by jdurney on March 11, 2011

Larceny of a turkey!

Christmas time brings stories that evoke the joy and the nostalgia of the festive season. But not everybody gets to enjoy the feasting and merriment that go with the mid-winter celebrations. Both sides of the Christmas experience can be seen in the yellowing pages of the Kildare Observer newspaper of 23 December 1899. An item headed ‘Larceny of a Turkey’ tells the story of  ‘a tramp named Patrick R _____’ who was charged at Naas court with the larceny of a turkey, the property of Mr. Samuel Cooper of Dunstown. It appears that Mr. Cooper had the turkey in a carriage outside Mr. Cunningham’s bakery, and had given orders to a Bridget Cook to take it to Mr. Glennon’s, New Row; in the meantime she having gone towards Mr. Quinn’s shop, the accused, it was alleged, saw his chance and went over to the unattended carriage and took the turkey. He was arrested by Sergeant O’Connor, Royal Irish Constabulary, and brought before Mr. T J de Burgh, magistrate, who remanded him to a court in the New Year. The account does not make it clear whether the turkey was alive or dead but one presumes the latter! On a happier note under the heading ‘Christmas tree and treat’  the Observer tells us that the children at the Naas Presbyterian School at Railway Terrace had a merry Christmas party. Two ladies of the congregation,  Mrs. Elliott and Mrs. Carter,   provided a sumptuous tea and a Christmas tree loaded with numerous and valuable gifts. After tea the little ones indulged in such games as could be carried on in the room, the grown-up people helping in every way to make the evening pass pleasantly. Before separating, Father Christmas appeared, creating much merriment, and distributed the many valuable and greatly appreciated toys and other presents which had been selected with wonderful care and judgement. The tree, kindly given by Mr de Burgh, when settled up, looked beautiful.

For adults too at Christmas time there was much cheer to be had judging from the enthusiastic advertising of the merchant’s houses and shop-keepers throughout the county.  For instance J.H. Clinton of Edward St., Newbridge (opposite the Artillery Barracks) advertised his business as ‘Wine and Spirit and General Provision Merchant’ and advised readers that he was ‘showing a choice selection of goods in every Department, highly suitable for Xmas purchases’. Not to be outdone Quinns of the Bakery in Newbridge described their business as ‘the oldest and most reliable establishment in the district which as well as baking breads of a weight, value and quality which defied competition were also the purveyors of a large stock of Christmas supplies with their ‘Old Whiskey being a speciality.’

Shoppers looking for a break from the 1899 Christmas rush in Newbridge could always repair to Harrigan’s which advertised itself under the regal title of the ‘The Prince of Wales – Hotel and Central Bar.’ The advertisement proclaimed that ‘ these premises have been rebuilt, newly furnished and designed in the latest Dublin style with bath room, smoke room, commercial room and dining room.’ And those contemplating a winter wedding would be well catered for at the Newbridge establishment where the rhetorical question is posed in the advertisement ‘ Where will I spend my honeymoon? In the Prince of Wales hotel, where you can have a carriage, each day to tour around the Wicklow hills and enjoy the beautiful scenery.’

Those who still had some last minute Christmas baking to do could direct their attention to James P.Healy, family grocer, of Sallins who begged ‘to call attention to his well-selected figs, apples, plums, currants, raisins and rice’ for the season and his customers could also contemplate his ‘Jameson Whiskey, five years old’ as well as his stock of old ports, sherries and claret.

Of course a good crackling fire was necessary as the temperatures plunged at mid winter and here the solution could be find by sending a wire to Maynooth where an advertisement for M & J Dawson begged to inform their numerous customers that the business always stocked a the best quality coke and coal at ‘very moderate prices’. Confident in their product Dawsons proclaimed ‘a number of unsolicited testimonials have lately been received.’  A telegram to ‘Dawson. Maynooth’ was sufficient to get in an order before Christmas.

And thus the local newspaper recorded the seasonal fuss and rush of a mid-Kildare Christmas in the closing years of the Victorian era.

Series No. 158.

Liam Kenny in his ‘Nothing new under the sun,’ column from the Leinster Leader of 23 December 2010 goes back to the seasonal fuss and rush of a mid-Kildare Christmas in the closing years of the Victorian era.

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