By Marian Harnett

PROLOGUE:  Summertime:  High hills bring hopeful thoughts and happy hearts make helpful deeds. Now is the time to gather flowers where friendship plants the seeds. The time for looking up old friends and going on the spree. For a trip along the river or an outing to the sea.(Abbeyfeale Parish Newsletter.)

A SOUND TOWN: Huge congratulations to Noreen Nash Cotter N.T. whose letter to Today FM won Abbeyfeale a place in the final of the competition to find Ireland’s Soundtown. The overall prize is €10,000 to be spent on a community project and every month a town is chosen to enter the final and Noreen’s effort was chosen as this month’s winner. This is the letter she wrote to the programme: “Dear Alison, Somebody told me about the “Sound town competition” and suggested I enter Abbeyfeale. I hope I do it justice. Seo é mo scéal:  I am 47 and have lived in Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick for pretty much most of my life. In years gone by it was a lively market town and I have great memories from my youth of carnivals, pubs, concerts, dancing, craic and general fun. However time and circumstances brought change and like a lot of rural towns, Abbeyfeale suffered. It has been sad to see business premises close down, remain empty and buildings become derelict. It seemed to set off a negative spiral and a general downbeat feeling in the town. One of our lowest points was when a local sweet shop that generations knew and loved, closed down due to the sad passing of it’s cherished owner in December 2020. Shortly afterwards came the announcement that Bank of Ireland was pulling out. And so it seemed the downward trend was going to continue. But then a little bit of magic started………Two young primary school teachers, Robert and John Browne, both Abbeyfeale natives and proud of their birthplace and heritage, approached my husband, another friend and myself to help do something for the local community. And so, “ An Siopa Milseán” was born!  The way it happened was a strange co-incidence. At the time my brother-in law Billy Cotter was trying to preserve as a museum, his uncle’s grocery shop on New Street, which was established in 1920. Sadly the building is in such a bad state and needs so much work, the character of the shop would be lost and it proved impossible to preserve. However we have managed to salvage many old display items from Lifebuoy soap to paraffin lamps to old Christmas selection boxes. We brought up the old counter, which I’m sure would have many tales to tell. We also saved the weighing scales and it’s lovely to see parents and grandparents now having sweets weighed for their children on the same scales they eagerly watched in their childhood. All five of us have full time jobs, but for weeks we spent evenings and weekends getting things sorted and finally on Easter Saturday, a day of hope, and after a blessing from our parish priest Fr. Tony, we opened our doors.   When you walk in, it’s like stepping back in time and it’s lovely to hear both adults and children gasp when they see the siopa unfold before them. As a “community shop” we have given local bakers and producers an opportunity to sell their produce and the community is indeed supporting them by buying their products. I think COVID has taught us all about the value of supporting local. Some people said the “siopa milseán” was a life-line for them during lockdown. They looked forward to the chat with our wonderful Mary. Sometimes they needed that more than the bread or milk they were buying. Local schools have been amazing and made many trips. All are welcome in “An Siopa Milseán”. There’s a place for everyone, whether you’re in your designer sunglasses looking for a caramel latté or grabbing a cold drink in your wellies on the way to the bog! And Abbeyfeale is just like that, inclusive and welcoming. We have seen many families relocate to our town from other countries and as a teacher in St. Mary’s Boys School, Abbeyfeale, I see how these families have been welcomed. That makes me very proud of my homeplace. To say that the success of the “Siopa” has gone beyond our wildest dreams is an understatement but that’s down to the amazing community of Abbeyfeale and surrounding areas. They have come out in huge numbers to support us and that is why I’m nominating Abbeyfeale as a sound town. We have amazing people living here who volunteer with our rugby and soccer clubs, Fr. Casey’s GAA, The Town Park Committee, The Tidy Town’s Committee, Abbeyfeale Community Council, youth clubs, choirs and many more.  This weekend we were fortunate to see the opening of the Limerick Greenway. It’s great to see the Abbeyfeale community give the same support to other local initiatives like The Barnagh Greenway Hub and Locomotion Bike Hire.  I know that as a community we will all pull together and put Abbeyfeale back on the map. Winning €10,000 would be fantastic to help us to do this and get more community projects over the line. We have many more ideas.  I hope my “scéal” has given you some idea as to why I think Abbeyfeale deserves to be nominated a sound town. And if nothing else that it has shown there is always hope. And that when a few people with varying skills unite with an idea for improving a community, anything is possible. Churchill said  “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. We have many givers in Abbeyfeale. Míle buíochas, Le gach dea-guí,  Noreen Cotter & “An Siopa Milseán” team.

ANOTHER COINCIDENCE:  The following poem which appeared in the Abbeyfeale Parish Newsletter this weekend was written by Noreen Nash Cotter’s mother Anne Nash and just goes to show that it wasn’t off the stones that Noreen licked her letter writing skills:

I’m going out in the sun today
And I don’t care if the cobwebs
Are doing a two hand reel on the fittings
Or if the wash up reaches so high
It makes a hole in the ceiling
See if I care
There’s much to enjoy and lots to share
For I’m going out in the sun today.

I don’t want to meet glum faces 

CONGRATULATIONS to Athea on winning the West Intermediate League Final against Monagea.