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John Tuohy, former Street Cleaner in Killaloe for the past 15 years who has retired and hopes to spend more time at his many hobbies which include wood turning. Photograph by John Kelly

John hangs up the brush after decade keeping Killaloe clean

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THE decline in commercial activity on the Main Street in Killaloe has been lamented by the man whose business it has been, for the past 10 years, to keep it looking its best.

John Tuohy of Millstream, Killaloe, recently retired as local authority street cleaner, has fond memories of meeting business people and shoppers while at his work keeping the picturesque town clean and tidy.

However, he was saddened by the relocation of Killaloe Post Office from Main Street to Convent Hill and the closure of several businesses on the street.

“A lot of the shops on the street like butchers are gone. Jimmy Whelan’s shop in Church Street also closed. Keith Wood had a lovely restaurant and café for a while before it closed.

“It is sad to see the Main Street now, it is practically derelict, you don’t meet people on it. I loved meeting people. Brendan Grace used to drive down the street, let down his car window and say ‘hello Santa Claus’.”

“When Brendan Grace was running his pub, he brought a lot of people to Killaloe and used to have buses from Shannon Airport.

“Brendan Grace was very approachable. He did a promotion for the Irish Kidney Association awareness week when my youngest child, Benji had a kidney problem when he was four.

“Keith Wood would invite me in for a coffee free of charge. I used to meet Anthony “Axel” Foley every morning.

“Convent Hill is the new Main Street, that is where all the business is focused at the moment,” he said.

As a Killaloe man, Mr Tuohy is very proud the town has produced so many high profile rugby stars such as Keith Wood, “Axel” Foley, Rosie Foley and Damien Varley.

Mr Tuohy got to know every nook and cranny of the street, built on a steep hill, as he pushed his rubbish cart from the bottom to the top for years.

His supervisor, Michael Ryan managed to secure an electric cart costing €9,000 earlier this year, which made his work a lot easier because he was running out of breath coming up the hill.

One of the down sides of his job was picking up dog poo left by some dog owners and discarded masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His replacement is another local man, Michael Ryan, who joined the council in recent times.

He thanked the council for hosting a function honouring 138 retirees and people with long service in the local authority at the Old Ground Hotel, Ennis.

In addition to a four-course meal, he received a certificate, plaque and a €100 voucher.

“The council was a good organisation to work for. You get your entitlements without looking for them.”

Council chairman, Tony O’Brien said Mr Tuohy took great pride in keeping the town clean and noted his service was appreciated by everyone in the local community.

Not content with keeping the town clean, Mr Tuohy and his wife, Bridie were heavily involved with others in reviving the Millstream Residents’ Association about 15 years.

With Noel Carey at the helm as chairman, Mr Tuohy was vice-chairman, Bridie was secretary and Pat Carey was treasurer.

They started cutting the green area with a small lawn mover until the council gave the association a bigger one. Resident, James Mulcahy used to cut the amenity area for years on a voluntary basis at his own expense.

Years of hard work paid off when Millstream won the top prize for the best kept estate in the county in 2010.

Mr Tuohy said there was a great feeling among residents after winning this award.

Unfortunately, the residents’ association is not as active as it was as a lot of its residents are now elderly.

The council now employs a contractor to cut the green area regularly.

Mr Tuohy was born in Garraunboy in 1956. Having started in the Glen National School, he went to Killaloe Boys’ National School in New Street and later when it relocated to near Smith O’Brien’s GAA clubhouse.

The late John Kierse, a local historian was the school headmaster at the time, while his wife used to teach the junior and senior classes. Ms Lynch used to teach Second and Third Class.

Mr Tuohy enjoyed his school days, which included playing hurling in the nearby GAA field.

After spending a few years in St Anne’s Community School when it was located in Convent Hill, he got a job making cardboard boxes in Benson Box in 1970.

Two years later, he moved to work in quality control in EI Electronics, which involved travelling on a bus at 5.30am from Killaloe to Shannon.

In 1973, he started working with Clare County Council on a temporary basis as a general roads operative only to be let off during an engineer’s strike later that year.

He worked for various building contractors including McKeogh Brothers for years, which included difficult periods when there was no work available.

In 2007, he returned to the council as a general operative on a temporary basis again and continued working with the authority on short-term contracts.

In 2010, he was made permanent after he and other general operatives went up to Ennis to help out with flood relief works.

When Tony Monaghan retired from looking after the maintenance of Killaloe about a decade ago, Mr Tuohy took over street cleaning in the town.

The father-of-five also used to work with the road sweeper one day a week, travelling to places throughout East Clare to Kilkishen, Kilmurry, Broadford and O’Brien’sbridge.

He loves wood turning, making unusual items from wood such as wooden biros, goblets and ornaments that he gifts as presents to family and friends, having picked up this skill from a FAS scheme.

Meeting his eight grandchildren keeps him feeling “young”. With a help of a grant, he build an extension to his house.

He also has a poly tunnel on a Tom Gleeson’s farm where he grows organic potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and other vegetables. Every year he made two or three tonnes of compost from leaves collected from the Main Street.

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