Friday, June 16, 2017

Firing up memories

The Kilcullen fire of 1900 brings to mind so many Kilcullen old family names which includes my grandfather John Collins from the Mill who was then aged 48, writes Jim Collins.

I think the building that burned, afterwards became Kelly’s Forge and was later rebuilt as a residence. Amby and Bea Brophy lived there in the 1950s, beside McTernan’s Bar.

I can remember and was told of many fires in Kilcullen between 1900 and the 1960s. Starting with the late Tom Byrne telling of the big fire on the site of the now Town Hall, where a family he referred to as the 'Protestant' Doyles lived. There were two fires in Dillons/Berneys Bar and Grocery, and a fire in Jim Kelly the tailor's house beside McTernans. There was also a big fire in the main 'Dublin House' building owned by Brennans in Lower Main Street, which was then a Drapery and Grocery shop.

In the early 1950s a fire burned the Mile Mill Bar and Grocery. And many people remember the fire in the 1960s, late one Saturday evening, that destroyed the Bar and Grocery formerly operated by the Misses Byrne on Main Street. This led to Tom Byrne building and opening the first successful Supermarket outside Dublin on the site.

ED NOTE: Indeed, I do remember the fire that destroyed my great-aunts' ('The Misses Byrne') premises. It was a typical family business home of the time, with a grocery in front and a bar in the back, all of the style that pertained through the 30s, 40s and 50s. The living area was side-along to the business side, with a large kitchen at the back that had a glass skylight. During that fire I joined lots of people running in and out, helping to rescue stock and whatever we could of the aunts' remaining 'treasures' (both were already deceased, Nora in 1958 and Peg in 1960). The melting lead from a roof gutter destroyed the jacket I was wearing at the time. When it was all over, I shared a bottle of whiskey I had rescued from the bar with the firemen, in the swimming in water kitchen.