Remembering Catherine Duggan

It was with no small touch of nostalgia that I read recently of the closing of Barrett’s at The Square. This was the location that my mother, Catherine Duggan, then Catherine Murphy, came to as a young woman. She started out in Macroom and trained as a milliner. She designed and made hats and she was exceptionally good at this craft. She was a reserved, dignified woman and still quite young, perhaps in her early twenties, when she arrived in Millstreet to continue her apprenticeship at Barrett’s. I have also heard over the years that she was quite lovely to look at. My father, Cornelius Duggan of The Bridge, spotted her and began what might best be described as a year-long pursuit of her in the hopes of getting a Sunday afternoon date. He was an only child and was used to getting his way and so he persisted. My mother once told me that she took her best friend, whose name eludes me, on each Sunday afternoon “outing” in Con Duggan’s car. Yes, she was that shy.
There were other suitors as well, but Con Duggan won the day and won the Lady. Eventually, they got married and settled at The Bridge. My mother ran what was then called the Drapery Shop. They started a family which ended up being eleven in all. Early on, a son, Augustine (Gussy), died at the age of six or seven of spinal meningitis. She once told me that she was so broken-hearted she sat up in bed every night for a year, crying for the loss of that little boy. She then suffered the guilt of believing that she was not accepting God’s will in her loss. We now have a better understanding of the fact that God does not will these sad occurrences.

Catherine Duggan in the year she won the Best Dressed Lady at the Millstreet Show

In the Drapery Shop she was an efficient and personable businesswoman. She continued to design and make hats. Many a Saturday night I would watch her “whip up” a hat for Sunday morning Mass. She would be in that shop in the mornings, late at night, Sundays through Saturdays, as people were always showing up at odd hours in need of a pair of stockings, a sweater, a tie or a set of dishes. The sweaters of all kinds were fashioned by Maura, upstairs in a back room. This was called “The Knitting Room.” The brand was Tubrid and they were sold far and wide to country folks as well as those in the town.
Of course during all this time Mammy was also rearing all of us. My father, Con Duggan, died in 1947 while still in his forties and my mother became the sole parent and business operator. As the family grew up, everyone, at one time or another, pitched in to help. In PICTURE MILLSTREET there are photographs showing Noel, Denis, Pat, Tim and even me, somewhere around the front of the business doing some chore or other. I remember Fidelis covered in flour from head to toe when he operated the crushing mill, grinding grain into flour for the farmers! When my mother sent Noel C. to be trained in the running of a business, he came back and went full swing into making it a place where everything that was needed by a farmer, a housewife or a builder could be found.
In those times, shops didn’t stock toys year round as they do now. My favorite time was when the toy salesman (we called them travelers then) came by with his treasure trove of samples. Toys were ordered well in advance of the holidays so that a supply would be there when parents came to stuff the stockings. Mammy would let me watch and occasionally I would give my approval of some specific item ordered…most likely a doll as I was the resident expert on that score. At one point I had seven. I believe the salesman represented Day’s in Cork where they had toys year-round. I also do remember that he had only one arm.
When Mammy died and her funeral procession was on its way to Drishane, the hearse stopped outside Duggan’s Stores at The Bridge for three minutes. A lifetime of memories, sad and happy, mostly sad, rushed through me in those moments.
My mother was respected and cherished as a woman of character, decency and honesty. Her funeral in 1 982 was attended by a large number of people who came to pay their respects to her and to honor her long history in Millstreet, from Barrett’s to The Bridge to Woodmist to Drishane and, without any doubt, to Heaven. This is just a sketch of a good and exceptionally decent woman. Since I am the youngest of the eleven, those who knew her longer than I did can fill in what is missing. More sketches to come.
She is the reason why the closing of Barrett’s caused me some nostalgia. God Bless my mother and her memory. God bless the Barrett family. God bless us all.

Anne Duggan    <email>
8711 Reamer St.
Houston, TX 77074
April, 20012

8 thoughts on “Remembering Catherine Duggan”

  1. Hi Anne,
    Thanks a million for your kind words and fascinating memories of Millstreet and my home in bygone years.It was with great sadness that we closed Barrett’s Drapery Store after 100 years of trading earlier this year.
    Many shops have closed over the last few years and I feel that this is a great loss to the local community. Hopefully in the future we will have a financial recovery and Millstreet will once again become rejuvinated.
    Interestingly the Murphy name remains at the family home as this is also my mothers maiden name.Your nephew Barry and I were in the same class in school.
    Best of luck.
    Ted Barrett,Cardiff.

  2. What wonderful memories, Anne, that you evoke in this superb tribute to your dear Mum. Reflecting on the very significant and important role played in Millstreet by such wonderful businesses as those you mentioned – the Barrett Family and Duggan Family – and the remarkably inspirating life of your mother – all serve to remind us that Millstreet has so much for which to be thankful to that generation of great people. Well done to website coordinator, Michael, also for accessing a selection of very appropriate images to illustrate Anne’s beautifully written tribute.

  3. Thanks, Sean. I am sure you knew Catherine Duggan. What a great woman. Thanks also to Ted Barrett of Cardiff. How I would love to chat with you, Ted, to get a better picture of the Barrett household, business and life in The Square. Millstreet has so many untold historical vignettes. Let’s contribute what we remember.

  4. A touching and fitting memory of a grandmother who is gone but not forgotten in Killarney . Often remarked upon by my father Patrick who keeps her photo at the kitchen table and is as much alive in our memories as the day i brought her a corgi puppy named cora for our birthday which she and i shared . Her legacy ,a family any one would be proud, may she rest in peace .

  5. Of note also is that my grandmother Catherine Duggan whom i am named after reared one of her grand daughters Caroline Duggan from toddler hood so in a sense she had 12 children . This must also represent a very befitting reflection of her warmth and deep care . I have very nice memories of Nana Duggan on visits to Millstreet and my cousin Caroline remembers her as a mother figure with pure love and kindness . x x

  6. To be kind and compassionate and a great wife and mother were her claims to fame
    Before she married Con Duggan Catherine Murphy was her name
    An only child of Andrew Duggan who hailed from Lisnaboy
    Con died young in his early forties a long life he did not enjoy

    The mother to a large family she raised them on her own
    Her children the Duggans of Millstreet Town are famous and widely known
    A woman of rare beauty and unaffected by conceit
    And so wise and easy going in her ways and always a joy to meet

    For the past three decades her last remains in Drishane Cemetery lay
    And in the Millstreet Town she raised her children in changes happening every day
    To the Town and countryside by Clara Hill the Seasons come and go
    And time as it has always done to everyone becomes a foe

    Yet every time i visualize the past comes back to me
    And on the Killarney Road Catherine walking her corgi dogs is one i often see
    We cannot bring back what used to be since what used to be has gone
    But as long as we retain the gift of memory the past in us lives on

    It has been said of the good souls that they have wings to fly
    To the paradise where good souls go to somewhere beyond the sky
    And perhaps Catherine is happy today where the winged angels are
    And does she think of Millstreet Town and the famous Blue Dog Bar?

    “Catherine Duggan” is by Francis Duggan

  7. Francis!
    I have been wondering for several months where you and your words have been hiding. Your beautiful reflection
    on my mother brought tears to my eyes this Sunday morning in Texas. She was all you said and more. How well you remember her walking her corgis! She and I would back to visit Mary Agnes, your sweet mother, and the corgi would always be in tow. Thank you! Thank you! Please keep writing. I have missed your pieces.

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