The door closed in Glinsk on Monday, as it did somewhere else the previous week, as it will somewhere else next week. Sometimes eras end with noise and fanfare and drama, but sometimes eras can end quietly, with little more than the memories and the silence present as witnesses.
The story in Glinsk is replicated in other parts of Roscommon and East Galway, indeed in many other areas throughout the country too.
Life will never be the same again in those small, rural areas where the local post office is closing its doors.
I was wondering what I might write about in this week’s column when I got the call from Marty Farragher. Efficient and civic-minded as ever, Marty was wondering if the Roscommon People could ‘transfer’ the papers which are delivered to Glinsk Post Office every week on to Dowd’s from now on (we can).
We got talking. I first met Marty and his wife Margaret over 25 years ago. Such decent, honest-to-goodness community people. Margaret submitted Glinsk notes to the Roscommon Champion for many years. Marty and Margaret were at the heart of the small community in the beautiful East Galway village, as they still are to this day. They were always very welcoming over those years – and those years have gone by quickly.
Marty confirmed that the curtain had come down. Glinsk Post Office closed on Monday last. Three generations of the Farragher family had run the post office over a 123-year period. Historic stuff. Emotional stuff. ‘End of an era’ is an understatement. Social change going about its business, quietly but firmly. Change imposing itself. Emotional stuff indeed.
As Marty put it: “Margaret was postmistress here from 1967 until yesterday”.
I asked Marty to fill me in on this story. It begins in 1896, when Marty’s grandfather (Martin Farragher) ran a post office in Glinsk on what was initially a temporary basis. In 1900, the post office officially opened and was run by Martin and his wife, Mary-Ann.
The first pensions were paid out on the 7th of January 1909, when forty-four pensioners called to Glinsk Post Office and collected eleven pounds – between them.
The second generation stewardship began when Marty’s parents, Michael and Mary (nee Cuddy), took up the reins following their marriage in 1938. Marty’s aunts and uncles also worked there over the years.
After his father’s death in 1963, Marty was appointed postmaster. Marty and Margaret (nee Curley) got married in 1967 and Margaret took over as postmistress (succeeding Marty’s mother). Third generation…the story continuing.
On Tuesday of this week, Marty and Margaret briefly reflected on the changes which the passing years brought. What they’ve seen, and what was passed on to them. They say a ‘Call Office’ was in place from 1952, whereby local people called in to make and take important calls. That was an all-night service, often involving emergency calls. In 1974, a kiosk (“the first telephone in the area”) was placed outside the post office.
Well-known postmen are recalled with fondness. They are concerned about “leaving people out” (to be fair, Marty only rang in to discuss deliveries of the Roscommon People!) and wants to acknowledge everyone who has played a role in this story.
Marty says the “McLoughlins of Castlerea” had the ‘mail’ contract for many years. The post came by train from Dublin to Castlerea, where it was sorted before being delivered into outlying areas. For many years, those deliveries were by horse and cart.
Joe Dunne was a postman who came to Ballymoe in 1952 (that’s where the post for Glinsk was sorted). In 1960, he was appointed “full-time postman” in Glinsk, complete with mail van. Before that, from the 1930s or so, Paddy Griffin was a well-known postman. In later years, he was succeeded by his sons. There were many others… Brendan Mannion from Ballymoe served for a good number of years, as did Mike Conneely from Newtown in Glinsk. Tom Galvin is fondly recalled too.
Over these decades, Glinsk Post Office became a great social hub. Same story in Knockvicar. Same story in Cornafulla. Same story in other areas locally.
In Glinsk, great friendships were built up. “Yes, it was very much a social hub I suppose,” Marty Farragher said this week. “Often on a Friday, you could have five or six women here and they’d have a great chat for a half an hour or so! Up to the very end (last week) it was going well, to be honest. It was busy. Of course the nature of how people do their business is changing”.
I had been wondering what to write about in my column this week… but what could be more important to write about, to record, than this… change. That’s at the heart of this story of course. Change. Time moving, things evolving, change happening…
On Monday, they closed the door in Glinsk PO ‘for the last time’. Poignant stuff. Social change, slow or otherwise, can be hard to take. The locals will now have to go to Creggs to collect their pensions, to do whatever other business they have to do. In the meantime, a chapter has closed. Three generations. 123 years. Happy days, sad days, all lived within the beating heart of Glinsk community. Great memories will live on.
We asked the ever-obliging photographer Mick McCormack to call out and take a few photos on Wednesday.
How do people feel about it all, I asked Marty.
“Ah, people in the area are disappointed I suppose” he replied. “And we will miss those people very much”.