By Oona Roycroft
The final Skerries Historical Society before the summer break took place on a beautiful sun drenched evening in The Bowling Club. The presentation, ‘Best Love from Skerries: a visual history though postcards’, was highly appropriate to the holiday season that has now arrived.
A delve into the Historical Society archive yielded a box of postcards showing a host of views from all corners of Skerries and dating from the turn of the last century up to about the 1960s. They evoked a fascinating collection of stories and memories in the speakers, Stephanie Bourke, Geraldine Clarke, Brendan Grimes, Carmel Power and Oona Roycroft and, more importantly, the audience.
Stephanie reminded us how unique the Skerries Mills complex is. The Great Windmill was originally built as a four sail windmill but, ravaged by fire in 1844, the rebuild introduced the five sail configuration. And there is nowhere else in Ireland – perhaps nowhere in Europe – where there is a four sail mill, a five sail mill and a watermill all on the same site. Skerries is preserving precious industrial history.
Brendan recalled working for Barry Mason as a photographer’s assistant during the days of the Red Island Holiday Camp – or, as owner, Mr Eamon Quinn, insisted it be known, the Red Island Holiday Hotel. One of Brendan’s tasks was to pursue punters around the town and, despite being only 17 at the time, into pubs to capture holiday gaiety on film. He was sometimes lent to Eamon Quinn to work on the night shift cleaning the floors. He took special care to make sure the floor was particularly well polished near Mr Quinn’s office. Near the end of his shift one of his tasks was to wake the rest of the staff at six in the morning by banging his fists on their doors as he walked down the corridors.
Carmel reminded us that the convent was founded in convent lane in 1875 by Margaret Aylward with the support of Father John Gowan whose sister gave a house in Convent Lane (then Gowan’s Lane) for the new school. Less than a decade later the school had outgrown the premises and a New Yorker, Mr Anthony Ellis, donated £1000 to buy Kybe house and its neighbours to form the new school and convent. This became the subject of some beautiful photos made into postcards.
We are very grateful to all the comments from the audience that have rounded out our knowledge of the various Skerries scenes – also the offers of copies of more postcards. If you think you have something we would be interested in, please let us know through the website or in person – we will photograph it and return it to you.