In recognition of the efforts of Ann Mullan and those others arranging a High Street Reunion in August, we print here the early reminiscences of that famous High Street lady Miss Ethel Fitzpatrick.
‘My father James was formerly the manager of the Frontier Cinema. I was born close to St Clare’s Convent, where I spent the greater part of my life, first as a pupil and later as a teacher. High Street is famous as the burial site of John Mitchel and was also the site of Newry’s first theatre, another love of mine.
The images and impressions of early High Street have made me the person that I am. We lived in our own little community. Everything we wanted was there. I would not have missed it for the world. It was a wonderful street because of the kind of shops and the people who lived there.
Mrs Kenna, who wore a long black skirt and wore her hair fixed in a bun, stands out in my memory. She was regarded as a kind of miracle-worker for she had a cure for everything. There were jars of ointment of all shapes and sizes, used to cure a variety of ailments from sprains to skin rashes, and even sore fingers. Her home had an aura of witchcraft.
Then here was Mr Delahunt, grandfather of Malachy and Kathleen. You know Malachy, who taught in St Patrick’s Primary in the Meadow, and sang at Mass? His grandfather owned a quaint hardware shop where he made toy whips and wooden hoops. His wife sold these along with groceries.
On the first fine day in spring, when the birds began to sing, the ropes would come out all over Newry and everyone began to swing round the lampposts. As soon as we got home from school we would join hands in a large circle or form a human arch, singing ‘My Aunt Jane’. Sometimes we would play hop-scotch over chalked squares on the pavement, or send wooden tops spinning with a whip. The boys would play marbles or would spin the rim of a bicycle wheel, using a stick.
‘The Hobbies’ would come to the Potato Market. They were a tremendous attraction with flying-chairs, fortune-tellers and coconut shies. The circus was eagerly awaited too. Once we had the world-famous ‘Chipperfields’. Afterwards the boys would make tents out of old sacks, charge an empty jam-jar as admission and put on a display of jumping through hoops.’
Further memories of ‘Miss Ethel’ soon!