Tuesday, April 28, 2020




Scenes from Ballyforan fair on the green, where horses grow strong from the bean-rich soil.


By Kevin Egan

As any parents of young children can testify at the moment, it’s not easy keep the small ones entertained while everyone is under lockdown. Rural dwellers usually have the advantage of a little bit of space and the recent spate of good weather has been a Godsend, but even so, recent studies have shown that up to 42% of the waking hours** of any child aged from two to seven is spent asking questions, many of them with a mouthful of cereal to make them even ,more difficult to comprehend.

Short answers only guarantee lots more follow-on questions, so to avoid that scenario, we suggest sitting down with anyone in your house under four feet tall and sharing with them this wonderful resource – the Alternative Tour Guide to Roscommon, specifically designed to keep them enthralled with wonderful imagery that will also provide added comedic value in several years’ time, when they find out the truth in no doubt hilarious circumstances.

Today we’ll start with South Roscommon, eventually making our way all across the county.

Monksland: Starting in the south, we begin with Monksland, where it’s compulsory for all primary school students to wear a Monk’s habit as their school uniform, in honour of the area’s proud heritage. Not many people know that the Book of Kells was written here by local monks – they drafted it one afternoon sitting in Kelly’s Café, but the name got changed when nobody brought a “Y” stencil to add the letter to the front.

Kiltoom: It’s well known that in Ireland, towns and villages starting with “Kil- or Cil-“ come from the Irish word Cill, meaning church. Thus Kiltoom got it’s name – the local church was originally built in Tuam, but then the local parishioners painted it red, and the Bishop of Tuam at the time said that he couldn’t say mass a church in the devil’s colour. The people of what is now Kiltoom bought the church, rebuilt it, and used an old roof that was covered in moss to top it off. The subsequent green/red combination is what inspired St. Brigid’s to use those colours.

Curraghboy: In a bid to generate business, a local chipper here used to run a special competition where the fastest runner in the local primary school got to dip their head in the curry sauce and drink as much as they could. For the first five year’s in a row, the race was won by Liam O’Prataí, and by the fifth time he dipped his head in, his skin started to change colour. He became known as “the Curried Boy” from which the village took it’s name. Some say that Liam Ó’Prataí had a chile with the same curried complexion, and that child went on to become President of the United States of America.

Ballyforan: People often wonder why the middle of the village is just a large grass field, instead of a square, or a building. This is because when Jack traded his cow for magic beans, this was the site of the magic beanstalk, right in the middle of this field. Now Roscommon County Council won’t let you build anything less than 100 metres from the spot, in case another beanstalk sprouts up overnight, like the last one. It’s said that even today, in Maureen’s shop, one in every five packets of jelly beans is magic.

Knockcroghery: Most people assume that this village was built around a site where someone knocked over some famous plates, but in actual fact it’s the opposite. The tooth fairy’s older sister, called “Denby” actually spent hundreds of years leaving money under people’s pillows when they left broken plates in there. The idea was that she’d leave the money and the people could buy a new plate. But eventually she had too many broken plates and nowhere to store them, so there was a pile of broken delph just outside the village. The Irish for hill is “Cnoc” so her pile became known as the hill of crockery, and thus Knockcroghery was born. And if you hear anyone say “I’d love Denby in the kitchen” that’s because they want new plates.

** Source: the slow descent into madness that has been the last seven weeks.

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