Friday, April 1, 2016

A Brief History of Athenry Post Office (Revised 2016)

This year marks 230 years since the first Post Office opened in Athenry town, in 1786, and this article seeks to mark same. Athenry would go on to play an important role in the development of the postal service in Galway. Since the start of the nineteenth century, when Joseph Lopdell was Postmaster, Athenry has played a critical role in communications in the region and would remain a head office for postal services in the county until the 1 March 1912 - managing offices as far away as Ballyglunin and elsewhere in South Galway for a period in the early 1900s.
   Early Days It was however a fluctuating role as in 1834 Athenry had been reduced to a sub-office, under Craughwell, following the establishment of the Penny Post between Craughwell and Monivea (through Athenry). It was restored as a ‘Post town and Head Office’ in 1852, and in April 1849 Athenry was given free post delivery. In his work on ‘Galway Postal History’, Jimmy O’Connor (1995) confirmed that N. Browne was Postmaster until 5 May 1821 when he was dismissed (owed £10 16 2½) being replaced by Wm B Persse (on a salary of £25).
Technological advances were pervasive e.g. the system of sending and receiving of telegrams had been first developed privately in 1846. In 1870 the Electric Telegraph Company transferred to state ownership and so the Post Office entered the world of telecommunications. By December of that year the telegraph office of Galway was transferred to the Post Office.
   Next, the Morse System was introduced and used up until 1957 until it was replaced by teleprinters.

There were sometimes ‘performance issues’ as in March 1852 when Mr Neptune Persse (Postmaster 1831-52) was warned on his intemperate habits (drinking on duty), while in 1883 the Postmistress, Mary Anne Rushe, was warned for neglecting her duties after she had refused to issue a Money Order or Postal Order to Joseph Biggar MP at 7 p.m.

In 1913 a telegraph messenger, Patrick Shea, who had been employed to convey mails from Athenry to Attymon was shot at when passing Clonkun. With pellets in his head and back, Shea was brought to the postmaster of Galway W.G. Todd, and then to the Galway Infirmary where he was examined by Dr. Colohon who was medical officer to the postal authorities. Three years later (1916), in rationalisations, two Postman positions were abolished in the town.

In the 1920s Athenry Post Office experienced raids. The first one happened on 25 April 1922 with £200 stolen, and the second happened on 14 December 1923 with the raiders had getting away with c. £282, and £170 in cash. Dispute On Sunday 10 March 1935 a meeting was called in Athenry to protest against the wage claim which had been on behalf of the National Executive in view of low wages being paid. The Post Office at this time was on the right hand side of the square i.e. where AIB is today.

O'Connor, J, 'Aspects of Galway's Postal History 1638- 1984', JGAHS Vol. 44 (1992). O'Connor, J, ‘Galway Postal History’, JGAHS Vol. 47 (1995). 1913 and 1935 Irish Times Online Archive

Postal Workers in the Athenry Area from the 1901 census

Michael Feeney, Aux postman, Ballygurran South.
Michael Heavy, Postman, Athenry Town.
Michael Duffy, R Postman GPO Dept., Caheroyan.
Thomas Barrett, Post Office Official, Athenry Town.
Owen Judge, Postmaster, Athenry Town.
Margaret O'Reilly,Post Office Clerk, Athenry Town.
John O' Reilly,Rural Postman,Athenry Town.
Tom O'Reilly, Rural Postman, Athenry Town.
Pat O'Reilly,Rural Postman,Athenry Town.
James O'Reilly, Rural Postman,Athenry Town.
John West, Post Office Clerk,Athenry Town.
Patrick McNamara,Postman, Athenry Town.
Thomas McInerney, R Postman GPO D, Ballygurran Sth.
Ellen Dooly, Post Office Clerk, Athenry Town.
John Coleman, PO Pensioner,Athenry Town.

Note: Barrett was born in Dublin, Judge in Mayo, O’Reilly in Cavan, West in Sligo, and McInerney in the East Indies

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