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(a short true story by Paddy McElroy)
It was a summer evening somewhere in the 1950s as my two brothers and I emerged from the Sunday Matinee at the picture house in Lucan. Our young brainwashed minds could still go on fighting off hordes of wild redskins along with Randolph Scott, but we opted instead to cross the road to Felice's East End Café to purchase ice cream cornets. When these were drizzled with raspberry syrup and paid for, we headed in the direction of Chapel Hill, licking as we went. This would help sustain us for the climb ahead.
Making our way up the hill, we passed the steps up to the church field on our right and the Rev. MacCarten memorial above the raised ledge on our left. On reaching the main road with Quigleys long house opposite, we walked along the footpath, passing the St. Edmundsbury back gate and Mrs. Oldham’s little house.
While walking this stretch we were being entertained by a tiger moth plane above, which was performing dives, then climbing again and doing “loop the loops”. We were watching this over the roofs of the cottages, one of which was Jack Collins' house. The plane went into another descent, disappearing behind the roofs, but did not come up again. As we wondered about this a cloud of black smoke rose into the air, but as youngsters we were not sure if the events were connected.
Walking on we passed Brian Conway’s house and motor repair garage and Peggy Culhanes. At the gatehouse of St. Edmundsbury, where the Brazil family lived, we crossed the road and entered Esker Lane. Along the lane we passed Aggie Sheridans, John Greenes, and Dick Shackelton’s bungalow.
Arriving at Willsbrook we went in through the iron gates, turning left past the big beech tree towards the lodge. My mother, who was a bit shaken told us about a plane passing low overhead, with, in her words, "bits falling out of it", into the trees in the wood along Captain Wardell’s avenue.
The tiger moth plane had indeed crash landed and burst into flames, claiming the lives of both occupants, in Joe Leonard’s big field, “BEHIND THE CRAB APPLE TREES”
The above story will evoke many memories for Lucanians back in the 1950s.
Paddy McElroy’s father, Terry was the Head Gardener at Captain Wardell’s Willsbrook House, on old Esker Lane, from 1949 to 1960.
Back then, Paddy and his brothers Ray and Dermot attended Lucan Boys National School – in St. Mary’s Church Yard at the time.
Paddy has recently made contact with Lucan Newsletter, and sent us some very special photographs of his time at Willsbrook and also some school photos, which we hope to publish in the near future.
Today’s Willsbrook Park is where the old estate was with its great big house and walled garden. Children often referred to the house as ‘The Mansion’.
The picture shows brothers Ray, Dermot and Paddy at the gates of Willsbrook. We look forward to bringing you more of Paddy’s photos as space permits.