19 Jan 2022

Templemore Post Office - a history of the service provided to the region

Templemore  Post Office Protest meeting in the square, 17th  August 1963

Templemore Post Office Protest meeting in the square, 17th August 1963

Local man Ronan Loughnane takes us through the history of the Post Office in the Cardens Town

Friday December 3 last marked the end of an era for the Hassey family on the Main Street as their forty six tenure as Postmaster/ Postmistress came to an end.

Jim was appointed Postmaster in 1975 and manned the post for forty-two years until his death in July 2017. His wife Margaret then took up the reins and has served as Postmistress to the town for the last four and a half years. And as Margaret now looks forward to her well-earned retirement let us take a look at the history of the Post Office service in Templemore.

The first organised Postal system began in Ireland in the 16th century. Originally letters were delivered by ‘post boys’. In the early days, before there were post boxes on the street, Bellmen would walk the streets ringing a bell to attract attention and collect letters from people.

Above:  Post Office workers on strike: Michael Chadwick, Billy Bourke, Dave Revins, Mick Mahony, Mick Lanigan, Paddy Bohan, Joe Lynch and Paddy Brosnan.

The tail end of the 18th century saw the introduction of the first scheduled mail coach run in Britain. The horse drawn coach left Bristol at 4pm on the 2nd of August 1784 and arrived in London sixteen hours later. Five years later the first runs began in Ireland with coaches between Dublin and the large cities such as Cork, Galway and Belfast. These coaches would then stop at all the towns along their route, including Templemore. Pigot’s directory of 1824 reads:

“Templemore Post Master – George Hargraft. The Dublin mail arrives in the morning at eight and is despatched in the afternoon at five, taking the letters for Roscrea, Limerick and Nenagh. The mail from Thurles, bringing the letters from the South, arrives every afternoon at five and is despatched at eight in the morning”.

Although the exact location of the office is not known at this time we do know that the Postmaster, George Hargraft and his brother Thomas, built two houses in Talavera, currently owned by Helen Rhatigan and Fran Denny. Somewhat surprisingly the original deed for these two houses is not dated but it is signed by Sir John Craven Carden (1st Baronet). As he died in 1819, both of these houses are, at least 201 years old

The first confirmed location of the Post Office in Templemore is at 10 Patrick Street which is located to the right of Kennedy’s pub, recorded in a Griffiths Valuation House Book dated the 22nd of May 1846. The Postmaster is James Lanigan and the notes in the book read:

Above:  Minister for Post and Telegraphs, Conor Cruise O'Brien is pictured here with the night staff at a function following the closure. Mary Shelley, Mary King, Josie Moloney, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Marie Giles, Josie Birmingham, Frances Delaney and Kathleen O'Boyle.

“ Mr. Lanigan keeps the post office here. He has a small yard and passage to it is only through the house”.

Griffiths Primary Valuation for Tipperary was published in 1853 and No. 10 Patrick Street was valued at £10 and 9 shillings which was about the average for the street at that time. Slaters directory of 1856 shows that Lanigan is still the Postmaster but is now operating at No. 12 Main Street. And isn’t it most interesting that the newly erected An Post sign over the door of Eurospar is exactly where James Lanigan operated over 160 years ago. The present day Eurospar comprises what was once 12 and 13 Main Street with number 12 occupying the right-hand side of the present shop. Many of you will remember Basil Conroy running a chip shop here while Billy Mullally had a grocery shop in number 13. Posting letters at 12 Main Street is nothing new.

The next move saw the office make the short hop to No.8 Main Street which is the current residence of John Collier. A cancelled book entry from 1868 reads:

“ Connolly holds this as a grocery establishment and a Post Office”.

The Connolly referred to is William who had taken over from Lanigan as Postmaster c. 1868. Connolly died in October 1870, but the office is carried on by a Mary Connolly who remains there until the mid-1880’s. Guy’s Directory of Munster in 1886 records Alice Condon as the Post Mistress and Maria Laffan as the stamp distributor. Templemore was also recorded as:
“ Head post, money order and telegraph office with sub-offices in Borrisoleigh, Lisheen, Templederry, Clonmore, Loughmore, Templetuohy, Latteragh and Moyne”.

Bassett’s Directory, recorded in 1899, shows Condon still at the helm but the Census of 1901 signals a change as William Harkness is now the Postmaster with the office transferred to the opposite side of the square at 110 Main Street. The Harkness family also had a gun shop on George’s Street at the turn of the century in the building now occupied by Young’s Garage.

Above:  Exchange staff here include Mary O'Donovan, Una Fogarty, Josie Moloney and Frances Delaney.

The Census of 1911 shows Harkness still in charge and as the Office did not move again until 1918 we can only assume that he remained in his position as we have no information to indicate otherwise. Whether it was Harkness or somebody else that closed the door at 110 Main Street in 1918, little did they know that that fifty-seven years later Jim Hassey would reopen the very same door to conduct the very same business.

An article from the Tipperary Star in 1918 gives us the next clue:
“ The Post Office in Templemore has been transferred in the last few days to a premises on Main Street, almost opposite the old one, and has been fitted up in a very down-to-date manner by the newly appointed Postmaster Mr. Jas. Ryan. An efficient and capable staff is in charge and business is transacted with the minimum of delay”.

James Ryan and his family operated the Post Office at 19 Main Street for the next forty-five years. Following James’s death in 1951, his son John carried on as sub- postmaster and ran the business along with his sister Bab.

Templemore Post Office came to national prominence in 1963 when a dispute between Ryan and the Department of Posts and Telegraphs eventually led to a strike which made the RTE news on a number of occasions. The Department wished to introduce a second telephone exchange, but Ryan refused citing the fact that he was doing more than his fair share of work for the wages he was receiving. And that sentiment was shared by the people of the town and the surrounding area as he received great support for his stance on the matter.

However, the Department refused to budge and served Ryan with three months’ notice in Mid-May. Several attempts to resolve the impasse failed and on Tuesday August 13th Templemore Post Office closed its doors. A huge crowd turned out that evening to protest at the treatment of Ryan by the Department, as Post Office officials from Thurles arrived in town to remove files and records. A temporary office was set up in the kitchen of the old Garda Station (now Centenary), but following instruction from the Sub-Postmasters Union, workers from Thurles, Birr, Athlone and Roscrea refused to come to work in Templemore and were temporarily suspended.

The majority of the 39 sub-offices in the Thurles area went on strike the following day in support of Ryan who was eventually offered his job back, but he refused the offer due to poor health. It was 112 days and early December before Templemore had a new Sub-Postmaster, Clonmore native, Martin O’Shea.

The people and the businesses of the town heaved a huge sigh of relief as the closure had a big impact on the town. Not alone was the postal service impacted but without an exchange telephonic communication was practically non-existent at this time. The clergy, doctors and guards were the only ones with a phone and if a caller asked for a number for a personal or business call the answer from the Exchange was always the same – “ Number unobtainable”.

Martin O’Shea and his wife Maude took over the Post Office in December 1963 and operated from the family home on Main Street. The numbers on Main Street have posed a query for many years. For example Fitzpatrick’s newsagents are number 86 and yet Harrahills, just a couple of doors up, are number 21. So when O’Shea’s took over the Post Office the advertisement announcing the new business in the Tipperary Star said “ 20 Main Street”. Yet the Census of Ireland in 1901 records the premises as number 22 & 23 while the 1911 Census notes it as number 74.

And a quick scan of the Cancelled books from the same time period reveals the premises as 95,96 & 97 Main Street. There is no evidence of any official numbering system that dates back to the origin of these houses. So when Richard Griffiths began his Valuation of Ireland in the 1820’s his team of workers used their own numbering system, not to number the houses, but to record their entries. And when they arrived in Main Street in 1846 their entry numbered 95, 96 and 97, represent the present day Credit Union. And as time moved on three houses became two and eventually they all merged in to one building. And when the Census enumerators arrived to carry out their work in 1901 and 1911 they also used their own systems thereby creating a further set of numbers for the same building.

Martin O’Shea served as Sub-Postmaster until 1972 when the office moved across to the old Garda Station at number 42B Main Street, which is now occupied by Centenary. This coincided with the opening of the new telephone exchange which operated upstairs in the building while the Post Office did their business on the ground floor.

The old building was a hive of activity with over twenty people employed between both. They operated in tandem here until 1975 when the aforementioned Jim Hassey was appointed as the new Postmaster.

And so began the second coming of Templemore Post Office at number 110. Jim and Margaret Hassey served the postal needs of Templemore for the next 46 years, the longest postal service provided by one family in the town’s history. The exchange continued until April 1977 when it closed for the final time as Templemore went automatic.

So as you take a ramble around our famous old square over the Christmas break, pause a while and spare a thought for all those who have delivered, and continue to deliver, our post and parcels in all kinds of weather, bringing joy and happiness from all over the world.

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