Mary Anne Kelehan’s of Bushypark

The first time we see a pub in Bushypark recorded is in the 1902 Census which tells us that it was occupied by Mary Kelehan, a 45-year-old widow who is described as a publican. Also living there were her son Peter aged 26, as well as daughters Delia, 20, and Cissie, 18. All were described as publicans. There may well have been a pub there before that. It was a focal point for a large number of the local community and was the only place on the road where people could pull in for refreshments. On a Friday or Saturday evening it was common to see a line of horses and carts outside as people stopped on their way home after selling their turf or their produce at the market. The road was jammed early every Saturday morning with country folk driving their horses and carts to market.

The Kelehans were highly regarded locally and were very good to the villagers. The first person to welcome a newcomer to the parish in 1906 was Peter Kelehan: “If you need a horse or plough, I will be glad to help you out.” Later on, when Mary Anne was in charge of the pub and grocery, she would never see people stuck: “If you need bread or anything, come and get it, you can pay me later.” For a long time the pub had the only phone in the village, so if you needed to call the doctor, the vet, or the priest, you went to Mary Anne’s. She was a local legend. In later years a group of mummers would occasionally visit the pub and start up terrific sessions.

Our photograph (courtesy of Bernie McTigue ) shows Peter Kelehan standing outside the pub awaiting the collection of empty porter barrels sometime in the 1940s. It is one of a huge number of illustrations in a new book just published, Bushypark, Our People - Our Place, a Parish History, compiled by Christy Kelly. It is the result of years of research and is very well written, a wonderful mixture of the history, archaeology, geology, the townlands, folklore and, above all, the people of the locality.

There is a lot of nostalgia too with interviewees describing the time when all the houses were thatched, when most people had a spring well on their land, and how they shared the well with those who did not have one; the arrival of electricity; being connected to the water mains; a time when people sowed oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips to provide for their families and any surplus was taken to the market on Saturdays; how the local lads used to congregate at Kelehans on a Sunday evening and then set off walking to the Hangar for the ceilí, and of course walk home afterwards; when the stations were held in the houses every six months and if one wanted to go to Communion, one fasted from midnight the night before.

This book is a model for anyone considering writing a parish history. Every parish needs a Christy Kelly. It is on sale now in good bookshops at €20 and is highly recommended. It would make an ideal Christmas present, especially for anyone from the general area of Páirc na Sceach who might be living abroad.

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