‘No matter where you go in Strokestown over the Christmas, it’s lovely!

Alannah Ita Healy reports on a festive journey into the heart of Strokestown

The beautiful Christmas lights in Strokestown beginning to show as the sun sets on the town. Pic: Kieran Croghan

The festive spirit is continuing to build locally. In Strokestown, final preparations are being made for the big Christmas markets taking place in the famous town on the weekend of December 15th and 16th.

This week, the Roscommon People travelled to Strokestown to get a sense of the anticipation and general festive atmosphere in the town ahead of the holiday season.

At the Hub…

Sarah Flynn, Deborah Coogan, Shane Walsh, Audrey Murphy, Margaret Goggins and Sarah Butler pictured at The Hub in Strokestown preparing some craft items for the Strokestown Christmas Markets. Pic: Kieran Croghan

Our visit began at the Hub Community Café, where we spoke to staff and Brothers of Charity service users who were there enjoying a cuppa and a chat. The café, which has seen great success since opening, is all decked out in festive garb, with cheery Christmas decorations on display inside and out.

We then popped over to the Brothers’ base of operations in the Barony, which was busy with volunteers and service users in the middle of creating beautiful festive-themed crafts. While there, we spoke to local team lead Audrey Murphy, who talked about how the group is getting involved with all the local festive events that are coming up.

“We’re linking in with the Christmas markets, getting ready to have our stall on the day”, Audrey told us. “We’re also going to be involved in the hip-hop dance (taking place during the markets) and carol singing, so we’re looking forward to that”.

When asked about what the general atmosphere in the town is like for the holidays, Audrey had glowing things to say: “No matter where you go in Strokestown at Christmas, it’s lovely. Just look at the lights. Driving through here at night, it’s all very special. The work that’s put in by all the volunteers is amazing, coming in and helping out after doing their own day’s work”.

Audrey also spoke about how the community comes together at this time of year. “It’s an opportunity to use our local shops as best we can, and the place gets livelier – pubs are buzzing, people coming home from Australia and England and everywhere, it’s a magical time for everyone to connect again.

“Really, we are so happy with our little town, there’s a lot of pride. I think we’re looking forward to it all – especially relaxing with our families on Christmas Day… and the presents!”

While there, we also spoke to Sarah Flynn, who told us more about the stall the group is preparing, with “clothes and jewellery” and “handmade ornaments” set to be sold over the two days. Sarah also spoke about the festive activities and fundraising efforts the group has been involved in over past years, saying, “This is going to be a great year too with the tractor run coming up next Saturday. The money from that is going towards the Hub Community Café. We’re really happy that they’re supporting us and helping with fundraising. I can’t wait for it”.


We then popped over with Audrey to Our Voice FM, Strokestown’s local community radio station, where we spoke to John Nugent about what they have in store for the festive season.

“We’re planning to do a WhatsApp messaging programme on Christmas Day, and because we’re an internet radio station, people from all over can tune in”, he told us. “So Strokestown will be in touch with the world this Christmas Day!”

John is also going to be lending a hand on the weekend of the markets, on MC duty. Like the rest of Strokestown, he is looking forward to the event.

“It’s going to be interesting this year, because it’s being held at Strokestown House, which I think is a great idea”, he said. “It’s definitely going to be very different, with it being taken off the street and being slightly hidden away from the main town. But I think that’s a bit more magical, I think it’ll make for a good backdrop”.

John Nugent from Our Voice FM in Strokestown. Pic: Kieran Croghan


John also made sure to commend the local volunteers on the lights committee for all the work they do: “The way the lights are lit up is fantastic, it’s a huge team effort. I’m not originally from here and I really just think it’s great and it creates a lovely atmosphere”.

A Dublin native, John then joked that while the Christmas lights in Strokestown are truly wonderful, it’s “no Grafton Street” – to which Audrey quickly quipped “It’s better!”

Views of traders

After wrapping up there, we popped over Strokestown’s iconic Percy French Hotel, where we spoke to manager Stuart Waters about what business is like for them during the holiday season.

“There’s always the few extra things going on, which is good. Obviously, people don’t tend to go away as much at this time of year, but we definitely find ourselves busy on the food front during the lead-up to Christmas, with people going out for meals. And we have a good few Christmas parties going on as well”.

Stuart also highlighted how the increased footfall in Strokestown at this time of year can help support businesses in the town. “With the markets and Santa at Strokestown Park House, you get people popping into us for a nice meal while they’re here”.

We also asked Stuart about what he himself is most looking forward to this holiday season: “Time off!” was his quip in response.

“No, there’s lots to look forward to, I do enjoy Christmas. It’s especially nice to see people coming back that have been away, it’s great to see that bit of life and excitement in the town”.

Thomas Connor (butcher) and Frank Hanly, owner of Hanly’s Eurospar in Strokestown pictured getting ready for the busy festive season. Pic: Kieran Croghan

We then made our way to Hanly’s Eurospar, where the festive feeling was sure to be found, with decorations dotted about the place, Christmas songs playing, and holiday staples – from turkeys to Chocolate Santas – filling the shelves. There, we spoke to owner Frank Hanly about what business is like for the landmark store.

“Definitely from mid-November onwards, you notice a big uptick in business”, he said. “I’m from Strokestown myself and grew up here, and around now is when you see a lot of people coming back for the holidays, so it’s great to see old faces back again”.

Frank, who is also an active member of the lights committee, spoke about how much work the volunteers and other committee members have put in this year: “It’s great to have the lights up and running now. Strokestown is quite lucky in that we have a nice avenue there to fill up and along with lights, and for a small town like ours, it really is impressive”.

Frank spoke about looking forward to spending time with his family this festive season, noting that Christmas Dinner is a highlight of the holidays for him and commenting that it’s always “so nice to get together”. He also acknowledged that this is not something everyone is fortunate enough to have at Christmas, saying, “It can be a very lonely time for a lot of people, so you have to be grateful, and make the best of it”.

While in Eurospar, we also ran into Mary Owens, Strokestown Community Playground committee member, who told us about the Monster Christmas Raffle that’s been held on December 22nd to raise funds for the playground: “We’ve a bunch of raffle prizes, a hamper, and a €200 cash prize on offer, so it would be great if as many people as possible can support it”.

We rounded off our visit by popping into the Hayloft Bar – not for a drink (unfortunately) but to chat with publican Marilyn Kennedy, who was getting the popular local bar ready for the evening.

Like her fellow residents, Marylin spoke about the town with a lot of pride and appreciation: “Strokestown is such a peaceful and safe place, and there’s a real proud sense of community here, from the weekly markets to the atmosphere in all the local pubs”.

According to Marylin, the charm of the town is only enhanced further by the holiday season: “I love Christmas, and Christmas is fantastic in Strokestown”, she told us. “It’s the nicest town around, it really is”.


On that note, we rounded off our trip to the heritage town with one final drive through the town centre, where a big, beautiful Christmas tree has been set up at the roundabout. We wanted to try and catch a proper glimpse of the wonderful lights we’d heard so much about – despite the fact it was still not completely dark yet. But even with the bit of brightness, the impressiveness of the display was evident, and it was very clear that much like everything we’d heard during our visit to Strokestown at Christmas, the dedicated efforts of local residents has gone a long way to making the town such a charming place to be during the holidays.

No doubt the festivities on 15/16 December will be a great treat for all who are lucky enough to make it to Strokestown that weekend, and at any point over the festive season!