The Lower Keep houses a rich array of artefacts and objects highlighting different trades, crafts and lifestyles associated with the people of Athlone from the Early 1800’s up to the beginning of the 20th century. The collection was compiled and donated by the Old Athlone Society and the English Brothers, both keen local historians and members of the Society.
“My mother used to bake her own soda-bread six days a week. It was cooked in the range, but her mother used to cook it in a pot-oven. On a Saturday my mother cooked double rations because she wouldn’t bake on a Sunday. There was nothing like the smell of the freshly cooked bread…with six children the bread never lasted too long in our house I can tell you…’’
“In my early days in the trade in the early 1960s carpenters engaged in making door-frames and hanging doors depended on such basic tools as a hammer and chisel to cut the grooves for hinges and for fitting locks, and on a bit-and-brace to drill the holes for the screws. This work was all done on site. Today the work can be fully and efficiently done in the workshop using a computer controlled-controlled router.’’
“Before the advent of TV, the main entertainment was ring boards and darts. Customers played cards of course – 25s – and in the run-up to Christmas they’d play for live turkeys and geese – put up by the publican. People brought porter home in cider bottles, or beer bottles wrapped in newspapers. We did our own bottling in the past. A lot of pubs do food now, but in general I’d say the trade is back where it was fifty years ago – most of our business is done at weekends.’’