Chapter 6


In the 1900 period Castlewellan had two blacksmith shops - one in Mary Street and the other behind the Co-Op. The latter was hidden behind two little dwelling houses on the demesne side of Claremont Avenue and had to be reached by an entry between McCammon's shed and the houses. A Blacksmith, Nathaniel Rodgers, (a brother of Alex) occupied this shop until the late 1920's before moving to Annalong. The next tennant was a man called "Ginn" - the fattest smithy in Ireland. He disappeared from the scene about 1933. This vacant spot was soon filled by Paddy and John Kelly from Burrenbridge -sons of the old Paddy who had three sons in the trade and welcomed this opening. The two Kellys worked there until they moved to Mary Street in 1947. The Smithy in Claremont Avenue was without light and Paddy contacted Patsy Mullen (the local mechanic) to find out if he could manufacture a large portable carbide light. It wasn't long before this contraption was ready for a trial and it was brought round for Paddy to see it working. It consisted of a one gallon heavy steel water container on top of another strong removable gallon size container for the carbide. There was also a water regulator tap and twelve feet of rubber hose to carry the gas to the portable burner. All this was set up and gave a brilliant light - yet another job well done! To complete the system, all that was needed was a proper nipple for the end of the hose. After the demonstration Patsy unscrewed the flex hose at the gas tank, stood with his latest success in his arms while discussing recent current affairs with Paddy (Snow) Cunningham and his nephews, John and

Paddy Kelly at work
Paddy Kelly at work.
 
Paddy (Snow) Cunningham
Paddy (Snow) Cunningham the man who fired the Town's first satelite.
 
Carbide to Gas Converter made by P. Mullen about 1942
Carbide to Gas Converter made by P. Mullen about 1942

Paddy Kelly then, for some reason, known only to himself, Snow lit a match and put it to the take off opening on the carbide tank. With an unearthiy bang the water tank was blown right through the roof and the rest into smithereens. After the initial shock somebody piped up "A houl ye, ye have plenty of light now Paddy". After much deliberation on what might have been a very nasty accident, the project was shelved permanently!

On buying the Co-Op. Gibson Bros. then became the owners of the two tiny houses and the blacksmith shop on Claremont Avenue. In 1940 the houses were demolished to make a frontal entrance to the Smithy which was then to be used as a paint shop for a white South African, "Vivian Scott". Scott hand painted motor cars with such perfection that it was hard to tell if the paint was brushed or sprayed on. His lettering and house painting were of the same standard and Castlewellan soon adopted him. His recreation was football and it wasn't till he was on the local football team that his talent became known. However, after a few years in the town he was gone as quick as he had come. The paint store then became a workshop for (young Rosie) Jim Cunningham an electrical engineer from the town. Jim had served his time in Hendron Bros. in Belfast and was just starting out on his own about 1950. Stanley Whyte served his time in the town Co-Op during the 1928-1934 period and remained there for an extra year to help Gibson Bros. settle into their new shop, the Supply stores.

The Echo of the Anvil
The Garage replaced the old smithy
With the car from the pony and trap
For the silence of rubber tyred transport
From the music of clippity clap.


The smell of the burning of horse hoof
For the exhaust fumes of smokey old oil
The pleasure of leisurely travel
for the risk of a car engine boil.

The Smith he drove all the nails home
On shods for the pony to trot
If he did the same on a motor
He would have what is now termed a flat.

There's no hair to clip on the motor
Nor hay to fork by the bart
Just a heap of rusty old iron
When most needed refuses to start.

But gone are the days of the nags and their ways
Though as friends we must give them their dues
For a crack of the whip and they were off with a skip
No backfires or blowing a fuse.

The garage was a community centre
Like the forge was in days of old
Where the farmer could meet on a Monday
And many a tall tale was told.

Pat Eddie Murray of Slieveniskey
Who spun yarns he always made up
Asked Henry Smyth from Leitrim
If he would buy a good Collie pup.

Then following long deliberation
Henry did eventually speak
I wouldn't have a full days barking
For a dog in the whole of a week.

The garage replaced the old smithy
For time neither dailies or naps
And though it's quite sad to see, it just had to be
The cars from the ponies and traps.

Written in 1992 by Patsy Mullen who opened a small garage in Castlewellan in the early 1940s the period when the Blacksmith shop was fading out and he still gets p1easure from the memories of the times he spent in the forge with the late Paddy Kelly the local Blacksmith.
Whyte Bros., Millhill
Whyte Bros., Millhill

 

The Whyte Bros.

The Bros. in their well stocked Shop, previously a Shoemaker's by their father, "Willie ".

Stanley started out on his own in 1936 and helped by his brother Gerry, soon built up a good grocery trade in the small shop on Millhill, putting a delivery van on the road. By the mid. 1970's they were well into calor gas and all the appliances connected with it. Stan. claims that they are "the longest reigning grocers in the town", fifty year in all and the shop is original. A keen golfer and a member of the mourne club since it was founded in 1946, Stan has to his credit, two mounted battered old golf balls, one Haskell used seventy five years ago by Alex Herd and the gutty ball used by James Baird who was defeated in that challenge match by Herd at Ormeau about 1911. The Whytes are still in business but are feeling the urge to sell out and retire. Other small grocer and confectionery shops on Millhill, were those belonging to George Dornan, Bob Hamilton and Hugh B. McMullan. All closed by the mid 1970's.

Small Bros, Butchers

Small Bros, Butchers

Shortly after the war started, sometime about the early 1940's the Castle was occupied by British soldiers. One in particular, a young fellow called Bob Pinches, was a cook in the army and although he didn't know it at the time he was destined to become part of this community. Bob met and married Lois Gibson, a sister of the owners of the Supply Stores and when demobed he settled in the town. He soon became involved in the local soccer club and for a living started a cafe at Morrisons Corner after Johnny Goslyn left. Later on he moved to the premises owned by Gibsons, next door to the Supply Stores. It had just been vacated by another of the Gibson women who previously ran a tea room on the upper floor. The bottom shop at that time was used as a parcel depot for the U.T.A. and for a short time was the Post Office. Bob Pinches started a home bakery and tea room there and this was the sixth business in that place within eighty years. The first was John Nulty selling second hand clothing. The next was Henry McCracken with new clothing and footware, followed by Gibson Bros. Grocery, the Post Office, Miss Gibson's Tea Room and then Bob. On the death of his wife, Bob Pinches returned to his home town in England but died shortly afterward, in the early 1980's. Bob's empty bakery was used, for a while, by Billy Shilliday during repairs to his own property. Later in the early 1980's this place was changed to a Butcher's shop run by Small Bros. from Newcastle and remains the same to date.