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Uncle Larry's Stories

Uncle Larry is not my uncle. Nevertheless, although I never even met him, I am calling him Uncle Larry. There is a tradition in our family that virtually all relations in the parents' generation, however distant, are known as uncles or aunts, and he is Mai Medlar's uncle.

But it's only after listening to his stories that you will really understand why I call him Uncle Larry. He is an open and warm person, has a keen sense of observation and an even keener sense of fun. And he does not take himself too seriously, unlike many of his contemporaries.

You will also understand why I refer to him in the present tense, though has been dead since 1986. He was exactly 90 years of age on the 12th of March 1978 when his son-in-law Dave recorded these stories.

A Kilkenny Hanging
Larry's granny went to see the last public hanging in Kilkenny.

I don't know what year this was but it could well have been a Fenian hanging, or even this one.

Incidentally, Dave Doherty, Larry's son-in-law, who is doing the "interview" was married to Larry's daughter Vera.

Lock, Cot & Barrow
Falling in; fishing for babies; swimming out of season.

Larry's father, John Medlar, died when Larry was only a toddler. Larry's mother, Ellen (née Brennan), went back into domestic service and farmed out the two lads to the grandparents.

Larry went to the mother's people in Ballyellin, Co. Carlow, where his grandfather, and subsequently his uncle Pat, were lock-keepers on the upper Ballyellin Lock. You can see Larry's ancestral chart here.

His brother Patrick went to the father's people, the Medlars of Paulstown, in nearby Co. Kilkenny.

A right excuse for a day off school.

Larry's 1st Communion and Confirmation
When the wheel actually fell off; premature confirmation.

The two brothers were living within a few miles of each other, and as the families were related, they continued to have a certain amount of shared, even if sometimes inadvertant, experiences.

Locks & Barges
Ladies' day out.

Larry was brought up on the Lock which was part of the canalisation of the Barrow river to make it navigable. It was part of the Grand Canal network which actually linked the Ballyellin Lock and the Harbour in Jame's St. where Larry was later to live and where his brother Patrick was to have a thriving undertaker business.

Locks, Eels & Salmon
Collecting the fee; eels for Billingsgate; Pat the Gaffer; Mickey Long's Lock.

The size of the lock-keeper's fee clearly necessitated a supplementary source of income. While Larry's grandfather and grandmother were supplying (legal) eels to Billingsgate, his uncle Pat was extending his activities into some slightly trickier areas.

No grub; Mrs. Mortimer; no entry to James's St.; friends in the Rising.

A general military clampdown followed the Rising. Feeding the family sometimes required an Expeditionary Force!

Andy Duffy's Revolver
A pawn's redeemer, but only barely.

Andy Duffy was married to my grand-aunt Lil. He originally worked for Redmonds in Georges St. but subsequently opened his own premises in Gardiner St. He died in 1923 and his wife survived him by 34 years.

Bloody Sunday
The shooting; the man on the ground.

There are probably not too many stories around about Bloody Sunday with a humorous angle. This is one of them.

Civil War
Bullets on the roof in Usher's Island; dust in Thomas St.

The Civil War impacted on different people in different ways.

Alfie Byrne & Big Jim Larkin
Ilfracombe; Alfie's pub

The family had a fair amount of contact with Alfie Byrne. Partly because Larry's brother Patrick was on the Corporation (City Council) with him. They were effectively non-competing because Alfie's base was northside of the Liffey. They used to go to conferences of the Royal Liver Assurance, for whom Patrick was an agent. This story is probably from one such conference.

God Save the King!
Standing room only.

Larry, who came from a pretty nationalist family, even though he did not himself take part in 1916, was obviously discommoded at having to stand for the King.

Russell the Counsellor
A belt of it.

Dr. Russel worked in the Dispensary (in Castle St.) and subsequently became the CMO of the Corporation. Larry clearly thought him quite a character.

Russell the Dentist
Forceps Extraction.

Not a suitable technique for delivering babies or even for pulling teeth on occasions.

Russell the Prankster
Excuse me, Officer.

Dr. Russell clearly had a sense of fun which appealed to Larry.

Prices & Shopping
A thriving Thomas St. and when the pint cost pennies.

The prices sound cheap but the wages were low.

Medlar & Claffey, Undertakers
Bringing remains to Valentia; a curious definition of "food".

Medlar and Claffey was a significant undertaking business in Dublin with branches in various parts of the city over time. The Medlar/Claffey partnership broke up in 1927.

Larry used to give a hand with the brother's business betimes and here tells of a trip from Clonliffe Rd. to Valentia Island, when the funeral went astray and the hotel had no "food" available.

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