Celebrating 50 Years
The story so far
Mai Duffy grew up in Clooneen, KIlmeena into a family of 7. She studied bookkeeping in the Tech at the age of 16 and worked in Careys Wholesale and Hardware in Newport as a bookkeeper for 9 years. She met Petie Joe Corcoran at a dance hall in Kilmeena and they were married in 1954.
Petie Joe grew up in Fahy in a family of 7, where he worked hard from a young age burning lime on the family farm and reclaimed land contractor. In 1958 he set up Corcoran Bros. with his brother Padraic where they went into the sand & gravel from a quarry in Erriff and made blocks in Westport town which is now Corcoran Concrete.
Mai and Petie Joe had 150 guests at their wedding reception which was held in her parent’s garden. Mai reared and cooked the chickens herself which she served to her guests on a beautiful sunny day. To this day she still says it was the happiest day of her life!
Mai & Petie Joe went on to have 10 children, 5 boys and 5 girls, all born in Fahy. In 1968 they moved their large family from the country into town where the opportunity came up to buy a house, followed by the purchase of an adjoining house on Castlebar Street. Petie Joe was advised by an architect while delivering sand & gravel to Belclare House Hotel that Castlebar Street would be a great location for a hotel, after having sold his family home, which he loved. Mai wrote a letter to Bord Failte the next day and got approval for a grant for £7,500 which she got in 1969 and opened soon after with 12 bedrooms, a bar and with no hotel experience whatsoever.
From there, they purchased several adjoining properties including the Co Op on Castlebar Street at a public auction and went on to develop the site into a 50 bedroom hotel & function room. When the famous Starlight Ballroom on the Castlebar Road closed down in 1981, Mai introduced a weekly band in the function room who played to a packed house each night. The Rugby Club took the hotels function room every Friday night for the best part of 20 years and it was one of the highlights on the social calendar in Westport throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
In the early 70’s, the summer season ran from the 12th July for 6 weeks but that was the extent of the tourist season in Westport. In the winter time in order to keep the business ticking over the hotel would keep the bank clerks and the teachers during the week in ‘digs’.
All of the Corcoran children were involved in the business and some of them would come straight from school and into the restaurant serving dinner or helping out in the kitchen. Petie Joe left the running of the hotel business to his wife Mai and he loved been involved in the construction of the numerous extensions the hotel had over the years. Petie Joe had great customer relation skills and the bar is named after him as he was very popular with the locals & guests. It was here that he kept an eye on things including a bit of security.
The hotel itself has undergone many transformations over the past 50 years. Mai and Petie Joe gradually bought all the houses and the bakery along Castlebar Street and in 1998 developed the Castlecourt into a 157 bedroom hotel with Leisure Centre and Conference Centre making it one of the largest hotels in Connaught at the time.
Mai retired from the business in the mid 90’s but she continued to tend to the beautiful flowers beds around the hotel which was a great passion of hers. Brother and sister team Joe and Anne Corcoran took over the business at the time and together with Joe’s wife Annamarie have developed the group to include the Westport Plaza Hotel, The Westport Coast Hotel and the Asgard Apartments.
The Castlecourt Hotel welcome is all about family and through the years have created a hotel experience like no other which sees the majority of customers returning as loyal guests and bringing their families with them. It holds a special place in the hearts of many over the last 50 years.
Old Photos courtesy of the Liam Lyons Collection www.liamlyons.com