How Bill Moran walked out of the reform school gates and into the freedom of Daingean

I don’t know what offense he committed, but those who knew Bill Moran thought it must have been harmless. Mitching from school or maybe stealing a pack of cigarettes?

We never talked about it – and we never asked.

He spent two straight years at the Daingean Reformatory, an institution established according to the language and thought of the time to “treat children who were criminals differently from adults.”

When the time came for his release, 17-year-old Bill stepped through the gates of the reform school into the free world – but instead of returning to Dublin, he went to Daingean.

Work and money were scarce. Most Daingean people emigrated, farmed, harvested their own turf, worked on the moor or in the ESB. Some might have been lucky enough to work in a factory in Tullamore or Edenderry.

But if your report card showed that you were a dub and that you had spent the last two years in Daingean reform school, your chances of finding work were greatly reduced.


A dormitory at Daingean Reformatory School

As the evening drew to a close, he found himself outside the last house on Clonad Lane, about a mile from town. This was my father’s home. Bill knocked on the open front door and was greeted by my grandmother, “Come in.”

It was a greeting Bill wasn’t used to. My father’s people were easygoing by nature. If there was work, no questions were asked about who you were or where you were from. Although it was a large family, there was always farm work to be done.

Directly across from my grandparents’ house was the old, ramshackle building where two of my great-uncles once lived. That house now lay vacant and Bill was welcome to settle there until something more suitable came along. Bill gladly accepted.

He spent the next 50 years of his life in the same house and it became known as Bill Moran’s house.

With a roof over his head, he must have been pleased that it contained one of those big old trundle beds (a bed by night and a table by day), an open fireplace and a griddle on the hearth. A large mahogany table and press sat firmly in the center of the floor, unmoved since the day my great-uncle died.

There was also a shabby rocking chair and an old grandfather clock with a cracked face that hadn’t worked for many days. All these pieces of furniture more than served their purpose, otherwise they would have migrated over to my grandparents’ house. Bill got to work.

He started tinkering with the chair and clock and managed to restore both parts to work perfectly. On those cold winter nights, he rocked himself by the fire and listened to the ticking of the old grandfather clock.

He loved wandering to the many neighboring houses down the alley

Bill Moran spent the next half century farming the land with my uncles and first cousin Joe Molloy, cutting and saving peat, making hay, milking cows, threshing, cutting corn, driving tractors, cattle to feed and to help in the market and in the dairy.

He had the freedom of his parents’ home and it was here that he ate his meals every day. Over time, he was regularly offered a bed. He always had the same kind reply,

“No thanks, I’m happy across the street.”

He loved wandering to the many neighboring houses down the alley. He went from the Henrys to the Rowans and on to the Briens and listened to tales of days gone by. He regularly visited Paddy Brien, the next-door neighbor of my grandparents’ house, where he frequently recited the poem Clonad Lane which Paddy had written himself.

He played cards, recited poetry, kept abreast of the day’s news. The thatched home of the two bachelors Kilmurray brothers was one of the most famous music houses in Daingean. Bill’s hair was often cut while the music was in full swing.

Kilmurrays have even been known to have had a tooth or two pulled – up to 10 traditional musical instruments were going into overdrive while this small operation was underway.

My dad called Clonad in the van every Friday night for many years. Alice, my aunt, did the grocery shopping in the van and when Bill was around he always insisted on bringing in the groceries.

Once they were on the kitchen table, he immediately came back to buy his three bottles of stout, an order that hasn’t changed over the years.

Bill was a creature of habit. He spoke to the lambs at the same time every day. He drank his bottle of stout at the same time every night. He went to the same Mass every Sunday and took the same seat.

He talked to my father at the same time every Friday night. Bill went to Brock’s Pub at the same time every Sunday morning. It was the bar closest to Clonad and the furthest from the reform school.

Sunday morning was the only time he visited a licensed establishment during the week. Some of the other bars brought him into closer contact with the high walls of the reform school, and the sight of those high walls brought back too many unpleasant memories.

Joe Brock could set his watch from Bill Moran on a Sunday morning. He drank his few bottles and was a central figure in the pub’s clientele.

Any papers he would get his hands on would be read cover to cover. He would have all the stories from local to national to world news.

Locals were in awe of his knowledge. If a debate or argument caused unnecessary disagreement between customers, Joe Brock would settle it by simply saying, “Ask Bill.”


Bill Moran’s gravestone in Daingean

His health began to deteriorate in the late 1960s. He could no longer live alone and take care of himself. He was transferred to the county hospital and from there to the county home in Tullamore.

Despite his many visitors, he was lonely from the moment he was admitted. Nothing could replace the open fire and rocking chair, the open fields and animals, the nocturnal roaming.

But most of all he missed the people of Clonad Lane.

Bill Moran made two important requests of the Henry family throughout his life. The first he did on the day he left reform school and looked for work, the second from his deathbed when he asked to be buried in the Henry plot in Daingean Cemetery. He did not have to make this request.

Bill Moran is buried in one of the Henry family properties in Daingean Cemetery along with my Aunt Kathleen, her husband Pat and my cousin Joe (Kathleen and Pat’s son), my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins ​​being just one stone’s throw away.

He died on St. Patrick’s Day 1970. He was 74 years old.

Bill Moran was one of 5,275 boys housed within these walls – before the reform school finally closed in 1973. Just like Bill, each undoubtedly had their own distinctive story

An edited excerpt from One Last Bend: A Personal History of Peter Henry’s Traveling Shop by Vincent Henry How Bill Moran walked out of the reform school gates and into the freedom of Daingean

Fry Electronics Team

Fry is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button