A great buzz in Rooskey today. On our first attempt to cross the bridge, we had to give way to a group of guests who had gathered for an unveiling ceremony. And we were very happy to wait. A plaque was being unveiled in honour of Bridie Clyne, ‘An Irish Revolutionary’ and native of the area. Amongst those on the bridge for the formalities were her son and extended family members, as well as almost enough councillors to form a majority on Leitrim or Roscommon Council. We have a report on that event in this week’s issue.
On our second attempt to cross the bridge (a half an hour later) we were held up by quaint old-style ‘technology’.
In my youth, it was always a big event when the bridge in Rooskey was being raised. Yes, we had a magical bridge that could rise up when required, halting the world in its tracks. This would happen rarely enough and always attracted onlookers. Raising Rooskey’s futuristic mechanical wonder was required whenever the water levels were very high and there was a particularly large cruiser coming through. The man from the nearby locks (i.e. the lock-keeper) would arrive in his car and come to the rescue of the tourists, circling in their inconsiderately tall but beautiful boat. As kids, we marvelled at the sight of this giant structure floating into the skies to allow the boat pass under. Delayed motorists abandoned their cars on the stone part of the bridge so they could savour the sight. On the cruiser, intrigued Germans (it was usually Germans) enjoyed being the centre of attention, waved grandly and then continued with their holiday/lives.
Well, we finally crossed that bridge last Sunday, and by 2.30 or so the village was indeed buzzing. After Friday’s heavy rainfall, I was delighted that Saturday and Sunday stayed dry; indeed the weather was lovely on Sunday. There were huge crowds in Rooskey for the 4th annual Heritage Festival. As ever, the organisers had worked tirelessly to create a varied schedule. The Big Red Barn was the focus for music and dancing and kids’ shows. There was a pet farm, lots of colourful stalls, a few stilt-walkers, arts and crafts, etc. At the river, kids queued for water sports and other fun activities.
Mostly, Rooskey Heritage Festival – like all festivals across the region – was about people getting together, about old friendships being reignited through chance meetings on the street, at the river, in a pub or in the barn. Rooskey was scarred over the past decade and a half, firstly by the devastating factory fire in 2002, then by the recession – but the village is fighting back. The bridge of despair is being crossed. It is a special village with a great history. Like all small villages, it has a battle on its hands, swimming against the tides of change. The re-opening of the hotel, further development of its tourism potential and maybe a new business or three, they are the lotto numbers the village had marked.
I digress. On Sunday, as friends and neighbours thronged into the heart of the village, it was a reminder of the village’s proud past, its ongoing appeal and the potential that still remains. It can take time and can require imagination, but surely all bridges can be crossed?
Everything about the Demesne in Castlerea is stunning, including a delightful Fairy Village, which I hope readers have visited! (It’s a beautiful place for children and adults like).
I was glad to hear of more positive developments at the weekend, with the official opening (by Minister Heather Humphreys) of a new community facility, Somers Park.
This is a great credit to the management of Harmac Medical (which employs about 300 people in the town) and to all the individuals and agencies who helped make this project possible.
It’s another great addition to the facilities in the fabulous Demesne and, following the recent re-opening of Tully’s Hotel in the town, another welcome development in Castlerea.
It’s happened to us all at some stage…
You go into a bar near closing time, for one or two drinks. There’s hardly another person there, maybe one or two. It’s grand. You expect a quiet half hour.
Then, the door opens and four or five ‘loud ones’ burst in. They’ve been somewhere else. They’re in good spirits. And what’s left of the night isn’t going to be as peaceful or straightforward as you’d assumed (which is not to say it won’t be good craic or enjoyable).
Michael D Higgins might feel a bit like that this week. Although he’s not lacking political acumen, the thought must have crossed his mind at different times over recent months that this Presidential matter could be dealt with quietly and peacefully.
Michael D (who has been an excellent President) calculated that he would announce his intention to run again relatively late in the year. He had kept potential rivals guessing. He had the main parties onside. He might even have a free run.
Then, just as he was beginning to think it just might be a quiet one, the whooping started at the front door.
Now, Michael D realises that it wasn’t quite closing time.
A few ‘loud ones’ have indeed come in. Michael D will still expect to get home early and for common sense to prevail, but sure anything could happen now!
Yes, the Irish do Cemetery Mass well…
Saturday & Sunday
On Saturday evening in Kilteevan, as the rain dithered about its intent – sharing the spotlight with sunny spells – a large crowd turned up for Cemetery Mass.
Then, on Sunday, driving to Rooskey, I was met with a (brief) traffic jam in Scramogue, as people began to leave on the completion of the Cemetery Mass there.
Similar gatherings and scenes are common all over the country at this time of year.
It is, by definition, a sombre and sad occasion, the Cemetery Mass, and yet it is also a special and dignified ceremony and gathering.
We are commemorating those loved ones who have passed on, keeping their memory close, celebrating their lives and everything they meant and mean to us.
It strikes me too that this annual ceremony, all over the country, impressively showcases the life that goes on…and the vitality that remains in rural Ireland.
Just seeing how many people attend Cemetery Mass, with all generations present, and with such dignity evident, is heartwarming, and a sign too that there is great life, energy and community spirit in rural Ireland.
At every such gathering, we see the love and care of families as they assemble for the blessing of the graves. It’s a great example of community togetherness. The volunteers who maintain the cemeteries so well are to be commended; of course they are just doing what good community activists do in rural Ireland; they are putting the shoulder to the wheel without a second thought, generosity of spirit a given.
I think the Irish do the Cemetery Mass particularly well.
How we do it, the importance we attach to it, reveals much that is positive about our people, our communities. The Cemetery Mass is our families and our communities – past, present and future – supporting, bonding…being.