Thriving carnival and festival season locally a far cry from our modest experiences long ago!

Our man Frank recalls the night a local festival committee took in just 36 pounds at the door; He muses on Pope Francis’ role as leader of the Catholic Church; And he highlights some local events….

For as long as I remember, the month of August was the time for carnivals and festivals in this part of the world. Out here in Creggs, as soon as Ballygar was over, our carnival would start off every year on the 15th of August. As with lots of local carnivals, Creggs has sadly fallen by the wayside. Meanwhile – remarkably – up the road in Ballygar their annual one is going from strength to strength.

I’m told that on Thursday night last the crowds had to be seen to be believed. I don’t know whether it’s by accident or design, but the fact that Thursday was Ladies Day at the Galway Races was a huge help. Apparently there were several busloads of young ladies, all dressed to the nines, arriving into Ballygar on their way back from the races, and it all contributed to an amazing atmosphere. Not to be outdone, down the road in Castlerea the same story unfolded, with huge crowds flocking there to enjoy The Tumbling Paddies, who provided great entertainment.

Along with the longer established artists like Nathan Carter and Mike Denver, The Tumbling Paddies and Cliona Hagan seem to be the most popular acts out there this year. They are appearing at practically every festival that I see advertised locally!

Over the weekend Mike Denver packed them in in Ballygar, while this Friday night Cliona is opening the festival in Screene’s of Guilka where she will be followed by Patrick Feeney on Saturday (12th). The following weekend, Denver, The Tumbling Paddies and George Murphy and the Rising Sons are all scheduled to appear.

Listening to the radio this morning, there was an advertisement for Bonniconlon Agricultural Show, which is one of the biggest in the west, and lo and behold who are on stage during the day only Mike and Cliona! They lost out a lot during Covid, but it does look as if our top artists are doing well this summer, and it’s great to see it.

Talking of Creggs Carnival, at one stage during the 1980s we in the rugby club decided to revive it for one year, but for some reason it just never took off. We had Geraldine Brannigan and her band the week after she represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest. As the dance took place on the same night as the Connacht Championship game between Galway and Roscommon in Tuam, we were confidently expecting a bonanza.

As it happened, we took in a total of 36 pounds and it took a fair bit of not so friendly persuasion by my brother, the Rasher, to get the band manager to accept a 50-50 split. Despite being on a guarantee of some hundreds of pounds, the Eurovision singer and her band were lucky to get £18 for their trouble, while we got the other half of the takings. On another night, the late Brian Harkin and the Plainsmen were the band on stage and only eleven paying customers turned up. Brian did the decent thing and told the band to carry on while he joined some of us for a few pints, after which he royally entertained the eleven dancers.

As for the festivals just ending/winding up locally – and those still to come – I am sure none of them will have the type of experiences we had all those years ago. I hope they have all been viable successes for all involved.


Pope Francis proves to  be a crowd-puller!

In the build-up to the Galway Races last week, one of the programmes from the archives touched upon the Papal visit of John Paul 11 to Ballybrit in 1979 and the fact that almost 400,000 people packed into the Galway racecourse. Carol and myself were among the huge throng that arrived there early. I can still remember five of us leaving Creggs after closing time on the Saturday night, making our way to a field outside Galway where we got parking, and spending a very uncomfortable sleepless night in the car.

However it was all worthwhile when the great man arrived and to this day we will never forget his ‘Young people of Ireland I love you’ address to the massive crowd. At the time I was one of those young people and we were all so thrilled and delighted to get to physically see our Pope. In the intervening years the Church itself has been hit with so many scandals, and with allegations of so much wrongdoing, including abuse of every conceivable kind, that a lot of the believers that day in Galway have long since turned their back on their Catholic religion.

And so I cannot deny that I was more than surprised when I saw on this week’s papers that more than 1.5 million young folk braved extreme heat to see Pope Francis over the weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. They were there to take part in an International Youth Festival and along with 200 bishops and 10,000 priests the Pope prayed for peace in Ukraine. It just goes to show that no matter what troubles befall the church, people will always follow whatever religion they belong to.

Pope Francis, at 86 years of age, warned our youth about the dangers of social media, asked them to pray for peace, and met with a delegation of 15 young people from war-torn Ukraine.

For some reason, on a personal level I haven’t warmed to Pope Francis in the same way that I did to John Paul 11, but he does appear to be a good leader of the Catholic Church. Anyone that can get 1.5 million people to listen to his words has to command huge respect. He visited Ireland in 2018 and impressed all who met him. It’s a big job to try to reinvigorate Catholicism, but maybe Francis is the man to do it!


‘Heart’ of the community: Athleague/Tremane defibrillator group fundraisers

On the medical front, one of the big and very welcome developments in rural Ireland has been the deployment of defibrillators at strategic places in so many of our communities. Numerous lives have already been saved by these devices and hopefully that will continue to be the case into the future.

All over the country defibrillator groups have sprung up, all with the intention of providing their own immediate areas with this vital equipment, and fundraising initiatives play an essential part in buying and maintaining the actual defibrillators themselves.

Over the road, the Athleague/Tremane defibrillator group maintain six community devices which can be used in an emergency – such as a cardiac arrest – and they also provide free CPR training in the community.

They are having a big fundraiser on Sunday, 20th of August. There will be a 5km walk at 12 noon from Athleague Community Centre, a 7.5km swim from Castlecoote to Athleague at 3 pm, and a Walk from Castlecoote to Athleague along the Suck Valley Way (from 3 pm) to accompany the swimmers.

Registration for the 5km walk takes place in Athleague Community Centre from 11 am. Entry is €10 per person, €15 for a couple and €20 for a family of 3+.

If you want to swim you have three different options and you need to contact Adrian at 087 9460908 to confirm your attendance and find out the option that suits you best before Thursday (17th) at 6 pm. If you want to do the Suck Valley walk contact Paula at 086 1016794 to confirm attendance and get details of registration and fees, etc.

There will be refreshments served afterwards and from 7 pm music will take place in the Bridge House with the very talented Kenneth McCormack providing the entertainment. The whole event is to raise funds for the Athleague/Tremane Defibrillator group so do your best to take part on the day or if you can’t make it you can contribute at idonate: Athleague/Tremane Defibrillator Group.


And finally…

Out in Creggs we had two big family reunions over the Bank Holiday weekend with the McGoverns getting together on Friday evening in Mikeen’s (and continuing the celebrations over the weekend), while on Sunday the Whites had their family get-together.

Members of both families travelled from as far away as the United States while there were many home from England too. The celebrations lent themselves to a highly enjoyable weekend in our little village and it was great to meet up with friends and neighbours who are domiciled elsewhere.