Pride – and challenges to meet – in ‘picture postcard rural Ireland’…

Knockcroghery and St. John’s/Lecarrow are not hidden gems; they are visible gems, two landmark villages proudly sticking their chests out on the main Roscommon/Athlone Road.

  Close by is Rahara, another rural delight, surrounded by green fields. The whole area is in the bosom of rolling rural countryside. Serene and green, this is picture postcard rural Ireland.

  I took a spin around on Sunday evening, commentary on Galway and Mayo in the background. An emigrant from Rooskey, I first became familiar with this area around 1988, when I began working with the Roscommon Champion.

  My first foray into Rahara was around 1989/1990, when local man Laurence Fallon became national President of Macra na Feirme. I was welcomed into the Fallon household where I interviewed the man himself. He remains a local community champion in the area. I liked Rahara then, and I still like it. Sadly the local pub – Beades’ – is currently closed. The local school is now key to Rahara. Like most or all rural schools, it is facing challenges – most obviously in relation to pupil numbers – but I am assured that it is thriving, with a year of great achievements behind it.

  Driving to and from Rahara on Sunday, I was stunned by the level of flooding. I rang Laurence Fallon, now a councillor, on Tuesday. His report is grim but realistic. He says Rahara is almost certainly the only place in the country where water is still being pumped in the vicinity of houses. Three houses – one in particular – are under pressure. 42 farmers are affected.

  “We’re pumping water since the 29th of January” he sighs, adding that remedial action will simply have to be taken. (Special report in our next edition).

  The countryside is beautiful. I imagine there are people all over the world who would see this area, which is not far from strong towns like Roscommon and Athlone, as a wonderful place in which to live. Unfortunately, there are planning issues to contend with. Cllr. Fallon is frustrated by the fact that people from outside the locality who might come to work in Roscommon cannot build houses in places like Rahara unless it’s “in the core of the village.”

  As one generation ages, the desire surely is that younger generations are coming along to begin the process of inheriting our beautiful towns and villages. The reality is that this is not currently happening. There is a flight from the land, and there is an exodus – countywide – of young people. The age profile is rising; so are the challenges.

  Knockcroghery and Lecarrow both look great. On Monday, two men were cutting grass on the Green in Knockcroghery. In recent years, the village was enhanced by the construction of a number of houses, which has boosted the population. Knockcroghery only needs a fair wind and it will continue to be a very special part of the county. It is steeped in history. The village is welcoming and is a social and sporting ‘centre of excellence.’ Gaelic football, hurling and camogie have always been very strongly and passionately promoted by local volunteers.

  It’s over a quarter of a century since I first sampled the local bars. Ned’s, a cosy hostelry, is now run by Anouska O’Grady. It changed hands a few times in the past and I remember when the irrepressible Batty O’Brien was the man behind the counter there.

  If I am in the area I enjoy popping into The Claypipe, where the proprietors are P. (Padraig) and Kathleen Walshe. Some political banter, GAA talk and general craic is guaranteed.

  Back across the road is Murray’s bar, which celebrates one hundred years in existence this weekend. Here, the late, great Jimmy Murray modestly and magically held court for 70-odd years. I called on Monday evening to chat with Jimmy’s son John and his wife Etna about this weekend’s Centenary celebrations. Reflecting on the great times in Murray’s down the years – with its cast of characters, football personalities, musicians and others – was a pleasure. The place evokes special feelings and wistful thoughts of the great deeds of the men of 1943 and ’44.

  There are five national schools in the area – Ballymurray, Rahara, Glanduff, Knockcroghery, St. John’s. Their excellence is a credit to all involved. It is heartening to see refurbishment works ongoing at some of these schools at the present time. They are critical to these communities.

  The St. John’s/Lecarrow area is idyllic. The Church on the hill is a strikingly attractive sight, a reassuring presence. The Roscommon & District League soccer grounds are a great asset to the area and a credit to the League. Coffey’s and Kelly’s are landmark pubs which are social outlets but also community hubs. Behind them, the magnificent ongoing development of facilities at the River Shannon (Lough Ree) is a very clear sign of a rural community – working with the relevant agencies – fighting back, being proactive, developing facilities, progressing, reaching out to the possibilities, looking to the future.

  The great work of Billy Kelly and his colleagues with the Lecarrow Benevolent Fund is further evidence of great community spirit in the area.

  Indeed there are numerous groups in the area involved in sport, historical projects, heritage, community initiatives, charities, etc.

  All of these areas, in their own way, are shouting stop, or perhaps more accurately, they are nurturing and loving their place, working to promote it and sustain it. Long may it continue.