Community push for a better future brings back memories of old school days

Our man Frank on a community campaign for more facilities for adults with additional needs; Reflections on last weekend’s GAA action… and a tale of 40 cars (or so)…

It’s Thursday evening of last week as I write, and I find myself heading to Creggs to attend a public meeting called by Ger Dowd, chairperson of the Creggs Care Association, to discuss the provision of future facilities in our area for adults with additional needs.

I have to admit that I was surprised at the huge crowd that turned up, and not for the first time I appreciated the great benefit the big school hall is to the area. As the people all gathered in, I was struck by the large number of politicians who had made their way to Creggs. We had Minister Anne Rabbitte, as well as three more TDs, several senators and county councillors. As the evening wore on, they all pledged to back the ambitious project and to give it every possible support.

The project itself, which Minister Rabbitte told us will run to between €6 million and €8 million, will no doubt be well covered in this newspaper by the attending Dan Dooner, but as I listened to all the very deserved tributes paid to Ger Dowd and his excellent staff for the wonderful developments that have taken place in Creggs National School over the last fifteen years or so, I found my mind drifting back to my own school days, now over sixty years ago.

The school, which now boasts three or four classrooms along with the big hall, the famous Sunshine Room, an all-weather pitch, a swimming pool, and a staff room, is rightly regarded as one of the best in the region and is certainly a long way removed from the school that I attended all those years ago. Back then we had two classrooms, heated by a pathetic potez heater that was so useless the damp used to run down the walls in the winter. We had outside toilets at the end of the schoolyard with no running water and a flat board (about a nine by two) as the toilet seat.

There were also shelters with a roof to keep us dry from the rain (but which were otherwise totally exposed to the wind and cold). We used these as football pitches if the conditions were too bad to facilitate play outside. We had a football pitch behind the shelters, and the games that took place out there were, even then, not for the faint-hearted.

Funnily enough, we always had different entertainers calling to the school. We had magicians, Punch and Judy puppeteers, musicians and singers – all visiting and making our school days more than bearable.

My father Bill was the principal in those days. As I pondered on school life back then, I wondered what he and all the other teachers who have passed through Creggs since would make of the place as it is today! I have to say that I doubt if any of them would believe what they’d see, so amazing have been the improvements that have taken place.

Anyway, everybody spoke about the great community spirit there is in Creggs, and all the politicians promised to back the vitally important provision of facilities for the most vulnerable section of our society. So now all they need to do is back up their words with actions, and in a couple of years or so we will have something here that may change the disability landscape in the entire country.

40 cars later…

A young friend of ours is presently looking to buy his first car, and as I heard about his ongoing search, I thought back to my younger days and my own very first one, a VW Beetle. Then I went back over all the cars that I can remember having to date in my life.

After the VW, I had a most beautiful two-tone Sunbeam Vogue with a wonderful real walnut dash. Unfortunately, that car sadly met a bad end when I tried to drive it up a tree after a night out in Dundalk RFC.

My next one was an ex-squad car, a Hillman Avenger, which was so out of line that one of the front tyres had to be a good deal bigger than the other three to balance it. It too came to an unfortunate end when I parked it on top of a wall on my way home from a rugby club buffet in Roscommon.

I must have improved as a driver after that though, because the Ford Escorts, Granadas, Cortinas, Capri, Fiestas and Scorpio that I had at various times all made it through unscathed. However, the two Ford Sierras that I had weren’t so lucky; both ‘met their maker’ against two different, but very unforgiving, walls.

There were also a couple of Opel Asconas, Toyota Carinas, a Morris Ital, an Austin Allegro, several Volvos, a Nissan Maxima, a number of VW Passats, a Vauxhall Viva, an Opel Corsa and a few Hillman Hunters – the last of which followed the previous trend as I left it balancing precariously on a neighbouring farmer’s wall.

The prince of all the cars that I had was an automatic Renault 30, which had as much power as a turbo-charged jet fighter, and which (don’t tell anyone) a friend of mine once claimed to have driven to Ballinasloe in 19 minutes. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’d have to say the car would have been capable of doing it in that time.

And so, as I looked back over my motoring history, the first thing I realised is that I am very lucky to have survived so many accidents without as much as a scratch. As my young friend embarks on his driving life, I have to tell him the road is now a very dangerous place, so be careful, obey all the rules of the road, and simply take care.

All told, I have had about 40 different cars during my life, nearly all of which are long since obsolete, so when he gets his new one, if he follows my example, he’ll have another 39 to go! I hope he gets sorted as soon as possible.

And finally…

I don’t really want to finish this week’s piece by mentioning last weekend’s football games, but whether we are on the Galway or Roscommon side of the border this Monday morning makes no difference, as we are both out of the race for this year’s Sam Maguire.

A one-point defeat was the heartbreaking outcome for both teams. I didn’t see the Rossies play so I don’t know whether or not they were hard done by, but the sad news for us Galway folk is that our lads were simply not good enough.

Too many easy misses from scoreable positions cost us dearly, and the harsh truth is that we are as far away from an All-Ireland as we ever were – last year’s final appearance was great, but realistically it had to be won – as it’s not easy to get back again the following year.

The quarter-final draw had thrown up some brilliant fixtures, with Mayo likely to be licking their lips at the thought of taking on the Dubs. For Roscommon and Galway, the race is run, and there can be little doubt that while the Rossies went forward in 2023, sadly the conclusion must be that the Tribesmen went backwards.

However, our hurlers at least are still in it after beating Tipperary in as poor a game as I have seen in a long time. But, as Henry Shefflin said, Galway didn’t want a free-flowing, open game as that would have suited the Tipp men. Limerick will be red-hot favourites in the semi-final, but there just might be something more to this Galway team than we have seen so far.

Anyway, it was a sad weekend for all our footballers, and it’s now left to Mayo to carry the western flag. Four teams from Ulster making it to the quarter-finals says a thing or two about the strength of the game in that province, but Dublin and Kerry will both feel they can go the whole way. I haven’t mentioned Cork as possible winners as they face a very formidable Derry in their next game, and it may prove a bridge too far for the Leesiders.

The only good news for us is that we have a big weekend of games to look forward to! (Hopefully they’re not all on GAAGO!).

’Til next week, bye for now