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Bellaghy development

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A group of people sit under a sign
LEADING THE CHARGE Back row, from left: Eamon Mahon (Director of Willowbrook Builders Ltd), Cllr Aidan Colleary, Cllr Margaret Gormally, Jimmy Devins TD and Tom Mulchrone (Director of Willowbrook Builders Ltd). Front, from left: Ann Meehan, Pat O’Hara, Ann Scott (Moran Auctioneers, Castlebar), Gerry Maloney and Olga Doleckova (O’Rourke Properties, Charlestown), Marketa Kafkova and Peter Gannon (SDS Engineering, Castlebar), John Healy (PRO of Charlestown/Bellaghy Chamber of Commerce) and Senator Eamon Scanlon. Pic: Mick McCormack


Bellaghy set for major revamp

Michael Commins

IT is being hailed as the rebirth of Bellaghy, Charlestown. A new development which gets under way next week looks set to revive the economic fortune of an area that was once a thriving and viable community before it went into serious decline over the past three decades.
Plans for the Willowbrook Shopping Centre were announced at a special gathering in Pat O’Hara’s public house in Bellaghy on Friday afternoon. Behind the venture, which is the biggest of its kind ever undertaken in Bellaghy, is M and M Properties, a company owned by Tom Mulchrone from Newport and Eamon Mahon from Castlebar, a native of Mount Bolus, Co Offaly.
A major supermarket will be the central part of the development which also comprises of five retail units, seven office units, five apartments, and a crèche. The project architect is Marketa Kafrova, a native of the Czech Republic, and a member of the SDS (Structural Design Solutions) company in Foxford with Peter Gannon as director.
Work on the project is expected to commence next week with the demolition of three houses which were the homes in former days of the late Terry Marren, Tommy Duffy and Pat Murtagh. Willowbrook Builders are the contractors for the scheme.

Baby Skeffington
BACKING THE COMMUNITY Baby Skeffington, one of Bellaghy’s oldest residents, pictured at the launch. Pic: Mick McCormack

Local lady Ann Meehan recalls how there were around 17 businesses in Bellaghy back in the 1960s. It was a thriving community in the days before Ireland joined the EU with local family businesses receiving good support from the local hinterland. Today, only O’Hara’s pub is keeping the flag flying on a daily basis in the last part of Sligo before you cross the Mayo border into Charlestown.
“Back then, you had Duffy’s, Marren’s and O’Hara’s, where we are right now, which also had a forge attached for some years. Charlie Stenson had a pub and grocery. Paddy O’Connell had a pub and grocery and sold bag stuff and meal and flour while Barry’s ran a small venture. The Normally family had a grocery, garage and petrol pumps, Colleran’s had a grocery shop, while Fitzgerald’s had a tailoring business and later a hairdressing salon (which still operates at weekends).
“Webb’s had a butcher shop in Bellaghy, McGuinn’s was a grocery store while Weaver’s operated a grocery and a small dance hall. Tom Parsons had a pub and a clog factory, while Gavigan’s (later known as Fitzmaurice’s) was a popular drapery store and general grocer. And, of course, there was Murphy’s who operated one of the biggest businesses in Bellaghy going back to the 1930s and ‘40s,” said Ann Meehan.
Eamon Walsh who lives in Lowpark, Charlestown, but who was born ‘on the other side’ of the border in Bellaghy, and who won an All-Ireland minor medal with Mayo in 1953 and later played senior football with both Mayo and Sligo, said an occasion like this was both a chance to look back with affection on the many great people they had known in Bellaghy in times gone by and look forward with anticipation to the future.
“Bellaghy was full of life in former times. Murphy’s was the big business in earlier years. They were egglers and distributed eggs from this region all over Ireland on the rail network. John was their only son and he was the man who wrote the famous Country Boy play.
“Parsons’ employed a good few workers in their clog factory. They were the main suppliers of clogs to the Guinness brewery in Dublin for many years and were the last clog factory in Ireland. Tom’s grandson, also Tom, played minor football with Mayo last year.
“Jimmy Whittington was a fish monger and went around to all the fairs and ran a successful business for years and years. Jimmy would go to Killybegs to have the freshest fish for his many clients. He was a man who worked many a long day and who was enormously well-respected wherever he went.
“Roderick O’Connor, State Solicitor for Sligo, lived here in Bellaghy. He was a very modest man and used to drink most nights of the week with the locals in his brother’s bar, Paddy O’Connor’s. His son Rory is a well-known solicitor in Castlebar. It was a lovely homely community here in Bellaghy, the grandest of people,” said Eamon.
Baby Skeffington, who has lived all her life in Bellaghy, was present for the launch ceremony in O’Hara’s. She was accompanied by her daughter Bernie, who was down from Dublin, and granddaughter Stacey Walsh who is now a member of the teaching staff in Charlestown Secondary School. “I have seen huge changes in Bellaghy over the years with so many of the businesses closing down. This should bring a lot of life back to the area,” said Baby.
Padraig and Mary O’Hara laid on a lovely reception which was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.