Counting down the days until 2022!

Our man Frank on a wonderful local calendar, the rise of Creggs Rugby in Connacht, entertainment at Midnight Mass and a Christmas wish for readers…

As we all know by now – or at least should know – Christmas comes at the end of the year, and it is customary for next year’s calendars to make their appearance around this time. For as long as I can remember, we always got one from O’Rourke’s in Creggs, and from various other local businesses and enterprises.

  O’Rourke’s calendar was always full of interesting stuff although sadly, the tradition came to an end in recent years. However, the other day, I came across a calendar produced by the Kilbegnet Historical Society, and it’s a production that they should be immensely proud of. Everyone in the parish and much further afield should consider getting it for themselves, or as a lovely Christmas present for friends and family.

  Entitled ‘Fond memories of bygone days’ the calendar features amazing images of life in the olden days – from O’Sullivan Bere’s campsite in 1602, to present day photos of the village of Creggs. However, three separate calendar images in particular caught my attention.

  The first was a poster for the Creggs February Fair of 1922, which was held on Monday, February 13th. The fair in Creggs was always held on the 12th, but that year, presumably because the 12th fell on a Sunday, it was postponed to the Monday. Sheep, cattle and horses were on offer, and the committee were predicting that it would be a great success, as (in their words) it had been in the years previous. The poster also features a ticket for a dance in Creggs, to be held on Sunday night, February 5th, which features ‘select music’ and is due to start at 9 pm.

  The funny thing is that tickets for gents were five shillings, but the ladies only had to pay three. Meanwhile, doubles (not couples) are only 7s 6d – a saving of a full six pence. I wonder could a lad just team up with a girl at the front door, just to go in as a double and save threepence each. Seems like good sense to me! Another unusual thing about the ticket is that there is no venue mentioned, though I assume it would have been in Brennan’s Ballroom, now the home of the Connelly family.

  Fast forward then to the August offering, and there is a photo from 1946 of the unveiling of the Parnell Monument. Even though it is raining heavily (judging by the number of umbrellas), the crowd is very large by any standard. The people are ten deep, and you can see several policemen in attendance. Every vantage point, including the top of the signpost, is taken up. A number of the men are wearing hats, but there is also a huge number of flat caps in view, with remarkably few of the men having no headgear at all.

  From there I went to October, where I found an image that brought back great memories to me – a poster showing the programme for the first ever Creggs Harvest Festival, way back in 1981.

  The festival is still going strong to this day – Covid or no Covid – and in that first year, we had no fear. Despite having no money, the Committee (of which I was a member) decided to put up £1,000 as a prize for a Mummers’ Competition. To this day I don’t know how we managed to pull it off, but we managed to pay the £1,000 and the village was thronged all weekend with Irish music coming from every corner of every pub. In my life in Creggs, I don’t think I ever saw such crowds, and it was really delightful to see it all brought to life by the beautiful historical calendar.

  I know these calendars are on sale at different local outlets, so try and get yourself one. Every month has a different image of times gone by, and while I have my own three favourites, I feel certain you will love some of the other pictures.

Creggs RFC leading the way in Connacht

Talking of big crowds, way back in 1974, when Creggs RFC took it’s very first tentative steps into the not very welcoming arms of Connacht Rugby, not even the most optimistic followers could have foreseen where we would be now.

  Forty-seven years later, Creggs has, for all intents and purposes, become the centre point of rugby in the province – certainly at underage level – and hardly a day goes by that there isn’t a big schools’ or underage final. On Sunday, we hosted the U-17 league final between Castlebar/Westport and Ballinasloe, which was won by the Mayo side, and on Tuesday, we had three schools finals, the first one starting at 11 am.

  Last Wednesday, I attended a cup final between the kings of Connacht GAA, St. Jarlath’s and Athlone Community College. The very presence of the Tuam side in a rugby final shows the enormous strides the game has taken in the province. As it happens, my brother and Peadar’s grandson, Sean, was playing scrum-half for Jarlath’s, and while they came up slightly short, the game itself was terrific. The young Brandon had a very fine performance, capped by a superb second-half individual try.

  That’s where the huge financial investment that Creggs have put in comes into play, because as the only 4G pitch in Connacht, the pitch is in perfect, pristine condition all day, every day. No matter what the weather, every match can take place.

  As I told you before, myself, Vincent Canny, and the late Jim O ‘Rourke were delegates at our very first fixtures meeting as a bona fide club, and only two established clubs (Athlone and Corinthians) were prepared to offer us friendly fixtures. Our neighbours Dunmore, who were starting off at the same time, were the only club who would give us regular games, and we ended up playing them in a lot of not-so-friendly friendlies.

  Anyway, as we welcome so many people from so many schools and clubs to Creggs so frequently, it just goes to show that we never know what anything can lead to. Location or size really doesn’t mean a thing!

Midnight Mass had the X-Factor!

As we close in on Christmas week, calls have been made to have Midnight Mass brought back to its original time of twelve o’clock, midnight. The whole thing made me think back to my younger days, when Midnight Mass was the best source of entertainment anywhere for any young lad.

  When the pubs closed at 11.30 pm, many of the customers (some of whom had spent the whole day on the beer) would head for the church to join in the celebrations. Oftentimes the change of venue made little difference to the behaviour or demeanour of some of the  participants. Chats were carried on in full voice, just as they had been earlier on while in the pub.

  On one famous occasion, a local character gave us the complete version of Dermot Hegarty’s big hit, ‘Twenty-One Years’, which was followed immediately by the full unabridged version of ‘Galway Bay’ by a similarly inebriated member of the congregation. And after that, thankfully, we even got the clean version!

  All this time, Canon Kelly carried on as normal. Even as the lads staggered their way up the aisle for communion, Canon John wasn’t in any way put out, and simply got on with the mass.

  Sometime later, the time went back to 9 pm, a change that definitely had an effect on the entertainment value. Somehow however, even if it does now go back to midnight, I can never see it getting close to the craic of those bygone days.

  Anyway, if you do go to the Christmas services this year, I imagine they will be more refined than in our days of ‘Twenty-One Years’ or ‘Galway Bay’. I hope I’m not being irreverent, but it was wonderful, harmless fun.

Finally for this week…

As I look back on a year that, for us, had a fair few ups and downs, all I can do is wish everyone out there well. I hope you all have a nice Christmas, stay safe and well, and hopefully 2022 delivers all that you may wish for.

  

‘Till next year, Bye for now!