OUR TOWN c. 1850 - 2000


The Wine Vault Off-Licence, owned by Grellan Delaney, was once a separate shop. From at least 1837, Peter Hinds1 was here as a grocer, earthenware dealer, and seedsman. Until his death in 1903, aged eighty-eight, he lived in Church Street. On a map of Eyre Coote’s estate (available for inspection in the library's Local History section in County Hall), he is named as owner of the site where the original fort of Maryborough once stood.

Peter Hinds was succeeded by Francis Coyle and he in turn, in the 1880's, by the unusually-named butcher and cattle dealer Patrick Obins. [In 1901, only three people in the entire country shared the name]. Mr Obins died in April 1898 following a fall from a horse-and-cart at Sheffield Cross. For the best part of a century, he was succeeded here by various members of the Tynan family. In 1901, brothers Edward and Michael were both victuallers, and, on census Night, the household also included their cousin Nannie Deegan, a shop assistant, and Daniel Costigan from Kilkenny, an assistant butcher. The family's entry on the online 1911 Census Form is an example of official carelessness. Not only is Esther renamed Easter, but the family has become Lynan. The proper surname is clearly visible on the manuscript entry where we find siblings Peter, John, Maggie and Esther Tynan. The two brothers were butchers, (as was Peter Lalor who is listed as a servant).

In later years, John Tynan operated a hackney service. In the 1960's Onorio and Mary Matassa had a café here (The Savoy) and after they left, the Tynan family took over the business. In the late '70's, and for much of the 1980's, Antonio Cavaliere's Peppermill Restaurant - For the first time in Portlaoise an exciting new Continental menu. 1982: Four-course Christmas Lunch Menu: £4.95 - was the place to go for the would-be and self-styled gourmets of the town. The Cavaliere family subsequently opened the celebrated Ristorante Rinuccini opposite the castle in Kilkenny.

The Wine Vault closed down in 2012 and the premises remained vacant until Christmas 2017 when a new bar opened here. The name over the door? Shelly's.


I have a strong family connection with what is today Grellan Delaney's public house. In 1850, it was the home of Mrs Jane Claxton2, then John and Elizabeth Kelly, but from at least 1869, my paternal great grandfather Finton (or Fenton) Dunne. Born in Derrygarron - out the Borris Road - he lived (and ran a Family Grocer, Wine and Spirit business) here. My grandmother and all her eight siblings were born in this house. One of them, my great-aunt Mary Ann, in her eighties, lived with us when I was a child and I have warm memories of her sitting in her favourite chair, clutching a rosary beads and singing - no, not any hymn to Mary - but

God save Ireland, said the heroes
God save Ireland, said they all
Whether on the scaffold high
Or the battlefield we die
Oh, what matter when for Erin dear we fall.3

In 1884 (? The Cancellation Book entry is unclear), Tipperary native Denis Michael Shelly bought the property and, for the best part of a century, the name D. M. Shelly remained over the door. In January 1898, he placed an ad in The Freeman's Journal seeking a young country girl for general housework. Among other attributes, she had to be 'a good plain cook and laundress, an early riser, and of agreeable disposition'. I wonder was she the Mary Lalor who appears on the 1901 Census Form as a servant? Also in the house on March 31, 19014, were Mr Shelly, his wife Elizabeth (from King's County), and their two sons and three daughters, all listed as scholars. A decade later, only one son, Edward J. (shop assistant), and one daughter Susan Mary (assistant housekeeper) were still living at home.

In later years, the business was run by Edward J. universally known as Ned or - by us young lads at least - 'Dogman'. Given his nickname and the fact that the pub was called The Hare and Hound you won't be surprised to learn that he had a passion for greyhounds and coursing. He attended his first Waterloo Cup Meeting in 1906, a pilgrimage he continued for nearly sixty years. In February 1960, the Daily Mail described him as 'a white-bearded leprechaun of a man', a description familiar to those of us who remember him out walking multiple greyhounds. Newspapers obviously considered Ned Shelly an interesting character. In November 1964 a picture appeared in the Nationalist of him standing by his tombstone on which his name was already carved. "Now all that needs to be done," he is quoted as saying, "is put on the date of my death." [He died in July 1973, aged ninety]. What the newspaper didn't mention was the persistent rumour amongst us youngsters that he kept his coffin under his bed!

In September 1954, incidentally, the Leinster Express wrote about Shelly's remarkable grandfather clock (actually bought from Mr J. D. Rowe in Church Street by my great-granduncle and namesake in 1868) which had kept time for eight-six years without losing a single minute. The same article recalled that, in the days when when most shop windows had very small panes, many made of bottle glass, Shelly's was the first premises in the town to be fitted with large panes. Throughout the family's tenure here, only one front window - smashed by a runaway bullock - ever had to be replaced.

Shelly's also operated a Turf Accounting business - a Betting Office - at the rere of these premises. The story goes that the wife of one of the town's bank managers, a rather snooty, unpopular lady with a strong weakness for the gee gees, approached one of the local lads emerging from The Hare and Hound:
"Who won the two-thirty at Haydock?"
"Ask me bollocks!"
"Who came second and third?"

Four of Ned and Margaret Shelly's five daughters became nuns and one of their two sons joined the priesthood. The exception was Antoine who ran the business until his death only four years after his father. In the late 1970's, the pub was owned by Kevin Fitzpatrick (also owner of Laois Motors on the Dublin Road), then Mrs Breda Delaney (and, currently, her son Grellan). 'Grellans' became a very popular music venue, boasting 'The Outback' and 'Bar Habana', and in May 2014, the Delaneys celebrated thirty years in business here: Lots of prizes up for grabs... Garth Brooks tickets, Electric Picnic tickets, Irish Open tickets and many more....

Upstairs - where I sometimes imagine my grandmother and her siblings eating at a crowded table - there has been a variety of restaurants: Anapamu (A world eating experience that doesn't cost the earth), The Lemon Tree, and Relish where, in April 2014, you could enjoy a three-course Earlybird for €23.00 and 50% off all food from 6pm every Monday! Relish closed down in 2017 and, within months, was replaced by another restaurant, Bloom.


1 Uncle of the eminent centenarian Griff Hinds discussed in the entry for No. 42, Main Street.

2 In the mid-nineteenth century this surname was prevalent in the Colt/Corbally area; so much so that there was a John Claxton (Little) and John Claxton (Big).

3 The song was appropriated by Irish supporters during the Italia 90 campaign. We're all part of Jackie's Army....

4 In that year too, The Nationalist reported that the 'handsome bar of Treacy Bros opposite the courthouse is very well patronised'. Surely they meant Shelly's?