During my all too brief visit to Newry in 2005 I had an even briefer visit to Edward Street.
It has to be said that the appearance of the street shocked and dismayed me! And I’d think it fair to say that a bit of tender loving care would not go amiss.
Naturally I compared it to the place of my childhood. A mistake? Probably.
In spite of that however, I occasionally dust off my memory box and enjoy a wee dander there.
Our house was situated facing south and three or four doors from St. Joseph’s, the Convent School of the Sisters of Mercy. Our back garden was surrounded by the ivy clad Convent wall and in those days it seemed to me that the wall reached the sky. It has shrunk since then of course!
Edward Street Newry
My earliest memory of the garden is of waking each morning early and hearing the cooing and cawing of the rooks, doves and pigeons that nested in and fed off the ivy. I loved those sounds and to this day I’m happy to say I am still surrounded by trees and ivy and lots of birds.
My earliest days at school, at the age of three, were spent at the aforementioned St. Joseph’s. Not a happy time! During recreation I’d make my escape and run for home. So my mother solved the problem by wrapping me up and bundling me off to St. Clare’s at the other side of town. And there I stayed!
Next door to our house lived the two Misses Wallace. They had a ‘sweet’ shop at the top of Catherine Street. Almost on the corner of Edward Street. As I recall, one sister managed the shop and the other the house. She of the shop was quite stern and did not suffer children gladly! She of the house seemed, to me at least, to be more kindly and tolerant of childish escapades.
Next door to them was O’Hare’s. A fine family of several boys and girls. The names I can recall are Jim, Edward and Kathleen and possibly there was a Mary. The son of one of those boys went on to dance ballet at the Royal Ballet School, London.
Further on along the street was the school and beyond that, Corr’s shop from where I carried milk in a jug brought from home. The milk was always creamy and warm. Almost straight from Corr’s cows!
To the east of our house lived several families. I remember Gallaghers. They were Jim, Aidan, Peggy and Dolores. Maybe others that I’ve forgotten. Peggy later became Mrs. Sloane.
There was Lavery’s. They were builders by trade.
There was Florence McNulty. She of the Newry music scene. And many others whose names now escape me.
Further down towards the canal and just on the corner there was a store. Can’t remember exactly what kind of store but they sold ropes. Could have been a corn or ship’s chandler. From that store I could buy a length of rope for skipping and a longer length to make a swing by flinging it over the gas lamp-post that stood like a friendly sentinel outside our front door.
A few doors along on the Quay lived our very good friends the McKay family. Tommy and my Dad worked together for a time in the Milestone – Quinn’s Grocery and Bar. Mrs. McKay and my mother were friends and so I grew up knowing Tom, Anthony, Benny and later, Marie McKay.
Back into Edward Street again and there was Robinson’s Egg Store where I’d stand fascinated, watching the eggs being graded. Each egg would drop onto a small platform and gradually work its way on to a conveyor belt. Inevitably there would be cracked eggs and the residents of the street would buy these cheaply to make scrambled eggs or bake cakes. No fear of salmonella in those days!
A door or two along lived the Carlin family. Michael and Minnie Carlin with their very fine family of seven children. Joe was the eldest whose son owned Carlin’s Record Shop in Hill Street and then came Michael. Mary, Des and Nan, who was later to become Sr. Hyacinth, Head Nun at St. Clare’s Convent, now retired. Lillian, recently deceased, who was married to Peter Connolly of Connolly’s Shoes, Hill Street and the youngest of the brood, Tommy. I have so many happy memories associated with that family and always appreciated their friendship.
And it’s at this special time of year that childhood memories come flooding back.
The many Christmases spent in Edward Street. Counting the days to Christmas Eve. Midnight Mass at the Cathedral. The excitement of Christmas morning on finding what Father Christmas had left at the foot of the bed. And the long walk on Boxing Day!
Edward Street to the Cathedral to view again the Nativity scene with the Crib now occupied by baby Jesus. The Cathedral to Cloughogue Chapel to see the Crib there and down the hill again to the Dominican Church of St. Catherine, to view yet another Crib! By the time my feet again reached Edward Street it was indeed a very welcome sight!
And so it was then in those far off days of childhood.
A lovely friendly street with very good neighbours.
Happy times and happy Christmases.
And so for all who live in Newry but especially for those who now reside in Edward Street, I wish a happy and peaceful Christmas and a healthy 2007 and beyond.