OUR TOWN C. 1850-2000

BULL LANE

The name Bull Lane doesn't appear in Griffith's Valuation or on any official map until the early 20th century. The County Council seems to think the name alludes to the animal - Lána an Tairbh, the lane of the bull - when, in fact, it refers to the Bull family who, as previously mentioned, once owned a farm at the end of this lane.

The Bull family of Rockview - on the Mountrath Road - were prominent people in Maryborough. In A Handlist of the Voters of Maryborough 1760, for instance, a Bartholomew Bull is described in less than complimentary terms (Under no other influence but money) and, as we've already seen, a Mrs Jane Bull was a bookseller and library owner in the 1840's.

Richard Bull was Sub Sheriff of the County (1896), Returning Officer, and Chairman of the local branch of the Red Cross Society. Bob Dylan once wrote that to live outside the law you must be honest. And those who lived inside the law? As reported in The Irish Times of June 16, 1914, Sub Sheriff Bull was prosecuted for 'failure to pay the licence duty and deliver a declaration for the year 1914 in respect of a motor car kept by him'. But it was another Bull who - so to speak - personified his surname. On April 16 1815, at Ballyhack, County Wexford, the marriage took place between Miss Charlotte Grandy of Duncannon and the avaricious - see above - Mr Bartholomew Bull of Maryborough. The blushing bride was eighteen; the bould Bartle seventy-five and his fourth time to tie the proverbial knot1.

In 1850, only two buildings stood on what was then listed as part of Main Street: one was William Connor's house; the other a forge run by Michael Lalor. The immediate lessor of both was the previously-discussed hotelier John McEvoy. On Census Night 1901, there was just one family- blacksmith Joseph Dunne, his wife Katie, sons Michael (see entry for No. 93 Main Street), William, John and Arthur (all scholars); and daughters Annie, a schoolteacher, Julia and Katie, both drapers assistants, and Lillie, a scholar. Michael Dunne continued his father's line of work well into living memory.

The Dunne family was still here in 1911, but a major addition to the lane was Kellyville House, the new home of hotelier Patrick Kelly2. Unlike most houses in the town, this fine red-brick residence boasted, among its numerous outhouses or 'offices', a 'motor house'. (In 1911, there were 48 cars and 44 motorcycles registered for the Queen's County). Patrick Kelly's son, Thomas, later sold Kellyville House to the Kelly-Bergin family (whose Bottling and Mineral Water Company adjoined the site). In the 1980's, Mrs Brid Fingleton had a Montessori School here. The house was subsequently demolished by the Mulhall family to make way for their Kellyville Shopping Centre.

In the 20th century, Bull Lane was sometimes called Coliseum Lane, after the old Coliseum cinema3 which stood where Xtravision is today. One of my informants recalled that when the cinema was being built in 1935, workers came upon a spring so powerful that electric pumps had to be permanently installed to deal with the force of the water. The story goes that it was this spring, via a channel down what is today Main Street, that supplied the town's original 16th century fort with water.

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1 The happy occasion was reported in Finn's Leinster Journal of May 2, 1815.

2 He had bought part of Bull's farm and on it (1911-12), built Kellyville (aka Kellyville Park), a commercial venture of ten houses. The remainder of the farm became the Maryborough Cricket and Hockey field on which County Hall and part of James Fintan Lalor Avenue stand today.

3 The first film shown in 'the Col' (September 18, 1936) was Captain Blood starring the swashbuckling Errol Flynn and advertised as "a picture to stir the blood whether you happen to be a man, a boy, or a girl". Mature women were obviously deemed immune to any haematic excitations! [It's interesting to note that, in the next decade, the town had a thriving Film Society which, in 1945, published the only independent magazine in the country dealing exclusively with film and film-makers]. Because of its large stage, the cinema was also a popular venue for live entertainment. In the early 1950's, for instance, a performance by the Black Jesters, a sort of Minstrel show, was a great success (and, in retrospect, a great example of how times have changed). Can you imagine how performers in blackface makeup would go down today?

In the early 1970's, the cinema was rebranded as the Coliseum Film Theatre. It seldom presented live shows, but on Monday, July 1st 1974, I was surprised and thrilled to find myself at a great concert by progressive rock band, Fruupp. Pyramid - from Mountmellick - was the support act, and admission was 80p, the same price as three pints of Guinness. The next time I saw Pyramid was more than a decade later in St Mary's Hall during Meitheal na Samhna, the first Laois Arts Festival.

In 1985, the cinema was destroyed by fire - in March, 1987, Circuit Court judge Kevin O'Higgins ruled that the fire was malicious - and reopened two years later as Coliseum Twin Cinema. After a showing of Road Trip - which I've seen described as a "raunchy comedy" - it finally closed its doors on Thursday November 30th, 2000.

HOMEPAGE