Congratulations to Peg Woulfe, Gortnagross who celebrated her 80th birthday recently at the Devon Inn Hotel, Templeglantine with her family.

Peg Woulfe, Gortnagross pictured with her husband Dick, daughters Eilish and Cathy and son Tommy on the occasion of her 80th birthday which she celebrated recently at the Devon Inn Hotel, Templeglantine

Athea Parent & Toddler Group

Athea Baby and Toddler Group has recently re-launched their group in an effort to encourage more mother and toddlers to join. The group meet at Con Colbert Hall, Athea on Friday Mornings from 12.00-2pm, an ideal place to meet other local mums/carers of young children.  There are lots of toys to play with and various activities for the children in a relaxed informal atmosphere. The cost is €3 per family. For further details please contact Ciara Scanlon on 085 1342568

St. Vincent de Paul Ballybunion Holiday

The St. Vincent de Paul society are organising a one week stay in Ballybunion from June 15th to 23rd this year. For more details on this please contact 087-6216255

Darkness Into Light

This year’s walk/run takes place in Newcastle West on Saturday, May 6th at 4 am, starting at The Desmond Complex (new venue) Gortboy.

What does the future hold? 

I wrote lately about all the changes that have taken place since I was a young lad at school. We came from the arrival of the first, primitive machinery to where technology has advanced so much that we can now receive images from space crafts that are probing the outer edges of the universe, millions of miles away. Traditional ways of doing things and the jobs they created are disappearing, if not already gone. There are whole floors in car-making factories where there are no humans working, especially on  assembly lines. All the work is done by robots who, apparently, are far more efficient and less likely to make a mistake than we are. Plans are well advanced to have robots doing operations on people in hospitals. I wonder where it all will end.  Suppose these robots start to think for themselves and decide to take over? Maybe it isn’t all that far fetched. One scientist has put a chip into a rat’s brain and produced an extremely intelligent animal capable of understanding language and working out difficult problems. Anything is possible.

What of our own prospects here in Athea?  If we look at the trend over the past decades, the outlook is not good. Look at what happened in England. Small towns and villages in rural England have ceased to exist as commercial outlets. Where once there was the High Street with all its shops; butchers, bakers, grocers, hardware merchants etc., they are now places where people sleep. There are no petrol stations, post offices or any of the other services we take for granted. There may be one convenience store that will supply necessary household items but they are not used for the weekly shop which will be done in the nearest big town with all its super markets.

Outside these towns the countryside has been decimated. Where once families ran small farms and were able to make a living on them, there are now just a few big concerns that deal with hundreds of cows or thousands of acres of tillage. Very few people work on these as most of the work is done by machinery. The same thing is happening slowly here. When I was growing up there were several farms of less than twenty cows that made a living. As time went on the smaller ones went by the wayside and soon you needed at least forty cows. That figure has now more than doubled and many farmers have got out of dairy cows altogether. Ballaugh is just across the river from my house. At one time I could look over at ten separate herds of cattle grazing outside in the summer months. Now there is only one herd in all that stretch of territory. This area is not unique and is replicated all over rural Ireland. Villages like Mountcollins and Tournafulla were once thriving business communities that catered for all needs. Now they are bereft of services with not even one shop between them. A bus now calls to the area to bring people who have no transport of their own to Abbeyfeale or Newcastle West to do their shopping.

It would be foolish to bury our heads in the sand, ignore these signs  and say it couldn’t happen in Athea. Not only could it happen but it is going to happen if we do not take steps to ensure it does not. Look at the evidence; we had 16 or 20 shops of all varieties in the village at one time not so long ago. There were 11 pubs just a few years ago and there were five service stations, four in the village and one in the parish. The creamery has gone with a while. Now we don’t have any  filling stations  even though there are now hundreds more cars nowadays, we have six pubs and the number of shops is down to two. We are lucky to have that many but the signs are not good. Our Post Office is under serious threat at the moment. If some people in high places get their way it will be gone. The rot started a couple of years ago when the letter-sorting was moved to Newcastle West.  Some of the pubs are also in danger and it is easy to visualise a time when we will be lucky if we are left with one big outlet to cater for the community. We are lucky to have the doctors surgery in Athea. This has given us the chemist’s shop as well and these bring business to the village. We can reverse the trend if we really want to keep our services.

At the foot of the front page of this newsletter we print “SUPPORT LOCAL ENTERPRIZE” every week. If we want to keep them then we need to support them. You will never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry. I remember one man telling me he would not buy his petrol in Athea because it was a penny a litre cheaper in Adare. That same man now has to travel at least six miles if he needs a gallon of petrol for his lawn mower. So, please use our local  facilities; shops, post offices, pubs, even our own printing works. If we have it in Athea – use it before it is too late. The future is in our own hands; let us make it a good one.

Domhnall de Barra