Wednesday 23 January 2019

Hyde Park to party as estate turns 80

Residents of Hyde Park tell Argus reporter Margaret Roddy of their plans to celebrate the 80th birthday of estate they call home

A group of residents in Hyde Park
A group of residents in Hyde Park
Some of the residents of Hyde Park
Maria and Joe Callan in Hyde Park

Big celebrations are planned to mark the 80th birthday of Hyde Park, the Dundalk estate named after Ireland's first president, Douglas Hyde.

The attractive red brick terraced houses off Barrack Street in the town's Quay area were built by in 1938 by two local building firms, McDonalds and Wynnes.

As they prepare for the birthday celebrations set to take place in the estate on Sunday, residents have been doing their homework and researching the estate's history.

The first house allocated was to the Coleman family whose daughter Frances 'Hyda' was the first baby born in the estate while the honour of being the first boy born there fell to James Fergus.

The parents of the first two babies born in the estate were presented with the then princely sum of £5 on behalf of the President.

It's a close knit community and many of those living there can trace their families back to those early residents, including the Fergus, McQuillan, McKenna and Dollard families.

A special guest at Sunday's birthday celebrations will be Margaret Carr, the street's oldest resident and Bessie Harvey, the oldest former resident.

They will be joined by current residents and other former residents who keep close ties with the estate they call home.

Audrey Fergus grew up in Hyde Park and lives in nearby St Clement's Park. 'There were five Fergus houses in the estate,' she recalls. Her parents, Noel and Imelda, still live in Hyde Park and she has great memories of growing up there. She was part of the town's punk scene in the early 80s, playing in the band 'Legalized Slaughter'. 'We were all punks in our souls but I was the only one mad enough to dress up!'

Kevin McKenna also has fond memories of growing up in Hyde Park and playing in the nearby fields before they were developed into housing estates.

'It was a good estate to grow up in,' says Kevin who still lives there with his wife Caroline.

His parents Michael and Christina were Lord Mayor/Mayoress of the famous Point Road Gala Week, while the estate also produced a number of Gala Queens and Princesses.

It was a time when children were sent out to play, with the only proviso that they be home for tea, and as the estate was then a cul de sac, it was a venue for street games such as marbles, bottle tops and 'cribby'. They played football, cricket, cowboys and Indians, catch and kiss in the fields, progged apples and pears and picked mushrooms.

The highlight of the summer was the lighting of a huge bonfire at the crossroads in the centre of the estate.

Sisters Kathleen (Bulla) Dollard and Margaret Martin grew up in the house which belonged to their grandmother Margaret Mulligan, who was one of the first residents. She married Peter Dollard and they had nine children.

Kathleen moved back to the family home after living in England, when her time there was punctured by holidays home.

'It will always be 'Granny's house,' she says.

Her daughter Tracy now lives next door with her two children, so the family's links with the estate are set to continue.

'It was a great place to grow up. When Granny was alive, the key was always in the door and the children could play football on the street. Things may have changed but we have still have good neighbours.

While Margaret now lives in Cluan Enda, she, like many former residents, is looking forward to attending the 80th birthday celebrations.

'It's a lovely place, with good neighbours,' says Joe Callan, who has lived there for 70 years. Like many of the residents, he worked in nearby Blackthorn Shoes where he met his wife Marie. They raised their three children there and now welcome back their grandchildren.

Patricia McQuillan is one of the many sports people the estate has produced, representing Ireland in karate, before going on to teach another generation of fighters.

'I was born here in the house and my parents James and Julie McQuillan would have moved in not long after the estate was built.'

'This is the family home and the next generation still come home to visit as they have heard stories of what it was like to grow up here.'

'Some of them say it's where they got their first taste of freedom when they came to their granny and played out in the fields and they have passed those stories on to their children, .'

'It's a small close knit community with great neighbours,' she says. 'If I was going away for a weekend, I'd tell my neighbours. We look out for each other and keep an eye on each others' houses. It's great to have neighbours like that.'

Patricia runs the Cobra Kan Karate Club. She recalls how she was invited by Redemptorist priest Fr McGrath to hold classes in St Joseph's Hall after he heard the club was based elsewhere.

She is proud of the fact that many of its members have come from the estate. 'Brothers Bernard and Gerard Duffy represented Ireland in international competitions as did another neighbour Gerard Dollard.'

'We've also had numerous members from the Quay area and the this year Sarah Gray and Lee Kerr whose grandparents were from the estate are fighting on the Irish team in the world championships in November.'

Paula McArdle is one of the 'new' residents, having moved into Hyde Park twenty years ago. 'I'm still a blow-in,' she laughs, but such is the community spirit and tradition of neighbourliness that there's no fear of her feeling left out.

'It's a great community. Everyone looks after everyone else and it's a really safe place to live.'

When she moved there from the Avenue Road, she wasn't really intending of making it her forever home but she says 'I have such good neighbours that I never moved.'

Paula is accompanied by her dog Seymour who had been found straying in the area. 'I got him from Dundalk Dog Rescue and we called him Seymour after the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman because of his green eyes.'

Times have chanced since Elizabeth Fergus, the first woman in the estate to drive a car started a small local taxi service with her husband Jim and drove everyone to hospital when needed, or when Jack Waites invited everyone to watch the 1967 FA Cup Final when he was the first resident to have a television set.

However, the sense of community remains and will be celebrated on Sunday, with Mass and a street party from 2pm to 5.50pm followed by a get together in Tom Clarke's at 7pm.


Estate 's strong sporting links with local clubs

Residents of Hyde Park, an estate of just 60 houses, have punched above their weight when it comes to their contribution to Dundalk's sporting life.

From Gaelic, soccer, athletics, boxing, and karate, they have represented their community, town and country with pride.

The estate is inextricably linked with the local Quay Celtic and Sean O'Mahony's clubs, producing both players and hard working committee members.

Indeed, the O'Mahony's can trace their revival to Peter Duffy and Gene McBride who, in 1962, found a willing cohort players and back room personnel in Hyde Park to rejuvenate the club. And when the club faced a crisis due to non-payment of affiliation fees back in 1979, Peter Mullen pleaded for one last chance and found support in the locality, including Hyde Park, who played a huge part it its turnaround to becoming one of the strongest clubs in the county. On the field, the O'Mahony's have won every adult championship, most recently the Senior in 2016.

Many Hyde Park families contribute to that success including the Begleys, the Crawleys, the Callans. the Gorhams, the Kerrs, the Grays, McLoughlins, and Fergus' to name a few.

Hyde Park residents have also had a big input into Quay Celtic, whose founder members included Joe Callan, Tom Callan and William McLaughlin, and Dykes O Hagan, while Patsy Maguire, who was co-opted on the first committee in 1967 is still involved with the club a staggering 51 years later. Many of the families who made their mark with the Sean O'Mahony's were also associated with Quay Celtic, including Willie and David Crawley who went onto play for Dundalk FC, winning league and cup medals.

Many of the youngsters playing for both clubs today are the third generation of families who have helped keep the clubs alive for over 50 years.

And it wasn't just the men who made their mark. Paula Brennan (nee Gorham) lined for the Irish international side eleven times in the '70s, having started her career with Blackthorn and Dundalk FC.

Hyde Park residents have made their mark in other sporting spheres. Patricia McQuillan, brothers Bernard and Gerard Duffy and Gerard Dollard have represented Ireland at Karate World Championships.

Jim McQuillan, Robert McQuillan and the late Bertie Roddy were noted darts players, Jim Fergus, jnr was a Leinster and All Ireland Weight Lifting champion in the 1960s, while Colm Fergus was an All Ireland boxing Army champion and as a long distance runner with Mount Pleasant AC has clocked up over 100 races.

Another noted athlete is Michael McKenna, who took bronze in the Irish 800ms.

The Argus