Up The Quarry And Down The Pike

Thurles Author & Poet Tom Ryan Remembers.

“Up the quarry and down the Pike,
That’s the way to ride a bike “

[Who has ever heard Thurles people sing that old refrain above.]

One of the most delightful of Thurles personalities was the late Nan Roche of Lisheen Terrace, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

I spoke to her on her 80th birthday and some seventy years of her 80 years had been spent in the Quarry, which once produced a World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Paddy Ryan.

Nan Roche recalled to me that she came into the world on the sunny side of Liberty Square, in Thurles; born in Cooks Lane back in 1915. Cooks lane was situated between Hayes Hotel and Roches Hardware

“I have memories of generals and officers, but they were probably Black and Tans”, Nan recalled, and she remembered days of apples galore and one Margaret Cantwell and being told to mind herself crossing the road, in an era when there were no cars; only the animal powered variety.

Nan, a great friend of mine for many years, loved to tell me of great yarns of sporting days in Thurles. For instance, when some folks were not beyond linking doorknobs on opposite sides of the street with string. “I’d hate to try that in Mitchel Street today”, she stated, She continued “In those days people travelled to Templemore for a pair of new shoes. Sure that would be accomplished with all the ceremony and hoo-ha that accompanies a holiday”.

Half upgraded Liberty Square area photographed in 2023.
Pic: G. Willoughby

I myself well recall going to the CBS from Fianna Road wading in wellies up the Mall (if you were lucky enough to have them), with a mandatory quick glance at the latest toys or fishing tackle in Kilroys’ window of wonder. Then across the square to school on Market Day held on the first Tuesday of each month.
The shop windows were all boarded up for safety and security to avoid the vast and heaving mass of cattle on the streets and sidewalks of Liberty Square. Indeed I well recall playing hurling in the Square.

In the 1950’s, I was always a goalkeeper for matches in Fianna Road, just off Liberty Square. Though my backside faced down towards the river at the junction of Fianna Road and Slievenamon Road, I never had to look around me for traffic, because there was none. Only a car belonging to Detective Garda Pat Wall who was my next-door neighbour and father of All-Ireland hurler, Tony Wall.

I don’t think there ever was an excuse for being late for school. There used to be a Minah Bird in a wee shop in the Square, near PJ Broderick’s auctioneers now, which was forever urging us to “Hurry up, you’ll be late for school”.

I suppose that if a country person knows every corner of every field where he was brought up, the ould townies in Thurles will recall a million stories on the street or road or terrace where they lived.

There is not a square inch of the Watery Mall in Thurles, where I have not played hurling or planned an ambush on the enemy of the United States Marine Corps.

Tom Ryan, “Iona”, Rahealty, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. ©


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