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KERRY NEWS CHRISTMAS 2020
THE POSTMAN’S LOT
KERRY NEW5S CHRISTM
Publican, Politican, Auctioneer and Raconteur
CHRISTY MCSWEENEY recalls his early days in the pub and politics
 First Published 2009
    Christy and Peggy at home in Countess Road, Killarney
Killarney. It was a great opening weekend and I never looked back” added Christy. Christy’s became the mecca for many Tralee and Cork supporters as they made their way to countless matches in the park. An avid Dr. Crokes supporter Christy laughs as he recalls the reason why he supports the Crokes; “All sons of the Gardai at the time were Legion players and they played havoc with me keeping me in line. The odd time we would have a few ‘after hours’ the ‘Legion’ guards were knocking on the door. “One black day (so called because the pubs had to close by law), four Gardai arrived on bikes from the barracks to check Christy’s out only to find the ebullient publican had absconded to Glenflesk for the day. Most pubs at the time did a little after hours, but Christy maintains never beyond midnight. Business was doing fine when ‘Gandhi Horgan’s ‘Railway Bar’ right next-door came on the market. Parting with seven grand Christy extended ‘Christy’s, and opened up a guest house renaming it ‘The Pine Grove’ after unearthing a pine beam over the main front door during renovations. Now married to Peggy the young couple set about building one of Killarney most famous hotels. They had six children, Tony (who now runs the business), Mary (Perth Australia), Carmel (Surrey, London), Patsy (New York), Deirdre, (Killarney) and Olive (Boston) ensuring the McSweeney Arms empire had spread worldwide.
outside ‘Ulick’s’ in Faranfore in 1943. He stood for election in 1948 after Kerry County Council was dissolved for failing to strike the rate but failed to get elected. He was elected Fine Gael councillor to Killarney UDC in 1960 and remained a committed and loyal public representative until his defeat in 1974. He was chairman in 1970 when he became the first person to wear the chain of office, which was presented by Pretty Polly. During his time as chairman, a private meeting between himself and John McShain would later lead to the American philanthropist handing over land to the council allowing for the construction of Mission Road and the Inner Relief road. He served on Kerry County Council from 1967-1991 losing his seat narrowly to Paul Coghlan. During his many distinguished years on the council Christy was instrumental in securing the Lough Guitane water scheme, the Lissivigeen roundabout and the illumination of the streets of Killarney. Christy recalls a street lamp in College Street, one in Henn Street, one at the market cross and a few more dotted around the town. “It was pitch black really in Killarney and I made it a priority to increase the lighting in the town, which was eventually installed”. He was also on the VEC for 14 years and was chairman for 5 years. He was a founding member of Killarney Chamber of Commerce and helped set up the National Ploughing Championships in 1954. Christmas is very special for Christy not least because it’s his birthday. Pierce Horgan and the clan would be assembled and the special Christmas boxes would have to be packed. No off licences then, orders would come in and maybe a hundred or more ‘Christmases’ were stacked all around the house. Two dozen bottles of stout, a bottle of Paddy, a bottle of Sandeman Port... oh and don’t
Christy and Peggy pull the last pint before handing over to their son Tony in 1990.
forget the crate of mixed minerals..that was a typical order. Christmas eve we would close the door early and hopefully get an early night... Sharing your birthday with Jesus has disadvantages... only one present and one party! The busiest day of the year follows 24 hours later when mayhem used to break out in the pubs. “You would have to be on your toes that night keeping up with the parched clientele and maybe keeping a few unruly customers apart” recalls Christy. St. Stephen’s night was like the end of the drought... nothing has changed...! Christy admires Abraham Lincoln, and Charles Stewart Parnell. When in Dublin he always pays homage at the Parnell statue in O’Connell Street, his sacred space to reflect. Christy enjoys a pint and a small one. He reckons the pub is the perfect setting to unwind, meet new friends or relax. This Christmas he will spend the day with his daughter Deirdre and her husband Mossie Cremin. In good health Christy missed the marriage of his grandson (Kerry footballer Kieran Cremin) through a misadventure when he tripped on a paving slab at his home only hours before the wedding last year. He is looking forward to celebrating on the treble on the 25th.
Killarney Publican, politician and auctioneer, Christy McSweeney was born on a farm on Christmas Day 1923 two miles east of Kilsarcon near the village of Currow in the townland of Ranaleen. From a very early age Christy’s destiny was carved out by family members. Politics was handed down from father to son, as his father, DD was a renowned independent county councillor for the Killarney electoral area and his aunt owned the local pub in Currow village.
“I used to help out in William Daly’s Pub (now the Brown Flesk Inn) run by my aunt Elizabeth McSweeney collecting glasses. I loved the banter and camaraderie that went on there. The pub was the epicentre of the rural community and it was there that the worries of the world came to a close. Farmers, fishermen, friends with tradesmen of all persuasions met in the pub to garner local information and keep up with the news of the locality. Appetite whetted, I knew a publican’s life for me beckoned, even from the early age of 16” said Christy. However the opportunity didn’t arrive for another nine years when at the age of 25 some pubs in Killarney town came on the market.
 “I had an interest in buying Mike Groves pub in High Street (now Quill’s) but the deal didn’t work out. Then ‘Coiner Connors’ pub came on the market on the junction between Lewis Road and Fair Hill. The setting was perfect, close to the mart, the court and the church.. a ready-made business with lots of potential. “Friesians, friars and farmers, the omens bode well for Christy and after wheeling and dealing, his offer of 3,250 punts late on a Sunday night through auctioneer Mick Spillane finally paid dividends and he acquired his own pub on the evening of April 3rd 1950”. Christy’s Public House was born on Whit Sunday 1950 with a baptism of fire with the Munster hurling final between Limerick and Tipperary on the first Sunday. “I wasn’t really prepared for the rush and it was all hands on deck as the thirsty Galtee supporters descended on
Not content with the pub business, Christy tried his hand at auctioneering; buying and selling mainly farm land. His most famous purchase on behalf of a client involved ‘Kenmare House’ owned by Lady Beatrice Grosvenor. The palatial residence overlooking Lough Lein came with 57 acres and went to public auction. American millionaire and Gneeveguilla native Denis Kelleher secured Christy to bid and purchase the house on his behalf. The intense bidding started at a ‘whopping’ 100,000 and eventually reached 200,000 snaking upwards in 1,000 bids before Christy sealed the deal blowing his last competitor out of the water with a five grand hammer dropping bid and knocking it down for 245,000 punts. (about the price of a three-bed semi in todays money) “I got great satisfaction buying that property, it was unique in Killarney at the time and many people sought it” added Christy with a wry smile.
 His political foray started when he introduced Fionan Lynch to the assembled dancegoers
  McSweeney’s in the 1960’s
   First Published 2019
Two famous Kilgarvan Postmen (who retired in 1984) Richie Purcell and Denis Healy who cycled the highways & byways delivering the post by bicycle.
 One of the most heart- stirring joys of the festive season in days of childhood was the arrival of Christmas cards, especially those from abroad.
Nowadays in the era of the internet, texting and skype, people send far fewer cards. At one time, neighbours and people who met quite often even sent each other cards, but that doesn’t happen anymore.
One thing, perhaps, from An Post’s point of view - at least fromabusinessperspective-is that the slack is more than compensated for by the enormous amount of internet- ordered parcel deliveries from companies like Amazon.
wore navy uniforms, with capes on rainy days, and were hardy, fit men well seasoned by the elements.
‘’Beastly weather for golf,’’ was a favourite saying of Dave The Post, even though nobody in the area had the slightest interest in golf in those days.
Dave was a colourful personality, always talking and joking and you could hear him coming from a long way off. His brother, D.D, was a strong GAA supporter and a man well abletogiveheartyrenderings of ballads after matches, with The Groves of Cloghereen being a favourite of his.
The postmen’s workload – in the literal sense – increased enormously coming up to Christmas. Their bags would be bulging with Christmas cards and small parcels, while biggerparcelsmightbecarried on the carriers of their bikes.
Cards from relatives in far- flung destinations such as New York, Chicago, Texas and several parts of England were eagerly awaited.
Most of the cards were colourfully illustrated. Some had Dickensian images while others featured drawings of pot-bellied santas, bags of toys, Christmas trees and tables laden with food and all had strong religious content.
read avidly and passed around to visitors who might call to a house over Christmas.
Others might have contained dollars or Sterling to help a family meet the expenses of the season. People were, of course, reluctant to reveal details of such remittances. Around Christmas, postmen would be offered a ‘’little drop’’ when they called to a house in appreciation of their services throughout the year. Stories of postmen over- imbibing and being found thrown down the worse for drink, with their mail undelivered, are part of local lore in many areas. I must say, however, I never saw a postman in such condition.
Others even suffered a worse fate. There’s the story of The Missing Postman, Larry Griffin, who disappeared forever on Christmas Day 1929, in Stradbally, Co Waterford. It seems he visited a publichouseinthevillageafter doing his rounds and the belief locally is that he got into a row in the premises. His bike was found on the road about a mile from Stradbally by a local farmer on St Stephen’s morning.
Despite searches, the body of the 49-year-old father of four has never been found. His fate, whichhasbeenthesubjectofa book, countless newspaper articles, radio programmes and at least one television documentary, is still a mystery.
Ten local people were charged in connection with the unfortunate Larry’s disappearance, but the case collapsed for lack of evidence. A small community closing ranks and the law of omerta applying, nor for the first time.
Finally, as a seasonal greeting to one and all, let’s take the following nugget from an old Christmas card:
“May you never forget what is worth remembering,
Or remember what is best forgotten.”
By Donal Hickey
A far cry, indeed, from the life of a humble postman in yesteryear who delivered postal services by bike.
In days long ago, Christmas was a hectic time for postmen, who, at one time, were even expected to deliver mail on Christmas Day.
Working out of Gneeveguilla post office, we remember postmen such as Con Murphy, brothersDave(ThePost)and D.D. Cronin and Denny O’Rourke, who was also a tailor.
Francie McCarthy, who ran the post office with his wife, Maggie, was also known to act as a postman as did other members of the McCarthy family.
When we got to know them, thefourlocalpostmenwereall well into adulthood and were known to everybody as ‘’postboys’’. It was a male- only occupation. They worked in all kinds of weather and the bicycle was their only form of transport. Each man had his own daily ‘run’. They cycled for miles and miles each day into the hill country and up and down boreens delivering mail to houses in the most remote districts.
The route for each man was the same each day and you could set your clock by the time of the postman’s arrival. They
Some verses ran like this: “May peace and plenty be the
first
To lift the latch on your door, Andhappinessbeguidedto your home,
By the candle of Christmas.”
All the cards radiated goodwill and effusive greetings of the season. The following is an example:
Up
B MI
This Christmas may you have: “Walls for the wind
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks bedside the fire, Laughter to cheer you,
And those you love near you, And all that your heart may desire.”
Some of the cards contained had-written letters which were
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