Tuesday, November 06, 2012

THERE is an old saying “everyone needs good neighbours” and in that respect the Town Hall is no exception. The Town Hall has had many neighbours in the streets nearby over the years and they all have interesting stories to tell. There are two side streets running parallel on each side of the Town Hall. On one side we have Town Hall Lane and on the other side Moat Lane. Moat Lane for many years was known locally as “Marum’s Lane”.  At the junction of Marum’s Lane and North Main Street stands numbers 19 and 20 North Main Street which is now the very beautiful building housing the offices of Naas Credit Union.

From about 1874 on this site were the premises known as “The Commercial Hotel”. Edward O’Connor, a native of Ballinafagh near Prosperous, started his career in the licensed trade in Dublin and served his apprenticeship in Thomas Street. This was most likely in Dolan’s where William Staples also served his apprenticeship. William Staples was the man who purchased the premises at number sixteen South Main Street in 1870 which became known as the “Celebrated House of Naas”. The proprietor of Dolan’s was a Dublin City Councillor and it is worth noting that both Mr O’Connor and Mr William Staples were to both become members of Naas Urban District Council. William Staple’s business was to become one of the leading commercial enterprises in Kildare, as was O’Connor’s Commercial Hotel when he bought numbers 19 and 20 North Main Street in 1877.

Number 19 was the former home of the Masonic Lodge, recently vacated in Naas, and number 20 was an already established business. After extensive refurbishments to numbers 19 and 20 the premises reopened as the “Commercial Hotel” and soon became the leading establishment in Naas for comfortable accommodation and excellent food. The newspaper clipping attached refers to the article from around 1877 shows a good example of the advertisement at the time. It also proved a very popular venue for visitors from the country and Dublin city. In 1881 Mr O’Connor was elected to the Naas Town Commissioners and in addition to his work as a commissioner he was also a staunch supporter of the St Vincent de Paul helping to raise money for the needy in Naas. Unfortunately at a very early age of 35 years he passed away at his premises in the Commercial Hotel.  Soon after his death the business was purchased by Mr P Duncan in 1892 and subsequently then sold on to a Mr .PC Cunningham in 1894. PC Cunningham traded successfully for another 50 years providing excellent fare to his customers and it is interesting to note that one of his customers was the “Big Fellow” himself, Michael Collins, and also some of Collins’s political associates. When Michael Collins spoke at a major rally in the Market Square in April 1922 the post rally reception catering afforded to the “Big Fellow” was provided by the Commercial Hotel. The hotel also provided catering services to the hunt ball and other similar important events. Like the previous owner Mr O’Connor, PC Cunningham was involved in local politics serving as a member of Naas Urban District Council from 1905-1911. He sold the hotel to Edward Marum in 1939 and that is another episode in the story of the town hall and good neighbours.

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By Mick Mulvey
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