Next time you’re ‘stuck’ behind a tractor, spare a thought for city drivers!

Our man Frank on his latest experience of the contrasting challenges of city and rural driving; Memories of busy pubs in the past…and a heartbreaking Connacht final defeat for Creggs

Of the almost seventy-two years I have spent on this planet, thankfully barely two of them were spent living in a city. I have always unashamedly advocated the advantages of country living, advantages that seem to get bigger and bigger as the years go by.

Fresh air, open spaces, and a slower pace of life are among the obvious benefits of living in the country, as indeed are the sounds of the animals and birds. But bad and all as rush hour traffic in Creggs is, nothing could prepare me for the traffic congestion that seems to be a permanent part of Dublin living.

One of our children lives out past the airport on the north-side of Dublin, and – as grandparents do – Carol and I answered an emergency call last week to do a bit of babysitting. We drove up on the Wednesday morning, leaving Creggs at 8.30 am. As we weren’t needed ‘till about 12 midday, we had loads of time to do our journey in a nice, relaxed state.

All was going well until we got near Kinnegad, and I saw the first flashing signs telling us that there was a collision ahead, and we would have long delays at least as far as Maynooth. And so we stopped and started and went 100 metres, stopped again and did another 200 metres, and stopped again, and so it went on. After a delay of about 45 minutes things started to clear up, and we eventually made it to our destination with about ten minutes in hand.

As it happened, I went home that evening, leaving Carol behind me, and I encountered more delays. When I came back up again on Thursday morning there was another hold-up, and on our way home that evening another collision had the road west off the M50 completely blocked.

Again the delay was substantial, and after only two days my tolerance level of Dublin driving was at zero. I could only pity all of those who have no choice but to face all these problems day in, day out.

Most times I travel, I avail of the free public transport, but sadly Bus Eireann have discontinued the wonderful direct X20 service to Dublin Airport. Citylink go that way from Athlone, but they stop in every town on the way, and Aircoach, who do have a direct service, won’t accept our free travel pass, which I think is a shame.

Anyway, I’m back in Creggs, it’s Sunday morning, and while we hope for a large crowd in the village later this evening after the big Connacht Junior Cup final, right now I can travel freely. Apart from two calves that escaped from some farmer’s field, all is quiet on the traffic front.

And so, when you find yourself behind a big tractor on a small country road or have to wait for a few minutes while a load of very valuable cows slowly cross a road, be thankful you have only these type of minor irritations to put up with, and think of your counterparts near the city who may be stuck in traffic for ages, and who might be very thankful for the life you have.


1970s’ memories a reminder of how pub scene has changed

A subject that often comes up in conversation is the way things and times have changed in the pub trade in rural Ireland. Sometimes, even for those of us who saw the changes happen first-hand, it’s hard to recall the times when our country pubs were booming.

A regular reader of this column (actually he should probably write it) recently sent me a page from the Roscommon Champion of January 1977, and the ads in the entertainment section really showed how pub life was at the time. On Friday, January 28th, the Kilmovee All Rounders were playing in Dowd’s Glencastle Lounge in Glinsk, and on the Sunday night, the White Heather Boys were strutting their stuff. On the following Tuesday, February 1st, there was a 25 Card Drive, and the prizes for it would make any farmer happy today! Whoever came in first got four bags of Clarendon, while second received two bags of calf nuts.

The same weekend, Bradley’s in Creggs had music on all three nights, with the Irish Knights on Friday, the Moonlight Rovers on Saturday, and GHS on Sunday night. From my recollection of those times, you’d hardly have room to park your car in Creggs – that’s if you had a car, which I hadn’t.

As luck would have it I met Tommy Dowd, the proprietor of Dowd’s in Glinsk, only yesterday. He told me that during the summer months in those days, he would have something on four nights a week in the pub.

Funnily enough, he said Tuesday nights were great back then; bands like the White Heather Boys would have the place packed to the rafters and the dancers would be out in force. After the bars closed, you could have gone to the Casino Ballroom in Castlerea, where on that Sunday night Brendan Quinn and the Bluebirds were playing.

I know there is lots of entertainment out there nowadays, but I don’t think anything could compare to the craic and the sense of pure fun of trying your hand at a waltz or a foxtrot round Bradley’s or Dowd’s. The truth is, I never did either, but I met loads of people that did, and they told me it was great craic.

Anyway, that was then and this is now, and as local pubs keep disappearing, it’s hard to believe there was such a vibrant and brilliant pub culture back then.


A heartbreaking loss – but we didn’t bring our A game

It’s Monday morning as I write this, and I am reflecting on the heartbreaking last-minute loss our rugby lads suffered in Sunday’s Connacht Junior Cup final, when Westport won with the very last kick of the game.

However, despite the sad nature of the defeat, when I met the team and management last night they were in total agreement that we didn’t really perform to our best. As a long-serving member of the team said to me, it would’ve been daylight robbery if we had won it.

Sometimes you can learn more from a loss than from a win, and I always think it’s a good thing when teams take a realistic look at a defeat. Oftentimes it’s easy to blame the pitch, or the weather, or especially the referee (with maybe some justification) and look for excuses, which of course deflects the responsibility from the players. Our lads were all honest enough to admit that for whatever reason, we didn’t really show up, and with a huge game ahead next Saturday in the AIL qualifier against Munster League champions Richmond, the challenge now is to sort out the problems and, as they say, get back on the horse.

That game takes place in Dublin, in Coolmine RFC at 3 o’clock on Saturday, and while no one gives us a chance against the Limerick team, it’s a great opportunity for our lads to come out firing on all cylinders and show just how good we can be.

Being underdogs will suit us, and while it would take a monumental effort to get a win, the great thing about sport is there is always another game, no matter how disappointing the previous one was. Hopefully on Saturday, whether we win or not, we will at least show up and put in the performance that evaded us last Sunday.

And finally…

It’s back to Dowd’s in Glinsk again soon, where Maria Fitzmaurice tells me their Easter Special Baking Made Easy event is taking place on Friday evening (7.30 pm to 9 pm) in the dining room.

The event itself is free and everyone is welcome. Tickets for the raffle for the Bakers Basket and treats are €5. Maria wants to thank Marie Barlow for the homemade butter demonstration and Kate and Anita of Les Petites Tartres for sponsorship of the ingredients.

Also, she wishes to thank all who contributed to the Daffodil Day raffle, which raised over €200. Thanks to all who gave spot prizes and to Evelyn and Emma Curley for the beautiful Easter hampers.

Last, but definitely not least, Maria extends best wishes to their own girl Nadine and the Creggs girls U-18 team who are playing a final this Sunday in the Galway Sportsground. (I don’t know the time; at time of writing it is not to be found on the Connacht Rugby website. Good luck, girls!).