Turtle Bunbury

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Vanishing Ireland 4

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Naas, County Kildare

Post Office Worker and Philatelist & Textile Manufacturer and Electrician

Born 1927 & 1930

(Photo: James Fennell)



‘I heard someone on the radio say how the first Ryder Cup was presented nearly a century ago. Now, that made me sit up straight because it was actually first presented in the year that I was born. And that is not a century ago … but I suppose it’s getting on for a hundred years so I must be too!’

So says Noel Sheridan, clerk, postman and sometime golfer.

‘My father was born in about 1900,’ says Noel. ‘Like most people at the time, he had a sort of poverty-stricken time in his younger years. Education just wasn’t available to poor people. And families were very big. There were seventeen in my father’s family, so they had to fend for themselves from fairly early on. Trying to eke out a living was very tough. But they looked after one another and they were all good workers and they managed. The aim of most parents in the next generation was that their children should attend school for as long as possible and then get permanent, pensionable jobs. My two brothers, my sister and myself were always very grateful to our parents who worked so hard for us. Their aim for me to have a permanent job was successful, as I spent fifty years and two months in the postal service.’

Noel was still at school when, aged fourteen, he secured work in the post office which he joined in 1941. He spent his first months delivering post to the householders of the surrounding district. That involved a hefty daily trek on his bicycle up and down the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, out from Naas to Ballymore Eustace, around Hollywood and home again. ‘You wouldn’t think much of it when you’re that age,’ he assures me. ‘It was the norm at the time for boys to cycle maybe ten or twelve miles away from their homes. Some of those who were at school with me in Naas cycled in from Hollywood and back again afterwards.’

Always good at maths, he was subsequently given an office instead of a bicycle and assigned clerical work. ‘I went to Dublin where I spent short periods in the chief sorting offices on Amiens Street and Pearse Street. I was working on counters in offices all around the capital.’

Noel’s father, Mickie Sheridan, and his uncle, Christy Sheridan, played Gaelic football for Kildare in 1921, defeating Laois, Carlow and Wexford, only to be felled by Dublin in a replay of the Leinster final.

Noel also liked to kick a ball about in his spare time. ‘I was still living in Naas and I would take a bus home at weekends. Of course, there were always games on. I played hurling, soccer and Gaelic football but I was just not up to the standard of my father. The sons of good sportsman are never as good! That happens most of the time, with just a few exceptions. But I enjoyed it. I started playing soccer then for the local club in Naas, and for Eadestown and Dunlavin.’

Noel worked in the General Post Office in Dublin for twenty-five years, between the counters and the Philatelic Bureau. ‘They had me looking after deposit accounts for stamp collectors. I also went on trips to philatelic exhibitions in London, Rome, Vienna and New York, where there’d be over a hundred countries represented and thousands of philatelists coming along. They were only short periods selling your wares, but it was great for me to see the world and we got many new customers from the trips.’

One of Noel’s neighbours and former golf playing friends is Mick Cronin, the eldest of thirteen children. He was eight years old when John Grayson Duckworth opened the Naas Cotton Mills in 1938. A group of weavers from Lancashire came to train the Naas locals in the skills of mechanised textile work.

Eight years later, Mick took his place among the workforce.

‘Nearly everyone you’d meet of our vintage went through the cotton mills,’ he says. ‘The mills was a great employer. I’d say if you got everyone that went though, the number would run into thousands. There were lots of women there. Even when I was leaving, there were probably 250 people there.’

‘We were weaving the cloth that they made the shirts from for the big shops in Dublin. The mills had a delivery man would gather all the cloth up and take it away to Dublin. It didn’t change an awful lot until the very latter years, when the weaving cloth from the looms and threads began to die a death. They were seemingly able to import a lot of woven cloth for a lot cheaper than we could make it. So they diverted us into making synthetic blankets instead.’

In 1959, two major aspects of daily life in Naas came to an end. The first was the railway, which closed to all traffic shortly after the Naas races in March. The second was at the Grand Canal, when the final barge cast off from its moorings.

Mick could sense that the end was also nigh for the Naas Cotton Mills and so, after eighteen years in the mills, the thirty-four-year-old decided it was time for a change of career.

Since the construction of the power station at Allenwood, Mick had watched the population of Naas escalate. New housing estates, new schools and new industries were springing up all around the town. And they all needed electricity.

‘I went into the electrical business in 1960,’ says he. ‘I was part-time at first and I stayed on at the mills until 1964. I had to start from scratch but it’s better late than never. I did the courses with the TV places at Pye and Bush, and a bit of old self-study myself. And I spent about forty-five years at it then after that!’

He established his own company, Abbey Electrical Services, and was recruited for several of the biggest electrical jobs in Naas, including the Concrete Pipe Factory on Dublin Road and the Dennison Trailers manufacturing plant.

The Naas Cotton Mills, by then run by GenTex of Athlone, closed down in 1970, six years after he had finally left the company. ‘The death knell had sounded for a long time,’ says he. ‘I did the right thing going out on my own.’


All four 'Vanishing Ireland' books are available via Turtle's Amazon page at http://astore.amazon.com/wwwturtlebunb-20



Click here to see a full list of persons interviewed for the Vanishing Ireland project.