THE two Redcoat Octagon sentinels are back on duty on the balcony of Westport Town Hall. Many thought they were banished to the pains of history. Some people, hoping for green shoots, pray for another Brexit for the tinpot soldiers. There are claims that the only soldiers in the Town Hall were Free Staters, even if they had bad shots! Their target practice from the top floor against the majesty of Glendenning’s monument was suspect! Bullet marks can still be seen on the column of the Octagon monument.
And no, the blue flags on the Octagon are not Mayo’s final nod to the Dublin football team. Many Covies have to explain to wondering visitors that Westport GAA team sports the same colours, and are festooned as county and provincial champions. County and town team members, Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane, were also recently decorated at The Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars Sports Awards. Long may they run.
Naturally, the weave and wave of the flags caressing the Octagon brought back happy memories to many Covies. “Do you remember when we had the Christmas lights cascading across the Octagon?” “Do I remember? Will I ever forget?” “So why can’t they…?” “Don’t go there. Times have changed, so have people.”
The Christmas trees at the Octagon and the Clock are a bit like the rest of us, losing the hair! Depending on the angle, the bald spots are more or less obvious. Any photographer should concentrate on the ‘best side,’ as they do when having their own photo taken.
La French tree has been put out to pasture. Rather than being mulched it has to be recycled because of its nature. That’s the French for you! The fog of memory will soon cloud over its glory days, as it waited year after year to be joined by its decorative cousins. That was the promise when it made its first appearance – it would be complemented every year by decorations on every street. It never came to pass. That’s why it refused to light up soon after it was bought and new lights had to be installed. Perhaps it died because of broken promises. Will it sing ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ in recycle heaven?
Its Clock replacement is a real stalwart. So unused to decorations and their weight of history, not long after being erected the poor tree began to shudder. When it realised that the twelve days of Christmas only start on December 25, it really took a panic attack! Westport being Westport and Covies being Covies, help was soon at hand. The doctor of mercy applied ‘stitching’ and ‘crutches’ and lo and behold, the tree is as good as new, standing to attention, a welcoming beacon for all the N5 drivers and passengers who face up Bridge Street. It is another sentinel watching the comings and goings of all.
The tree lights on the Mall, Bridge Street, Shop Street and James Street add to the festive season. They even bring light to the darkened trees, of which there are a couple.
Oh that Westport could become a town of light at Christmas! Bright white festive lights could easily make Christmas a true Festival of Light. “Let’s go to Westport to see the lights” would become the norm across the county and further afield. Such day-trippers, in the lead-up to Christmas, would benefit all the community. That way, even in the hollow we are in, Westport would be like a city built on a hilltop.
2016 is slowly disappearing, but not before it graced 1916 with the many centenary commemorations. The Government was not found wanting. The Tricolour has been restored to the people; honour has been restored to our patriot dead and pride has been restored to our collective memory.
Wars still rage, blame still emerges and prayers still incense their way heavenward, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation. The reality is that without Jews, Arabs and Africans the crib is empty.
Beneath Westport Town Hall the Town Crib stands, a testament to faith, hope and love. The manger is at the heart of it all – the word made flesh… in you, in me and in everyone. Beannachtaí na Nollag.