The Picture House was originally built as a Hibernian Hall in the late 1920's early 1930's. At that time it was on the outskirts of the town. The Hall was seldom used by the Hibernians but was rented out to various groups or people for entertainment. One of the first was Minett, a man who put on a silent film twice a week. His little machine was placed in the middle of the hall and the screen was very small. His films were all cowboys and indians, with herds of cattle stampeding from right to left and tumbling over cliffs after having been stolen by a band of desperados who in turn were being chased by one immaculately dressed sheriff. This was on Wednesday night. On Friday night there were still herds of thundering cattle, this time from the left to the right and followed by the same bad guys who were still being chased by the sheriff. These films were a must and cheap at three pence. Around 1943 another man from Ballykinlar by the name of Hamson, took over and his machine was placed at the rear of the hall using a larger screen; then up went the price to sixpence. However, for this sort of money the lone chasing sheriff would burst into song. Charlie Chan, the Chinese version of Sherlock Homes was another great favourite of this Ballykinlar man and Charlie was so often on the screen most people thought he lived locally. Then thanks to Watty Herron the sympathetic townsman, Castlewellan had at last a real cinema. He brought all the up-to-date films as well as the pathe news which covered events all over the world, including the coming of the coloured films. Watty employed Padraig Hennan from the New Row to operate his picture machines until 1943, at which time Gerry Mullen a local electrician got this job. He remained there until the television closed all the small cinemas about the middle 1950's. The hall was then demolished about 1982. Between the Hibernian Hall and the New Row, Church Lane led to the Electric Power House which supplied the town up to the 1930's.
To have more than one light from this source was something at that time as most people had one twenty five watt light in the kitchen, if this bulb went out, the electrician was called from the Power House to replace it. Every evening at dusk the sound of the powerful engine starting up was heard all over the town reminding everyone that another evening had arrived. The flick of the switch replaced all the filling with oil, the trimming wicks and all the dirt attached to the old paraffin lamp. This station closed in 1932 with the coming of the N.I.E.S. A Mr. Shannon from Newcastle owned this business. The old station was turned into a Private house about the early fifties and remains as such in 1986.
"Pure Vanila Ices", this was printed on the sides of Barney Jennings' ice cream vans. He had two of these, pony drawn and operated by his brothers. These little gaily coloured vans were made up having a door at the rear, two counter like sides and a roof supported by four fancy turned corner posts. The ice cream was placed in a container inside a larger one with ice in between. Barney's ices were sold at all the sports meetings, football matches as well as round the nearby towns. A visit to his ice cream factory would be one to remember as the equipment consisted of one large tub of ice in which smaller one kept turning and churning, moaning and groaning, all in protest and all in an open shed behind his cottage in Bunkers Hill. The inside tub was filled was Barney's special mix and driven by an old Austin Seven Car Engine which was in complete sympathy with its work mate. But despite all the noise and smoke, the quality and purity of Barney's two penny sliders could not be surpassed in 1986. Barney stopped the ice cream business about 1946 and his last van was built on an old ford eight car should have been kept as one of Castlewellan's oldies. Barney Jennings bought and sold, calves, ponnies, rungs, cars and watches.
All this and a little bit of illicit taxi work on the side made Barney a man very much in demand. He died in 1968.
In the 1920 period, five people, Johnny Magorian, Jimmy and Ned McEvoy, Dan and Hugh "the Rook" Jennings all from Bunkers Hill Castlewellan, collected poultry for export and sold them to Kevin Bell from Crossgar. They travelled through mourne on their small pony and vans and went as far afield as Kilkeel in one day, visiting all the farms in that area. One Winter following a really bad harvest in 1921 the only feeding for the ponies was straw at a £1 a bale, about as much as a man hoped to make in one week. This nearly put these men out of business but they managed to survive until the car came along and the ponies were no longer a viable proposition. These people were known locally as the fowl men not to be confused with foul men.
Johnny Magorian bought two of these Morris cars converted one, and used it on the road for six months while he was doing the same convertion to the other. He would then switch the number plates unto van number two and drive it for six months while repainting and servicing the first. This continued for a couple of years until a policeman noticed what was taking place and summoned Johnny. On the day of the Court, in the Markethouse in 1930, the local polic~ Sergeant, James Pettigrew spoke for Johnny and pointed out that he was a hard working man with a large family and would not have known he was committing an offence. The RM. agreed that the law was a bit obscure with regard to this new mode of transport and fined Johnny the minimum of two shillings (lOp). Sergeant Pettigrew argued this was a stiff fine and walked up to the Bench and paid the two shillings himself. This friendly gesture is still remembered by some in 1986.
The new Public Elementary School built in the early 30's stands in its own spacious grounds at the Mill Hill end of the town and built by William Callaghan & Company. Two teachers from that school who stand out in memory are George Skillen and Rex. Patterson. George is a son of Willie Skillen, the Jeweller on the Main Street. He was a teacher all his life and although he is now retired he can't forget an old teaching colleague Rex. Patterson. While George was playing golf, Rex was determined to master the art of sailing a boat. This oversized man in an undersized sailing dingy was a true definition of what sport is all about. There was no living person ever enjoyed his or her hobby as Rex did. Rex Patterson came from Dromore area and in the late 1950's moved to Ballymoney.
Port or Starboard
When I was a youth to tell you the truth
My only idea of play
Was to get a wee boat then myself afloat
And sail all around Dundrum Bay.
I fancied myself as a sailor
And even called the sea the sae
They thought me insane for, I vowed, high wind or rain
I'd sail all around Dundrum Bay.
When asked by the local old seadogs
Why did I act in this way
With glowing pride I stood up and replied
To sail all around Dundrum bay.
The folk were chatty and friendly
As they sat on a plank on the quay
And for this wet earred lad lots of hints could be had
How to sail all around Dundrum Bay.
There was Micky and Paddy, Haddocks, and James
Gong, seeds, moat and mealy
To name but a few of my advisory crew
As I sailed all around Dundrum Bay.
One bright may morning, without any warning
I tiptoed down into the quay
And like a slick city banker up with my anchor
And took on the mighty big bay.
I reached and I jibed I filled and I spilled
And when I ran I near blew away
With my hand on the tiller there was no more willer
To sail all around Dundrum Bay.
There was mackerel and herring blocking and cod
And skate like a big manta ray
To name but a few of the fish that I drew
As I sailed all around Dundrum Bay.
This is a long time ago now
And I've come near the end of my day
But I'll always remember that May to September
When I sailed all around Dundrum Bay.
I dedicate this poem to Rex.