This week, (August 2014) Roscrea resident Brian King wrote to the editors of the local papers highlighting the many positives that Roscrea has to offer. The following is the full unedited text of that letter.
To: Editors of all local newspapers
From: Brian King
Date: August 2014:
Re: The many positives that
Roscrea and it’s surrounds has to offer.
I am a proud Roscrea person. I grew up in Roscrea, I live in Roscrea, I work in Roscrea and despite all the negative publicity that my town has endured in recent times, I continue to have great belief in the town of Roscrea, the people of Roscrea and the future of Roscrea.
Roscrea has problems, many problems and they have been well documented, particularly in recent weeks. I accept these problems and they must be dealt with. That said we must not forget that Roscrea is full of many vibrant clubs and organisations that deserve a positive portrayal particularly at this time.
Before writing about the positive aspects of Roscrea which this letter is predominantly about I would state that whatever resources are needed to combat drug abuse, rid our beautiful town of drug dealers and their suppliers must be put in place. We must also focus on providing help and assistance to those who need it the most and again resources must be provided to achieve this aim. As for jobs and sustainable employment, Roscrea has become far too dependent on it’s local retailers for employment. My message to local councillors and prospective local councillors who knocked on my door between February and May this year was the same as every knock on the door I have received at election time since I was eligible to vote. Roscrea needs jobs and it needs jobs now. It is unacceptable that a fully serviced twenty six acre business lies idle at a time when we are crying out for jobs. It is unacceptable that we still have not had found replacement industries to cover job losses in factories such as Offray, Antigen and Corporate Apparel. It’s unacceptable that even though we are strategically located in what one would assume is a key location for centralisation and distribution activities, no major employer has banged on our doorstep for many years. Our hinterland of fifteen miles encompasses a population of about 19,000 people and we have a rich heritage in pharmaceutical and food production. At the most recent public meeting regarding some of the issues I touched on above, it was announced that negotiations were ongoing with Enterprise Ireland and the Head of Regions for the IDA. Noel Coonan, Alan Kelly, Michael Lowry our own locally elected councillor Michael Smith and all councillors, politicians and stakeholders with a vested interest in Roscrea must apply whatever pressure necessary to ensure that arising from these negotiations, Roscrea takes a major step forward in reclaiming the jobs that have been lost over the past twenty years.
As regards the many positives of our town. A good researcher over the past weeks would have easily concluded that the voluntary ethos in Roscrea is one of the strongest in the country and I will demonstrate this to you very clearly in this letter. I will also demonstrate to you the vibrancy of the many local clubs and organisations that make up our community and the efforts they make to engage people and make life a little easier particularly in these very challenging times.
Roscrea Tidy Towns for example has enjoyed years of success thanks to their efforts to make the town more attractive to live, work and visit. The Tidy Towns volunteers work throughout the year with limited resources to ensure that Roscrea, a heritage town and one of the oldest towns in Ireland, looks it’s best and says to our visitors that we are very proud of who we are and where we are from.
Is there a better Comhaltas organisation in the country that Roscrea Comhaltas?. Possibly, but one would go a long way to find it. This group has organised County fleadhs, Munster fleadhs and produced any amount of county, provincial, All-Ireland and world champions. Like the Tidy Towns Committee, their doors are always open particularly to those of our younger generation.
Is there a more active and vibrant musical society in the country than Roscrea Musical Society. Possibly, but again, one would go a long way to find one. Every year this great group of local people come together in early January and work through the winter and spring months to produce a magical show that sells out for most of it’s seven nights in May.
The town is also blessed with some of the finest music schools and teachers in the country. When you couple this with other great groups such as Roscrea Folk Group, Roscrea Community Choir, Roscrea Players, the list goes on, so don’t tell me “there is nothing to do in Roscrea”.
From a sporting perspective, one of the first landmarks you will meet as you approach Roscrea from the Dublin Road, is Roscrea Golf Club. Is there a more picturesque looking golf club in the midlands? Possibly, but I play a bit of golf and I can’t think of one. The club also did great work to get new members involved this year, running beginners classes and other initiatives to help get people involved.
Roscrea Hurling Club (first ever winners of the All-Ireland club championship) Killavilla United, Roscrea United, Roscrea Athletics Club, Roscrea Rugby Club, Inane Rovers, Roscrea Badminton Club, Country Club Badminton Club, Roscrea Tennis Club, I could go on you know and I apologise to all those clubs I haven’t mentioned, are all active and all accessible to the people of Roscrea and it’s hinterland. The work that goes on at underage level in these clubs in particular is quite staggering and deserves mention and applause.
Roscrea is also blessed to have two walking clubs. One religiously sets out every Sunday morning on a expedition while the other sets of on a Thursday evening and delivers night time walks right throughout the winter. Roscrea Cycling Club is a new initiative and I don’t want to mention many names in this letter for fear of offending anyone through their omittance but hats of to young Tim Hennessy from Monaincha, a young guy, still in college who got of his backside during the summer months and made something really positive happen for his town. The cycling club engages not just the Sean Kelly’s! of this world but also families, young and old making it a cycling club for everyone.
Is there a finer looking leisure centre and swimming pool complex in the midlands than Roscrea Leisure Centre? I’d doubt it. The slide in particular is a huge attraction and to my knowledge the nearest slide in any complex near to Roscrea is Galway if you travel west or Tralee if you travel south. As a frequent user of the facility it does amaze me and plenty of other users that not more local people are not members so I would suggest that the swimming pool company give this due consideration and perhaps as part of this review consider their pricing structure accordingly. Other than this it’s a wonderful facility that also runs great classes and is a very positive attraction for our town.
Is there a town more stepped in local history than Roscrea? Possibly, but what I do know is that Roscrea is rich in heritage and has a fascinating history. Roscrea is one the oldest and most historic towns in Ireland. For thousands of years people have lived in the valley between the Slieve Bloom and the Devils bit mountains. The antiquities and monuments date as far back as the Stone Age and every succeeding age has left its own unique mark on the town and district. The town is home to Monaincha the 31st “Wonder Of The World” and also home to the jewel in the crown for the town, the Castle Complex not to mention the recently restored Blackmills site, home of the ancient high cross. There are many other fascinating places within a stone throw of the town that deserve a visit including the majestic surrounds of St Joseph’s Abbey which again prompts me to ask, is there a more picturesque and tranquil abbey to be found in the 32 counties?
Roscrea was also home to people like Sergeant Marty Maher, the man who taught President Eisenhower to swim, and wrote a book called “Bringing Up The Brass” which prompted one of the world’s greatest ever Directors, John Ford to write a famous film called the “The Long Grey line” which mentioned Roscrea and stared Tyrone Power as Marty Maher from Roscrea and Maureen O'Hara, his wife. Marty is buried in West Point cemetery close to none other than one of America’s most famous soldiers, General George Armstrong Custer. Roscrea was also home to Daisy Bates who did so much for the Aborigines in Australia and the town was also home to Jack Moyney who was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in world war 1. I was told recently that Web Ellis of “Rugby World Cup” fame was born close to Roscrea and I believe that apart from President Obama the town has links to several other American presidents which I am sure would be worth researching, documenting and popularising.
A few lines in a letter can’t do justice to the town’s heritage so to conclude on this matter I would summarise by saying Roscrea is a town with a strong identity and a long and wonderful history full of intrigue and suspense. Coupled with this, Roscrea is a proud town rich in culture and tradition. Visitors are always welcome. Be assured Roscrea won’t leave the inquisitive mind disappointed. For more see www.roscreathroughtheages.org and/or www.roscreaonline.com.
Away from the culture, the sport, the history, the music and the recreation clubs that I have mentioned so far there is plenty more committees for people to get involved with and help out. Roscrea Scout Troop for instance. I would just ask people to make contact with any Scout Committee member who will easily inform you that the Roscrea Scout Troop is one of the most active in the country with a large membership and great facilities both in Roscrea and at their Mountain Base in Srahan. Other committees include the Roscrea Beo committee who work tirelessly each year to help grow the August Festival that they have diligently committed themselves to. “The Taste Of Roscrea Committee”. What can we say. For the past two years our town has been enriched with the festival. Not only has the festival brought visitors to Roscrea but has also raised lots of money for local schools and charities. We also have “Roscrea People” who organise the annual awards night and bring two very important historic conferences to Roscrea each year, The Roscrea Red Cross, The Roscrea SPCA, The Roscrea Bridge Club, Roscrea Pigeon Club, The recently established Roscrea Cardiac Responders, The Roscrea Mens Shed, “Bring A Cinema To Roscrea Committee”, Muintir Na Tiré, Irish Wheelchair Association, each one full of committed community people, making a massive difference to their town. For the youth we can’t forget the great work done and that continues to be done each year by “Roscrea Youth Centre”. How many towns can boast about a great facility such as the Kickback Café and fledging groups such as the kojo dojo. For the senior citizens we have a vibrant and energetic “Roscrea Active Retirement Association”. A flick through the papers particularly during the winter and you will easily see this for yourselves as they recapture great trips away and activities that they have recently participated in.
Is there a town in Ireland with a more active Lions Club than what we have in Roscrea? Just think of the many great events that this great group of local people has hosted over the years to help raise funds. St Vincent De Paul do unbelievable work in Roscrea and deserve great credit for opening their new Shop on Church Street. R.C.D.C and Roscrea Chamber of Commerce do their best to represent the residents and the business community and like all clubs and organisations in this letter would love to see new members and existing members getting even more involved. As would Roscrea Heritage Society who have played and will need to play a continued role in developing the enormous tourism potential we have on our door step here in Roscrea. And as for tourism in general it is of course most disappointing and a source of deep concern that we have no hotel open in our town centre. Hopefully something in this regard will happen soon but we should not forget that we do have a hotel on the Dublin road, Racket Hall trying extremely hard to bring more people to their hotel and to the town. In the past few years they have done Trojan work to establish the hotel as one of leading weekend entertainment venues in the midlands. Coupled with that we have the Sli Dala a wonderful B&B not to mention Stremstown Caravan Park, Monaincha B&B, Balalghmore B&B and of course the White House in the town centre. I know from various groups I am part of that some initiatives are possibly in the pipeline that would have the potential to serious increase the number of visitors to the town. Many of these initiatives will be very much dependant upon local authority support. In this regard I would mention Joe McGrath the County Manager. In my experience his approach to Roscrea is refreshing and I know he will give initiatives such as the Roscrea Enhancement Plan every support particularly when it comes to the bigger projects such as reinvigorating our town centre.
As for the estates in the town, many are making Trojan efforts to engage their local community and the broader community of the town itself. Some received negative publicity recently but if we take for example Kennedy Park. Look at the amount of events that are organised each year as part of the estate. In the last few months alone I can recall a Christmas event, a family sports day, a 50th anniversary celebration and on August 31st this year they will host what promises to be a most entertaining family sports day. I grew up in Ashbury. It’s an area just out of town rich in history, rich in tradition and rich in characters both past and present many of whom served both their town and country. I’m proud to say I once lived in the company of those great people and it’s great to see this community coming together as it is in Glen Glás, Chapel Lane etc where you will find some of the finest and most committed community people that you are ever likely to meet.
I haven’t even mentioned the many groups in the town that come together regularly and raise thousands of euros for local and national charities. I haven’t mentioned service organisations such as St Cronan’s and St Anne’s who do such great work, I haven’t yet mentioned PIETA House, Roscrea 2000, the local schools and all the businesses who do provide employment and believe me the list could go on and my sincerest apologies to anyone I have left out.
I would conclude by congratulating Derek, Mike and all those involved in organising the recent public meetings. They deserve great credit for their courage as does all those who supported the meetings. I have no doubt that their great work will pay dividends. In the midst of their great work we must not forget all the positives around us. Of course we need jobs, we want to see a thriving town centre, we want our hotel back, we want extra amenities like a cinema, perhaps a bowling alley and so much more, but we should also focus on the positives. All the clubs and organisations I have listed above would surely welcome anyone with open arms to join them. I know there are some where obviously a monetary cost is involved which makes access difficult for those struggling in their daily lives but there are plenty of organisations listed above that just require help and what more positive way to enrich your life than by helping and giving back something to others and the community that you are a part of.
I love my town, I love it’s hinterland and I love the spirit of it’s people. I will be forever grateful to people like my grandfather Tony McEvoy and former teacher Brendan Carmody who instilled in me at a very early age a pride in who I was and where I am from. Our town has stood up for itself and shouted “no”, it’s now time for those that can make things happen to say “yes”. Yes to jobs, yes to more resources, yes to more amenities and yes to giving us all hope at a time when our town now needs it most.