Cowan Street: July, pre-War

Janine Masters kindly donated these Old Newry photos today. We upload them immediately because they are so interesting.

Even after divisive murals, graffiti and sectional flag-flying has all but disappeared from most of the district, Cowan Street of today is still frequently bedecked with such flags – including the national flag, the tricolour, which this author considers a grave dishonour to Ireland when it is flaunted to provoke! And provoke it has, with more than one serious sectarian incident following: the Palestinian flag is another; though sympathy with the much-deprived Palestinian people is very understandable, the simple equating of their struggle with that of the Irish does no justice to either.  But I stray off the point!

 We cannot put an exact date on the accompanying photograph, but it is clear that then a much greater percentage of Protestant and unionist people lived in the shadow of St Patrick’s Church. Apparently without rancour, too. 

The handsome lamp standard on the nearside was one of the last of the town’s gas-lamps! The exaggerated road camber was designed to channel water off into the storm-drains (note the ‘grating’, an object sometimes removed in icy winter weather and used as a toboggan to glide down this same hill!).  Beside the street lamp a young mother (or maid; note the apron over her pinafore) with baby in arms waits to cross the road. Three women stand at their door-steps gossiping in the sunshine.  A teenage girl escorts four of her siblings (?) home towards Church Street.  The young boy nearest the road has turned around to watch the horse struggle to pull its cart and passengers up the steep incline.  There is a messenger bike, complete with basketwork pannier outside that woman’s open door:  perhaps the young lad has nipped home quickly for a bite to eat while still ‘on duty’.

Now, let’s look up Cowan Street from the corner of Arthur Street.  The messenger bike’s still there!  Can you see it?  And isn’t that a pile of manure in the foreground?  A prized commodity, deposited by straining animals facing the steep climb!  It will soon be spread on cherished allotments to ‘force’ the growing vegetables!

Almost every home is flying its own Union Flag.  So no community conflict here.  Note that the four teenage boys (two in the centre of the road, one behind them in the gutter and one in the centre of the group on the left – legs apart) are all wearing short trousers.  I recall feeling SO..OO grown up, the first time I graduated to long trousers!

All the adults (except the women at their doors or relaxing on their window-sills) are wearing head-wear.  The man with the cloth-cap (foreground) is strolling home, the newspaper under his oxter!  But perhaps best of all is the guy sitting on the roadside kerb, his feet in the channel of the gutter.  Not a care in the world!  That young pig-tailed girl in the cotton-print dress would be a pensioner by now, if she has survived till now!

Isn’t this all just so RICH?!? 

Further photos in this vein would be most welcome!!

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