1987:
Roy Harper, How Does It Feel?
Richard & Linda Thompson, Back Street Slide
Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Mendocino