SPECIAL HONOUR Pictured are members of Partry Residents’ Association who received Partry’s second place award in the Litter Free Mile Category at the Mayo County Council Cleaner Community Awards in Belmullet last week. Front, from left: Evelyn Horan, Fr Des Grogan, Cllr Gerry Coyle, Cathaoirleach, Mayo County Council; Tommy Lally and Regina Mulrooney. Back: Gerry Costello, MCC; Cllrs Harry Walsh and Patsy O’Brien; Gabriel Burke, Jim O’Neill, Maura Murphy, Sinead Heaney and Peter Gill, MCC. Pic: Frank Dolan
A community with spirit
SITUATED ON the bustling routeway between Ballinrobe and Castlebar, and nestled between the magnificent lakes of Lough Carra and Mask, is the beautiful village of Partry.
While this specific south Mayo area may not boast of a growing populace, its tight-knit group of inhabitants more than makes up for its relatively small size with community spirit and endeavour.
The thousands of motorists who daily travel through the picturesque hamlet cannot but be aware of the spotless surroundings, beautifully-restored buildings and carefully painted walls, not to mention the rainbow of colours that bursts forth from the manicured seasonal flower beds and shrubs.
Partry is definitely high on the Richter scale of community work. Its Residents’ Association was founded in 1997 in response to the need for a community clean-up operation ahead of the ordination of local curate, Fr Michael Farragher.
While just nine members comprise the hard-working group, their efforts are complemented by unstinting support from the wider community. In 2006, those efforts were rewarded when the south Mayo village scooped three awards – a first in the Local Area Environmental Project 2006, a first in the Litter Action League 2006 and second place in the Litter Free Mile Category, not to mention Best New Entry in the 2006 National Tidy Towns Awards list.
Jim O’Neill, proprietor of the Village Inn, a landmark pub which is instantly recognisable for its traditional thatch roof, is just one of the dedicated Partry Residents’ Association members. He attributes the recent awards to the efforts of the local community.
“The operation begins in March with one massive clean-up and there are monthly clean-ups from then on. There is a huge effort really to keep the place in the shape it is in. Initially, it started out as a small clean-up operation with the help of local people and also those on a FÁS scheme. However, down through the years we took on different projects and we also have the help of those on a rural social scheme,” said Jim.
The actual village of Partry is designated as the land mass between the speeding signs preceding the Village Inn on the Castlebar side and beyond the church at the Ballinrobe end. However, locals do not confine their efforts solely to what lies between the two poles; they also maintain the outer areas impeccably.
Partry’s community spirit is evident to all – walls have been rebuilt and painted, the traditional water pump and well have been restored to their former glory, while flowers and shrubs have been planted and nurtured.
Consistent community pressure has also resulted in local amenities being renovated and upgraded. The local garda station, which was originally built as a Royal Irish Constabulary barracks during the 1920s, was upgraded by the OPW in 2002 and restored to its previous condition.
Partry National School, which was originally built to 1972 but burnt down in February 1991, was rebuilt the following June, thanks to a mammoth fund-raising effort by the local community. The community centre, a hub of rural life, is dedicated, appropriately, to Partry’s most famous son, Monsignor James Horan.
Jim points out that the community takes pride in the history of the village and its beautifully-appointed buildings.
“All of the local amenities, whether it be the church which is in the village since 1844, the national school, the garda station, the community centre or the post office, are steeped in history and are an integral part of village life. It is down to everyone in the community that a huge effort is made to maintain all of the grounds and buildings,” says Jim.
As Jim busies himself in his quaint and homely bar, tending to locals who have returned from a profitable trip to the mart, a glance at the glowing citation which accompanies the Best New Entry to the Tidy Towns Award 2006, sums up the success of this rural village: ‘communities in Ireland are defined by their people, not by their geography …’ That rings true in Partry.