Emigrant Newsletter for London Reunion (25th October 2001)

Items from the Ballycroy Newsletter for the London Emigrant Reunion (25th October 2001) A message from Fr. Eddie Rogan, the parish priest in Ballycroy.

We are all very grateful to and justly proud of the committee of the Ballycroy London Reunion. In 2001 the Reunion was celebrated again with great success. This was its twenty-eighth consecutive year. We believe it is the longest running reunion of its type in London. As someone aptly put it, 'IT IS THE OLDEST IN THE BIG SMOKE'. The very enjoyable and, at this stage, historic event was held in the Galtymore in Cricklewood on 26th October 2001.

The Ballycroy London Reunion gives eloquent testimony to the wonderful community spirit that exists among Ballycroy people whether they are at home or abroad. The secret of success, of course, is having such an excellent committee. The reunion president is Mary Cormack. The chairperson is Martin Campbell. The treasury secretary is Brid Howard. The secretary is Gabriel McNellia. The treasurer is Colm Conway. Other very valuable committee members are Michael Cafferkey and Billy McManamon. I for one am certainly lost in admiration for the organizers. It is a gigantic task to organize the venue, the music, the food, the tickets, the spot prizes and so on. Many hours must be spent contacting people alone. Obviously a huge amount of hard, selfless work has to be done behind the scenes. And such Trojan work has continued for twenty-eight years!!!

Great credit is also due to the people who support the Reunion. People come from various parts of England, from at home in Ballycroy and even from as far away as the United States to renew old friendships, create new ones, and enjoy a pleasant night together. I even met someone from South Africa at the Reunion this year.

A particularly encouraging sign for the future of the Ballycroy London Reunion is the number of young people who attend. Many of our young emigrants not only faithfully come themselves every year but they also bring their friends. The same is true of second generation Ballycroy people. This year one young girl whose mother is from Ballycroy told me that she never misses the Reunion and that she intends to attend it always! The presence of the young people guarantees a lively night for all. Something that gives a further great lift to the Ballycroy London Reunion is the fact that people from neighboring parishes and other parts of Ireland also honor us with their presence. This year, for instance, I met people from Achill, Bangor, Tyrone, Roscommon and Waterford, to mention just a few places. The presence of friends from neighboring parishes and elsewhere is a source of the greatest satisfaction to us BALLYs!!! Long may this continue.

Many people make generous donations to the Reunion. This year, for example, donations were made by Jim and Mary Devine, Nora and Joseph McGowan, Jim and Mary Moran, Gerry McHugh, Gabrielle and John McNeela, Michael and Eve Cafferkey, Rose Cormack, Patsy and Ann O'Malley (Inishbiggle and London), Willie and Sonia Coyle, Cris Cronin, Willie Winters, Maureen Heston-McConnell and Peadar, and Patricia Cafferkey-O'Donnell.

The Reunion committee itself is also very generous, giving out again any profits that come from the Reunion. Inspired by a very obvious Christian spirit, they contribute a share of their annual profits to worthy causes at home in Ballycroy. If a family in Ballycroy has a tragedy, losing its prime wage earner, for example, the reunion committee is immediately to the fore to make a generous donation. This year the Reunion committee also donated £400.00 sterling towards The Ballycroy Senior Citizen's Party.

The committee also gave me an extremely generous donation to cover my expenses during my visit to England for the Reunion.

On behalf of us all, both here in Ballycroy and elsewhere, I would like to express a sincere one hundred thanks to the organizing committee. What they do means so much to so many people. Long live the Ballycroy London Reunion!!

What follows are some excerpts from the Reunion Newsletter that we put together in Ballycroy. I hope those who have not had a chance to read it will enjoy it, wherever they are in the world!. Our thanks to all that contributed to the production of the Newsletter for our Ballycroy emigrants.

BALLYCROY DEVELOPMENT PLAN

(launched by Minister of State Eamon O'Cuiv in Ballycroy Community Centre on 12th July 2001) A Summary by Geraldine Cummins This plan proposes to address areas of development in Ballycroy which can be enhanced, created and publicised to the benefit of the people in Ballycroy while also complementing the environment and blending with the proposed Visitors Centre in Ballycroy.

STRUCTURES FOR DEVELOPMENT

Any worthwhile development plan only becomes valuable through people making it happen on the ground. For that reason the way the community of Ballycroy organises itself to execute the plan proposals is of crucial importance. A major plus in facing the challenge involved is the fact that the people of Ballycroy have a Strong Community Spirit and sense of identity with their own area. Local Development Lotto has commenced and is doing very well, thanks to the work of the community council and its local sellers. Village Enhancement is well underway with new lighting, tree planting, new footpaths etc thanks to the Community Employment Scheme.

The Midday Club for the over 50's is an ongoing success and continues to be well supported and appreciated, thanks to the work of the Scheme. A laundry service is now being provided locally, thanks again to the C.E.S. Plans have been approved and are about to be implemented to purify the Water, thanks to the Water Board. The floor in the Hall is currently been replaced by the C.E.S. New equipment has been purchased for the Kitchen in the Community Centre and further work is to take place on upgrading these facilities under the auspices of the Social Services Committee, the Community Resource Officer and the Community Employment Scheme. Refreshments post Funerals in Ballycroy continue to be provided thanks to the long standing voluntary work of the women of Ballycroy. Regular refuse collection thanks to Dermot Nicholas. The Mother & Toddler group has made a valued contribution. The Irish speaking play school that has recently opened in Shranamonragh National School is already doing great work.

OPPORTUNITIES IN BALLYCROY BY FRANCIS TULLY

Economic & social development is the new mantra of the rural go-getter. Local politicians, development workers and clergy see economic and social development as something that should be promoted and supported with every opportunity, In fact, there is a network of professionals who make their living promoting rural economic and social development. Every parish in Ireland has some local group or groups dedicated to some aspect of economic & social development. So What is it? When a Community decides it wants to develop its local economy, the first assumption made is that there is a problem. There is something wrong with the place, it is disadvantaged and needs to be helped out of its misery until it can stand on its feet again independently. This is to some extent maybe true, but it is based on an assumption that successful places do not have to do anything. Successful places are just naturally successful. In fact, every successful city or economy is usually heavily planned, resourced and managed.

Look at the great cities of the world, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo. They are all engines of innnovation, all activity within their confines is carefully managed by strong local governments, and they have strategic plans that map their future for 20 to 30 years. What is missing in rural locations is that same level of co-ordination and planning. Why is this so?

Historically, social organisation had its roots in cities. Cities had to organise, otherwise they would become such awful places. The merchant classes needed to protect their investments which were primarily in cities and towns. They learned quickly and organised that the cities worked for the people who worked and lived in them. Sanitation was developed for the cities. Civilian police forces were developed for the cities. Local Government was developed to service the needs of the cities. Lord Mayors are only found in cities. The cities were so successful at organising themselves that they successfully attracted the rural population from the countryside and their growth underpinned their legitimacy. This legitimacy which developed into a form of supremacy is now what the rural economic and social developers are reacting against.The secret of any rural development strategy is planning and organisation. Nothing happens by chance.

The Ballycroy Development Plan is an excellent start to the structured development of Ballycroy. It can seem like 'a contradiction in terms' that a rural community would have a structured plan because we perceive rural locations to be everything a city or town is not. But a place like Ballycroy is just as sophisticated and comple xas any town or city and requires the same level of organisation and planning. So what are the opportunities?

The title of this article is framed in such a way as to suggest that there are only specific activities that can take place in Ballycroy. This is because rural development is perceived to be subordinated to city development. The city can have it all but the rural location can only have some. This mindset needs to be challenged if a place like Ballycroy is to have its development potential liberated. The outlook should be; if the city can do it, so can we. Anything is possible with time.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN BALLYCROY? BY WILLIE SWEENEY

Situated on the coast road (N59) between Mulranny and Bangor Erris in North-West Mayo, the small rural village of Ballycroy is far from the 'madding crowd', traffic and other stressful factors of modern living. For more information see Ballycroy

A 'Voluntary Housing Scheme' is being considered for Ballycroy. This Scheme would provide modest affordable and yet comfortable housing, incorporating modern design and construction technology. Special needs would be provided for, if necessary. A similar Scheme exists successfully at Mulranny. The Mulranny Scheme is particularly popular with people returning to their homeland from abroad. The same degree of interest in the proposed Ballycroy Scheme could result in many happy relocations from home or abroad.

All enquiries (in writing please) to: Mr. William Sweeney, Knockmoyleen, Ballycroy, Westport, Co.Mayo.

THE WONDER YEARS BY MICHAEL GALLAGHER

Ballycroy, a place set in the heartland of my soul, is a kingdom full of colour and character, a place where minds are given the chance to dream. At least that was the Ballycroy of my youth. I was always wishing, dreaming, never doubting that the fairytale ending was just around the corner. Time has changed my views somewhat, but even now as a cynical thirtysomething, Ballycroy is still the place where dreams are made.

The wide open spaces, the winding, rattling river, the hills of ferns, the little hidden hollows that children would turn into secret worlds. Summer days when a three foot deep river-pool would become the centre of the universe. That was my Ballycroy when I was a child.

It was a wondrous place, full of childrens wishes a conveyor belt of our dreams. Some dreams never came true but somehow, we never minded. There was little money, we were all in the same position. financially poor, but, our parents scrimped and saved to make ends meet and we never felt poor. There was no plethora of new cars in those days, no people carriers. If a family was lucky enough to have a car it would not be 2nd hand, but 3rd or 4th hand and it would be driven until it stopped for good. Rust was an everpresent inhabitant and if the windows jammed, as they invariably did, we could always look out through the holes created by the rust! Cars came and went and Summers put in the odd appearance but there was one enduring institution on the roads of Ballycroy and that was Charlie Healy's big yellow School Bus. Charlies Bus wasn't just a vehicle which transported children to centres of education. It was an integral part of Ballycroy life. Long before I ever took a seat on the bus I watched it cross the horizon evening after evening. As it passed in a cloud of blue smoke, people would say 'there goes charlie' and a generation of children grew up thinking that the big rattling contraption was a namesake of a certain castlebar-born Taoiseach!

Time slipped by and every September would see a new batch of nervous pupils climb up the well worn steps of the bus. Their first few days were filled with nerves and trepidation. New surroundings, new people, leaving behind the comfort of the local National School to travel 20 or 25 miles to a school populated by hundreds of strangers. It was a frightening experience but once those first days passed, life became bearable. The bus had its own 'class structure', first years generally sat up top, 'cool dudes' (who really werent cool at all) always sat in the back seat eyeing up the 'talent'! The 'cool' girls (only slightly cool!) would sit as close to the back as possible. They would throw pseudo-angry glances back at the dudes. Everyone else sat in the middle, except for three girls who would sit up beside Charlie on a seat over the engine. They were 'ice-maidens' who would always try to remove themselves from the 'immature rabble' behind them. The most horrendous punishment Charlie could inflict on a cool dude was to make him sit up near the ice-maidens 'The pain of it' Among the young girls of the time there was a great facination with Chris de Burgh and Simon & Garfunkel. In one corner of the bus 'a spaceman came travelling' would start up. The more discerning types would try their hand at 'the boxer' but all efforts of harmony were usually drowned in a sea of abuse. In the back seat there were only two Topics of conversation - Sport and Girls - it was difficult to know which was the more important but both were discussed at length. We were all experts. The dudes down the back suddenly mellowed and became friendly with the opposite sex. Discos in Geesala and Bangor were awaited with anticipation. As time passed the 'palm court' entered the equation. Many monday mornings would see youths carry heavy, broken hearts on to the bus but by evening, they had miraculously mended. Others in the throes of 'young love' couldnt wipe the smiles off their faces or even manage to eat lunch as Charlie carried them down the road of life. Youths who had entered as nervous firstyears grew in stature and confidence as Charlie drove on and on. Exams came and went, great college football teams won and lost. Songs were sung and all the time we were getting nearer and nearer to the moment that our Bus days would be over. The Day finally arrived, without warning, jumping out of the haze of the Leaving Cert and suddenly the Bus was gone and so was Charlie, driving off into a Belmullet Sunset. It was only then that we came to realise that we have never gotten to know Charlie. He had carried us to school for years, Ballycroy's most precious cargo - it's youth and we had hardly ever even spoken to him. He was gone in a cloud of blue smoke, readying himself for a new batch of kids who would enter the Yellow bus as quiet, nervous children and leave it as loud confident youths. Charlie Healy, a silent, steady man, so much a part of Ballycroy lives.

BALLYCROY MIDDAY CLUB

Ballycroy Midday Club, which meets every Friday commenced in December 2000. The Club caters for the over 50's in Ballycroy and is organised weekly by Geraldine Cummins (resource officer) with lots of help from the F.A.S Community Employment Scheme. The Team which by now runs like a 'well oiled machine' and with great good humour consists of Geraldine Cummins, Breege Grealis (F.a.s. Supervisor), Dolly Murray, Caroline Cafferkey, Bernadette Hough, Bridie Kilbane, Kathleen Ann McHugh and Betty McManamon. Friday mornings see Dermot Nicholas' Bus heading out to travel the villages collecting those who wish to gather in the Community Centre. Caint, Craic and good food is enjoyed by all each week, sometimes followed by a card game. Father Eddie Rogan might even be persuaded to entertain with excellent guitar playing and beautiful singing. Mass is celebrated monthly lending a unique spirituality and beauty to the gathering. With continued support from the more senior members of Ballycroy Community it is hoped that the Midday Club will continue to thrive and grow for a long time to come.

BALLYCROY COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT SCHEME

Returning visitors to the Church of the Holy Family will be sure to notice how the interior and exterior have been greatly enhanced by the Trojan work of the local Community Employment Scheme Workers with Breege Grealis, Supervisor. With great attention to detail each pew in the church has been restored and repaired and one can only marvel at the work entailed in doing this job which is also reflected in the Stations of The Cross which gleam cleanly on the freshly painted walls. A quiet ten minutes at any time of the day in such beauty goes a long way towards refreshing the spirit and replenishing flagging energy in busy lives. Outside in the Church grounds flowers and trees have been planted with care to ease the eye as the community enters the churchyard. Village Enhancement extends down to the main road with new footpaths and extra lighting. During the Foot and Mouth crisis Ballycroy C.E. cheme were instantly diligent in providing disinfectant mats around the Hall, road and Church. The floor in the Community Centre has been beautifully replaced. Congratulations to Breege and her Team for their continuing good work in the local Community.

BALLYCROY COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT LOTTO

Having worked extremely hard over along period of time the Ballycroy Community Council with input from the wider community, have produced a very comprehensive Development Plan. In order to implement this plan funds need to be raised and to this end a local lotto has commenced. Tickets are sold weekly and the draw takes place each Sunday night at Clearys. This has been very well supported by the people of Ballycroy and its continued success is due to the unstinting work of the Community Council members. Funds raised in this manner will be used to develop Tourism, Local Resources, Youth Activities, Reviving and encouraging Local Craftwork and in general developing the wonderful assets which abound in Ballycroy.

LEGION OF MARY BY MARY GALLAGHER

In November last year, the Legion of Mary was set up in Ballycroy, with the help of two members from the Belmullet branch of the Legion, Bridie Divers and Paddy McManemon. Bridie and Paddy came to several of the early meetings of our Ballycroy branch to give us encouragement and guidance. The Ballycroy legionaries are very grateful to them. We now have si xactive members in the Praesidium. These are Mary Gallagher (President), Bridgie Clary, (Vice President), Mary Cafferkey, (Secretary), Bernadette Hough (Treasurer), Margaret Gaughan and Mary Murray. The Spiritual Director is Fr. Eddie Rogan. We named our Branch 'Our Lady, Mother of the Holy Family Praesidiu' after our Parish Church in Ballycroy. Our group meets weekly on Monday nights at 9pm.

BALLYCROY WOMENS’ GROUP

This year promises to be yet another productive year for the women of Ballycroy with Personal Development, Gardening, Cooking & Baking, Craft work and much more. The Group continues to meet each Wednesday evening at 8.30pm.

BALLYCROY TUG-OF-WAR

One of the oldest and most successful clubs in Ballycroy had another rewarding year. Since its formation it has almost never come home after a season without some silver. This year is no exception and you may read about this in depth in the forthcoming magazine. The Tug-of-War Club is seeking sponsorship for a new kit and for equipment. Your generous support would be greatly appreciated.

BADMINTON

Badminton takes place every Thursday night in the Community Centre. It is a game where young and old can compete and we have lots of fun. All are welcome to play and beginners are always welcome.

SET DANCING BY PAT GALLAGHER

Set Dancing takes place every Tuesday night in the Community Centre in Ballycroy from October until March. New members are always welcome. Music and Dancing are of course, always a pleasant and enjoyable way to spend an evening. We also have Strawboys in the Parish and we perform at weddings, parties and other special occasions..We hope to be able to attend the Ballycroy Reunion in 2003. For information please

FANCY A BOTTLE OF SOMETHING? BY VERONICA QUINN CONWAY

A bottle of Guinness, a bottle of Wine, a can of cola. Once you have enjoyed your favourite tipple, you may bring your bottles to the new Ballycroy recycling centre. It is situated to the right of the Church grounds. There are four containers where green, brown, clear glass and beverage cans can be recycled. This is one of the projects which the Village Enhancement Group have been working on, with the support of Mayo County Council. The Council Educational Officer will promote recycling by visiting Drumslide, Dromgallagh and Shranamanragh National schools. Another recycling initiative is the introduction of Composting Bins. This is an excellent and organic way to dispose of tea leaves, vegetable peelings, newspaper and grass cuttings. The County Council have agreed a reduced rate and delivery of compost bins to Ballycroy. Other projects include developing the Green area in front of the Houses in the Village and setting up a playground in front of the Community Centre

BALLYCROY’S BOXING SUCCESS

History was made on Saturday 21st April in the National Stadium in Dublin when two Ballycroy schoolboys appeared in the Irish Boxing Finals. Anthony Lynch and Shane Nicholas, both from Crosshill, Ballycroy, representing St. Anne's Boxing Club, Westport, had performed brilliantly to reach the finals. Anthony won a silver medal on the day, equaling the feat of the legendary Frankie Cormack in the early 1980's. Minutes later the course of History changed forever when Shane entered the ring and claimed Balycroy's first ever Title, defeating Fermoy's Brian McDonagh by sixteen points to three. That night, amid emotional scenes at Westport Train Station, St. Anne's Boxing Club Officials showered praise on the Boxers and their parents. Later, with Bonfires blazing on the plains of Ballycroy Shane and Anthony brought their medals home to scenes of great joy. 21st of April 2001 will always hold special memories for Anthony, Shane and all involved in their Success.

NAIONRA BAILE CHRUAICH

Ta na paisti ag caint Gaeilge aris i Baile Chruaich! An Irish Speaking Playschool, Naionra, opened in Ballycroy this September. Grace Grealis, Ballygaravaun and Anne Murray, Drumslide recently opened the Doors of Shranamonragh School to the 2 - 5 year old children of Ballycroy. A Playschool with a difference in modern Ballycroy echoes with the sounds of 'Dia Dhuit' and 'Slan' as the smaller and younger inhabitants pack up their backpacks and lunchboxes to enjoy school through Irish. The school is attended by 12 children. Perhaps we shall yet see a revival of the spoken Irish in Ballycroy and maybe earn our place ar ais sa Ghaeltacht.

BIRTHS

A resounding Ballycroy Community welcome to: Ann-Margaret Togher, Creggane - born 21st November 2000; Sarah Marie Murphy, Glencar, Sligo - born 30 Nov. 2000, Lauren-Jane McManemon, Shean - born 13th Feb. 2001, Patrick-Lee McDowell, Knockmoyleen - born 17th March 2001, Sorcha Sweeney, Innisbiggle - born 30th May 2001, Adrian Martin Cafferkey, Castlehill - born 16th June 2001 and Sara-Margaret Madden, Castlebar - born 2nd July 2001. May each of you grow with many good memories of 'wonder years' and times spent in Ballycroy.

MARRIAGES

Congratulations on their marriage to: Eamon McGovern, Irvinestown, Fermanagh & Bridget Grealis, Ballygaravaun - 5th July 2001, Sheila Conway, Fahy & Jamie T. Herron, Florida - 1st August 2001, Mary Gallagher, Bunmore & Edward O'Connor, Castlerea - 1st September 2001 and Valerie Grealis, Ballygaravaun & Anthony Calvey, Ballycroy - 21st September 2001. May you have many happy times together.

DEATH NOTICES

Condolances and Prayers to the families of: Michael Conway Tallagh who died - 19th Oct. 2000, Katie Hughie Leneghan, Doona - 26th November 2000, Annie Deane, Doona - 25th December 2000, Martin-Anthony Ginty, Knockmoyleen (Sussex) - 31st Dec. 2000, Dom Ginty, Tallagh (England) - 5th January 2001, Katie Cafferkey, Castlehill - 9th January 2001, Annie Cafferkey, Tallagh (Swinford) - 23rd Jan. 2001, Patrick McManamon, Dooriel - 20th Feb. 2001, Patrick Hopkins Doona(New York) - 27th Feb 2001, Anthony Lenehan, Doona(Westport) - 4th March 2001, Hannah Conway Gortbrack - 30th May 2001, John O'Malley, Claggan (England), 5th Feb. 2001, Mary Ginty, Castlehill(Dooriel) - 26th July 2001, Patrick Corrigan Luton(Doona) 5th Sept. 2001, Tommy Conway, Doona - 28th Aug. 2001. Bridie Leneghan, Tarsaghan - 5th September. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed Rest in Peace. The following is a poem by Geraldine Cummins (Dooriel) about the 11th of September atrocity in the United States

May we weep for those

Who,

Tapped Computers, Served Food, were

Pleasant Tour Guides

For Lost Brothers, Mother

Fathers, Sons & Daughters

For Evil flourishing in an

Unsuspecting world

For the dead who spoke

Through Mobile Phones

Last Messages of Love and Comfort

For those left behind in the

Stupefied guilt of the living-

May we Hope to finally

Learn

The Sanctity of Unity of Man

Retrieve unfailing spirit

Of Love -

May the voice of man speak

Of God and Good

Of endless forgiveness

Endless renewal -

In the face of unspeakable

Horror

Let us weep in healing grief

But let us find our Joy

In the newfound Unity of Spirit