Housewarming in Converted Bus

Written circa January 1957

Editor’s note: this short piece was discovered as a handwritten note in the papers of Pin’s Frank Quinn of the Old Cross. There is no certainty that the author was Patrick Tobin, but it is likely that he was, and that he dictated it to Frank. The Conlons set up their new habitation in a field near Lavery’s Corner, almost directly opposite the Master’s home; he liked nothing better than commenting on the human condition (of both himself and his neighbours), and the mock-reportage style is reminiscent of the earlier Grand Carnival at Drumaney.

Hardy’s Hughie Conlon (1881-1973) pictured at the door of his bus-home. His original home was demolished to make way for a wartime airfield and he and his family moved from rented house to rented house in the following years

“The landlord turned us from our cot.” Thus, very appropriately, did wee Paddy Devlin sing at the reception given by Messrs Conlon (Hughie and Patrick), father and son, to friends and neighbours and well-wishers to celebrate their taking up their new residence in Ardean on New Year’s Eve.

The circumstances which led to their having to shift their belongings at such an inconvenient period were such as to arouse for them the deepest sympathy of all the folk in the district, but the spokesman for the landlord told them that the time was opportune for their eviction, so Hughie and Patrick “be to go.”

They were fortunate to secure a double-decker bus in good condition, and the grant of a site by Mr WJ Lavery, auctioneer and councillor, who is already well-known for his practical sympathy for those in trouble, made it possible for them to be housed conveniently and comfortably before the storm, which has just swept this district, arrived.

A goodly crowd came to help in the decoration of the Conlons’ new home and many called in the first evening to wish them health, happiness, and prosperity in their new venture. They were all hospitably entertained and songs were rendered by Messrs Pat Quinn, Felix Conway, and Neil Coney, Moortown, and Paddy Devlin of Annaghmore. Mr Peter Devlin (Óg) gave his comments on current topics and Mr Joe Mallaghan helped to correct him in those opinions with which he did not agree. Barney Lavery and Charles Quinn, Drumaney, came to inspect the premises with a view perhaps to securing similar abodes for themselves, and many others from as far away as Kiltagh, Old Cross, Kinturk, and Aneetermore kept the fun going with jokes and harmless chat.

At bedtime Mr Patrick Conlon, on behalf of the family, thanked them for their attendance and their company, and an enjoyable evening was brought to a close with the singing of The National Anthem and Faith of our Fathers.

Some of the neighbours who attended the bus-warming party. From top, left to right 1. Mark’s Pat Quinn (1906-78), 2. Felix McConomy (1934-2009), 3. Wee Paddy Devlin (1910-74), 4. Nailly Coney (1918-88), 5. Joe Mallaghan (1891-1981), 6. Peter Devlin Óg (1915-88), 7. Bushman’s Barney Lavery (1931-2006), 8. Canny’s Charlie Quinn (1920-2001)

Patrick Tobin (1893-1961), the blind schoolmaster who wrote “Housewarming in Converted Bus” was a neighbour and friend of the Conlons. He is pictured with another neighbour and friend, Jimsey’s John Devlin (1921-2006)

The following article appeared in The Mid-Ulster Mail of Saturday 27 April 1957 –

Living happily in a double-decker bus, which formerly belonged to Belfast Corporation, at Ardean, Coagh, are seventy-two year old Hughie Conlon and his son Patrick. The vehicle was bought for them by a friend in Belfast for around £40 when the Conlons had to quit their nearby home. Pleased with their purchase, they began to tow the bus to Coagh. But they forgot about Templepatrick Railway Bridge. The bus would not go under the bridge and they had to make a detour through Ballyclare.

The Conlons enjoy living in their new home in which they have installed a neat little stove. It is sited in a field close to the roadway leading to Moortown Catholic Church. Its only drawback, they say, is that people are continually looking at the bus, with the result that they have great difficulty in dressing in the morning. Says Hughie, “Sometimes it is so bad that we have to put on our clothes while lying on the floor!.”

Hardy’s Hughie Conlon (1881-1973) and his wife Alice Conlon née Devlin aka Archie’s Alice (1882-1953) pictured outside their home in Kinrush in the 1930s. Their home was demolished in 1940 to make way for the wartime airfield

Following the loss of their home in Kinrush, the Conlon family obtained temporary accommodation from Michael Campbell who was currently in USA. Alice had reared Michael  and his siblings following the death of their mother in childbirth.

This photo was taken at the Michael Campbell home in Sessia around 1948.

From left – Mary Jane Campbell (1905-85), Mick “Robin” Devlin (1868-1957), Robin’s Wee Jemmy, Sarah McElhone née Campbell (1902-80), Packie Conlon (1911-74), his mother Alice Conlon née Devlin aka Archie’s Alice (1882-1953)

(right) Packie Conlon (1911-74) pictured with neighbours and friends. From left – Ann McCarroll née Rocks of Whiting, New Jersey (1913-96), Joe Mallaghan of Clunto-quin (1891-1981), Ned Rocks of Ardean (1921-2014)


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