Here is a post I’ve wanted to write since the beginning of the blog, a tour of the village I grew up in, Rooskey Co. Roscommon.
For those of you that mightn’t know, I come from a small village in rural Ireland called Rooskey. It’s in Co. Roscommon in the Midlands, situated at the very heart of the island of Ireland. Growing up, I’m not sure if I was really appreciative about growing up in rural Ireland. I used to feel stuck, my friends weren’t close, no public transports, I never learned how to drive- I guess in a sense I was pretty stuck. But when I moved to Dublin for college- not straight away- but gradually I gained an appreciation for Rooskey. I’m glad that I can call it home.
When I was younger and someone called to your house there were two things to do:
1) Walk to the shop. 2) Walk down the locks.
Both were in the same direction, so I’m going to take you on that walk from the Church down to the shop, and alongside the river Shannon.
Ok- I actually had to Google the name of this one. But this is Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. It’s the same name as the primary school right beside it. I went to school here and made my Communion in this Church. Making your first holy communion is a milestone in most Irish kid’s lives and they tend to do it whether their family are religious or not. Usually you might have a special family meal afterwards and some lucky kids got a bouncy castle for the day. It almost a part of Irish culture at this stage, but things are changing.
I love the Cherry blossoms here. One of the trees was planted by Albert Reynolds, a former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland who was born here.
Rooskey Community Centre
This to me is known as “The old school”- although I’m too young to remember when it was used for this purpose. After serving it’s life as a primary school until the newer one opened it became a community centre with everything from first-aid courses to painting classes. I used to go to an after school club here and art lessons.
There is a village celebration called the Rooskey Heritage Festival when the village becomes buzzing with excitement and usually there is a temporary stage put up and live music happens here.
This one is pretty self explanatory a post office. Buy stamps, save money, send parcels.
Church of Ireland Graveyard
This is the old graveyard. When I was growing up it was completely abandoned with huge trees and bushes that had completely taken over. Rooskey Town and Development recently began clearing it out to turn it into a memorial garden. A plaque on the wall says that it was the site of a Church of Ireland Cemetery and Church built in 1813 and was a place of worship until the 19th century. It was demolished in the 1950’s.
The Old Canal
The old canal used to be used to navigate through the village to the North Shannon before the ‘new’ bridge was finished. It’s mostly over grown now. If you were driving through the village you mightn’t even notice you were driving over a bridge.
Old Cloudland Dancehall
This was an old dance hall and was closed long before my time. But you’ll often hear about the huge dances that used to be organised here. Called the Cloudland, it was built by Jim and Albert Reynolds and opened in 1959. According to Irish-Showbands.com it was “one of the important ballrooms of the show band era.” Many dancehalls from this era were demolished, so it’s great that this one is still standing.
Tegi’s Tea Room
This is the latest addition to Rooskey and I am so grateful for it. As I said we used to just walk from one place to another for entertainment- I would have LOVED a tea room when I was growing up here. And Tegi’s is great, there’s loads cakes, sandwiches and soups along with great tea and coffees. It’s also great as it means tourists from the boats on the Shannon can stop and get to enjoy the village. It is so cute on the inside. It’s right across from the only shop in the village and the chipper.
Here we are, Rooskey’s Eiffel Tower. Our village emblem that bridges county Roscommon to county Leitrim. There was an old engraving on it that was barely legible until some of the Rooskey Heritage Festival committee got it repainted to make it more visible. It outlines that the bridge was built by the “Commissioners Improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon.”
There is also a plaque recognising that Irish revolutionary Bridie Clyne (1898-1971) who was a member of Cumann na Mban was born here. It was put up as part of the 1916 Relatives Centenary Initiative.
The most talked about building in Rooskey. It used to be central to the community, hotel, bar, restaurant and a huge function space used for events. It closed down years ago, I barely remember the restaurant being open. And there is non-stop rumours of it re-opening. I think it’s because people see it as a way to bring tourism to the village and more life to the community, they’re wishing it to open but there are so many things Rooskey has going for it. The Shannon, its natural beauty and the community spirit in things like the Tidy Towns Committee and Rooskey Heritage Festival. From fishing to festivals, this little village has a lot to offer.
I couldn’t mention the hotel without talking about the elephant in the room. Rooskey was centre of a scandal following an arson attack on the hotel. It had been earmarked to be made into a direct provision centre, which is Ireland’s system of housing asylum seekers and during it’s renovations it was subject to an attack twice. This was a hard time for the village as it was featured for all the wrong reasons in national news and attracting alt-right bigots to use the attack to fan the flames of racist rhetoric. I was really disappointed this happened in my home town. But I know this doesn’t represent the people of Rooskey.
I would have done anything to have a playground when I was a kid in Rooskey. I remember once there was a rumour that a playground was being built in school over Summer, but it turned out they just painted some hopscotch on the ground. You can imagine my disappointment. The playground is called “Tir na Nog” which references an Irish myth about a land where people never grow old. It great to see to see it in the village- even if I’m resentful it wasn’t built ten years earlier.
The Shannon is the longest river in Ireland at 360km long. It flows through eleven different counties and in Rooskey it separates Roscommon from Leitrim. I used to go kayaking a lot on the river and Lough Boderg a lake it flows through. Lot’s of people hire cruisers to take trips along the river.
Once there was a stag party all dressed as Marge Simpson that got their cruiser stuck sideways along the bridge and a rope caught on the propellor. My brother helped them get rid of the rope, but their boat was seriously damaged. I felt bad for them, but couldn’t help laughing at the group of Marge Simpson’s stranded on their boat.
Here we are, arrived at the locks. This allows boats to move from one part of the river where the water is higher than the other side. It’s also just the cutest little area. We used to swim here on Summer days, hanging for hours and bask in the sun. It’s always really peaceful with the sound of running water. My brother used to go here to fish for Pike.
And that concludes the short tour of Rooskey! Writing this I realised there is actually so much to share and so much to be proud about my little village. It’s a long way from Rabat or Paris, but it’s home. I could write a dozen more posts going into the history here. But for now, I’ll leave it at this. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.
Tell me some of your favourite things about your hometown on Instagram!
Until next time,
-The Student Explorer