Good things happen in Drimoleague, too!


The late Pete McCarthy – author of “McCarthy’s Bar” — helped put Drimoleague, my native place, on the contemporary map even if he didn’t have much to say about it!

“It is off the tourist path and I don’t think that I will be spoiling it by mentioning it, as there is nothing there for tourists to see. I started going there as a child, to spend summers with my mother’s relatives at a small family farm called Butlersgift.

I have a classic childhood memory of faultless summers there. I don’t remember it ever raining. Back then it was truly a farm straight from a children’s story book – though today it has changed a lot and my cousin, who now farms it, spends most of his time doing EU paperwork.”

I went to school with some of Pete’s cousins from Butlersgift and they are fine people. I was thinking back to those days the other day when I heard the outcome of a parish meeting in Drimoleague which was held last week to plan for a major refurbishment of the parish church of All Saints.

Sadly, before Pete, Drimoleague was on the map of news makers because of an unsaintly episode that made history.

A school strike which began over the appointment of a new school principal in Drimoleague began in 1976 and ended in 1982.

The six-year strike had multiple layers and many sides to it. At its core was division between on one side: the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), local teachers, the union’s local rep. Jimmy Collins who was an applicant for the post, and a section of the local parents and of the community; on the other side: the school manager Fr John Crowley, the appointed teacher Nicholas McCarthy, and another section of parents and of the community.

The strike ended officially in 1982 but legal actions continued until about 1997. However, perhaps more significantly, the effects of the strike in the community were widespread and lasting.

The lasting effects were demonstrated when RTE TV’s Scannal programme went to try to open up a discussion about it 25 years later in December 2007. Locals turned away from the camera and the programme recycled old footage.

But there is a healing happening. Last week’s meeting included a presentation by the same Jimmy Collins, now retired from teaching and giving sterling service as chair of the parish finance committee. His task last week was to brief the assembled parishioners on proposals to fix several problems in the fabric of the 53-year-old church. It involves a building programme covering several months and about a half a million euro. Parishioners debated the options and discussed the positives and the negatives. Included in the voices heard was a strong endorsement of the proposal that Jimmy Collins had outlined — the endorsement came from the principal of the boys’ school, Nicholas McCarthy.

Such moments won’t make national news, but they should.

Lasting peace comes slowly dripping, though we wish it were a flood.

So, perhaps all in McCarthy’s Bar, on Main St., should tonight raise a glass — because Drimoleague deserves to be on the map.

Main Street, Drimoleague, as seen in an old postcard.

Main Street, Drimoleague, as seen in an old postcard.

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