Building memories, building the future

Well, the lazy, lovely days of July are upon us and we have had a sweet spell of it recently. Sunshine, no rain, great warmth - it was heavenly. I hope you got a chance to be out and about and to so enjoy it.

Last Friday, I got an invitation to a painting exhibition by Fiona Moore Naughten in St Mary’s Hall in Athlone. I went along. I always like to see creativity expressed and so it was in this lovely exhibition.

Fiona is from South Roscommon and it seemed to me that I was the only Westmeath woman in a bevy of South Roscommon people. The paintings were beautiful and I purchased one. It was one that had a lot of memories for me. The painting is called ‘The Divide’ and it is a painting of the railway line cutting through the villages of Taughmaconnell on the one hand and on the other side the village of Moore.

I remember so well many, many years ago, Brian canvassing out in those areas and somehow the parishes stuck in my mind and, of course, the western railway goes through that way – so ‘The Divide’ was a very apt title on the painting.

The old St Mary’s Hall was where the original workhouse was built in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was and is a beautiful cut-stone building. When that horrendous period ended in Irish history, the hall was put to very good use. It has been used as a drama centre, a karate centre, and has educational and sports usage as well. But for me, and I’m sure for many others, it is wonderful the way the end of St Mary’s Hall, which used to be the old fire station, has now been put to fine new usage.

The old fire engine was housed in the end of this old workhouse building and, once they departed to premises more appropriate to their needs, the council used the space left by them to turn it into four small studios which people can take out for six months at a time. I have always thought, what a very inspiring usage of what was, in its day, not an inspiring building.

Last Saturday, we were all invited to Sarsfield Square, a large council estate in the town. They were celebrating their 80th birthday as the houses were built in 1937. I went along and told them I was also celebrating my birthday and that I was as old as Sarsfield Square. We had a great laugh about that. The priest said a lovely Mass in a tucked-away part of the area and Ray Collins gave us his fine rendition of the hymns we used to know. He delivered them with a commanding voice saying, “Everyone now has to sing this one, you all surely know it”, and we did all sing along.

There was tea and music and face painting for children afterwards. All in all, a terrific event and well done to the committee of the Sarsfield Square community who got it all together and made sure that the sun shone and the rain stayed away. I remembered, so well, decades ago when I was running for each election, Enda would say, “Will you start the campaign in Sarsfield Square or Assumption Road – both housing estates near where I lived, and from where so many people called to see me throughout the years. I invariably picked Sarsfield Square and I would get such a welcome again each time I went.

We were talking, last week, about the imminent departure of Vincent Browne from TV3. He is busy having on people with whom he had spats over the years. Last week, he had my nephew Conor Lenihan on and they replayed a piece which, I must say, made compelling viewing. Neither Vincent nor Conor gave an inch and the result was a stand-off, but a very enjoyable dialogue between the two of them.

I cannot end without talking about the GAA games. What a wonderful event the Tyrone/Down match was. I had not seen nor read about Tyrone in the season so far, and it was a really good match. Tyrone have a team of very fine players and, I have no doubt whatsoever, they will be in the reckoning when the final countdown begins.

Of course, Dublin won. Who would expect anything different? But as I said before, the games are getting tighter and anticipation around the country is high.

I will end on the poll last weekend which showed Micheál Martin way ahead of Leo Varadkar. Now, although it made pleasant reading, as all my readers will know, I pay no heed whatsoever to polls. I think they are just random and one day up and one day down. As I said before, the only poll that matters is the poll on voting day and, perhaps, the exit poll the night before. They have proven to be accurate enough.

Nevertheless, decisions are being made and arrangements for conventions are being sorted. So, whether it is a silly season or not, matters like that are being discussed up and down the country in all parties. Certainly, I think Fine Gael will be disappointed that they did not achieve a ‘Leo bounce’ in the polls but, as I say to everyone, do not believe the polls and then you will not expect a bounce.

To my mind, Leo Varadkar is doing fine so far but, as I read somewhere, he should keep the summer now to reading and thinking about the future of himself and of his country. He has a long way to go before he can catch up on the wisdom of Enda Kenny, but he has time enough to do it.

I hope Enda is enjoying his relief from the daily travails of politics. The last I saw or heard of him, he was cycling round the Ring of Kerry as if he had not a care in the world – and good luck to him.

Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke


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