HANDS UP IF YOU LOVE CASTLEBAR Castlebar’s Tourism Officer Michael Baynes pictured at the Linenhall Arts Centre’s 25th anniversary celebrations in 2015. Pic: Alison Laredo
As soon as I wake, I’m up. It’s usually no later than 7am. The kids are big now – Tara is 23 and working in Germany and Tom is in Leaving Cert in St Gerald’s. When they were younger I’d get their school lunches ready and bring them to school.
Now Tom heads away to school at around 8.30am himself and I get ready then for my day and leave around 9am for work on Linenhall Street.
Myself and my wife Colette live in The Fairways. I lived all my life on Main Street in Castlebar, above the family business, until we got married and moved to The Fairways, down by NCF.
My grandfather set up business on Main Street in 1900 as James Baynes Boot Merchant and General Draper. It evolved then to the Tweed Centre but I took the decision to close in 2009. My time was up and I wanted a new challenge.
I finished my Leaving Cert in 1985 and went straight into the business then but always wanted to go into further education. So in 2009 I closed the business and I finally went to college and did a Business degree in GMIT in Galway and Castlebar. Education is certainly wasted on the youth! In my final year I was awarded Student of the Year which I was very pleased with. I’ve recently resumed my role as Tourism Officer for Castlebar. Funding was not available for the role last year so I am back here now getting things going again. I had been in the role from 2014 to 2017, working effectively for the Chamber of Commerce. Now the role is under the management of the wider Visit Castlebar group, including Mayo County Council, who fund the bulk of it, plus a lot of other local groups and organisations.
I see it as a vital role. We’ve a very busy office here beside the Linenhall Arts Centre and we get a lot of footfall, a lot of people into us looking for information.
It’s not just the town of Castlebar we promote, it is the whole Castlebar Municipal District as it is they who fund the role. So anyone who is running any event or festival anywhere in the Municipal District can come to us for support and assistance. We’d be delighted to see them.
I’d see Castlebar as a hub in the county. If you think of all the places that are well within one hour’s drive from Castlebar, there’s some reach for tourism from the Greenway, the Wild Atlantic Way, Turlough House, Titanic Park in Lahardane, Ballintubber Abbey, Moorehall, the lakes of South Mayo and so much more.
Right beside our office here is the Linenhall Cafe so it becomes a de facto meeting room for us and I’d have lunch here too. I’d have a particular fondness for their Breakfast Sandwich. It might not be great on the figure but it is delicious.
The office is open here from 9am to 5pm but it’s not a nine to five role. With events on at weekends, you would be frequently involved then and also if people cannot meet you to discuss their plan or project during office hours, you would arrange to meet them in the evenings or at weekends.
There are various different meetings then in the evenings that you could be at. This week would have involved a meeting of the Castlebar Community Alert group, for instance.
I believe there are so many fantastic and talented and creative people in every community and that if you surround yourself with enough positive people, anything can be done. The community group Love Castlebar is an example of that.
I’m also currently studying a part-time Level 9 Digital Media and Marketing course in GMIT Castlebar. It complements my role as Tourism Officer perfectly. We don’t have a huge marketing budget so being able to use social media to get the word out is vital. Visit Castlebar is a social media account we’ve set up to promote the town and all that’s happening here.
In my free time in the evenings I like to do a lot of walking. I could have died two years ago with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder. I was in hospital for almost three months recovering and part of the ongoing recovery is the recommendation to do as much walking as possible.
I’d be very much into local politics, especially around election time. It’s like an All-Ireland, predicting how it might go and watching the count.
I’m not a massive sports fan but I follow Mayo football in a big way. It’s also worth saying Mayo football is a great boost to the town from a tourism point of view. Think of all the fans from Roscommon, Cavan and Galway who came here for the league games in recent weeks and a good few of them stayed the night. And there is huge potential for growth in sports tourism in and around Castlebar with all the great facilities and events we have here.
In conversation with Edwin McGreal
Name: Michael Baynes
Occupation: Tourism Officer
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Talk all day about how great it is that money is no object.
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I studied card magic at La Gran Escuela de Magia Ana Tamariz in Madrid.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Marinated pig’s ear served with snails.
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
In front of my own fire surrounded by family.
What makes you angry?
People telling me things can’t be done without putting on a hi-vis and getting stuck in themselves.
Name three things that are always in your fridge?
A green pepper and red pepper and a yellow pepper.
What makes you nervous?
Injury time in an All Ireland Final.
Favourite TV show?
The original Hawaii Five-0.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve met?
Éamon De Valera.
Orlando when our children were small.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
The long summers.
What’s your most prized possession?
My computer My wife!
Best advice you ever got?
“The jumper is not sold until the money is in the till.” (From my father advising me to take nothing for granted until you are 100 percent sure).
Describe yourself in three words?
Loyal, passionate, conscientious.
How do you unwind?
A couple of pints and discussions about the future of Mayo football and the state of politics in Castlebar Municipal.