A Little Bit of Limerick Road History Slips Away

The 1974 Limerick Road / Desmonds Avenue Tops of the Town Cast and Crew celebrating their overall win in the competition at headquarters in Nelligan’s Bakery. Front from left: Tom McCarthy, John O’Connor and Richard Barry. Second row from left: Kathleen Kelliher, Gabie Keane, Ciaran Fleming, Derry Reen, Lil McCarthy and Annie Nelligan. Third row, from left: Joan Doody, Des McCarthy, Joan O’Connor, Leo Hogan, Julia Twomey, Margaret Griffin, Mary O’Connor, Mary Lynch, Sheila McCarthy and Nellie Fitzgerald. Back row from left: Timmy O’Connor, Mossie Nelligan, Jackie Browne, Timmy O’Connor, Fionnán O’Connell, Noel Keane, Donal Nelligan, Jack Nolan, Dan Nelligan and Thos Doody. Photograph: Timothy Murphy 1974
On the occasion of a presentation to Mrs. Annie Nelligan and family by the representatives of the Limerick Road / Desmonds Avenue Tops-of-the-Town Group. Front row from left: Mary Roche, Billy Moloney, Ciaran Fleming, Catherine Butler, TJ Nelligan and Mary O’Connor. Seated: Charlie Nelligan, Derry Reen, Annie Nelligan, Gabie Keane and Phil Nolan. Standing from left: Eily McSweeney, Sheila McCarthy, Donal Nelligan, Fr. Willie Stack, Jack Nolan, Seán McCarthy, Nora Greaney, Sean and Patsy Fleming. Photograph: John Reidy 26-6-2001
The Nelligan’s Bakery early 1970’s fascia board which was the work of the late Tim Commane and was the last reminder of the house’s long business association with Limerick Road.
An advertising memory from May 4th 1952 from the day the Castleisland Desmonds GAA field was opened up the road in Moanmore.

A little piece of Scannell’s Lane / Park Road / Limerick Road, Castleisland history slipped away into visual oblivion in the course of last week – but the many memories made there will linger.

A scim coat of plaster covered the Tim Commane, early 1970s created Nelligan’s Bakery fascia at No. 21.

The bakery was established in 1945 – a fact celebrated and noted up to recently on the front and gable walls of what later became Nelligan’s Bakery and Shop.

Gold Medal Award

A few year after the bakery was established, by Danny and Annie Nelligan, its Barm Brack won an international gold medal at a prestigious event in London in 1953.

Later on, in February 1971 Nelligan’s Bakery collected three awards at a prize giving ceremony in Dublin.

The bakery collected first prize in the ‘loaf purchase’ section of the 1971 Irish Hovis competition in Class A.

All Over the World

Produce from Nelligan’s Bakery went to almost every corner of the world and especially their ‘Barm Brack’ at Christmas time.

In her retirement years, Mrs. Annie Nelligan was subjected to a couple of surprise party nights by neighbours and friends – who couldn’t let special events like birthdays and anniversaries go unmarked.

These events usually had local resident, Gabie Keane in the role of ard-stiúrthóir.

She was perfectly placed as she lived through the times when the bakery and shop formed the rock of the neighbourhood.

Its Own Community Centre

The naturally warm building became the street’s community centre before the term was ever coined.

Gabie, God rest them all, was the woman to ask about how neighbours along the road were encouraged to use the area behind the bakery to dry clothes during bad weather.

“A roofed area at the back of one of the big ovens had a long clothes line and it proved a God-send to women with young children in the neighbourhood.

There When Needed

“I would have no shame at all in telling you that she (Mrs. Nelligan) came to my rescue at a time I needed it,” said Gabie referring to the time in the early ‘70s when her husband Bill Keane died tragically as a result of a traffic accident.

On another such occasion Gabie marshalled the old Tops-of-the-Town team from Limerick Road / Desmonds Avenue  to honour the Nelligan family for its contribution to the group.

Show of Appreciation

Aided by the likes of Phil Nolan, Derry Reen and Ciaran Fleming to name a few, they set about organising a night on which to show their appreciation.

They recalled that they were provided with every encouragement and a warm bakery to rehearse in for the decade or so, from 1972, while the competition, which raised the bulk of the money to build the community centre, ran its course.

The group won the title in 1974 with a sketch based on Percy French’s tilt at the West Clare Railway.

Magnificent Piece of Copper-Work

So, on the night of this particular gathering in June 2001 the group members presented Mrs. Nelligan with a magnificent piece of copper-work by Listowel based artist, Tony O’Callaghan.

The piece depicted the West Clare Railway of ‘Tops’ fame and the giant bakery oven – the centre focal point of the building and the operation behind the shop at No. 21.

Gabie said later that in spite of Mrs. Nelligan’s dislike of fuss she told her she really appreciated the gesture.

An Abiding Memory

My abiding memory of Mrs. Nelligan in her shop – I have many but one stands out:

Herself and Sheila McCarthy of Desmonds Avenue were reminiscing one day on the good old days of the ‘Tops.’

Mrs. Nelligan was bent out over the counter and Mrs. McCarthy bent in and they helpless with laughter after recounting one of the funnier incidents of the time.

Fortunately, Timothy Murphy was there with his camera on the occasion of the party to celebrate the group’s win in the tops-of-the-town over finalists Cordal on March 19th 1974.

Little Know Trait

At a gathering after her passing an employee from the early days of the business told me of a little known trait of Mrs. Nelligan’s.

The late Jerry Broderick filled in as part-time shopkeeper at the Limerick Road store and he was often dispatched to houses around the town with food parcels and told to leave them without being seen wherever possible.

Couldn’t Go Without Mention

On that account alone and in the spirit of the late great Gabie Keane and in memory of them all, I couldn’t let the disappearance of the name over the door go without mention.

Though the shop and bakery closed in the mid 2000s, the name which was uncovered only last autumn, was put there by the late Tim Commane – a talented Strand Road native and Castleisland resident who passed away in 1997.

Apart from distinguishing himself at his trade, Tim was a 1951 All-Ireland doubles handball title winner when teaming up with his neighbour, Paddy Downey. May God rest them all.

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