‘There were highs and lows, but somehow Rooskey’s very own hotel kept ticking over’




It was known as ‘The Beeches’ – presumably because there were Beech trees nearby.

  I’m probably doing that old building an injustice, but my memory is that it was an eerie and drab place.

  Even by the late 1970s, it was long vacant, a ruin in fact. It had been a public house, in its day.

  ‘The Beeches’ was an intimidating old ruin that night when a few of us decided to get a closer look. The derelict and mysterious building dominated the landscape when you crossed Rooskey bridge, on to the Leitrim side. 

  As young lads, we had to explore it…we were drawn to the very thing that was scaring us.

   Having a name like ‘The Beeches’ added to its auru…as though it belonged to a novel or a movie. That cold and wet night, we were feeling adventurous, brave and apprehensive, all rolled into one.

  We approached the building from behind, presumably to avoid detection. We entered, via an unlocked rear door. We even tiptoed upstairs…jumping with alarm or probably even terror at every sight of a shattered window, every gust of wind, every imagined shadowy image. We survived.

  A decade or so on, ‘The Beeches’ had been purchased…and a new chapter in its history beckoned. The building would be knocked, and in its place, Rooskey would have its very own hotel. 

  The imminent arrival of a hotel certainly caused quite a stir. And in a marketing masterstroke, the owners invited the public to suggest a name for it. Readers submitted suggestions to a local newspaper. ‘Shalamar’ (or ‘Shalimar’) won out. The first owner of Rooskey’s own hotel was Phil McGovern, who was affectionately known as ‘Phil Baby’. The fact that ‘Phil Baby’ had been in America for many years seemed to give him a special aura – sure the locals were fascinated. With or without an American vibe, Phil had a great personality. He was quite a charismatic character, with a ready smile and a great turn of phrase.  

  Some years later, the ‘Shalamar’ (or ‘Shalimar’) became ‘The Marina’. Over the years, the hotel changed hands a few times. There were highs and lows, but somehow Rooskey’s very own hotel kept ticking over.

  In more recent times, the hotel was renamed ‘The Shannon Key West’. This was probably its most successful era…seemingly flying during times of prosperity, hanging in there when the recession bared its teeth. It can’t have been easy to keep going, in such a competitive industry.

  Up to as recently as six or seven years ago, it was usual to see the carvery area packed at weekends (especially Sundays). At night, crowds enjoyed the music of local performers.

  Then came the demise. The doors had closed before, but someone had always come to its rescue. But now, societal trends were a foe. The village was bypassed, the recession had hit hard, big dinner dances were dying out. Many of the young people who might have held wedding receptions in Rooskey’s own hotel were now in Australia, Canada or elsewhere. 

  The years went by, and the doors never re-opened. Hope ebbed away.

  There was talk last March of a takeover by a consortium that would restore the hotel to its former glory (‘A well-managed 3 or 4 star hotel’ the headlines screamed). Nothing came of it. More misplaced optimism.

  Now, this week’s news suggests that long-standing rumours appear to have been built on substance. It’s the news that many people didn’t want to hear. Others may be fine with it. I find it very disappointing. Rooskey’s own hotel is apparently set to become an asylum centre. It will, we are told, cater for around 80 asylum seekers – and it’s all likely to  happen within the coming weeks.

  Although the rumours had been circulating, many local people are stunned. It seems they are not getting their hotel back. And they are concerned that Rooskey – a great village which was devastated by the loss of the old Hanley Bacon factory to fire in 2002 – simply does not have the facilities and services in place to provide for the influx of 80 or so asylum seekers.

  Challenging times ahead. It appears that the music has died, the Sunday afternoon carvery buzz will be no more. It’s an uncertain new chapter for what was the ‘The Beeches’, for what was ‘Rooskey’s own hotel’.


The write stuff from Paul (again)


I didn’t get to Gleeson’s on Saturday for the launch of Paul Connolly’s new book, but I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Mount Talbot man on his latest project.

  Paul’s late brother, Tommy, was a great friend of the Roscommon People (and, in a previous era, of the Champion). Many years ago I ‘recruited’ Tommy as a local notes correspondent (he also submitted excellent hurling reports).

  Paul has taken the Connolly writing flair and love of place to new levels. A few years ago Paul wrote an extensive history of Mount Talbot. His latest work is ‘The Landed Estates of County Roscommon’ and I very much look forward to reading it. The book is a celebration of the history and folklore behind each of the stately homes and ‘Landed Estates’ of County Roscommon. It’s available in local outlets at €30. What a valuable addition to Roscommon’s impressive literary output.


Wanted: Manager, and some positivity…


I haven’t been rubbing shoulders with the barstool experts for ages – and I use the term with affection, not sarcasm – and neither have I delved much into the social media commentary.

  So I’m not entirely up to date with how the Roscommon GAA community feels about the saga surrounding the vacant senior team management position.

  However, from just chatting to people on the street or at a shop counter, it’s fair to say that fans/GAA activists are becoming demoralised with the current impasse.

  Obviously the people mandated to find a new manager are working away behind the scenes, and no doubt a candidate will emerge soon. To which one might add, the sooner the better.

  The delay in making an appointment, which is largely down to the poorly handled Aidan O’Rourke last-gasp withdrawal, is not good for Roscommon football. We all know that.

  It’s probably inevitable in the absence of an appointment that a negative mood, certainly a sense of frustration, would fill that vacuum.  

  Still, an outbreak of positive thinking would do no harm. After all, Roscommon are now a Division One team again. We have a lot going for us. We were Connacht champions in 2017 and finalists this year. We made it to the inaugural Super 8s, and we have some very exciting talent.

  We need to shake ourselves out of this unfortunate (but no doubt temporary) post-McStay era stalemate period and get back on course.

  We need a manager to be appointed as soon as possible – urgently at this stage. There is no denying that the O’Rourke episode left many people angry, no denying that it’s been a highly frustrating few weeks. What we need now is an appointment, and then let’s get down to business. Sideshows like focusing on who is or isn’t leaking to the media are daft – it’s trivial stuff, like complaining of a few draughts when you’re halfway through building a fine house.

  Yeah, we took a few hammerings from the very elite in the Super 8s. But on balance I think we’ve been very much on an upward curve the last few years. We need to regain and then build momentum. We’re in Division One. A new season beckons. Let’s get back to the process of continuing to…er…make Roscommon great again!