Dancing with the Stars and the Tyrrellspass connection. By Bríd Ryan

I was delighted to see Fr Ray Kelly doing so well on Dancing with the Stars for the past few weeks. He may not be a great dancer but he is a lovely singer and he was a grand young lad in Tyrrellspass years ago when I went on holidays there to my aunt. My aunt and uncle lived in The Buildings, Tyrrellspass on the Mullingar Rd and very near Ray Kelly’s home. The houses there were a part of an orphanage years before and some of the older people remembered the children walking to the Protestant school on the Green in their little white smock uniforms.

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The Orphanage children on the Mullingar Road near The Buildings

I remember a lovely quaint house with a stairs going downwards inside the front door. A woman called Mrs Craven lived in the largest house in The Buildings. She was involved in the ICA but I didn’t know her. I remember the Kelly children playing in the garden. They were a little younger than me but they were always friendly and I know there was always music in their house. His Dad drove a lorry and dealt in sheep and cattle. He had a word for everyone and was very popular. Nurse Kelly was known far and wide as a midwife and was very highly regarded for same. It was interesting, in the book, to see her work from the children’s point of view. I don’t suppose anyone wondered who would mind her four children when she was with an expectant mother and their Dad was working away from home. His Aunt Kitty got great love and well deserved praise from Ray. I just remember her as a quiet woman who loved to go to Bingo and was a regular on the Bingo bus with my own aunt!

My niece knew of my connection with Tyrrellspass and got me Fr Ray’s new book Hallelujah for Christmas. It is a long time since I was there as, after my aunt and uncle passed away, the family scattered abroad and we all more or less lost contact. The book conjured up such memories! Walking up to the shops from the Mullingar Road we came to the lovely green with the pump in the middle.

025870 Tyrrellspass Village Green

Water flowed there at that time and was well used. The Protestant church St Sinian’s was on the left and Mrs Payne lived in the Court House on the right. Dr and Mrs Kelly lived beside her and Mrs Daly, the chemist beside that. I came from the heart of the country so it was very exciting to get to Tyrrellspass shops. We got ice cream from Dan Moore while my aunt shopped in John Claffey’s for groceries and Byrne’s for clothes. We loved going into John Claffey as he had big boxes of biscuits which he would fill into a paper bag. He always gave us children a free biscuit.

001752 Claffeys grocery Tyrrellspass

I remember a young chap Cor Maher worked there who was always nice to us as well. For a real sweet treat we went to Miss Maughan at the top of the town who owned a sweet swop with such delights. We also went to Mrs Gill at the bottom of the town whose shop was like the Wonka film the children look at now! One type of sweet was like pink rock but some had a halfpenny inside which meant you made a fortune! Long liquorice strings were very popular as was the 3d bar of chocolate. My aunt sometimes bought us Fry’s Chocolate Cream but I presume that was a special occasion! I actually haven’t thought about all that in donkey’s years!!!

36559 RM (7) Tyrrellspass, Co Westmeath
Clarke’s house one winter’s day in the early 1980s. Linehan’s is second fom the left.

In his book Ray spoke of his grandparents Joe and Mrs Gavigan. Joe was a great gardener and a great chat. I know we used to get milk from them before pasteurisation. There was a small farm at the back of the house as far as I can remember. When their daughter Kitty married Ger Linehan the back became a cabinet making workshop. Ger was known for his craftsmanship the length and breadth of the country. He was the loveliest of men and a pleasure to meet. Seán Cuffe’s house two doors away was also a small farm. Seán was a great chat and loved nothing better than sitting on his front windowsill for a while to watch the world go by. Cuffes had turkeys and if they were out and in bad form when you passed you had to run for your life! Between Cuffes and Gavigans the schoolmaster Jim Clarke lived with his family. He loved to shoot and we would often see him heading down the bog road near The Buildings with his two dogs. Ray in his book mentioned Dick Power who lived down that lane. We didn’t go near him as he lived on his own in a dark house. In retrospect and having read Ray’s book he was probably very lonely and may have welcomed callers. Joe Kelly, Ray’s Dad, called on him and we would see Master Clarke calling when he went that way. The bog road is now called Power’s Way so Dick Power is in fact immortalised in Tyrrellspass and beyond.

073750 Post Card Main Street, Tyrrellspass
I was very sorry to read of Regina Kelly’s death in Hallelujah. It must have been a terrible blow to the family. She was the youngest in the house and obviously a pet. Poignant to know that Ray keeps a photo of her in his wallet and that he turns his thoughts to her when performing on Dancing with the Stars or Britain’s Got Talent. I never saw that programme but he seems to have done very well on it. The wedding song Hallelujah was a real treat. I love Leonard Cohen –so Tyrrellspass singer with a Cohen song was a terrific bonus! Ray’s mother would be so proud of her son. I remember her well singing in the choir at Mass in Tyrrellpass. Their neighbour Larry Arthur played the organ and they were a great team. Fr Tom Farrell, who was curate in the village for many years, was an integral part of the community.

070690 Fr.Tom Farrell C C TyrrellspassWe felt he knew what we were thinking before we knew it ourselves! He was a very kind man and his Mass on a Sunday was always a spiritual and community event, greatly helped by Mona Kelly and the choir.
I wish Ray well in the next round of the TV programme. He is a good man and will do well whatever he turns to. I don’t like to see negative comments about him or indeed any of the contestants. They are entertaining us all and need our support. Thanks Fr Ray for your book, Hallelujah, for your dancing with the stars and in particular for your lovely singing.

001756 Keegans Shop, Tyrrellspass.

073746 Tyrrellspass Castle
Tyrrellspass Castle before my time I am glad to say. Great place for a meal now.