A three-part series by TONY CONBOY

Boyle-based author and historian Tony Conboy has penned an affectionate series of articles on memories of his youth in his native Castlecoote. The articles revolve around the local shop – Hughes’ – and to a lesser extent the adjoining Thatch Bar. A slice of social history, this series will be fascinating reading for people from the area, and further afield. Part 2 next week.

Part 2: The ownership record for Hughes’ Bar through the 1900s

Death of Andrew McDonagh (1910)

In April 2010 the ‘Roscommon People’ was running an interesting series titled ‘It happened 100 years ago’. The content was extracted from the pages of the ‘Roscommon Journal’ of early in the 1900s’. In it was a paragraph titled ‘Castlecoote Death’. The deceased was a Mister Andrew McDonagh. It stated that Mr. McDonagh was born in Castlecoote 84 years earlier, which would have been circa 1826. It recognises him as ‘proprietor of the licensed premises in his name at Castlecoote’.

  His funeral journey took the remains to Kilbegnet to be buried and the funeral was one of the largest seen in the district for many years. This suggests that Kilbegnet was the ancestral origin of the Castlecoote-McDonagh family from prior to 1826.

  Ann Treacy, Athleague, in her lovely and informative book on the Athleague district titled ‘Ballinturley: The Story of a Roscommon Townland and its People’ references McDonaghs in Fuerty also.

  Her book was published in 2018 and on page 71 has a list of schools and schoolteachers for Fuerty in 1835 with ‘Day-school kept by John McDonagh’.

  There is also a reference to the McDonaghs’ as schoolteachers – ‘hedge’ and ‘national’ subsequently. I have struggled to try and establish accurately when the tavern/Thatch Bar in Castlecoote originated, but the 1850s’ may be close.

The Hughes’ Memorial Cross

in Fuerty (old) Cemetery 

There is an impressive headstone dedicated to the Hughes family to the immediate right of the entrance gate at Fuerty Graveyard which I will refer to later. Behind this there is another headstone with the inscription as follows: ‘Have Mercy O Lord on the soul of Patrick Fannon/Who died Dec. 24th 1875 aged 86 years also his wife/Margaret died March 17th 1873 aged 79 years RIP/Erected by their son-in-law Andrew McDonagh’.

  This Fannon family’s origins were in nearby Colleighter where they had some land prior to the Famine, while increasing it post-Famine. The Fannon son-in-law, Andrew McDonagh, was to marry Ellen Fannon in the early to middle 1960s.

  Andrew I presume was to the fore again with a plaque which is inside the Castlecoote/Creemully church wall, to the left of the entrance gate, as follows: ‘Erected in memory of Ellen/The Beloved Wife of Andrew McDonagh of Castlecoote/ died 21st of December 1893 aged 59 years/Also in memory of his fond daughter Margaret Anne, who died on the 31st of Jan. 1895 aged 22 years/Sweet Jesus have Mercy on their souls’.

  There was also a child, Andrew Patrick, born Oct. 12 1874, who died three years later. I seem to remember this plaque as being in the old church there and it was probably placed in this location when the old church became the local Community Centre.    

  Andrew McDonagh Senior died, as referenced in the opening lines of the paper account above, in April 1910. The surviving member of this McDonagh family was Mary Ellen who was born on Sept. 1867 and lived a long life until 1953.

McDonagh marries Hughes

Mary Ellen McDonagh married Matthew Hughes Senior from near Ballygar on June 8th 1896. So began the Castlecoote branch of the Hughes family. Their family comprised of Margaret Mary born 1897; Ellen Kate (referred to as Nellie through her life) born 1898; Andrew Michael (‘Sonny’ as pictured in the Fuerty football team of 1929) and Matthew (Jnr.) Patrick born 1909.

  So the senior proprietors of Hughes’ Shop and licensed premises were Matthew Hughes Senior succeeded by Matthew Hughes Junior until the 1970s.

  The business obviously did well as members of the family branched out with Andrew Michael ‘Sonny’ establishing a licensed premises at Ballinamore Bridge near Ballinasloe which has become very well known in the region.

  Margaret Mary married a Patrick Kelly from Ballygar and they went into business in Four Roads. A member of their family, Mamie Kelly-Delaney, came to live with aunt Nellie and uncle Mattie Hughes at Castlecoote when a young girl. Mamie later married Mark Delaney and they established what is now Castlecoote Stores and Post Office. Mamie is a highly regarded community activist especially with the ‘Tidy Towns Committee’ which has led to Castlecoote becoming a real contender, at national level, for the premier tidy towns award.   

  Ellen Kate or Nellie managed ‘the shop’ business for many years. Some years after Mattie (Jnr) got married she joined Mamie Delaney in her house which was adjoined later by ‘Castlecoote Stores’. This had been known in the 1800s’ as ‘The Miller’s House’. It was also the residence of the family of J. Frawley N.T. for a period from the late 1940s through the 1950s.

  (Matthew Senior died April 24th, 1944. His wife Mary Ellen died January 12th 1953. Their daughter Ellen-Nellie died May 20th 1978. All three are buried in Fuerty Graveyard and remembered on an impressive Celtic Cross just right of the main gate as referenced above).

Matthew/Mattie Hughes

Mattie was the proprietor of the licensed premises after his parents’ demise. He also had a great interest in farming, having parcels of land in various townlands in the area. He got married to Carmel Hennessy from Tullamore in January 1956. Carmel was from a business background in Tullamore and so she joined in the running of the Castlecoote business with zeal.

  The famous ‘Thatch Pub’ relocated across the road to its present bar location in the early 1960s as the shop was being wound down. Nellie died in 1978 and is buried in Fuerty with her parents, as stated above. Carmel sold on the premises in 1976 and retired to live in Kiltoom. Carmel J. Hughes died on February 9, 2011 and is buried with her husband Mattie in Athleague cemetery.

Ownership post-Hughes’ era

The business was purchased by Pat and Bridie Carton in 1976 until Nonie and Jimmy Golden took ownership in 1986. The Golden family were in situ until 2002 with son-in-law Joe Ennis and his wife Marie Golden in the later years. JJ Cattigan and Carol owned it for a decade, from 2002 to 2012.

  Since then it has been the property of PJ and Bernie Naughton. It has continued to be a very popular business premises. Like so many such premises’ it is now facing its greatest challenge. I hope however that this iconic crossroads institution continues in the decades to come.