Joe McAleenan's old corner house and shop was built long before the 1900's, and documents show that it was originally a drapery which operated until 1938. The shop was then occupied by Jim ("Rosie") Cunningham, who had served his time in Burns' Butchers, for selling meat. Jim was a tenant for a few years but left to sell directly from a pony drawn flat van and later from the boot of a car. He quit this business altogether in 1940, and took a job in Hendron Bros., Belfast, driving a lorry.
In 1939, Joe McAleenan's son, Tom (who had served his time to the Grocery in Mooney Bros.), started up in their own shop. Later, in 1969, Tom also became an agent for lime, slag, manure and seed potatoes. He did a fair trade until he reached retirement age in 1984, and closed the business.
The McAleenans also owned the shop next door which was rented by a Chemist, George Shannon from Newcastle. He was also qualified to test eyesight and supply glasses. George had an assistant from the Town, also a Chemist, who took over when Shannon retired. This man, James Wilson, remained there a few years and then moved across the street. A short time later, McAleenan's small shop became a boutique, run by two Walsh sisters from Kilcoo, who found the competition too great and closed. Shortly afterwards, a young electrician from Clarkhill, Willie Shaw opened an electrial supplies and repairs in the premises but remained for only three years, from 1962 to 1965, before moving to Newcastle. 1983 saw Frank Lennon, from across the street, in occupation of this little shop and he is still there to date.
Frank Lennon, the Grocer, served his time in 1923, in Annesborough Stores. He started on his own in the little shop at the top of Ballybannon, near his home in Aughlisnafin. In 1947, he bought Peter King's Restaurant, on Castlewellan, Main Street, beside Halls, the Boot Shop. Frank moved in with his family and soon built up a good grocery trade, backed up with a fast delivery service. Within a few years, he combined his hobby, tinkering with radios and T.V.s, with his business and went into selling some musical instruments as well.
Frank Lennon was playing Gaelic Football as soon as he was fit to walk and never lost his sincere enthusiasm for all Gaelic sports. As Frank was alway depicting the old Ireland, this was a great shop for a yarn and people had to drage themselves away from this character. This was one of the few places to obtain the 'Our Boys'. This little weekly was full of stories about the Banshees and Leprechauns of the old rural Ireland and, if the stories weren't strange enough, Frank would very soon add spice to them. When the time came for him to retire, he sold his premises to John McKenny, who had a drapery next door, and moved across the street to Tom McAleenan's small shop, in 1982. He is now working at the radios, T.Vs and the sale of musical instruments more as a pasttime.
It is said that Burns' Butchers are the oldest business name in the Town. Records reveal their connection with the meat business dates back nearly two hundred years. Mickey Burns was selling meat since the early 1900s, employing about four men at any one time. Peter Cowan and Bertie Cunningham, both from the Corncrane Square, worked in Burns' for a lifetime, together with two others, Jimmy Bloomfield Jun. and Joe McCartan, who had horse vans on the road. Like all butchers at that time, they did their own killing at the rear of the premises and the carcases hung for a week to tenderise. Mickey, a good runner in his time, was prominent in all local community functions, especially the Agricultural Shows and Athletic Sports held in the Demesne, in 1913.
For a week or so after a circus had visited Castlewellan, Mickey Burns's horses must have wondered what changed Jimmy Bloomfield Jun., from Mary Street and Joe McCartan, from the Cow Lane. Instead of leading the tired horses to the field after a hard day's work, those two boys would have galloped them round the field doing all the fancy aerobatics on the backs of the poor old nags, and often with a few other locals waiting to give them the same dose.
When Mickey Burns died in 1965, and his property and lands divided among his family, the shops was taken over by Pat, who renovated the entire property and certainly did not let down the name of Burns' Butchers.
The beginning of the 20thCentury saw Andy Tuft in the shop next to Mickey Burns, and the business he carried on there was Funeral Undertaking, Hackney, Drapery and some Grocery. The premises were taken over about the 1918, 1920's, by Tuft's grandson, Jim Wilson, changed to furniture manufacturing and sales of house furnishings. Competition in this line was so great in the 1930's, that Jim Wilson offered to refund the train or bus fare to anyone who came from as far afield as Belfast and bought at least £20.00 worth of his goods. Also about that time, Jim became prominent in the Auctioneering and Real Estate business and, for a while, lived in the Lodge beside Henry Devlin. The Lodge is now Parish property and is used as a temporary Primary School. While serving his apprenticeship in Belfast, Jim Wilson enjoyed a few rounds in the boxing ring and carried his agility until he died in 1982.
The Wilsons sold their property and furniture business to 'Printrite', in 1977, and moved further up the street to continue with auctioneering and real estate only. They bought and rebuilt on Scotty Herron's old site, on the corner of Castle Avenue. The business is now owned and run by Jim's youngest son, WIll. A part of this new building facing onto the Main Street was rented to Anthony Cochran, as a grocery and vegetable shop, but Anthony moved out again in less than one year. The floor above Wilson's office was taken by a Dentist from Newcastle, Brian Gibson, a son of Doctor Gibson in that town. The small shop on the front, vacated by Cochran, is now occupied by an Optician with a name foreign to Castlewellan - Fairbairn.
A Colourful Procession went through Castlewellan in the 1900's, with Joe Burns from Annsborough driving one of Andy Tuft's wagonettes. Joe worked for Tufts and that car couldn't have carried the yarns he told. A favourite one told of the time he was Sexton for the R.C. Church (about the mid 1930's) under the Dean McKenna. One day, while passing through the Parochial House, he pinched a pound of ham from the table. The ham tasted good but pricked Joe's conscience enough to force him to go to confessions the following Saturday night. "I stole a pound of ham", Joe told the Dean. "Then you will just have to make restitution", replied the Dean. "Would you take it, Father"? asked Joe. "Oh no, not at all" said the Dean. "Ah well", said Joe, "I've offered it to the owner and he doesn't want it,so what am I going to do?" "In that case, just say a little prayer that the ham will do you a world of good", answered the Dean, and bid Joe goodnight.
In 1900, a very old building between Tufts and Lintons, belonging to Wards, and was used as a family butchers, was demolished and rebuilt with red and yellow bricks, as can be seen in any picture taken since that date. It was then redesigned, having two shops and one living quarters. One shop remained a Butchers known as Hagan-Wards. The other was occupied by an ex-policeman, Alex McLoughlin, for use as a photographic studio. Ward remained in these premises until he retired in 1926 and sold out.
On the second Monday of April, 1916, being a Fair Day, a young man arrived in Castlewellan to start the first day of his apprenticeship to the hardware trade, in the Co-Op situated on the Main Street. He had carried his bicycle most of the way from Hilltown, near his home, through one of the worst snowfalls recorded for that time of year. Castlewellan soon took to the young John Shilliday and in ten years, by 1926, he had bought all the property belonging to Hagan-Ward, and opened his own hardware store. In a short period of time he had built a large shed in a garden across the rear avenue, started a timber yard and commenced to make and sell all shapes and sizes of hen houses. As the years passed, he was making concrete blocks, steel roof trusses, tiled fireplaces and became a leading builders supplier. John Shilliday was another man who took advantage of the high price of pork in 1940, and enhanced the environment with his piggeries behind his shed!
John perfected the technique of jaming a cigarette in one side ot his mouth and blasting the smoke out the other. This comic way of 'exhausting' earned him the nick-name 'the Blow Shilliday'. In the Cafe in the Lower Square, Miss Murphy kept a pot of fresh peas constantly boiling on the fire and sold them out in bags, hot, and she always said that John was her best customer. He ate them by the pot full. Shilliday was a very gruff type of man but, strangely enough, this gruffness made him very popular in the Town. John died in 1978, leaving his son William to carry on the business. When John Shilliday first bought Wards, there was evidence that a picture house had been in operation at the rear of the building a few years earlier. The proprietor was a Miss Bosco.