Glory days in Innisfree
SOME days are diamonds. Especially ones when history unspools before us. Cong days that might be otherwise mundane were it not for the spirit of a wonderful community. And a working committee that crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’ leaving nothing to chance.
To organise the unveiling of Mark Rode’s iconic sculpture commemorating the filming of ‘The Quiet Man’ in Cong was a big ask. But Cong Festival Committee nailed it. They are some assembly, and deserving of every accolade going.
Pat Luskin, Sharon Naughton, Helena Byrne, Ray McHugh, Olga Timlin, Robert Scott and their full supporting cast burned gallons of midnight oil getting this right. Paddy Rock too, of course. Paddy’s a Dub so you’ll understand why we’ll go a bit easy on the backslapping, especially with the year that’s in it. Haven’t we given them a handy All-Ireland as it is?
What more do they want.
On state occasions around Cong, Ray McHugh dons tails and tux. He’s the MC and Town Crier when Cong beams on flash and wide lens. But we see him on other days when Cong conducts its business in the valley of the unconcerned. Ray is the man with his sleeves pinned up and him scaling dizzy highs tying the bunting or putting out the traffic cones. He’s Cong’s ‘go for’ man and whenever Cong goes for Ray he’s there. He’s no relation either lest you suspect nepotism or cronyism between the lines.
Pat Luskin is chairman, and Pat has inherited the leadership gene that brings everyone along with him. It’s partly his endearing and gentle manner but also because everyone knows Pat Luskin craves only what’s best for Cong.
This fine body have given Cong a landmark for ever more. It’s community spirit at its finest and Minister of State Michael Ring reiterated that when speaking at the unveiling. It’s about people getting up and doing it for their own place. It’s eschewing negativity and rounding up the Meitheal army instead.
It was a fun weekend in Cong. No wonder Matt Dowd gave a harder welt than normal to his big bass drum as the Balla Pipe Band paraded through the village on Sunday. And hats off to Father Paddy Gilligan too, for it was he donning his hat and humorously wielding his ash plant that plucked the enjoyable chord from the off.
Other threads too stitched nicely into Cong’s finest tapestry. Like the elegant couple with the Irish Wolfhounds. Or Aidan Corless from Tuam and Paddy Filan from Ballina arriving unannounced as the two Michaeleen Flynn’s. Perhaps it was George Gibbons, Cong’s greatest export, fielding a landline call from New York in the village phone box that he and Cong’s Mayor Michael McGrath had just opened.
Here’s a few more strands to yarn with. The new owners of Ashford Castle Bea and Stanley Tollman mingling with the locals for the unveiling.
The Innisfree Ball on Saturday night in Lisloughrey Lodge. Mick Maye, a man on first name terms with every tree in Cong Woods, recalling facing Maureen O’Hara in a Siege of Ennis before the cast departed Cong.
Or the girl from San Francisco getting the dining hall’s full attention as she publicly revealed how her boyfriend surprised her with a birthday trip to Cong. She thought she was going to Los Angeles but she landed in Innisfree. The collective “aaah” could be heard abroad on Inchagoill. One lady elbowed her beau hard in the solar plexus.
The John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara bronze statue beside the church will magnet visitors to Cong from the world over. As Martin Gibbons casually quipped on Sunday afternoon, “Paris has the Eiffel Tower but Cong has the Quiet Man statue.” Wild and whirling words m’lord, but an accurate observation nonetheless.
Cong donned their gladrags and poked their best foot forward last weekend. It was the Sunday the decent people of Innisfree stood up and took their rightful place among the nations of the earth.
A proud community marched into history. We saluted them as they passed.