OUR TOWN C. 1850-2000


Thomas Delaney lived here in the 1850's - he also owned the lease of the next house - and was succeeded in the next decade by publicans and shopkeepers William, Michael, and Anne Bowe1. In 1894, the Berlin Woollen Company was also located here. Berlin wool work was a style of embroidery similar to modern needlepoint, usually done with wool yarn on canvas. It was so-called because the company that invented the pattern sheets was based in Berlin. I presume that 'our' outlet - housed, I suspect, in another part of the premises, possibly the second floor - sold the wool and patterns for the work which is, incidentally, highly collectible today.

The building was reconstructed circa 1889 and what we see today is, in the words of the Architectural Survey (which draws particular attention to the raised quoins and moulded window architraves) "an important constituent element of Portlaoise's late nineteenth-century architectural history".

But back to the Bowe family. On Census Night 1901, the widowed Anne was present here with her school-going niece, Alice Byrne, and Maggie Fennell, a general domestic servant. Ten years later, the only change was that Lizzie Keenan had replaced the latter. Anne Bowe died in 1914 and the business was acquired by William Carroll. After his death in 1921, the licensed premises were advertised for sale2: ....most commodious, having a frontage of 30 feet facing the Main Street, and 93 feet in depth facing Bull Lane. The shop has recently been perfectly done up, having new plate glass windows fitted, and the entire premises are in splendid repair and most modernly built.

The business was bought by the Finlay family from Ballycuddy, Ballacolla. Brothers, Jack and Tom, played on the All-Ireland-winning Laois hurling team of 1915. This is the only Senior All-Ireland won by Laois and was, in fact, captained by Jack Finlay. He was elected TD for the Leix-Offaly Constituency in 1933 and again four years later, but lost his seat in 19383. The public house here was run by two of his sisters.

According to the Cancellation Books, the next occupier was Michael Bergin, succeeded by Stella and then, Peter Kelly. In the 1950's and '60's, the pub here (Personal attention to all orders. Our object is to satisfy) was owned by the Kelly/Bergin family. The name over the door said M. F. Bergin but, most recently, it was run by Peter Kelly (who later had a pub in Parkgate Street, Dublin). In the 1970's and 80's, Mick Bowen was the landlord and his establishment (Personal Service. Sandwiches all Day) was, in the memory of men I've interviewed, a mecca for Darts enthusiasts. P. J. Brennan's travel agency was here next - he later moved to Lyster Square - and the premises remained vacant for years after the auctioneers moved further down the street in 2012. In May 2015, Dunamase (sic), an elegant antiques and curios shop, opened here. In 2023 it relocated across Bull Lane to No.61.


1 Thus named in the Cancellation Books, but Slater's Directory of 1870 and the printed online census returns have 'Bowes'.

2 The Nationalist and Leinster Times. January 23, 1922.

3 His grandson John, from Ballycuddy, was an unsuccessful Fine Gael candidate - for the Borris-in-Ossory-Mountmellick electoral area - in the May 2014 County Council elections.