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Face to Face with Paddy Connolly
A community is the people and the community spirit is the spirit of the people and one of the
most impressive experiences is to see community spirit in action, where the people of an area are
working together for a common purpose. Where this happens you will always find, lurking in the
background or leading out in front, a thinker, a planner, a driving force, a figure head.
The village of Glaslough, Co. Monaghan, and the surrounding area is, and has been since 1967, a
vibrant community, full of life, willing to get up and do, and successful in all its ventures. For this
much credit must be given to Paddy Connolly, but he will immediately lay off the honours to his
wife and every man, woman and child in the area because he claims that they all worked equally
hard to achieve their success.
Paddy was born in Corlealackagh in the Annyalla/Cremartin area. He was the only child of Frank
and Cissie Connolly (nee Duffy, Tonyglasson. Frank was a farmer and for 33 years he drew milk to
the Creamery for the local dairymen. He used a horse and cart and Paddy helped out on occasions
and for two years took his father’s place.
It was a tough job – there were no coolers and pumps in those days. The famers left their milk in
cans at the road. In summer, to keep it cool, they put the cans in a ‘shough’ covered with a wet
jute bag. The collector then had to haul the full can out of the ‘shough’ and then lift it up on the
cart and then lift it again to the second row. Eventually many farmers built stands at the road so
there was less lifting to do.
At five years of age, Paddy went to the two teacher Lackagh School. The Principal was Mrs. McCormack, (Mother of Fr. Enda
McCormack, former Parish Priest of Donagh) and her assistant Mrs. McGinn. It was two miles from home to school but Paddy took
the short cut through the fields. After National, it was on to Secondary in St. Macartan’s College and when he finished his schooling
he went back to the farm to help his father.
At the beginning of 1953 Paddy got a job in Boylan’s in Mullan. He travelled to Emyvale by bicycle and was told to contact Benny
Hackett, who would get him fixed up ‘in digs’. Hendry’s on Main Street had room and Paddy settled in. He remembers well the first
man to call and that was Peter McMeel and many a laugh he has had with Peter since. Paddy didn’t know how to get to Mullan so
he asked directions and was told to ‘turn down the Cassey and follow the telegraph wires’ – they were along the road to Mullan
While in Hendry’s, he made many friends and was in on all the craic with the local lads. He didn’t know a lot about two very
important topics – football and politics, and in Hendry’s house there was very little else talked about. Sean Hendry was a great
player with the club and county and his sister, Nancy, was an ardent GAA fan and hot on politics. Paddy soon found out when to
say the right thing and when to keep his mouth zipped.
Starting wage in Mullan at the time was 30/- (shillings) per week. Paddy paid 25/- for his board. He enjoyed his work in the factory
as there was a great atmosphere and friendship among the workers and the owners and management looked after everyone. They
made two or three lines of boots and had plenty of orders for army boots. James Boylan himself acted as salesman, going from
town to town by train and then visiting shops in each town by bicycle.
Many evenings he spent with the lads sitting on Kelly’s window sill drinking minerals and eating buns. Sunday night was the big
night out with a dance in the Parochial Hall. Benny’s was running at the time but everyone was expected to go to the Parochial.
One night the famous Regal Showband was in Benny’s and not one turned up but Pat Campbell was playing to a packed house
down in the Parochial. All the boys were there with quarter-pound of sweets in their pockets and 2s – 6d admission fee. Those
dances were very enjoyable with bands like Campbells, Ken Kennedy or Jim McQuaid.
In 1963 Paddy bought a house in Glaslough and in 1964 married Alice O’Hanlon from Ballinahone. The wedding was in Ballyoisin
and the Nuptial Mass celebrated by family friend, Fr. Henry O’Hanlon, then PP in Newtownbutler. They now have four children –
Ann (Roscommon); Ursula (Dublin) and Sinead and Pauric at home in Glaslough.
In 1966 Paddy and Alice renovated their house and made five bedrooms available for guests and as business increased they
decided to register as an hotel. They had to have ten guest rooms and so they added on and received their licence in 1968. In
1969 he retired from Mullan to give his time to his new business. In 1970 he built a bigger bar and established ‘The Loft’ in 1972.
It became famous for the crowds it drew each Friday night for Chicken-in-the-Rough. The beautiful chicken supper, which was
served, was talked about far and wide and unless you went early, there was no hope of getting in. In those days there was no
disruption in the bar and conversation was the entertainment. – GAA, Politics, yarns, work and the weather were the main topics
and plenty of ‘characters’ to liven up the night.
Visitors to the hotel were made feel at home by the locals and went away with great memories of the hospitality they had
witnessed. With Alice in charge of the kitchen the food was delectable and plentiful and it was a renowned eating house. Over the
years Paddy and Alice maintained their high standards though things did change in the bar. Many of the ‘Old Characters’ passed to
their eternal reward and TV was introduced. This, as in many homes, had a detrimental effect on conversation and story-telling. As
well patrons now talked about international topics and many different types of sports and sporting heroes were discussed. Added
to this was the effect of many growing up in the area and the building of houses. There were more people around and a greater
number of young people, who formerly would have emigrated. All of these changed the type of atmosphere in ‘the bar’ but the
hospitality and warmth never changed.
On the 15th March 1993 Paddy and Alice retired from the Pillar House, which is now run by Paddy and Ivy O’Hara. We, together
with Paddy and Alice, would like to wish the new occupants many years of happiness and success in carrying on the fine tradition
of the Pillar House.
t was not just a thriving business that Paddy Connolly built in Glaslough because he was responsible for making Glaslough famous
throughout the land. With his wife, Alice; Seamus McEntee; Wallace Wright; M. McKenna; Agnes Leslie and others, he realised the
tourist potential of the area and the importance of community spirit. They had a Castle, which will always attract visitors; they had
architecture of the finest; they had stone walls; they had a lake and a river; they had trees and nature; all they needed was a
mobilisation of manpower and womanpower to give the place a facelift and Glaslough would then appear on every map of Ireland.
In 1967 they formed the Glaslough Development Association. They outlined the work that would have to be done and they set
about doing it, with more and more people becoming involved as the months passed. They realised that the young children of the
area had nowhere to play and in 1970 Desmond Leslie gave them a plot of waste ground, which they could develop. In 1972, with
the aid of a Lakeland Tourism grant and all voluntary labour, they filled the ground and set up a tennis court and children’s
playground, which was officially opened by Mrs. Childers in 1973. That same year they revived the Glaslough Fete, which turned
out an enormous affair with all sorts of activity and side-shows. Financially it was such a success that they were able to pay off all
expenses incurred while building the park. With a break in ’82 and ’83 the Fete was an annual event until 1986 and was a huge
triumph each year.
Glaslough was entered in Bord Fáilte’s Tidy Towns competition at the end of the 60’s and made steady progress year by year and in
Trim in ’73 they collected their first prize in the competition. This whetted their appetite and encouraged the entire area to aim for
the top. Marks improved each year until the ultimate goal was achieved in 1978, when they were awarded the overall prize as the
‘Tidiest Town in Ireland’. Indeed they hold the distinction of winning seven major awards that year – the highest ever won by any
town in the competition. It was with great pride that the Glaslough group, led by Paddy, went to Multyfarnam to collect their prize
and again in September ’79 to host the All-Ireland Prize-giving ceremonies for that year, in their own village with the eyes of the
entire country on them.
But having reached the top and having put so much effort in, did not make them sit back on their laurels. In 1980 they purchased
land from the Post and Telegraphs and set about building a recreation complex adjacent to the Park, and this was officially opened
by Mrs. Childers in 1983. Since then the Centre has been the hub of activity for the area and because of it many clubs have been
formed, e.g. bowls, basketball, musical society and snooker. In 1989 Paddy handed over the reins of the Development Association
to Dan Rogan and the work went on.
Paddy will accept no praise for himself. Instead he keeps referring to the ‘great people of the area, who are all so ready with their
time, ability, machinery to do anything that is suggested for the good of the community’. All this means that it is a marvellous
place to live, where everyone is so industrious, helpful and caring. With visible emotion he could not avoid highlighting the
contrasting events of three weeks ago when that community spirit was so evident on two very different occasions.
First of all on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday there was joy and happiness, laughter and fun as the area performed on stage to
raise money for charity and then on the following Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and since then, the entire community was
joined in mourning at the loss of their beloved Sinead Murphy. He knows that Sinead’s spirit lives on and so too will the community
spirit and it will help us all to carry the hurt of the tragedy.
Paddy The Helper
Through his work with the Development Association, Paddy has given future generations a native place to be proud of and a place
where all will want to return to no matter how far they roam. However in a quieter and unpublicised way he has helped many
individuals and families in times of trouble and stress. These will never be documented but many can bear testimony to his
generous gift of time and service to those who sought his help and aid.
Glaslough in ’64 could not have imagined the benefits that would come from the newly-weds who moved in at the Castle Gates but
looking back now, all that can be said is ‘Thank you Paddy, Alice and family for your tremendous service and leadership and for
your work in providing present and future generations with a Glaslough to be proud of’.
Please remember that this interview was held some years ago.