independent

Friday 15 December 2017

John's 70 years of service

Hubert Murphy chats to John Carolan about his decision to retire - at the age of 83!

Trinity Street will never truly be the same again.

For generations, those who wanted a new bike, an old one repaired, a puncture fixed, there was one place to go, PJ Carolan.

Today, the red door at No.77 still stands boldly against the changing times. But not for long.

After 87 years and two generations, PJ Carolan's bike shop is to close its doors for the last time.

As he looked out on the passing traffic (although it's usually a traffic jam), John Carolan recalled the great days of trade on Trinity Street, an era long gone.

His father, PJ, opened up the bike shop in 1930 and with petrol pumps at the front, it became a vital part of the community.

For decades, he operated a business that was almost unique with just Greys and Murphys on West Street.

They opened in the early morning and closed at midnight, but they lived just a handful of doors from the shop, so from time to time, a knock on the door at 2 or 3am would get PJ out of bed and he'd go down and fill up a motorist who had run dry.

Indeed, the story is told that one Dickie Rock (pictured bottom right) made that knock on the door one night on the way home from a gig and was pretty grateful for PJ's generosity!

Another feature of Carolan's was their phone - a rarity back then.

Number 8242 became an important four digit code to the rest of the world in many respects. Neighbours would get calls at various times and off someone would run to inform them that they were wanted.

John began working in the family business when he was 13 and now, 70 years later, is calling time on his working life.

He admits he'll miss standing at the front door and chatting to people as they pass.

He points out the houses, some now derelict, where families were reared, Keelaghans, Leech, Harmon, Farrells, McLoughin. Frank Carr lived next door and worked for him. There was Matthews and McGuinness and Benny and Noel Mohan.

Characters like Gem Foley and workers down the years, from shop manager Tom Plunkett to Vinny Kells, Wally Kells, Peter Kelly, Mary Gerrard and Ray Roden, the taxi driver. Peter Keeling from Skerries spent nearly 50 years there.

John says business was pretty good up to a decade ago and things changed, new places opening up.

'My dad was a Tullyallen man and learned the trade in Grey's on West Street,' he says.

He lost his mum, Nano, a member of the West Street Callan family, when he was just three, but holds her picture dear.

John and his late brother Frank were familiar faces for people making their way to work at Donaghy's Mill and Wilson and McBrin, many walking but others cycling and when they'd get a puncture, the bike would end up in Carolan's.

As he winds down the business, John says he'll do more walking now but would like to thank all the generations that made PJ Carolan such a feature of Trinity Street.

Drogheda Independent

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