St Johnston - Recalling a Social and Economic Success
In the fifties and sixties, St Johnston was a prosperous and self-sustaining town. It was very seldom you would have to travel outside the town for anything. There was over eighteen premises used for business.
There was a railway station and a custom clearance station. The railway was the economic lifeline of the town and it brought it many visitors.
A lot of people came out from over the border as travel was easy. On Saturdays the town was buzzing with people. People came to do business here.
Fleming’s Timber yard was there. Flemings had a philosophy of changing the business to suit the need that was there. They started off as a Saw Mill.
Gallaghers had a store opposite where the Fisherman’s Inn is presently. Gallaghers provided hardware and groceries. The property was later bought by Martin Golden from Sligo. He married Bridget Gillespie from Ballybofey.
Before that Martin Golden had household, drapers and wallpaper shop in the town. They had a machine that could cut a wallpaper border for customers. At that time it was fashionable to have a border high up on the wall.
Quigley’s beside that was a carpenters and provided fittings for buildings. They produced the window pelmets that were very fashionable at that time. A pelmet is a wooden box like structure that was used to cover the top of curtains so that you couldn’t see the curtain
Next door to that, Mrs Wilson had a lodging house and kept a lot of guests, custom men and guards stayed there too.
Stevensons had a Butcher’s Shop nearly beside where the Post Office currently is.
Bob and Sadie Parke had drapery shop for men and women and sold men’s shoes.
Mrs EJ White ran a drapers and sold bed linen, towels, curtains but not shoes. This was at the front of the premises and there was a builders and timber yard out the back.
Barney McCauleys was a newsagents and the buses always stopped at it. The shop layout made queuing easy and many gathered into the shop for a chat.
George Lowry had a tailor shop.
Then on down you had a butcher’s shop. Different people would have run this shop.
Hugh Gillespie Bridget Golden’s brother had a little sweet shop and sold cigarettes. Brigid herself had a clothes shop called ‘Brigids’ next to where the Post Office is now. She had manikins in the window.
Then there was McCann’s pub which had a bar and a small lounge.
Cis McLaughlin was a dressmaker and she had her business where the Fisherman’s Inn is now. Richie’s Pub was beside that. Its proper name was Lynch’s Bar. Later it was known as the Hideout.
Sammy King’s house was renovated and became Humphrey Dunnes electrical shop was ahead of its time for he stocked lots of things that were not available to get anywhere else. He built a workshop out the back to fix electrical appliances. There was a shop at the front selling electrical equipment and batteries and so on. It is now M1’s hair salon.
Bovairds had a small workshop where he fixed bicycles etc. This was where Gibson’s live now.
Frank Hegarty and his wife ran a lodging house as well and sold meals. They sold ice cream and had a premises where you could sit and eat your ice cream. He ran a tea room as well where you could go to have tea and a scone.
Charlie Toland had a bar and a chip shop and a groceries at the foot of the street and this premises was burned.
Where Mc Daid’s petrol station is now just opposite the road there was a building where you could buy perishables and other groceries.
Up Church Lane, there was McConnells Shop. The paintwork outside read, "Andrew McConnell, General Merchant".
Down the Boathole there was a café owned by Harry Lowry where Devenny’s house is now. And Bannigans had a potato store down there. The Egg Store was where the Cricket field is now. It was very busy and Mr Mc Cready ran it. It provided much employment. Mary Dillon, Madgie Dillon, Rose Curran, Mary McGill- later Coyle and members of the O’Hagen family worked there as did Bridie Houston, Main Street, St Johnston. The eggs came in from local and foreign sources and they were packed in the store.
There was a cinema where people went to see “the pictures”. It was held in the Hibernian Hall at St Johnston, Chapel Road where the Resource Centre is now located. The Hibernian Hall was very small building but able to hold seventy to eighty people. And underneath the stage was a storage area where the band equipment was kept. Plays – a play on Kevin Barry and the Lourdes Apparitions are two that are remembered were held there. And travelling shows too as the pictures were called. The cinema was provided by a projector.
Kinnically Hall was erected for dances. The Peoples family were great musical performs and frequently played in it. Dances were held to raise funds. Bridie Gallagher the singer performed in it. People travelled from near and afar travelled to it on bicycles.
The area was deeply committed to religion. The social pressure to conform to one’s faith was strong. The austerity of Lent and Advent was sustained by nearly all Catholics. Devotions to the mother of Jesus in the form of rosary and benediction were well-attended in the months of May and October.
There was a steep decline in for St Johnston and Carrigans after the railway was closed. Property was devalued as a result. It wasn’t really until the late 90’s that a significant improvement to the fortunes of the villages began to take shape. There is still some way to go. We look forward to a better future.