The 60th anniversary of the founding of Tramore Town Commissioners was marked on Tuesday night with a celebration party at which tributes were paid to the members who served through all those years.
The party was hosted in the Civic Offices by the Town Council – the name change from Commissioners occurred in 2001 – and to mark the occasion Mayor Joe Conway presented inscribed Penrose Crystal pieces to current and former members and officials and relatives of those who have passed on.
The speakers, apart from the Mayor, were former Commissioner and sitting Dail Deputy Brian O’Shea, the longest serving current member Dan Cowman, Town Manager Brian White, County Librarian Donal Brady, the only surviving candidate of the first election all those years ago, Tosh Hearne and press representative Kieran Walsh of this newspaper. Rev. Michael Johnson got the proceedings underway with a prayer.
The Mayor recalled aspects of the war time forties, identifying the bleak climate of food and fuel shortages which preceded the establishment of the Commissioners. He said that when the war ended it was a weary Tramore that staggered back to normality.
“When 1948 dawned life was still real and earnest”, he said, “but a ray of hope had begun to outweigh the despair of the long war years.
“The sacrifices made during those years of rationing and scarcity had taught Tramoreites to be self-sufficient and this fostered a togetherness among the people which was destined to stand them in good stead over the following decades.
“Lodge’s Bakery pointed the way forward by baking a snow-white loaf to replace the awful black bread of the hungry war years. Even Tramore potatoes did their bit when Ken’s Crisps started production in a rear portion of The Ossory Inn.
“There was no need to travel to Waterford for shopping as Tramore was well served in that regard with 8 grocery shops, 3 butchers, 2 drapers, one milk and vegetable shop, shoe shop and chemist, 2 confectioners, 3 newsagents, 5 hotels, 2 dancehalls, 2 cinemas and 2 Dramatic Societies. The resort was certainly a vibrant place in 1948 and the people had good reason to walk with a spring in their step that year as Waterford hurlers won the McCarthy Cup for the first time, the minors won the All-Ireland for the second time and the junior footballers were Munster champions, helped by two Tramore stalwarts, John O’Connor and Connie Howlett.
“The local people were certainly on a high at the time but still yearned for autonomy for the town, which was granted when the Commissioners were elected towards the end of that year”.
Those who are gone
Deputy O’Shea, a Commissioner from 1979 until 1993, said five of the members elected with him 29 years ago had since passed away – Tom Healy, Michael Grant, Andy O’Beirne, Willie Hutchinson and Teresa Phelan. And he also mentioned with sadness the death at an early age of Maura Clarke-Rellis, who was elected in 1985.
He said party politics were rarely a factor in debate at Commissioners’ meetings where there was a constructive approach which proved fruitful for the town and its people.
He recollected that when he first came to the town as a young teacher in 1966 the population was less than 3,000. That had now risen to almost 9,200, so there had been huge change over the forty odd years since and the progress made reflected the dedication of the public representatives elected through the years.
He had special words of tribute for the late Michael Cullen who served as Town Clerk for many years and from whom, he said, he learned an awful lot.
Mr. Brady, who has produced a special newsletter for distribution to all households in the town, commemorating the 60th anniversary, spoke of the commitment by public representatives to the people and places they served. In that regard Tramore Commissioners and Councillors were a prime example of such dedication.
He too made some historical references, among them the fact that the first item on the agenda for the inaugural Tramore Commissioners’ meeting related to a subsidised fuel scheme, which was endorsed and was the biggest budget item that year. There was also a £100 school meals allocation, which indicated how poverty stricken some of the local population were at the time.
Other matters which were discussed at meetings in those times included the condition of the beach and the fact that seats had been thrown over a fence at Train Hill, “which just goes to show that things don’t change much in some aspects”, he concluded.
Mr. Hearne said he was honoured and delighted in one way to be present for the celebrations, but saddened by the fact that all of the other candidates from 1948 had passed on. He paid tribute to those who contested elections through the years and all who served the community so well, keeping Tramore apace of the times and to the forefront in terms of progress and development.
Dan wants independence
Cllr. Cowman said that having served on five different councils he felt he could speak for the original members in saying the main goal of all of them – and the officials – was the betterment of Tramore and its people. The town had changed in a major way over recent years, with new housing and a population which now outstripped that of Dungarvan. There was also the new Ring Road, the new sewage scheme and improved water supply, the opening of the one-stop shop at the Civic Centre and the pending development of major retail outlets.
“Finally”, he said, “wouldn’t it be great to see the Environment Minister, in the course of his review of local government, grant Tramore Town Council full rating status and independence to look after our own affairs. That would be a fitting tribute to those who had the vision to seek Town Commissioner status 60 years ago.
Mr. White said that maybe Cllr. Cowman would get his wish in the latter regard, or maybe not. But one way or the other major changes lay ahead for Tramore.
He too pinpointed some historical developments which happened exactly 60 years previously to the day – including the launch of the Big Bang theory and the Russians commencing the blockade of Berlin, as well as Pat Kenny’s birthday.
But closer to home, the Minister for Local Government made an order on April 1 of that year, applying the provisions of the 1854 Towns Improvement Act to Tramore, with effect from the following December. The first election was held on October 6 on foot of the Tramore Town Commissioners Election Order and at the time it was the only local authority of its kind established since the formation of the state.
The first chairman was Mr. Patrick E. Power and in 1955 the Commissioners purchased for £3,500 Tramore House and Grounds, currently leased to the County Council. The house is being used by the National Roads Authority and the gardens have been restored to their former glory.
Mr. White paid tribute to the contribution of Tramore’s elected representatives down the years and had special words of praise for the current Town Clerk, John O’Sullivan, who does a magnificent job in the role.
Mr. Walsh, speaking on behalf of the press, said he did so as a proud Tramore man. The journalists who covered the activities of the Town Council and the Commissioners before them did so with integrity and with a balanced and caring approach. In his experience they always respected the public representatives for the major contributions they made to the development of the resort and towards improving the lot of its people, in collaboration with some marvellous voluntary groups in the town.
He said there had always been a good and trusting relationship between the press and the Commissioners / Councillors and he had no doubt that would continue long into the future.
He congratulated the Mayor, Council members and Mr. O’Sullivan on their wonderful organisation of a very special night which appropriately marked the unselfish contribution made by their predecessors in office. And he wished them the very best of luck through the years ahead.