The end of an era as Kilnagross Post Office closes after 120 years of service

Memories recalled of a time long gone

Kilnagross Post Office closed on January 31st, 2018 after 120 years in operation. The closure was voluntary and was not prompted by the threatened wholesale closure of Post Offices throughout the country.

It is with great sadness to the Flynn family that this closure had to happen but it became inevitable over the past few years. It was with the outstanding help of very kind neighbours that it was possible to keep it going over the last few years. I will not name them as they know who they are. The help they gave is only known to ourselves and is deeply appreciated. They may never know how much they are appreciated.

The P.O. in Kilnagross was first opened in 1898 prior to the formation of the Irish Free State. This was done under the provisions of an Act passed in the first year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria entitled “An Act for the Management and Regulation of the Post Office.”

The first Postmaster was our grandfather Nicholas Flynn (he took the Queen's shilling). He and his wife, Mary Anne were the first teachers in Kilnagross National School so while nominally he was the Post Master, the office was run by our Aunt Brigid (Cissie). A small shop was added and this has continued to operate to this day.

Our father Joe Flynn took over as Post Master in 1939 but it was effectively run by our mother Mollie. Anyone who knew Joe would know that office work was not his forte. He was happier with his donkey and cart.

The next change happened when our brother, the late Joe, was appointed Post Master in 1979. He was in situ until 1984 when he transferred it to our sister Joan who ran it until last week, making her the longest-serving Post Master/Post Mistress.
There is great sadness with the closure of the Post Office and a way of life that was familiar to so many of us for so many years, but there is also some relief. The intricacies of running the office were quite complex. It is now fully automated.

Joan ran it very efficiently for 34 years. She was ably assisted by our sister Noeleen on the very busy days - Thursdays and Fridays - when pensions were paid out. Our sister Mary assisted during any absences by Joan.

Thousand of Euros were paid out every week and she had to ensure that there was enough money to make those payments to the pensioners, some who might only collect it every 4th or 5th week when there could be well over €1000 due.
She had to account for the money paid out to Head Office every week. You must bear in mind this was a six day job and indeed sometimes seven. This again is where the kind neighbours were so helpful in providing support and security by checking if anything was amiss. They really kept their eyes on things.

In the early years communications were difficult in rural areas and with emigration so rampant, it was mainly by letter that any contact was made.

The telephone in the Post Office was of huge benefit as people did not have phones in their own homes. To put this in perspective, our phone number was Keshcarrigan 3. The other two phones were Keshcarrigan P.O. and the Garda Barracks.

Phone contact was often by arrangement where the relative would come in to the P.O. at a given time to take the call. Therefore, Kilnagross P.O. facilitated many calls from abroad for local families with messages and of course what people called the “cursed telegrams.”

Very often these telegrams contained bad news, perhaps the death of a loved one. Locally, calls to the doctor, vet or Ballinamore 41 (A.I. Station) were made frequently. Joan would have provided the phone for this service.
My memories of the workings of the office go back to the 40s and 50s. Ireland was a very different place then. Money was very scarce and, very often, people had no money.

She gave numerous people credit and told them to pay her when they could, be that from the subsequent sale of cattle, pigs, pension, dole or children's allowance. This was particularly true where there were children in the family.

People may not appreciate that the remuneration for running the post office was a pittance, and is still a pittance, but the shop was an adjunct to the Post Office in that people who used the office invariably purchased something in the shop.
In my young days, Wednesday was very busy as the Leitrim Observer came out on that day and people depended on it for news as there was no e-mail or Facebook. The Observer played a huge role in people's lives and still does.

While my mother was very generous in helping people, she was always paid back. She even received monies from England, mainly from young men who went there for work. Quite a few might even have gotten the passage money from her. Often they sent a pound or two more than they owed in gratitude. The honesty of people from around Kilnagross was phenomenal and still is to this day.

There were amusing incidents of course. My first acquaintance with the barter system was when a young fellow presented my mother with six eggs to pay for 10 Players cigarettes. She reluctantly gave him the cigs but told him never again. His mother would not have been aware that he took the eggs.

Then there was the woman who when seeing that there was no bacon in the shop that particular day would ask for 7 or 8 lbs but if there was bacon, would ask for 2 lbs.

Then there was a woman who would ask for D.D.T. and when my mother proffered her a tin, she would say “Give me five or six tins. One is no good with our big bullocks.”

It would take more space that the editor can afford me to tell all the funny and not so funny incidents that I encountered. I very well remember my mother giving out ration books circa 1952. I remember one man calling for a stamp on his way home from Mass Christmas morning.

It is certainly the end of an era, not just for our family but also for the local area after 120 years of continuous dedicated service, very often seven days a week.

To conclude, I would like to wish Joan a happy, lengthy and healthy retirement from the Post Office. The shop will remain open so your support will as always be appreciated.

I would like to thank everyone who supported us over the years but I would especially like to extend gratitude to the very helpful neighbours, young and old, who assisted so much and for so long.

A landmark is passing.

Gerry Flynn.

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