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Ennis native Gerry Woods who has produced a book entitled Old Mill Street, a history of that part of Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly

Book to show historical area was far from ‘run of the mill’

Champion Chatter

Gerry Woods’ and Clare Roots Society publication brings the history of Ennis’ Old Mill Street to life

“PRESERVING the history of an area gives us all a sense of place,” says Gerry Woods who, this Friday, releases a new book in conjunction with Clare Roots Society.
The book, exploring the history of Old Mill Street, including Cornmarket, Considine’s Terrace and Old Cloughleigh, is a collection of articles, including on sport, poetry, maps and photographs.
Unfortunately because of Covid-19 restrictions an official book launch cannot take place, however the publication will be available locally with all proceeds going to the Clare Roots Society.
The contents of the publication were originally to be included in an upcoming book on Hermitage, but due to the quantity of material available on the area the decision was made to publish the history of Old Mill Street separately.
Gerry says he was “very pleased” when he was approached by Larry Brennan of the Clare Roots Society about compiling the history of the area.
“Old Mill Street played an important part in the growth of Ennis as can be seen by the recollections of its people and their stories within this book,” Gerry told The Champion.
“We are fortunate that the records of those that have gone before us have been preserved at this time as going forward future generations may not get access to the history that went before them.”
Old Mill Street has a long history which dates back to 1712, a date linked to the old mills of Ennis. Originally linking Mill Street (Parnell Street) to Old Cloughleigh Road, the area begins at Long’s Corner, or Guerin’s shop that was on Hermitage Road or O’Donoghue’s Cross.
Prior to the construction of Cusack Road/Victoria Road (Bridge) officially opened in 1841, Old Mill Street was the north-western entrance to the town via Claureen Bridge.
“While by no means a complete history of the area, this book is a record of the people who came from Old Mill Street,” Gerry outlined.
“The information is abstracted from the sources that were made available to me. Individual family members can use the information contained within this book to enlarge their own family history or add to details of the built heritage included in this book. I hope this book has something to offer all interests and to all age groups,” he added.
The book lists all the residents of the area from 1855 using the Griffiths Valuations, 1901 and 1911 Census returns, grave stone inscriptions, obituaries, war records, voting registers and local recollections.
“It also includes family profiles on the Gilligan and Hayes families and a picture parade of over 100 photographs.
The life of Johnny Patterson, one of Ennis’ most famous citizens, is among those remembered in the publication.
Guerin’s shop was originally known as Dan Murphy’s, and was mentioned in Patterson’s famous song, ‘The Stone outside Dan Murphy’s Door’. Johnny also wrote ‘The Garden Where the Praties Grow’.
Johnny Patterson experienced the trauma of the famine years in Ennis before emigrating. He later returned to Ireland where his death took place tragically in Tralee in 1889.
The words of ‘The Stone outside Dan Murphy’s Door’ have been recalled by former Mayor of Ennis Councillor Paul Murphy in paying tribute to Gerry on the publication of the book.
“Gerry undertook an arduous task which he has performed with exceptional dedication. Time consuming, detailed research, combined with an exceptional collection of articles and old photographs has resulted in a very comprehensive account of a very old area of Ennis.
“The words of Johnny Patterson come to mind: ‘It’s the place where we were born and reared’ from the song ‘The Stone outside Dan Murphy’s Door’.
“Dan Murphy has long since gone, but Old Mill Street has reared a lot of Ennis people with deep roots to the area.
“This publication will provide many hours of pleasant reading for Ennis people at home and abroad. For some, it will bring an opportunity for reminiscence but, for future researchers on Ennis, it will remain as a major source of information.”
Other recollections to be found in the book include The Old Mill Street Harriers who hunted by following their beagles on foot across the rough countryside terrain.
Just a hunting horn sounding at O’Donoghue’s Cross every Sunday morning for over 100 years summoned this famous pack for a day’s hunting in the hills surrounding the town of Ennis.
Articles recall the following families associated with the Harriers: Browne, Casey, Coffey, Coote, Considine, Crowe, Cullinan, Fahy, Flynn, Grace, Guerin, Grady, Heffernan, Kenny, Linnane, Lyons, Molloy, Moloney, Moroney, Murphy, McAllister, McCarthy, O’Brien, O’Connor, O’Dea, O’Gorman, O’Loughlin, Roughan, Ryan, Smythe, Spellissey, Stack, Sullivan, Summerly and Tuohy.
From the sporting world the book looks back on the formation of The Rovers Hurling Club in 1926 with connections to the Ball, Burns, Coleman, Gilligan, Houlihan, Kearney, Linnane, Mahony, McCarthy, Mounsey, O’Loughlin, Power, Rice and Woods families.
The book details a ‘Lying-in hospital’, or a maternity hospital, situated on Circular Road that opened in 1939.
Between these dates 2,409 children, 1,423 boys and 986 girls were born there, the majority of these children probably born outside of marriage.
While other historical incidences reflected on in the publication include an outbreak of typhoid in the town in 1906 due to poor sanitation, traced to a cesspool in Old Mill Street.

Old Mill Street by Clare Roots Society goes on sale this Friday at Ennis Book Shop, Mary Kelly’s Newsagents and O’Connor’s Newsagents.

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