Out and about, living life to the full!

Our man Frank on time’s relentless march; Dining out in Mountbellew; A local sporting success; In praise of Rory; A tribute to Biddy…

It’s a very warm Monday afternoon as I write, and after having gone on a mini-shopping trip this morning, I now find myself mowing the lawn. As I slowly follow the lawnmower around the garden (I don’t have a ride-on mower, I’ve the old-style push one), my mind drifts back to this very day 42 years ago.

It was August 29th, 1980 when Carol and I took the long walk down the aisle – definitely the longest walk of my life, now that it has lasted all those 42 years.

As I thought back to that occasion, I began to think of all the people who were there that day that are no longer with us. Carol and I dug out the wedding album and it was sobering – although not unexpected, as 42 years is a long time – to look at all the familiar faces of people that have passed on.

I suppose we all know how uncertain life is, and that there are no guarantees. However, one thing that is certain is that life is short, and we should make the most of it for as long as we are here.

As I write this, I am getting ready to go to The Malt House in Mountbellew for a bite to eat. It’s a place I have heard a lot of good things about, although I’ve never been there myself, so I will tell you how we got on and whether or not it lived up to its reputation.

It is now Tuesday morning (as I resume writing). Just after seven o’clock yesterday evening, Carol and I pulled up outside The Malt House and made our way into what we expected to be a quiet enough restaurant.

When I rang to enquire about making a booking, the very pleasant lady who answered the phone took the details but mentioned that as it was a Monday evening things would probably be quiet enough. However, nothing could have been further from the truth.

As we made our way in, there were four other people going in at the same time. Then, when we got inside, we couldn’t believe our eyes! The place was completely wedged, and we had a small wait before we could get a table.

I have to admit that we don’t eat out very often, so it definitely came as a shock to see so many couples and entire families dining out. The atmosphere was lively and invigorating. There was a really amazing menu on offer, and when we ordered, the service was quick, the staff were really nice and friendly, and – most importantly – the food was delicious, warm, tasty and very plentiful. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

On our way out we had a quick chat with the people who had come in at the same time as us. We learned they were from Castleblakeney, and had known my aunt Geetie and her husband Matt (who was the school teacher there for years), as well as my cousin Leo. The man, also called Frank (I didn’t get his second name), was there to celebrate his 95th birthday – and I have to say he looked as hale and hearty as a young fellow. I hope he had as pleasant a time in The Malt House as we had.

To sum it all up, everything about our visit was very positive. If we ever eat out again, we would have no hesitation in going back.

The only slight negative is that their website says they serve food until 9 pm, but in reality they take last orders at around 8 pm. As we left, the staff were having to turn away a couple who arrived late. Funnily enough, that could easily have been us, as I too had looked them up on the web. I have to say that would’ve been a very disappointing thing to happen.

So I would suggest to whoever runs The Malt House that they update the website! But apart from that, if I was pub spy (how about it Paul?), I would be giving it top marks.


Farewell to Biddy

Last week I attended the funeral of Biddy Quinn. Born Biddy Kennedy, she grew up in Creggs before marrying Sean Quinn and moving to Roscommon many years ago.

She was a woman who never forgot her roots, and every time I ran into her in town, she would always ask about everyone around Creggs. Remarkably, she was also a regular reader of this column.

Herself and her brother Johnny (who incidentally was a very good full-back on Creggs football teams for years, and is now retired and living in Manorhamilton) were the children of local guard Martin Kennedy and Ma Kennedy. Ma Kennedy was a Limerick lady, but we knew her best as the woman who fed all the showbands when they played at Creggs Carnival.

Back in those days we had three guards in the village – Kennedy, Clifford and Bracken – along with Sergeant Long. As far as I know none of them could drive, so they all rode bicycles. If there was an emergency, Ann Long (the sergeant’s wife) would do the driving.

Of course with the guards cycling round the parish they were always on top of everything that happened, and the crime rate was almost nil. What a difference it would make again now if there was a visible and vibrant police force out in rural Ireland.

As we said farewell to Biddy, I thought back to the night when Sean Fagan, Sonny Knowles and the Pacific showband played in Creggs. The two singers felt eating in Ma’s was beneath them, so they headed to a hotel in Roscommon to have their evening meal. I don’t know what they had to eat there, but if my memory serves me right I doubt they bettered the wonderful fare Ma Kennedy always served up.

As a footnote, only last week did I learn that Martin won an All-Ireland hurling medal with Tipperary way back. Somehow he managed to keep it a secret.

Farewell Biddy. I offer my sincere sympathy to all your friends and family. I will miss our chats. May you rest in peace.


Getting a kick from local sporting success story

Talking of All-Ireland winners, out here in Creggs we have another one – albeit in the unusual (for us) sport of American Football.

Last weekend, Andy Quinn, son of my neighbours Niall and Cathy, won a huge kicking competition up in the Aviva Stadium in front of thousands of spectators. In conjunction with the game between the Northwestern Wildcats and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, there was a national competition held to unearth the best young placekicker in Ireland. From the huge number of contestants, Andy emerged the winner.

A good kicker is very important in the American Football game, and Andy will now be brought to America to hold trials, with a view to taking part in the very lucrative college football scene. It is a tremendous achievement for the young placekicker. Who knows –he may yet become a famous American football player!

Well done Andy, here’s to a successful future in the US.


And finally…

I accidentally tuned in to the last two holes of the golf FedEx tournament and ended up watching as Rory McIlroy pulled off one of the great comeback wins of all time.

At one stage in the first round he was ten shots behind Scottie Scheffler. However, he managed to turn it around, nabbing the world number one by one shot, and thereby pocketing a mouth-watering $18 million.

It’s funny – you would think these guys are so rich that money would mean nothing to them, but when the pot of gold was within touching distance, each of them got a dose of the wobbles, making a mess of shots they would normally play perfectly. However, evidently Rory kept his nerve better than Scottie, in the process proving (yet again) what a wonderful golfer he is, and more importantly what a wonderful ambassador he is for the PGA Tour.

He remains one of the most popular figures on the tour, and it was great to hear chants of “Rory, Rory” ring out on American soil, even though he was going head to head with one of their own. Well done Rory, what a win!