Chapter 31


On the Main Street facing the R.C. Church stands the old police barracks, built about 1830 for that purpose and belonged to the Annesley Estate. These premises, just vacated by the R.U.C. were leased in 1960 to Patsy Mullen, a local man, for 200 years at 85. per. year but were bought outright in 1976 for 1750. Patsy built a motor repair garage at the rear with petrol pumps on the square.

About the late 50's, he became friendly with two teenage boys who were crazy about grass-track motor cycling, Anthony Steele the present owner of the meat factory in the town and his chum Tom Herron from Leitrim. Most of their time was spent working at their bikes in the garage. Grass-tracking was a new sport then, and there was always a meeting somewhere every week. Tom's Uncles were all road racing motor cyclists having some championships to their credit as well as racing in the Isle of Man T.T. It was no surprise to Patsy when Tom and Anthony arrived one day with a van load of bike bits and asked to have a road racing machine made up as Tom intended making his debut in the road sport that Saturday. With the help of Anthony, work went on throughout the nights until Thursday, at dusk this bike was pushed up Claremont Avenue by Patsy and Tony who tested it with a few quick flights from Annesley's entrance gate to the Castle door and away again before Mr. Annesley could catch them, however, it's doubtful if he would have bothered any way, being a sportsman himself. (In the 1930's there was motor car hill climbing on Ballybannon with a vast variety of racing machines. Two cars, side by, side would start at the little gate house at the Bridge and were timed to 'The Finn'. Crossroads. The local competitor was Gerry Annesley in his M.G. Sports, but he was no match for the Belfast men who had it all behind the goggles.

Tom Herron, 1979

Tom Herron, 1979

Tom Herron and an Action Shot, 1979

 

A very early picture of Hill Climbing on Ballybannon.

A very early picture of Hill Climbing on Ballybannon.

 

The old Police Barracks, with the Porch. The monument was blown up about 1970.

The old Police Barracks, with the Porch. The monument was blown up about 1970.

 

Mullen's Garage, 1971.

Mullen's Garage, 1971.

 

Visitors in Mullen's Garage, 1980
Visitors in Mullen's Garage, 1980.
Back Row: Malachy Cunningham, Descendent of the Hauliers; Patsy Mullen,
Proprietor; Sean Cummings, Annsborough. Pat Murray, Taxi Man.
Front Row: Sean Murray, Local Barber.
Robert Brown, Northern Bank, Castlewellan, enjoying a run in
Mullen's car on the Kirkis town Circuit 1979.

 

Robert Brown enjoying a run in Mullen's car.

Robert Brown enjoying a run in Mullen's car on the Kirkistown Circuit 1979.

Tom Herron raced on the Saturday, bringing no laurels home that day but within a few years reached world champion class. Unfortunately on the North West circuit at Portrush in 1979, Tom met his death. Anthony injured his back in a grass-track meeting and had to give up racing. Patsy developed a small racing car - the proto type being one of his most treasured possessions.

In 1975 the petrol station was closed and removed. The garage, a better proposition was kept open till Patsy retired in 1986. All this so called progress, necessitated the removal of the old barrack pump which commanded a prominent position for centuries in the lower square. Leaving one less old reliable friend in Castlewellan.

When Patsy Mullen first opened a garage in the forties, Barney Jennings, a close friend, gave him an old anvil which belonged to Dan the great grandfather of the Jennings who worked at shoeing horses behind the cottage at Bunkers' Hill, about the 1900's. Barney told Patsy that money was so hard to get in the old days, that Dan, who was choking for a beer, made a half crown out of lead, ran to the Pub and called a drink. When the Publican lifted the coin he dropped it yelling "you might have let it cool"' Patsy still has the anvil as well as a truck barrow which once belonged to the Railway in Castlewellan.

Mickey at the helm of the lifeboat.

Mickey at the helm of the lifeboat.

He considers it a pity that there isn't some place in the town to store old relics like these, having made a vain attempt himself to get a small museum started in 1961. Patsy Mullen was always a keen boatman and after the war built a small sloop type yacht which he raced for a few seasons about the 1950/60 period but despite all efforts was only able to get one second place. The prize at that time was thirty shillings which he gave to his crew, who were on that day Paddy, "the Hiker", Leneghan and his cousin Micky, both Life-Boat crew members. Micky later became Skipper of the Lifeboat, and was decorated, and for a living works for the Department of the Environment in Castlewellan and Newcastle. One of Mullen's worst experiences at sea, was following a visit to his garage one morning in 1952 by a strange priest who had just arrived as a curate in the town. He had just got a phone call telling him that his fifty foot sailing boat had broken its' moorings in the previous night's gale and was lying on its' side on rocks two miles off Whiterock, Patsy being the only one in Castlewellan known to be interested in boats at that time was soon on his way with the Priest to try and save the boat from total destruction. This they did through an experience which brought father Peter Madden and Patsy Mullen together to become close friends often sailing as mates till Father Madden died suddenly five years later.