Looking Back at the Business Life of Castleisland in 1970

An icon of Castleisland business and recognised as such throughout the province and beyond.
McElligott’s – an icon of Castleisland business through the years.

As the first St. Mary’s Basketball Club Blitz was held in the Astor Ballroom / Cinema in 1970, for this year’s ‘Blitz Programme’ Colm Kirwan thought it appropriate to look at the business life of Castleisland in the course of that year.

Colm looked at how the town and surrounding areas and parishes were serviced in terms of the wide range of businesses operating back then.

Even with that kind of time span and things changing on a daily basis, there are still survivors from those days on the business landscape of the town today.

Time Lapse Film

If the changes between 1970 and now could somehow be encapsulated in a kind of time-lapse film it would make the rough and tumble of the Aintree Grand National look like a leisurely stroll.

Keep in mind when reading Colm Kirwan’s piece that his terms of reference were as narrow as that one year.

Businesses here in Castleisland closed down that time only if someone died and there was nobody left to carry it on.

The year of 1970 was also some three years before Ireland voted to enter the common market as members and all the sweeping changes that brought about.

Tea or Something Stronger

Colm also points out that he’d welcome any amendments to his piece and there may well be places of business omitted from the list.

Make a cup of tea or knock the cap off a bottle of something stronger and be prepared to be taken away back.

As an appropriate soundtrack to the year under the scope try The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles or Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival to help put you right in the groove. Then take another good swig of that something stronger to get you right back out of it – or deeper into it – depending on your personality or penchant for nostalgia.

Castleisland in 1970 – The Times They are a Changing

Colm Kirwan, tracing the town's business listings through 1970. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Colm Kirwan, tracing the town’s business listings through 1970. ©Photograph: John Reidy

By Colm Kirwan

According to the 1971 census Castleisland had a population of 1929 people and was the fourth largest town in Kerry.

Almost 600 of those who filled the census form declared an occupation. The picture which emerged looked like this: Commerce 170; Services over 100; Manufacturing – Browne’s; Rhyno Mills 110 and Construction 50.

Family Run Businesses.

Agriculture was the back bone of the economy and we were largely a market and services centre. These were largely small, family run businesses.

They were personal as people rambled in and out for a chat and for the social interaction. Many of them had ‘tic books’ so families were not deprived of the essentials.

You paid what you could when you had it. It helped to create a wonderful sense of neighbourhood and much of that has, sadly, gone.

Socially, Castleisland was vibrant. Some of the best show bands in Ireland came to the Astor Ballroom on Wednesday nights. We had our very own and famed Michael O Callaghan’s band.

The High Chaparral

There was the High Chaparral and the Hideout where you had live music, a chicken supper, an exemption until 1.15am for 7/6.

Drink was an optional extra! There was a Feile Cheoil in May; a Carnival for three weeks on the site of the present Divane’s Garage in June/July and a visit from the Listowel players with a performance of Big Maggie in the Astor.

You had a rich diversity of sporting and leisure clubs and we were better served than most towns of a comparable size anywhere in the country.

Danny Sheehy's operated at No. 14 Church Street.
Danny Sheehy’s operated at No. 14 Church Street.

Amendments Welcome

We wish to thank all of those who helped to compile the list below. We apologise for any inaccuracies and would welcome any amendments.


Vincent Keane; Upper Main Street; Phil and Ita O’Connell, Church Street Corner; Browne’s Cash Stores, Killarney Road; Norrie Breen, Limerick Road; Curtin’s, Dooneen; Nelligan’s, Limerick Road; Danny Sheehy, Julia and Elie Sheehy, Mai Collins; Mick Brosnan, Daisy and Phil O Connor – all Church Street;

Davy Griffin’s; O’Donoghue’s Moll McCarthy’s Vincent Murphy and Bridge Dunne Howard, Killarney Road.

Phil Ryan’s; Mai Fleming’s; Mrs. Cullotty’s; Mick Griffin’s; Dave Crowley’s; Nancy Moloney’s; Willie Lyons; Tommy O’Rourke’s; Julia Hannon; Thomas Porter; Nellie Murphy’s, Tralee Road.

desktop289bSpecialist shops

Kitty Herlihy, Schools Supplies; Vincent Murphy, Trophies/Medals; Curtin’s, Paint and Wallpaper; Agatha Bryant, Fish Shop; Mickey Herlihy’s, Shoes and School Supplies; Peggy Breen, Toys; Benjamin Brosnan, Electrical; Hogan’s, Hardware; Steve Corkery, Bicycle Repair; Mc Elligott’s, Electrical and Milking Machines / Hardware/Furniture; Nellie Shanahan’s, Gifts and Souvenirs;  ESB Electrical; Rita Murphy, Antiques; O’Keeffe’s, Jewelers; Tomo Burke, Electrical; TH Murphy, Hardware/ Timber.

Men’s/Ladies Outfitters/Drapery

JK O’Connor; Bernie O’Connor; Molly Moynihan; Frank and Teresa O’Sullivan; DJ Twomey – House of Progress; Sonny Tangney; Joseph Hannon – LadiesFashions; Anthony Hannon – Men’s wear; Paddy Joe Brosnan; Pembroke’s; Jamesie ‘Junior’ Tangney (Moran’s)

Johnny McSweeney was one of Kerry's leading building contractors in his time.
Johnny McSweeney was one of Kerry’s leading building contractors in his time.

Tailors/Dress Makers

Con O’Donoghue; Mai O’Donoghue; Bridie Donovan; Con Hewitt.

Shoe Repairs

Hugh O’Connor; Tom The Cobbler McCarthy; Mick Cronin’s. Bakeries: Nelligan’s; Browne’s; McElligott’s, Nolan’s. Pharmacies/Doctors: Pa Crowley; Dick Shanahan; Ted Kennelly; Dr. Paddy and Maureen Daly; Dr. Donal Geaney; Dr. Dick Shanahan. Dentists: Mr. Scully, Mr. Mannix.


The Crown Hotel; Shanahan’s; The Castle Inn; Chippers: Teresa Mac’s; Michael Brosnan; Gordon Burrows; Martin Hewitt. Butchers: Tommy Lawlor; Micky Mike Brosnan; Dinny Harrington; Evelyn Harrington; Charlie Lenihan.

Mac's Cafe on Church Street was the place to go and be seen. There was often as much of a queue for the Juke Box as there was for the chips and peas.
Mac’s Cafe on Church Street was the place to go and be seen. There was often as much of a queue for the Juke Box as there was for the Hot Beefy Bovril or for the chips and peas.


Hartnett’s; Maria Fitzgerald; Charlie Horan; Tom McCarthy’s; Chicago Bar – Terry Teahan; Donal Cronin; McGillycuddy’s; Thos Kelliher; Tadhg Prendiville; Sean Cormac O’Connor; McElligott’s; Leahy’s; Kearney’s; Dinno Fitz; Kelliher’s /Jerh Andy’s; Silver Dollar; O’Connor’s – Kitty and Greta; Francie The Poet O’Connor; Joe McCarthy; Paddy Hussey; Jack Reidy; Wrenn’s;

Pubs/Shops: Fitzmaurice’s – Marion and Doris; Dermot Griffin; Tom Browne’s; Sheila Prendiville’s; Marbie and Andy Moynihan; Shanahan’s.

Services: Solicitors: Donal Kelleher and DD Twomey. Financial: AIB; BOI; Lyons Insurances; Post Office – Daly’s. Auctioneers: Vincent Murphy and Tadhg Prendiville.

Plumbing and Electrical

Michael Brosnan and Terence O Connor. Electrician: Bernie Tangney. Harness Maker: Denny ‘Oggie’ O’Sullivan.

Ahern's Garage - a live link with the 1970s Castleisland and today.
Ahern’s Garage – a live link with the 1970s Castleisland and today.

Undertakers: Joe Tangney and Dave Crowley. Bookmakers: Malachy Skelly.

Horse Drawn Caravans: Tom Hickey. Engineering welding: Denis Watson.


Mrs. O’Connor and Mrs O’Donovan, College Road; Tom Brennan; Gene Brennan and Eileen Brennan; Maureen McCarthy. Transport: Car Sales/Garages – Ahern’s; Divane’s; McElligott’s; Hartnett’s; O Donoghue’s; Brendan Brosnan. Hackney Cars: Maurice Kerins; Tom Seán O’Connor’s; Jack Corkery; Jerh Keane; Eugie McCarthy.

Petrol Sales: Mamie Horan’s, Ahern’s; McElligott’s; Lorry Hire: Sonny Nolan’s, Church Street.

Agriculture / Veterinary

Vets: Dave Geaney and Dave O’Loughlin; Castleisland Mart; Walsh Farm Machinery; Roche and Horan – Milk Bottling; Willie Lyons, Charlie Lenihan – milk distributors.

Doyle’s Hatchery; Horan’s Mill; McElligott’s ; Rhyno Mills. Cattle Breeding Station.

Cattle Dealers: Bill Keane and Denis Daly; Mossie O’Connell, pigs; Kerry Committee of Agriculture – sub office – Agri advisers: Sean Brandon, Michael Keane.

Forge/Blacksmith: Dan and Tom Culloty; Jim McCarthy; Walsh’s. Sand and Gravel: Johnny McSweeney, Barrack Street.

T.H. Murphy's had all you needed in the area of building supplies in Castleisland.
T.H. Murphy’s had all you needed in the area of building supplies in Castleisland.

Hardware: TH Murphy; Hogan’s, McElligott’s; Browne’s. Taxidermist: Declan Mannix.

Manufacturing: Browne’s Mineral Waters; Rhyno Mills. District Development Association – Third AGM in 1970.

Public Services: Librarian Kitty Downey; Council depot: Fire service: Willie Lyons, Jim O’ Connor, Tom and Gene Brennan, Eugene McCarthy.

Railway: Closed in 1976 – John O Sullivan – last station master.

Garda station: Barrack Street: Sgt. Brendan Sheehan, Jim Lordan, Gerry O’Shea, John Moloney, Michael Fitzgerald. District Court at the Carnegie Library.


Boys NS: Principal, Paddy Bawn Brosnan; Maurice Kelleher; Dermot Hanifin; Michael O’Donohoe; Curranes NS: Principal, Terence McQuinn, Mary Murphy; Convent Presentation Primary: Principal, Sr. Rita, Sr. Vilgilius, Sr. Consilio; St. Patrick’s Secondary: Tim and Nora Kerrisk, Sean O’Dell, Jim Lyons; Vocational School: Tony O’Callaghan, Con O’Flynn, Eamon O’ Donoghue, Sean Ó Ciardubháin; St. Josephs Secondary: Sr. Lelia, Sr. Clement – to mention just a few.

Religion RC – Canon Duff and Curates – Fr. McMahon, Fr. Dillon.

Sports clubs

Desmonds GAA Club – Football and Hurling; Castleisland Rugby Club; Pitch and Putt; Athletics: St. Mary’s Basketball Club; Castleisland Coursing Club; Kingdom Badminton Club; Castleisland Tennis Club; Desmonds Cycling Club; Angling; St. Mary’s Snooker Club; Castleisland Soccer Club founded in 1973; Castleisland Bridge Club; Macra na Feirme; Castleisland Youth Club.


Astor Cinema and Ballroom; Hideout Ballroom; The High Chaparral; Feile Cheoil; annual Carnival and Bazzar; Drama; Michael O’Callaghan / Desmond Céilí Band.

Others: Beamish and Crawford Drinks Distribution; Kingdom Oil – Anthony Cronin and John Curtin.

Building Contractors

Griffin Bros. Construction; Gene McGillicuddy; Denis ‘Denny’ Kerins, Mickey Donovan, Johnny McSweeney. Plant Hire: Danny Kelly.

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