My life on Annalecky Crossroads
My name is Tom/Toddy Dowling and I was reared in the Annalecky Inn with my sister, Marie. The public house (my family home) is now called The Olde Toll House.
There was a toll house on this spot in the 1800s. The present road from Blessington through Poulaphuca, Annalecky to Manger Cross was built in 1820 to 1830. Prior to this the coach road went from Blessington to Ballymore Eustace, Lemonstown and Crehelp.
At Merginstown Cross, which was then a 4 cross road, it went straight across into what are now private fields, coming out at the small road at Moynihans, Dunnes, Whittles, crossing the present Dunlavin/Carrigower road to Stratford and Manger Cross. When the new road was completed the Annalecky toll house was built. In the late 1850s road tolls were abolished in Ireland.
My great grandfather, Thomas Clarke, from Sroughan in Lacken, with his wife, Judith, set up a bar/ grocery at the cross in the early 1860s. In 1898, their daughter, Julia, who already had a pub in Werburgh St., married Pat Phillips, a dairyman from the Coombe area and they moved to Annalecky. They had 5 children, the eldest being my mother, Margaret
My father, Thos Dowling, came from a farm in Ballynure in Grangecon. He served his time in Tom Germaine’s pub in Baltinglass, moved to Tom’s brother’s pub in Grangecon, then to Kildare.
The Economic War wiped them out
In 1930, he with his cousin, John Timmons, opened a pub/grocery in Newbridge. A few years later the Economic War wiped them out. Dad went back to his two brothers and sister in Ballynure and farmed for a few years Next he got a job in the army canteens in the Curragh, married my mother in 1938 and got a house in Newbridge. I was born there in 1940 and Marie, my sister in 1942.
My grandfather, Pat Phillips, died in 1947 and my mother inherited Annalecky. We moved to there in 1948 and this opened up a completely new life to us, at least to Marie and myself. There was no electricity or running water. Wall mounted oil lamps and candles in the house and a Tilly lantern in the bar. Water was drawn in buckets, from the well across the road. A few years later we had water pumped in and the ESB arrived in 1958.
A gifted worker in iron
Being at a cross and in a bar you got to know a great number of people in the area. The cross was a meeting place where discussions on football and local matters could go on until late at night. In the summer a number of young men would meet and play football in the field opposite. I believe that at one time they had a football team. We walked to school in Donard and, later, in Merginstown, regardless to whether it rained or snowed. There were few cars around and certainly no one was driven to school in one. Consequently the roads were pretty safe. Across the road from us, on one side , was a farmer, Din Perkins with his sister, Poll and their nephew, Joe. On the other side was Tom Neill and his family. Tom was the local blacksmith. This was the age when there were very few tractors. Horses were required for the heavy work of ploughing, harrowing, pulling mowing machines and binders (for cutting corn etc). Combine harvesters were a good while later. Tom was also a gifted worker in iron and made many fine ornate gates for big houses and estates in the West Wicklow area.
A night of the Bridogue
From Spring to Autumn, hikers, at weekends, would come down on the morning or evening New Ross bus on their way to the An Oige hostel in Ballinclea. Around the first few days of February we had a night of the Bridogue. This would be loosely connected to St. Brigid. About 10/15 men, with one or two accordions, from the Tober/Crehelp area, fantastically dressed and masked, would walk down from Tober, at night, calling to houses along the way, where they would play a tune, have a dance and then on to the next house. They would reach our pub around 8.30/9.00pm. The night would be filled with half sets, waltzes, singing and a little drinking. It would break up at 3.00 or 4.00 a.m. I think that they also went to Dunlavin on another night.
On a couple of occasions Sean Neill and I just told our parents that we were going to go up Church mountain and we were just told to be careful. This involved foot slogging over fields, lanes, streams and up the heather clad mountain for at least 5 miles and then back. Such a casual and carefree time, at least for two 10/11 year old kids.
We did not see her for two years
In November 1949 my mother contracted TB and was sent to Rathdrum hospital and then on to Newcastle TB sanatorium in East Wicklow. TB was still a problem at that time. Marie and I were not allowed to visit her so we did not see her for two years. She came home at Christmas in 1951. For those two years my dad and Malachy Moynihan, in Malachy’s Ford van, (Malachy’s wife was also in Newcastle) drove via Hollywood and Glendalough, almost every second Sunday to visit their wives, in all types of weather. In those days there were no heaters in cars or vans, just rugs.
In 1956 I went to work in Mountjoy Motorcycles Ltd. As I served in the bar at home from when I was 8 years old I knew Ted and Ernie Barrett from when they would call on their way to or from visiting their old home place. In fact I knew Ted as Ted before I had to call him Mr when I went to work. I would go down on weekends from time to time so I kept in touch with local matters.
My Dad died in 1971 and Marie took over, opening in the evening when she would come from her ESB job in Dublin. She married Kevin Morrissey shortly afterwards. However, Kevin was part of a family firm in the concrete and road making business, based in Carlow, so, in 1974, they sold the pub and moved to Carlow. The pub was bought by Michael Davis who is the present owner.
Nowadays I would know few people in the area. I suppose being 82 years old has something to do with it. I get the Wicklow People every week and soak up all the West area news. Occasionally, I may meet someone, like me, who was reared down there and left and I will ask, “have you been down home lately?”
It still seems home.