This article is the result of my preliminary research and, as such, makes no claim to being exhaustive. Any corrections, additions etc. would be most welcome.
As is evident from the Local Musicians pages of this website, there is today no shortage of recorded music by local singers and musicians. But throughout the first half of the last century, one family in particular was responsible for keeping our town on the musical map.
So high did the flames arise in the now dark sky that they were seen for miles in the country.... Hundreds, and amongst them some of the most respectable inhabitants, vied with each other in seeing who would carry most water.... One of the greatest dangers that ever threatened the town of Maryborough was overcome and conquered.
That is how The Freeman's Journal1 reported the response to the fire that, one summer's evening in 1870, raged through the rere of Phelan's Grocery, Public House and Hardware premises at No. 74, Main Street. It destroyed large quantities of hay and turf and threatened to spread along the street.
The paper went on to mention that a next-door neighbour particularly distinguished himself: when the fire was at its very height, he jumped upon an outhouse next the flaming straw, the thatch was quickly torn from the roof, Mr Bannon [sic] was in evident danger, smashing through the rafters and woodwork, and so cutting off communication from that end.
In the 1880's, the same Tobias Bannan acquired this business, No. 16 Market Square. On the night of the 1901 census, he was here with his wife Maria and their four sons. The modest description on that Census Form (Carpenter, Shopkeeper) understates his many activities: he was also an undertaker, water diviner, a sinker of wells, a borer of pumps, a blender and bottler of whiskey. He also found time to erect a calvary in the local cemetery and build the crib which, for many years, adorned the parish church at Christmastime.
Tobias Bannan died in April 1915 and the business was continued by his son George (1890-1944) whose versatility - as is evident from his newspaper advertisement - matched his late father's: Undertaker, Building Contractor and General merchant. Wood and Metal Pumps supplied. Saw Mills, All sorts of Joinery, Plumbing of all descriptions.
In 1950, the business was bought by brothers Peter and Charlie Keegan, and the Bannan family moved next door (No. 17). In 1956, Charlie opened his own pub in Lower Main Street - it still bears his name today - and Peter continued to trade here as Publican and Undertaker until he was succeeded by his son Matthew. Since 2008, the site of Nos. 16 and 17 has been occupied by Coppers Nightclub.
1 August 2, 1870