Perhaps it was the warm weather or maybe the town was just winding down ahead of the long weekend, but there was certainly a laid-back holiday atmosphere in Ballygar last Thursday.
Outside Coláiste Mhuire, caretaker Tom Hannon was hard at work in the warm sunshine. A Ballygar man through and through, Tom’s time as a student at the school finished in 1977 and for the past 19 years he’s been working as its caretaker.
“I like it here. Sure I went to school here myself,” he tells us.
“I start at seven in the morning and finish at half past four. It’s a long oul day but I don’t mind it at all, and why wouldn’t you enjoy working in this weather?”
Tom’s caretaking goes beyond the school grounds, however, and extends to other members of the school community.
“Ah sure look if there was a flat wheel (in the staff car park) or the tax or NCT was nearly out I’d let them know. I’d have an eye out for things like that,” he said, humbly omitting that he’s also been known to pump tyres and check oil levels.
Looking forward to this month’s State exams, a sure sign of summer, Tom (whose caretaking also extends to furry, four-legged members of the school community in the form of a band of local cats) says the nerves will soon kick in for the 100 or so Junior and Leaving Certificate students.
“The atmosphere will be quiet enough. I’m going putting up a sign here on the wall wishing them all (students and teachers) the best of luck,” he said.
So any last-minute words of wisdom for the ‘Class of 23’?
“I get on well with the students. I’d just tell them to be cool and calm and not to get too excited about it. It’s not the end of the world after all,” he says.
Outside The Coffee Drop Inn, Elizabeth and Nancy are enjoying a pot of tea despite the near 25 degrees outside.
“I’m 72 and Nancy’s 67. We’re second cousins but this is the first time we’ve ever met,” Elizabeth AKA Liz AKA ‘The Queen’ tells us.
It turns out they didn’t just randomly choose Ballygar as a neutral meeting ground, their family, the Murphys, hail from Roye near Dunmore and they’re home for a family wedding. Elizabeth and her husband Vinny Comer have travelled from Manchester, home of their beloved United, while Nancy arrived from further afield, the State of Vermont, USA, home of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Elizabeth explains that her sister-in-law’s daughter, Carmel, is getting married to a fellow school teacher called Tomás O’Shaughnessy, whose family hails from Newbridge. The wedding was taking place in Kilronan Castle the following day.
The two women were looking forward to the event but Elizabeth said any sore heads on Saturday would be made worse by a Manchester City victory in the FA Cup.
“Some of the family are Blues,” she explained.
“Ah! Every family has one, I suppose,” I reply.
Later on, we’re introduced to the Mother of the Bride, Marie, who tells us the wedding is set to be a glamorous and international affair.
Her four sons are coming home from abroad while her daughter, the bride, was Newcastle Rose in 2014. The Roscommon, Monaghan and Wicklow Roses of that year will also be in attendance.
“We have Oklahoma relatives and my four sons, who live away, are coming home for it,” she tells us excitedly.
Marie gave us the lowdown on which son would be coming from where.
From Manchester, Vincent, his wife Siobhan and their three boys Kiean, Ryan and Callum. Éanna and his wife Rhianna were coming from Sydney. They were married on Zoom in 2020, according to Marie. From Dubai, Declan was also attending but his wife Michelle and daughter Amara were staying behind because Michelle was expecting their second child. However, John and Natalie were on their way from Philadelphia. No doubt there were wonderful scenes of ‘Brotherly Love’ following that reunion!
So yeah, maybe it was just the good weather or the Bank Holiday build-up, but those sitting in the warm Ballygar sunshine last Thursday were certainly in no rush to be anywhere else, while others were abandoning some exotic locations in order to join the fun!