02 Jul 2022

Then & Now: Taking the road less travelled

Then & Now: Taking the road less travelled

The Holiday family with Capt Holiday (standing right) with which is reputed to be the first car to arrive in Limerick

TRAFFIC CONGESTION through Adare, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale has been a talking point for many years and looks like remaining so for many more years. Traffic is especially heavy on bank holiday weekends with people travelling to see the beauty spots in Kerry on Fridays and returning on Mondays.
The tailbacks are getting worse year on year with more vehicles using the roads and more accidents nationally occurring, especially over the past June weekend. Plans to bypass the three above have been discussed, put on display, agreed, shelved and delayed. It is a major operation to bypass any town or village, affecting people ,businesses and the costs keep rising.
The town of Rathkeale and Croagh village were bypassed back in 1986 and 1992 and the new road lessened the journey time but at a cost with a lot of lives being lost since it opened.
Patrickswell has also being bypassed along the N21 which is a primary road. Over time people forget driving through the bypassed towns and villages and welcome the network of motorways and bypasses around the country. The new roads are faster and bottlenecks going through many famous towns are no longer clogged with heavy traffic.
My travel on motorways is limited due to my location but I find them characterless and boring in comparison to the network of rural roads of time past. There are no landmarks to point out only junction and exit signs and it can be dismal travelling if the journey is long. The vegetation on both sides of the road is the only relief and if a fuel, toilet or food stop is required one has to exit the motorway to find a premises.

When I started driving a motorcar over 40 years ago it was a different Ireland and a more interesting one for the traveller. The pace of life was slower, and people had more time to converse and enjoy the delights around every corner of the road. The speed was slower as cars were built for durability and not as updated as nowadays. No SAT navigation or mobile phones to guide you and a scarcity of signposts when you came to a crossroad.
Getting lost in the rural roads nearly always turned into an adventure with plenty of people working outdoors along the roads, who were only too willing to engage in conversation and give directions.
Travelling was very educational with signposts having the place names in both Irish and English. They told us where we were and where we came from by the name on the sign. Going on a long trip you took a map and read it, instead of listening to it at present. The occupants were more patient as the journey was more interesting and sometimes turned out to be like a school lesson with subjects like geography, history, Irish and English all discussed.
It was the era of using a choke to start a car and dirty petrol was common in some petrol pumps. All towns, villages and even houses at crossroads had petrol and diesel pumps, and the breakfast roll had not been invented.
The owners or a young boy came out and put the petrol into the tank for you. The suppliers of the fuel included Maxol, Burmah, Texaco, etc, and a slogan at the time said: put a tiger in your tank.
Stamps were given out in exchange for gifts by some fuel companies to boost sales. St Christopher medals were attached to the dashboard with a magnet, and a nodding dog or other toys got were placed on the back window of the car.
You stopped for a break to be fed in an old fashioned pub or restaurant and were made very welcome. The drink and food on offer was satisfactory and you received good value for your money.
The servers were obliging with their information if directions to a non signposted site was required. It can sadden a person to see so many of these pubs all along the villages and towns of the countryside closed and decaying at present.
They were mainly family run and provided a safe haven to the weary traveller or local residents. Many were forced to close when the motorways and bypasses destroyed their businesses. The plazas and junction stops that replaced them on the motorways seem to be all business and less welcoming.
A group of people I knew would travel by car to many events such as matches, drama, fairs, and historical events around the county. They would discuss the history of each town and village they passed through, and one member would often sing a verse of a song associated with it. The following are verses from some of their travels.
If I was at home in Lackamore my pen I'd take and write,
The thought lies in my bosom in Mary I take delight,
It was in her father's garden to manhood's power I grew,
When first I came to court that dame, called Mary from Murroe.

Now, rise up Mother Erin and always be of cheer,
You'll never die while at your side there stand such Volunteers,
From Dingle Bay to Garryowen the cheers will echo long,
Of the rescue of Sean Hogan at the Station of Knocklong.

Oh, I will praise those happy days, when in my youth and bloom,
I hinted on the mountain side by Cappamore and Doon,
Through Castlegarde and Castletown, all those places I do well know,
And through Gurtavalla's Moore'y land where the Mulcair Rover flows.

His name was O'Leary, a man hard and mean,
With the face of a miser, mangy and lean,
I was soon made aware of the fool I had been,
To hire with the Galbally farmer.

From Galtee More into Rathmore, the mountains you can see,
Tower proudly high to the southern sky, a cuisle geal mo chroide,
Knocklong, Kilmallock, sweet Bruree and likewise Charleville,
You can view them all from the schoolhouse wall at the top of Dromin Hill.
Oh, the milk it was scarce, and the strippers( cow still milking) were dear,
At the fair of Ballylanders a few did appear,
There were buyers from Elton and Hospital too,
And they all made a bid for the old cow from Glenroe.
As luck would have it, thanks to the motorways, it is now easier than before to take the old roads by branching off and the signposts are a little better but could be further improved. People travelling to weddings or funerals can still have trouble finding the rural venues if an Eircode is not provided. Roadside signs pointing the way to the wedding are a great help and while one has a tongue they can stop and ask for directions. Motorways are there for a good reason but if I can I like to take the road less travelled as it nearly always turns out to be more interesting.

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