A diary of the times that are (part 7)


Our friends in the County Library were in touch recently to double-check that we’re retaining (for their files) copies of every Roscommon People published during lockdown. Which of course we are.

When I spoke with the lady on the phone, she mused about the importance of newspapers as a first port of call when people are looking for information on historical events.

“It’s amazing. Whenever people want to find out about something huge that happened ­– how life was in Roscommon during the war years, etc. – they come here (to the library) and ask for our newspaper files. The papers are always their starting point”.

And the lady from the library had absolutely no doubt that generations yet unborn will be making contact with Roscommon libraries in the future to find out just how life was in this country during the Covid-19 era – and how it was reported upon.

Well, that exchange didn’t surprise me, but it was still a nice reminder of the great, enduring bond between the local newspaper and the people of rural Ireland, a positive thought that sustained me as I scrambled around an empty office in search of recent editions of the Roscommon People! (Successfully located, and set aside for the County Library).

And for anyone who’s now reading this from the future ­– so to speak – here’s a quick summary:

Where we are: In early 2020 a new and nasty virus spread across the world with great haste. The coronavirus (Covid-19) quickly reached pandemic status. It effectively brought the world to a standstill. As I write, in late April 2020, there have been over 200,000 deaths worldwide, and over 1,000 in Ireland. There have also been countless millions of job losses worldwide, with normal life suspended. Virtually no flights (or travel of any type), businesses and places of leisure closed, well over half the world in lockdown. Our social interaction has been turned upside down; we can no longer meet up (much less shake hands or embrace), and if we do, we need to maintain social distancing (of about six foot).

Where we were: (This is for our friends from the future who may be reading this in decades to come). Just seven weeks or so ago, it was all quite different.

In those days, as recently as early March, we led an imperfect but less precarious existence. We didn’t go to bed at night and wake in the morning to thoughts of a cruel pandemic, the latest figures of fatalities fresh in our minds.

We did live in a society with problems, but a progressive one nonetheless, featuring a strong economy and what is deemed to be full employment (our jobless rate has just gone from 4.8% to closer to 25% within weeks).

But most of all, challenges notwithstanding, we had the social interaction that people thrive on, need. We gathered in our thousands for sporting, entertainment and other public events. We rubbed shoulders together in pubs, restaurants and cafes. We stopped and chatted and embraced/shook hands on busy streets. We travelled to meet loved ones.

But one good aspect of life under lockdown (they say the restrictions will be eased soon) is that great community spirit has manifested itself. We are a resilient and strong people, and good people are doing good things. After Covid-19, we may – as many predict – be a changed people. Ideally we will learn from this emergency and merge what we learn from it with the best of our past.

And, friends from the future, when you leave the County Library front door, take a wander to your right and make sure you visit and appreciate our great old town – and all who’ve made it what it is! And greetings to you…



Will Keane’s latest virtual live quiz entertained us this evening. Will, who lives up the road from us, has played a blinder during lockdown with his online quiz each Friday night. Will has excelled as quizmaster, and the weekly event has been a welcome break from Covid-19, but best of all, the initiative has raised an incredible €11,000 plus to date (for a number of charities). He hosts his last quiz this Friday night, in aid of Roscommon/Mayo Hospice. You can find details of the event on Facebook under Will’s Kitchen Table Quiz for Mayo Roscommon Hospice. The Quiz kicks off at 9 pm on Friday, 1st of May on Facebook Live. (See full details on page 17 of this week’s Roscommon People).



I visualise Jimmy White, the snooker genius, now slower, matured, a still-revered veteran, pacing around his home, no longer a wild boy on the social circuit, no longer a competitive force in his sport. I imagine him living a much more sedate life now, and of course adhering to the rules of lockdown.

Perhaps he’s into cooking, or growing vegetables now, or gardening. And I imagine him last week, and Jimmy thinking – at some stage – that he’ll just buy into the times that are, and maybe watch some afternoon TV. He may even have been thinking that things can’t really get much worse.

And I visualise Jimmy perking up (initially) when he sees that the BBC will show ‘Crucible classics’ every single day. And then I visualise initial mixed emotions when he realises that almost all of the featured World Snooker Championship games from the past involve…Jimmy White. Almost all of them revisiting the heartbreak of his various agonising defeats (six world finals in all).

And I imagine Jimmy going back out to the garden pretty quickly…


65, not out…

From the letters page in today’s Irish Times: ‘Dear Sir: If this is what retirement looks like, they are going to have to drag me out of work kicking and screaming at 65’. David Curran, Knocknacarra, Galway.



Another beautiful evening (better than forecast) and over our home outside Roscommon town, another plane-less sky.

Over the past five years or so we have often seen as many as 20 planes in the skies above us over the course of an evening. I saw one about a week ago, but nothing since. And, truth be told, the skies look all the better for it!

Meanwhile, the chirping birds have never sounded better. Presumably that’s because we now have more time to hear and appreciate them. It’s not that there are more birds in the sky during Covid-19! Don’t take my word for it. Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland has dispelled that growing theory amongst us non-experts: “A lot of people are asking us has the lockdown produced more birds, and the answer is no. The number of birds is the same as it has always been. It is just people are more aware of them than they have normally been”.

Yes, like I said! (And by the way, ‘Hatch’ is a good name for a Birdwatch spokesperson).


Who knew?

From the cover of the Sunday Independent ‘Life’ magazine: ‘Maura Derrane on keeping the nation entertained in a time of crisis’. I had no idea…



Donald Trump’s back. After sulking for a few days, the President of the United States is hosting those unmissable press briefings again (CNN nightly, usually around 10 pm). But people need to stand up to bullies, and I really wish one of the weak journalists on the White House lawn/in the press room would stand up to Our Hero. I’ll even provide them with the following script (no charge)…

‘Excuse me, Mr. President. There is no need for you to so rudely dismiss my question like you just did. You may be the President of the United States, but that does not give you any right to be so rude and insulting. In fact, because you are the President of the United States, there is an onus on your to give a good example, and to be respectful and courteous. Now, show some manners!’