Miss Ethel’s characters

‘There were McCann’s breadmen, wearing leather leggings, such as Vincent McLaughlin, Bob White and Sandy Wright.   Wordie’s Float delivered goods to the small shops. ‘  Miss Ethel went on.


The street characters of the time included Margaret Barry, who sang and played the banjo for coppers outside the market gate at Mary Street.  Margaret went abroad where she experienced greater success.  I’m told she made the big time in America.  In any case it is remembered by some that on her return she hired a stretch limousine and asked the driver to halt outside the market where she offered some gratuity and words of encouragement to someone entertaining at her former ‘stand’! 

Kevin McGarry of Laurencetown recalls as a youth being stopped in his village by the occupants of a large, black, highly-emblazoned van, the occupants of which were seeking Margaret Barry’s ancestral home, where they wished to pay homage to a lady who had inspired their success.  They had played the King’s Hall, Belfast the previous night and booked an extra day here for this mission.  The group, a Scottish outfit that is still in huge demand, was called The Waterboys.

There was Alice the Blow, whose real name was McKeown.  The nickname might have come from the noises that would emenate from her as she walked along.  Then again it might have been something to do with vanity.

Alice would take the bus to town with shopping bags galore.  In town she’d pick up ysterday’s newspapers for free and pack them in balls into her many bags.  On her return journey home in the bus, she’d take on the air of a ‘toff’ who’d had a busy day labouring over her many purchases!  Ah, the innocence!

Then there was Biddy Ardee.  Among her many nicknames was ‘Red Legs’ on account of her long red petticoat.  Other characters on High Street of the time included Windy Bum Bum who marched up and down the street like a soldier:  Alice the Blow who wore multiple layers of clothing:  Charlie McDonald (Chillawalla) who played the bagpipes on The Rocks late at night:  Goosie Lundy who wore a butcher’s apron and always carried a basket of meat: Paddy Dillon who limped from an old war-wound and who sang perennials such as Maggie and Jerusalem.  Then there were a duo, Micky and Barney, the first playing a concertina and the second singing along, but neither had a note in their heads.

‘There was more life and noise in my youth despite the absence of traffic.  Drunk men would come singing up the street every night.  One always stopped outside the Convent and with raised head shouted up to the windows,

‘Goodnight, all of you good nuns up there!  God bless you!’

One old nun who was later transferred to Kenmare wrote to me saying she couldn’t sleep at night now, it was so quiet. 

‘I miss my wee man, shouting up every night!’ she said.

Miss Ethel spoke of the construction in the 1930s of the new houses in St Patrick’s Avenue and St Clare’s Avenue, which she said was nicknamed Abyssinia (the Italians were at war there at that time).  The gap between North Street and Water Street was nicknamed The Dardanelles, for the Balkans channel that also was in the news on account of the War.’

More later!

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