Time Ticks Again Over The Market House

The heir and proprietor of a deeply historic house at the top-of-the-town was instrumental in the installation of time and light in the Latin Quarter on this, the very last day of September 2015.
Jerome Hartnett – known as ‘Fagin’ to his friends was part of Neil Hickey’s Market House Clock installation crew early this morning. A problem with one of the clocks which arrived a couple of months ago, delayed the re-installation of the town’s most famous time tower but now all is well.

As an added bonus the clock is now back-lit and it’s like a light has come on in the town as activity increases with the imminent election of the Castleisland Chamber Alliance and associated activity. There are people who will see great significance in the lighting of a light in one of the most famous houses in Kerry. With the present, self generated bustle of activity here it’s fair enough to see it as part of a positive momentum.

Suitable Occupant

While there is no concrete news of a suitable occupant for the beautiful, spacious and olde worlde premises, this development certainly won’t harm its chances of having its huge doors open to the Main Street for trade in the near future.

Summer-time speculation that Kerry star footballer, Paul Galvin was moving in there with a line of clothes remained just that.

Meanwhile, Neil Hickey, who fell in love with and bought the building earlier this year,  continues to care for it – and the clock is his latest gift to it and the town it serves.

Along with his friend, Jerome Hartnett, Neil’s sister, Helen O’Connell and brother Tommy Hickey were also involved in giving time back to the Latin Quarter’s most historic and colourful building.

Historical Significence

The following piece is for Helen – who didn’t realise the historical significance of the building as we spoke about its beauty and grandeur on Wednesday morning.

The clock on The Market House and the nearby fountain supplied the people of the town with the basic needs of water and the time of day for generations.
Two fairly compelling pieces of documentary evidence show that the clock was placed there in 1914.
The first, a photograph taken in that year, came to light when Moynihan’s shop and house across the road was being cleared out.
The picture clearly shows the house minus its landmark clock. Then, an artist’s impression from later on that same year shows the building with the clock sitting proudly on top.
To fully appreciate the history of the building itself it is necessary to look back to the writings of TM Donovan which he included in his book ‘A Popular History of East Kerry’ which was first published in 1931.

Weekly Columns
However, before he published the book, he serialised much of its eventual contents in weekly columns in The Kerryman in 1929. He pitched these posts as portraying the events of the town from 60 year before. He actually started many of these columns with the line: Sixty years ago – as indeed he did with the Market House piece:
“Sixty years ago The Market House now the The Emporium, a finely decorated shop equal to any in the City of Dublin, had three institutions housed within its great walls. The central portion was the market proper, where farm produce of all kinds was weighed, bought and sold. Three huge gates fronted the Main Street. Many old Castleislanders will remember Mr. John Burke’s brown retriever  that guarded those gates  at night and sent his loud bark reverberating through the town.
Some used to say that the dog was barking at the headless coach which old Patsy Lawlor averred was often seen passing through the town at the dead of night. The melancholy howl of John Burke’s retriever and that same headless coach prevented many young fellows from staying out too late at night. It was as effective as the Black and Tan curfew of later years.

Firkins of Butter
In those days the markets were held on Tuesdays and, in the height of summer, the inside and the outside as far as The Fountain were occupied by firkins of butter with their golden tops exposed but protected from the dust by green cabbage leaves.
The butter buyers from Tralee and Cork went around with auger-like scoops, smelling and tasting the butter. Some of the big farmers would have as many as three firkins – while smaller farmers would have to combine to make one.
Before the advent of the railway train from Gortatle, in the early seventies, the butter was dispatched to Tralee by car and to Cork by train via Farranfore.
Earlier than that, it was carried by car and sleds all the way to Cork by road. The sleds and sometimes the horse were sold in the city and the carriers came home in a Bianconi Car.

Local Dispensary
On the left, as you entered The Market House, was the local dispensary where Dr. Nolan and his assistant dispenser, Mr. Thomas Burke tended to the wants of the sick poor. On the right, where Mr. MJ O’Connor now has his store, was the Court of Petty Sessions where people who indulged too freely in the then ‘two-penny half-ones’ had to appear before the magistrate. I saw the first telegraph poles being put up in Castleisland in 1871 and the arrival of the first train a few years later.
As a matter of historical interest I might mention that the first passenger to arrive by train was the late Mr. J.K. O’Connor, who so ably represented East Kerry in the County Council for many years. He happened to be in Dublin when our next little engine, that had a first class compartment attached to the tender, was dispatched to Kerry. After the advent of the railway train to Castleisland, the town threw off the swaddling clothes of a village and commenced to grow upwards and outwards rapidly and with great vigour.”