The older you get the more you search for your roots. My great-grandmother, Anne Gallagher, (on my mother’s side) came from Dookinella, Achill. She died in 1933, three months after her husband, Willie Malone from High Street, Westport, a noted wheelwright.
Among their children were my grandmother Mary and her sister Sal. Both were national school teachers. Mary taught in Doire Mhóir, where she met and married Michael Thady Hastings (mother’s parents). Sal never married but moved to Achill and taught in Dookinella National School, slipping back to her mother’s home place.
Sal Malone was a keen admirer of the republican Fr Manus Sweeney. He was the Newport-raised Dookinella-native who studied in France, supported the 1798 Rebellion and went on the run following the defeat of the Irish/French army. Captured in Achill, he was hanged in Newport on 8 June 1799 and buried in Burrishoole Abbey.
Candelabra used by Fr Manus when saying Mass are still held by an Achill family. They are used for special celebrations in the parish. Sal Malone donated the sanctuary lamp in Dookinella Church to the parish. The ‘new house’ has long since replaced her mother’s house in Dookinella.
A trip to Dookinella today is certainly a trip back in time. The Dookinella road leads to a viewing point for Minaun Cliffs, St Fionnan’s Well and the Fr Manus Sweeney monument. En route, while the heart might tick in memory mode, the head has to be more present. You could disappear in the potholes on the road! They are legion! A pothole of any shape, sense or form is dangerous enough but the potholes on this road are out of the ordinary. They are Olympian!
Forget about fearing that you might get a puncture. You could lose the whole underside of your car! Unless you are able to wriggle your car from one side to another you are in danger of causing your vehicle serious damage.
When veering right you dare not look left. You are afraid that your car will split in two as you manoeuvre as best you can to avoid the potholes. It really has to be seen to be believed, or rather to be driven on to be felt! It is a rollercoaster, admission is free; you pay to get out!
Councillors and council officials would do well to take a trip from Dookinella Church to the beach. They are charged with the responsibility of maintaining the road. If they have not driven (or been driven) down the road then it is time for them to do so. Those who have the authority and responsibility for the road need to experience it first-hand.
The obvious question is why the Dookinella Road has been allowed to deteriorate so badly. Regardless, now is not the time to look back and start blaming him or her or them or it. Now is the time to resolve what is a serious problem for a local community. If a resolution involves various parties then a roundtable discussion needs to be initiated immediately. If there is a stumbling block then action still needs to be taken.
Compulsory purchase orders are issued when certain projects have to be developed by the council. Why not issue CPO proceedings, if necessary, to ensure that the Dookinella Road can be developed properly and drained correctly. Any improvement would be for the benefit of all the community not just a select few. It needs to be done properly, once and for all. This is not about councillors and officials doing someone a favour but doing their duty and accepting their responsibility.
Councillors and officials need to take a lead on this issue, regardless of the difficulties. There are ingenious Mayo County Council officials who have a great track record of resolving local difficulties to ensure the greater good for all. It has been done before (the Greenway) and needs to be done again, and quickly. Such a move would have the support of the local community who have to risk damaging their vehicles on a daily basis.
Eighty-five years after Anne Gallagher’s death, the road to her home place is unfit for horse and cart.