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The voice of Cong is alive and well

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Fr Paddy Gilligan, pictured here with the Cross of Cong, is one of the many contributors to this year’s issue of Cunga, the Cross community annual parish magazine.
?Fr Paddy Gilligan, pictured here with the Cross of Cong, is one of the many contributors to this year’s issue of Cunga, the Cross community annual parish magazine.?Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

The voice of Cong is alive and well

Willie McHugh

IN 1996 Cong Community Council came up with a notion of publishing a parish magazine. A group was selected and set about their task. At year’s end an editorial committee comprising of Mary Waldron, Marie Buckley, Michael Walsh, Wyndham Little and Colm Kilcoyne unveiled the fruits of their labours.
The first edition of Cunga cost £2.50. It chronicled life’s daily and nocturnal happenings around Cong, Cross and The Neale. There’s a picture of Denise Walsh of Cornamona who was crowned 1996 Cong Festival Queen. Michael Walsh was among a group of Mayo supporters travelling to the replay of that year’s All-Ireland Final between Mayo and Meath, and his account captures the day entirely. Mick Maye told the history of Cong Mills and Marguerite Foy wrote about Cong’s famous landmarks and tourist attractions.
Three Cong youngsters Fiona Boyle, Charlene O’Dowd and Fiona Jennings sent in a short piece titled ‘Cong in Twenty Years’ Time’ and the need for a community centre in the region. The twenty years they looked forward to are almost upon us, and last week the present editorial committee produced the 19th issue of the Cunga Magazine. Colour publishing now means the fine writing is further enhanced by the beautiful portrayals of local photographer Liz Toher. Liz’s camera capturings are the workings of an artist.
And should Charlene or the two Fionas browse on this latest edition, they’ll surely take satisfaction in the story of the opening this year of Cong’s very own community centre, known as ‘The Crossroads’.
It was built on a site donated by the Coillte by way of leaving something to the community after their decision to close Cong Sawmills.
There’s something for everyone in the current Cunga magazine. In the first publishing Mary Gibbons wrote of her decision to take up fishing. This year Dorrie Gibbons decided by way of celebrating her significant birthday she’d hold a fishing competition on Loughs Corrib and Mask and donate the proceeds to Galway Autism Partnership. A photo showing Dorrie presenting a cheque for €4,000 to the charity accompanies her lovely pencilling of the event.
The O’Brien Memorial Hall is one of The Neale’s ‘cannot miss’ sightings as you negotiate the village passing. Claire O’Malley gives readers a history of the hall and of its recent renovations.
It was named after two locals but another O’Brien came the way later and forged another legacy. Surely no theatre in this country produced finer acting talent than Father PV O’Brien did when he honed the acting skills of The Neale Drama Group thespians. From the practising stage of this once musty hall emerged some of the most convincing ‘Sive’s’, ‘Carthalawns’ or ‘Hiker Laceys’ as ever trod the boards in any drama production.
Read if you will also a lovely story by local cleric Paddy Gilligan on the efforts invested by him and a few others in tracing Pake Hynes and reuniting him by phone and letter after almost a lifetime’s absence with his sister Julia Casserly before his passing earlier this year. Ruby (and surely it’s only a pseudonym for some local) has a thoughtful take on modern Irish courting practices. But be warned because you are possibly going to recognise some of your own traits in Ruby’s musings.
And in an article titled ‘Mam’ Cunga Magazine 2014 can proudly boast as nice as a piece of prose as you’ll happen upon in any publication this year. Ann Crowe’s beautiful writing on her mother’s life and times in the village of The Derries outside Cross captivates the reader through the simplicity of its telling. Kathleen Walsh reared thirteen children and recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Ann’s piece is a tribute to her mother, to her family, and the good neighbours that surround her in her hale and hearty life.
Nineteen publishings later and Cunga Magazine keeps doing what it does best. Its pages still essay the everyday story of life’s ordinary enactments around Cong, Cross and The Neale as told by themselves. It’s the lovely sounding voice of an active community.    


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