Soccer Football had a tremendous following in the Town, right up until the war started, in 1939. At one time, there were two local teams, The Stars and Arsenal, which meant there was a match nearly every Saturday. The visiting team usually changed in their own bus at the meadow and the home side in the little place at Morrison's - now the Bookie's Shop. On leaving there, the team turned left for the meadow but stopped at a Confectionery and Tobacconist on the right. This shop was owned by Cassie Cunningham and her mother, who were related to the Hauliers across the street. This was where everyone stocked up with chewing gum before the match and continued to do so till Cassie died, in 1973, her mother having died some year previously. The little business was taken over by Valentines, in 1978. They sold groceries as well as the confectionery but closed altogether, in 1984.
Further along the route, and also on the right, an Oil Depot was passed. It belonged to John Joe Toner, from the New Row. The New Row was on the other side of the road and facing the Depot. John Joe supplied oil to the shops, houses and fishing boats in Kilkeel and Ardglass. He was in business for over twenty years, and died in 1972. In his later years, he was helped by his two sons, Pat ("Kitter") and Gerard ("Squeak"), probably since 1959. In 1973, the business was taken over for five years by Cawoods, from Belfast, employing Hugh Fitzpatrick from Kilcoo as a lorry driver. Hugh eventually bought the lot in 1978, and sells heating oil for private and commercial use.
In the first of the houses known as the New Row, on the Circular Road, boots and shoes were repaired by Hugh ("Knocker") Donnegan, from about 1930, right up until he died in the 1970s. This place has been a private house since then.
Half way down the Row was a Taxi For Hire business, owned by Patrick McEvoy, from the 1900s to the 1930s. On his death, the taxi was taken over by "Stalk", his son, also called Patrick, but this type of work wasn't too profitable after the war, so Stalk packed it up and finished his working days driving an oil lorry for his brother-in-law, Joe Toner.
During the 1920s and early '30s, the last house on the Row was used as a Barber's. It was worked by Willie Quinn, an ex-Navy man, lame from a wound in the leg, received during the 1914-18 War. Willie moved to live in a private house further along the Circular Road. The house he left has not been used for business purposes to date.
In 1934, when the huge pipeline was being laid from the Silent Valley to Belfast, Willie Quinn's eldest son, Jim, just leaving school about the age of fourteen, got a job as Nipper to the workers on the line. After a short period of employment, he one day made a terrible mistake while making the tea. He accidently threw a can of petrol instead of oil onto the fire and was so badly burned, he died a few weeks later.
On reaching the meadow gate, one could see the Picture House just across the road, with posters on the wall showing the ifim for that night. They were so tempting that they made people look twice at the few coppers in their hands - the price of the match. However, first things first, and so they became football spectators. In those days the crowds attending matches were three deep around the pitch.
There was one man to get beside at any game and that was Dan Dorrian. Dan and his brother, Pat, travelled the country, selling second hand men's clothing and had a permanent stall in Newry Market. Both lived in the New Row and had their store at the rear of McCann's pub. Although Dan was a very quiet stocky man, he always got over-excited when the local side were losing. When the forward from the enemy side had burst past the Town backs and was racing for the goal, he would run onto the pitch, shouting "He's through, he's through; as sure as hell's a man trap, he's through!" This drew a laugh from the crowd and eased the pain of defeat, at least for that day.
The New Row was a street of small houses, almost facing the football field. At the rear of every one of them was a small pig sty and at that time nearly everyone kept a sow to which they fed everything except waste paper. The piglets were sold in the Market to supplement meagre wages. Some of those people had to retail coal in one or half-stones from their coalhouses, in a desperate effort to get that extra few coppers. Those were the days of the large families and the New Row was full of youngsters, all waiting till they reached the age of ten or twelve, for this was a time in their lives when they were sent part-time to work in the Annsborough Linen Mills.
On the top of Mill Hill, and built at right angles to the Main Road, is another long street of houses. These were erected by the Annesley Estate, to accommodate its workers. It is called the Blue Row and, like the New Row houses, being very small, had the advantage of being easily heated. There was no scarcity of fuel for the open fire grates in the Town during the poverty years of the 1920s and 30s, as the Demesne was open to anyone who wished to collect the branches blown down from the trees. Tuesday was usually wash
day in the family home and this meant Monday collection of firewood. Women with children and unemployed husbands were a common sight walking home with large burdens of sticks on their backs.
The washing commenced with their clothes being boiled in a huge pot and, after a certain time, were taken out and washed in a tub beside the fire using a scrubbing board, which is now used only as a musical instrument! This procedure was repeated on Saturday night, but this time it was the kids' turn for the scrubbing brush.
The modem house, with its oil or gas central heating and bath-rooms, put an end to this way of life, but it is still hard to beat a large log fire in the open hearth of an old fashioned small house.
The houses in the Blue Row are very old (built about 1712), and some years ago when the rent, ls6d per week, would hardly pay to replace the odd slate, G.F. Annesley thought it best to sell out to the occupants. The houses have since been modernised and must be classed as sensible, economic units, good for many years to come.
In the manufacture of linen, the cloth is rinsed in a solution of water and blue dye to give it that brilliant whiteness. A lot of the people employed in this section of the earlier local mills, lived in this street and gave it the name, Blue Row. Strangely enough these houses stand on private ground depriving the dwellers of some of the council amenities such as the surfacing of the road.
The meadow was the central point for recreation for the whole Town. People
practised golf, played soccer and gaelic football, hurley and handball and,
at one time, the local men had a pitch for playing marbles. Another favourite
game in the 1930s, was rounders, but is rarely seen now. Most Castlewellan folk
were under the impression that the meadow was a Council playground, but it appears
it was the property of the R.C. Parish. In 1976,77, the Parish sold the field
to the Town G.A.A. Club, who resurfaced it and built a high wall along the Circular
Road, with a proper entrance gate. This wall closed in the meadow and buried
a thousand memories. The G.A.A. also bought a large garage, built in the 1940s
by the Ulster Transport Board, but was little or never used. This place was
adjacent to the meadow and turned into a Social Club. To facilitate the other
sports people in the Town, the Department of the Environment bought a field
at Seaview, a quarter mile out the Rathfriland Road. They made this into a playfield,
complete with car park and all amenities,but that little distance makes all
the difference and the field seems to attract very little interest.