The Roscommon People Editor thinks some of us are blind to the beauty and charm of our county town, while smitten visitors are seeing it all so differently…
It’s like we’re living inside a secret.
But we’ve been keeping the secret from ourselves; we’ve been buying into the secret.
Others see it all differently.
‘Outsiders’ – people who pass through Roscommon and tourists who stay a while – they see it all so clearly.
A couple of years ago I welcomed a cousin of mine who was born and bred in England. He had some mates with him. Londoners, bright men who are doing well in their careers.
They stayed in Gleeson’s and raved about the complimentary scones served to them on arrival.
It was a great start to their weekend in Roscommon; they were immediately charmed by the warmth of the welcome in Gleeson’s.
We – the locals – are so often guilty of taking our town for granted.
Next, the English visitors discovered the Central Bar. They loved the Guinness there. On their second night in town, they ventured into JJ’s. They loved both pubs. The décor, the buzz, the music. The Londoners got a kick out of the fact that there was a new pub to explore every few steps along the street.
It rained when we showed them Roscommon Castle, but they enjoyed that too, and they were fascinated by Shane Curran and everyone else involved in the club game they attended in the Hyde.
I had wondered what the Londoners would make of small, rural Roscommon town.
They saw things that we perhaps turn a blind eye to most weekends.
They loved it. And they are not alone.
Last summer, venturing into Main Street from time to time, I detected a real buzz in the heart of Roscommon, in that area where the men dish out the heads of cabbage from the back of a van.
The buzz was in part created by tourists. And the feedback from them was extremely positive.
Just the other day, David Molloy, one of our proud community stalwarts, told me of a conversation he had recently with a visiting English couple who were astonished at how clean and tidy Roscommon is.
This is a town less ordinary. We often take it for granted; we are shareholders in the secret.
We ought to release the truth. This is no ordinary town.
There are towns not that far from Roscommon, in the Midlands and West, which have been beset by different problems.
Crime, anti-social behaviour, drugs, vandalism…abandoned buildings, collapsed morale.
Our town has its imperfections, but it is a small treasure.
Crime is still virtually a stranger here. In appearance, the town compares very well with others. We’re prone to not fully appreciating the range of services and amenities here.
The Golf Club. Hyde Park. The Racecourse. The Park. The Castle. The hotels and restaurants. The shops. The bars. The buildings. The gyms. The schools. The Churches.
From chatting to visitors in recent years, I find absolute agreement on Roscommon town’s greatest asset. It’s the people, and the welcome they give.
I really believe we don’t fully appreciate how much greater than ordinary Roscommon town actually is. Just now, probably the biggest problem the town is grappling with is the ongoing flight of its young. Another problem is that so many of the rest of us don’t seem to appreciate how great this place is.
It’s no fun living inside a secret. We need to open our eyes to what we have and where we are. We need to listen to the approving, frequently enthusiastic reviews of the visitors who, bit by bit, year by year, are discovering the quality of life, the charm and the beauty of Roscommon.
Early on a Monday morning, the lads from London got a taxi back to the airport in Knock. When they were saying their goodbyes, they sang the praises of the things we seldom see.
And when they come back to Roscommon, as they will, they want a traditional Irish music session to be fitted into their itinerary.
We can arrange that.
In the meantime, from chatting to Irish people and visitors from abroad, I’ve developed an ever-expanding sense of pride in Roscommon, truly a town less ordinary.