St Scuithin’s Church, Castlewarren

St Scuithin’s Church, Castlewarren

Castlewarren church is right next door to where my grandfather grew up. I remember being told that some relatives are actually buried in the graveyard, but in actuality the burial plot would have once been a field belonging to the Loughlin (O’Loughlin) clan.

Margaret, who is mentioned in the Census form of 1901 and also in the Census of 19011 was the second youngest of the family of eight. She became a school-marm in the village. I saw some old photos of her with committee members of the school. She married an O’Carrell, a successful businessman, late in life and moved to Dublin. She lived alone in later years in a massive 4 storied Georgian house in upper Gardiner Place. I think it is now a hotel. She also had another property. She was my mother’s God-parent.

Nellie, a niece of hers (see also Ellen mentioned in Census forms, who would have been a mother of hers) who was 15 years older than my mother had been working in Dublin. Nellie did some work for the grand-aunt, and eventually inherited the two properties. The aunt had sent for my mother, I think she may have wanted mama to look after her in her advancing years, but mama was very wild and care-free with absolutely no sense of responsibility, as she was just barely out of teenage-hood. It was simply Heaven being away from all the responsibility of farm work at the homeplace in Enniscorthy. Mama had also splashed out on an inheritance that she had received when she became 21. She literally went berserk. Besides, she was also being pestered to sign over her tangible rights to the farm, which she flatly refused. So – as young as she was then she had a lot of wit in that sense. A brother of hers never forgave her for not signing over, and subsequently had very little to do with her for the rest of his life.

The brother went on to become a successful business man – a multi-millionaire in times when Ireland was dreadfully poor. *The father had set him up nicely in business after passing on a small farm of land in the heart of Knock Co. Mayo. The father had been a captain in the British army for 25 years and was thus very shrewd. He was stationed in India. He had a thousand men under him. He was a very strict man. He saw a business venture in Knock that could be exploited and went for it. It certainly paid off. It was situated directly opposite the Basilica. In the olden days in Knock business people had only stalls along the roadside during the pilgrimage season. That was how my uncle had initially started business.. He owned stalls the length and breadth of the busy village. Years later, shops were built and stall-holders were corralled. My uncle was very fortunate to get rows of shops built on his own property. There were grants galore going, as the council wanted to create a good image for the village as it was a very important Marian shrine. Besides, the pope was expected there in 1981. A restaurant was built. Rows of souvenir shop were built. He had a thriving business. His shops, along with O’ Beirne’s across the road were the most successful of all. As the rest of the stall holders would not have property, so they had to remain in the corralled area, which was not to the main road. There was a lot of envy regarding the success of my uncle. People claimed he owned the half of Knock, whenever his name came up in conversation. He always dressed meticulously in a suit. He looked the perfect businessman. However – there were corny remarks made about the apron he donned. It was for the purpose of holding the money. it was referred to as the Mason’s apron. His much younger wife was a very good business woman. She had done seasonal work in one of his shops when she was a young girl waiting to go into nursing in England. She was only 19 when he asked her to marry him.

*I think the land that the uncle inherited was not the one directly opposite the Basillica, but the latter may have been purchased with the proceeds of the former.

They had a family of five who worked very hard. He also employed staff. Then came a small one storied mini-hotel with exquisite landscaped gardens that won prizes. The hotel had 20 double rooms. It was built in 1986. Charlie Haughey cut the ribbon. Mary, my uncle’s wife swore she would never wash the glass from which he drank. Eventually there was a ten-roomed B&B built for each of his children. They were a spill-over from the hotel. They were nestled in their own private road in the distance from the hotel and Basilica. During the height of the Celtic Tiger the brother was offered 6 million for his business outlets in the heart of Knock village. That 6 million was only the starting talking point. The church was awash with money, and the brother was in a very lucrative geographical spot. It was also during the time of the airport coming to Knock. Knock was seen as a very viable business for the church. Thanks to late Monsignor Horan. However big the temptation to sell all his assets to the church and begin afresh with a supermarket in Galway it never transpired.

He was once the King of Knock, and with the onset of the Celtic Tiger, a lot of people were becoming very successful, so he had to contend with competition, a thing he never had to compete with for nigh on 40 years.

I never had as much as a cup of tea from him. The resentment was passed on to me. It was very painful. I think his heart was in Wexford. I heard in later years that he’d planned to build a big hotel on the farm at Fairfield with another successful hotel entrepreneur.

These are just stream of consciousness thoughts. I’ve got many stories to tell on this delicate subject.


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