Friday, January 22, 2016

Update 22nd January

The Athlone Boundary Review
Huge opposition has mobilised regarding the proposal to take a swathe of South Roscommon and adjoin it to Athlone and County Westmeath. The Roscommon Herald and all local media has given comprehensive coverage to this issue so it would be unnecessary for me to try and emulate that or repeat what I said last week. The Roscommon Herald has also dedicated this week’s Editorial to the cause and also an impressive submission (page 45) which a person has just to sign and forward to the address on top of the submission.
One of the most passionate members of anti- movement is Canon Liam Devine who is from my own place of Fuerty. So if by any chance you missed his views try and catch up with them. It is interesting that the Bishop of Elphin, Bishop Kevin Doran has also come out very publicly in support of the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaign. He provided one of the sound bites of the night at the major meeting in Monksland last Monday week when saying ‘Can you imagine Canon Devine doing a P.R. column for Westmeath football? ‘The alignment of clergy, local press and a well organised public is like a throwback to old historic campaigns of the late 1800s’ when local newspaper editors/proprietors were hugely influential on national and local issues. When the clergy added their considerable influence they became a formidable alliance. Allied to this today are a well organised GAA movement and an articulate public whose view will not easily be brushed aside.
One group I would like to see engaged also are those Roscommon natives who are overseas. I imagine many of you would be as upset as the rest of us by the current proposal but now with modern communications you can have a voice as actor Chris O’Dowd has done. Submissions, which can take whatever form I imagine, can be emailed to; or posted to Aras An Chontae, Mount St., Mullingar, Co. Westmeath to arrive by Wednesday January 27th before 5pm. 
For further information on the issue you could log on to Athlone Boundary Review.

On a walk on Wednesday towards the Forest Park, between the two arches and just inside the first one I came across a dumped litter bag which had been scavenged by birds or animals thus spreading the litter and making it very visible. I do not know if there is a particular season that is more prone to littering than others but roadside litter is more obvious at this time of year. The adjoining roadside grass cover is sparse and not yet in growth to camouflage the said litter.

I really cannot understand how people can just dump a bag or bags of litter from their cars onto public roadsides. Boyle Tidy Towns Committee organises a roadside verges clean-up but that is usually much later in the spring for safety purposes. By coincidence I got a copy of the Tuam Herald in this morning’s post and the front page was dedicated to the same theme with a picture of litter and the piece by Tom Gilmore beginning; “THE SCOURGE of illegal dumping continues in rural areas…”
 It is a pretty unsavoury and vexing experience to have to organise oneself to clear up someone else’s mess. But as the saying goes ‘it is better to light a candle than curse the dark’.

National Newspaper Coverage ... Lack Of
I was surprised and very disappointed by the lack of coverage of the death and funeral of Roscommon sporting legend Gerry O’Malley. The local papers did the honours as they might be expected to do, also Jim Carney did him justice in the Tuam Herald and there was coverage on Shannonside and some references on national radio. But I certainly did not see any references to Gerry especially on the weekend's Saturday and Sunday Independent which I fine combed. Despite the fine-combing perhaps I missed some coverage or maybe it is just delayed. I know it wouldn’t bother Gerry much in any event but it was wrong in my eyes.

‘Uno duce, una voce’.
Then came the death of P. J. Mara last week and the newspapers were falling over themselves with effusive coverage. P.J. had become famous, in a way, as a ‘spin doctor’ particularly associated with the Taoiseach of the day Charlie Haughey. On the Sunday Independent, apart from the weather, P.J.’s death and funeral was the only subject covered on page four, with one headline relaying that “Fianna Fail’s old guard bid farewell to PJ Mara”. And what a motley crew they were with Ray Burke and some other good fellows pictured. On page 18 of the same paper, regarded columnist Liam Collins gushed ‘PJ Mara was a renaissance man with a sharp line in flippant retorts’. I don’t know if linking ‘Renaissance man’ with ‘flippant retorts’ is apt but having been in the epicentre of ‘The Renaissance’,  Florence and the province of Tuscany, last September, the ‘renaissance man’ was a big compliment. Perhaps Collins had in mind P.J. Mara as a character in the Florentine Machiavelli’s classic political handbook ‘The Prince’ a book I imagine he read, possibly borrowing it from the Prince himself, Charles Haughey.

On the home page of realboyle on Wednesday there were a number of references to poverty, national and international. It is an amazing conundrum that in the wealthiest of countries severe poverty continues to exist. Sean has certainly juxta positioned poverty with the banal desires of the haves while the picture of the children scavenging is a regular one and it seems it will be forever so. Instead of directing the great wealth and resources of the developed world towards alleviating poverty and disease so much is siphoned off to prop up huge military war machines for questionable wars which create long-term turmoil with few if any positive outcomes.
There is a testing television series on TG4 called Fiorsceal which regularly deals with these social inequality situations. Years ago in Washington the proud capital of a hugely wealthy country it was recommended to me not to stray too far from the core, which we constantly see on television, or I would be going into dangerous deprived areas.
Even in this wealthy country it seems that we cannot house the homeless, give dignified hospital care to many who are ill, the two basic issues in a menu of other concerns. 

Dodd’s Bar and the introduction of colour television
The death of Eileen Dodd brought to my mind the decade of the seventies when I first came to Boyle and having encountered a number of formidable ladies who managed bars then. I stayed for a time over Devine Conlon’s in St. Patrick’s Street now The Patrick’s Well.  Aggie Devine Conlon was the proprietor and a pleasant lady she was, very much old school. She busied herself with the bar singing or humming as she went. On one side was the bar with a grocery on the opposite side and mass cards in between. It was warmed by a pot-bellied stove where the chief stoker was Paddy McGarry. Aggie was a fine singer and a mainstay of Boyle Church choir for years. She had been to the United States in her youth and met John McCormack there. She was connected to Thomas J. Devine (maybe even his daughter) who contested the famous 1917 Bye-Election won by Count Plunkett.
On the Crescent were Grehan’s and The Ceili House Bar. Kathleen Dwyer Morris ran The Ceili House Bar and it was a mecca for traditional music and a hub during the many Fleadhs, National, provincial and County that came to the town from the late fifties until the late seventies. The traditional musicians who passed through that bar were a ‘who's who’ of that generation.
Music was well provided for in Boyle in those years with Grehan’s, now Bruno’s Restaurant, being a magnet for what might be broadly called the folk music genre. Bridie Grehan was the boss here and the Grehan sisters became very well known as a musical group. Christy Moore was a regular in Grehan’s and got a number of great songs there from John Reilly who is commemorated with a plaque on the wall outside.

The bar I frequented mostly after arriving in Boyle first was Dodd’s. Many bars develop a club-like atmosphere and clientele and often have very dedicated customer base. It was a very popular bar and the introduction of a colour television around 1968 added to its customer base. That might seem unusual today but it was one of the first colour televisions in the west of Ireland. It was installed by Tom Murray who told me a chap called Gallagher from Ballaghaderreen had been instrumental with himself in erecting the necessary aerial. It towered over the Crescent almost of Dublin Spire proportions. The arrival of the colour television, as Tom remembered it, coincided with the Wimbledon tennis tournament and was a real draw. Ironically BBC used transmit a snooker tournament called Pot Black through a non-colour channel.  Gerry O’Dowd remembers the television for the 1970 World Soccer Cup in which the great Brazilian team were to the fore.

Among the early customers I remember was a Flanagan man from Limerick who worked in Callan’s and was connected to John Flanagan who won Olympic medals for the U.S in 1900, 1904 and 1908. Another man was Vet  Halliday, I think, who was a very clever man and was regularly engrossed in his Times crossword. He was buried in Boyle. There were a number of people working in the forestry development around Boyle who popped in also such as Mick Donnelly, Joe Lynch-two Kerry men-Pat Roche and Pat Kearney. Mick Murphy a teacher in the local vocational school would regale us with stories of cricket and Christy Ring in his fine Cork accent. Then there was our regular group of Billy Feely, Joey Mahon, Dan Kennedy, John Keenehan and for a time a bank official from Meath named Peter McCarthy. Gerry O’Dowd was the barman for a time and a fine barman he was.

It was a politically affiliated house and I remember an enthusiastic incursion one night when a group of dedicated Fine Gaelers arrived after the nomination of Gerry Dodd to run for…. I forget was it a local election or a Dail shot?
Eileen ran a good shop and we had good times there in good company. The numbers declined but the bar has remained basically the same and the introduction of singing and music nights has added to its appeal as a quintessential ‘traditional’ Irish pub.                 

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