Extracts from The Boyle Book Vol 2

"The Princess Hotel"

by Veronica O'Connor and Jim Casserly (RIP)

' The Princess Hotel located at lower Main Street, was once the private house of the Flannery family. Along side it ran a thriving hardware business in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The builder, John Mulhall, was married to a daughter of the Mac Dermott family, hence the name "The Princess of Coolavin".


Princess Hotel Wards Cox's Hse & Shop above

The hardware shop with its glass window frontage,unique at this time, was then situated in the commercial part of the town on the main Dublin/Sligo road. In the 1800's the Mail Coach had to stop here to have extra horses yoked to enable the coach to climb the very steep hill known locally as "Green Hill". Consequently Flannery's Hardware Store derived a lot of custom from the Mail Coach.

Wards Shop In 1910 Michael Ward and his two sisters Bee and Nell inherited the business from their uncle Mr. John Flannery. They carried on the hardware shop plus a wine and spirit business. Here they blended their own whiskey and distributed enormous amounts of it locally. The price list of the day showed: 2d a half glass of whiskey; 4d a glass of whiskey; 2d a pint of single porter and 4d a pint of double porter. Those who preferred a drink by their own fire could have their cans filled with porter in the pub and take it home. An order of whiskey for retail was known as "a special of whiskey", this consisted of forty wagons on the Midland Great Western Railway. The business was a great source of employment for many locals who served their time there. Later they put these experiences to work in setting up their own business.'
(They were those, no names, that would climb the walls from the back at night and lower cloths tied with rope or string down into the vats, pull them up and ringe into whatever containers they had: " A TAKE AWAY" from that time!)

Michael McDermott and his family carried out a timber business from the stables at the back of Ward's shop,access through the archway. photos

'In the 1930's this part of the town ceased to be as busy as before. Other businesses had developed in the town. Gradually the trade in the shop dwindled. The business went into voluntary liquidation. Michael, Bee and Nell decided to open a guesthouse to which they gave the name Princess Hotel. It was a beautiful Georgian House, furnished with antiques. The ballroom hosted various whist drives, socials and dances. There were eight bedrooms where commercial travellers, government officials, bank clerks; chemists, vets poultry instructors and egg inspectors alike enjoyed the warm hospitality and home cooking of the Wards. Bee attended to the cooking, Nell took care of reception and accounts while Michael worked hard in the garden to ensure a fresh supply of vegetables for the tables.
Here at the Princess Hotel much research was carried out for the book" The Heart of Ireland" written by Rev. P Sharkey. The book, which sold at 7s/6d a copy, proved much more expensive than was budgeted for. In order to defray expenses whist drives were organised. This was the beginning of sponsorship with the commercial travellers donating the prizes.
It was an important place for the cattle jobbers to spend a night before a Fair Day. The hotel stood near the fair grounds on the Green, and with a 2 a.m. start this was very convenient. It was also a favourite resting place for those attending Boyle Agricultural Show, which was held annually in August. Its generous yard space was ideal for holding their cattle and horses.

1940 saw more changes in the hotel. Michael, always a keen gardener, covered half the yard with green houses. He had the expert help of the agricultural inspectors who stayed at the hotel. He built up a reputation for his fine tomato crop and beautiful chrysanthemums. At that time the chrysanthemums sold at 1/6 a stem. He also grew tobacco and was a great advertisement for his own product especially in the cinema where he smoked a lot.
A man who loved the soil, he was also very involved with politics never hiding his Republican views. The hotel was frequently used for political meetings and was known as a "safe house" for members of the Old I.R.A.
After the death of Michael, Nell and Bee, the hotel closed.
Michael Moran, a kind and generous man and another Mayo man re-opened the premises. He had worked in Earl's Drapery Shop (now the property of W.Taylor). With his involvement in the St.Vincent de Paul he realised the need for a house for the homeless. At the Princess Hotel he provided shelter and hospitality for many a traveller coming and going the roads of the West of Ireland during the 1950's and 1960's.'

Today the Princess Hotel is the Boyle Credit Union. The Yards and Wards Shop is Green Street car park. The house was full of stuffed animals from all over the world with a model White Horse on the fanlight over the front door.

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