Meadow: Helen’s Terrace revisited

I have been prompted to write about Helen’s Terrace as I think it may be of interest to any of those good folk who have submitted memories of the Meadow in the 40’s and 50’s.  

Helen’s Terrace is beyond the concrete gateposts
My mother Bridget, father Joe, sisters Maura and Joan brother Peter and myself lived in Helen’s Terrace, Newry from 1940 to 1955.

I remember the American Army giving us gum and sweets.

One morning in 1945 they were all gone, some to lose their lives in France just days later.

What is now the Meadow Housing Estate was at that time a meadow covered in nissan huts occupied by American GIs.  We played in a stream which ran from Camlough mountain to join the Clanrye river. The same stream ran the hydro electric line to Bessbrook. Situated at Millvale was the Hydro electric power station.

This tramway ran from Newry Edward Street to Bessbrook and ferried the mill workers to and from work daily. It had a central rail which was electrified.  Health and safety how are you?  

As kids we would give each other electric shocks on the line. Helen’s Terrace was connected to the Camlough Road by Pighall Loanan. 

It joined the main road at the ‘wheel’:  to the left of the loanan was an area known as the ‘Plots’ which were rented to people who wanted to grow their own food to supplement the meagre rations doled out during and after the war years.  Newry’s own allotments.

Adjacent to this was an enclosed area which contained sluice gates diverting the Bessbrook river into a retarding dam.  This was built in the early 1900s to control the severe flooding in the lower Edward and Monaghan Street areas which were regularly flooded in the early part of the 20th century. This area is now Jennings Park.

In No 1 Helen’s Terrace lived Willie and Mrs Clarke and his sister Suzy.  Willie worked as a clerk in Sands Mill.  Suzy was a seamstress in Foster’s of Hill Street. They were very kind to us providing us regularly with fresh eggs; they kept a flock of chickens.

We McGuigan’s lived in No 2.  My father Joe had a shoe shop in Monaghan Street, my mother had worked in the spinning loft in Bessbrook Mill.  Maura sadly passed away two years ago; my brother Peter in 1969 : Joan now lives in Dublin, she was married to Jim Brady Law Professor of UCD and brother of Mickey MLA (Dominic Street).

In No 3 lived Shane and Maria Doyle and their three children Joe, Frank and Kathleen who sadly died recently.  Shane was a cork manufacturer.  The family emigrated to England, Joe to Cornwall and Frank to the midlands.

In No 4 was ex RIC John Fadden and his son Tommy.  They worked for Willis Bakery delivering bread. Their horse-driven cart came daily.  Other Fadden children were Irene, Maisie and Betty.  Tommy went to the Catholic Workingmen’s Club every night at half past ten for a late night drink. I remember lying in bed and knowing the time by hearing Tommy go out.

In No 5 lived the McClelland family. John the father an ex-army man was retired. They had the key for the sluice gates mentioned above.

In no 6 lived the Bodel family. I remember Wesley who drove a lorry for Haldane, his wife Mary, Eric his brother worked in King Street railway gate hut and latterly as a security officer at Newry Court House.

In no 7 was another Bodel family. Father Stanley, mother Hannah and children Brian and Godfrey. Stanley worked in Haldanes as a lorry driver. The family moved to Handsworth, Birmingham in 1950.  Brian became a bank manager dying at a young age and Godfrey now lives in Perth, Australia.  When they left the house was then occupied by the Moorhead family. Alex was a jeweller in Hill Street. When the Meadow housing estate was built in 1947/48 it was the first housing estate in the Newry area.

Godfrey Bodel and I played among the trenches and partially built houses. Our new companions who had moved into the estate were to change our whole way of life. We formed a little football team called Meadow Rangers under the guidance of Archie Bann from Edward Street and Sticks Morgan who lived on Pighall Loanan.  

Members of the team included myself, Archie, Oliver McCaul, Hughie McKeown, Gerry Doran, Peter Crawford, Brian Rocks, Joe Doyle, Micky McKenna, Raymond Agnew, Harold Briggs and the late Dennis Ward. We played our matches in the retarding dam when it wasn’t flooded.

With so many new friends around, our life as children was greatly enhanced. One of the biggest changes after 1950 was the introduction of the 11 plus. This separated friend from friend and brother from sister sending us on different paths to different schools. It signalled the end of childhood.

I remember joining Newry Library in Marcus Square and avidly taking up reading, devouring the whole Biggles series.  Comics had to be ordered because of rationing. Those I enjoyed were The Wizard, the Adventure, the Hotspur, the Rover and the Champion.  We not only collected the comics but we swapped them too.  American comics were much sought after.  Cousins in America sent me a regular supply. We travelled the town exchanging comics.

Another recreation was the “pictures”. The Frontier cost four and a half old pence, the Savoy cost sixpence and the Imperial also cost sixpence.  On Saturday afternoon any of my Meadow friends and I would queue to see Roy Rodgers, Hopalong Cassidy, and serials running from week to week.

I remember Nyoka, Queen of the Jungle.  All this was before any of us had TV. We had no computers, no XBox but loads of fresh air, football, great friends, all remembered fondly.

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