The old Public Elementary School, in the Upper Square at the corner of the Circular Road, was always a great meeting place for the local men, as the gable was well sheltered and most of the Town could be viewed from this point. It was used as a school until the middle 1920s, when it became vacant for a few years. In the late 1930s, it was taken over by James Wilson for repairing and making all types of furniture, employing about eight people.
One good summer's day, James thought he would have his large furniture van repainted and decided to do this outside the school. A scaffold was erected to allow the painters to reach the top of this high vehicle and, while washing it down with an inflamable cleaner, the van suddenly caught fire and looked as if it was a goner. On the far side of the street, Barney Cunningham and Pat Murray, one of Cunningham's taxi drivers, were sitting in front of the shop and immediately spotted the fire. Pat, summing up the situation in a flash, dashed indoors, grabbed a large fire extinguisher and, when emerging at speed, the apparatus accidently went off. It must be said for Pat Murray, that his superb imitation of an African War Dance, to the accompanyment of a beautiful fountain display, was highly amusing to all the people on the Main Street. When the extinguisher was empty, Pat looked across for the fire but it had gone out as quickly as it started, leaving him to get out of sight as fast as he could.
James Wilson sold the old school to a fellow, Trainor, from Tyrella, who converted part to a dwelling house, which it still is to date.
Before the 1920s, Drapery shops were entirely different to what they are today. They were mostly all shelves stocked with rolls of suit and dressmaking materials and very often drab in colour. At that time, when people reached the age of forty, they looked on this as the beginning of old age. As it wasn't possible to buy ready made clothes, they got a tailor to make, in the case of a man, a blue serge suit, and, in the case of a woman, clothes to her feet in black. Those outfits lasted them till death, by which time the cloth was green with age. Castlewellan was well catered for with tailors, and one easily forgotten was Loghan Cardwell. He had his business in the Upper Square, tight in the corner at the old P.E. School. The property belonged to Albert Priestly from Clarkhill, and was tenanted by "Loughy", as he was known, until 1949. He then moved to Dundrum to live with his eldest son, Joe, who was an electrician, having served his time in the Castlewellan Power House. Loghan died in 1959.
Around about 1939/40, Dan O'Boyle, another Clarkhill Man, took one half of
this building and opened a Confectionery and Tobacconist. He carried on there
for 15 years and closed the shop in 1954. Some years later, a son-in-law, Charles
Keown, who had served his time to the Grocery in Savages in the Town, and had
already a small shop going in Clarkhill, took over both O'Boyles and Cardwells,
opening a shop in the latter. Charlie and his wife, Kathleen, kept this going
until 1968; then closed down and made the lot into one dwelling. Dan O'Boyle
died in 1962 and Charles Keown in 1983.