‘We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.’ Anais Nin
Currently I am in the process of selling my house, which I built 23 years ago in this north Wexford village, called The Ballagh, I was 32 when I moved back to Ireland and subsequently built this house a couple of years later, on the outskirts of the village.
‘Not for a million pound a week would I live there again’, I said, when I left this village at aged 19.
I had first moved to the Ballagh in 1979 when I was 14 years old. Having come from a fairly large city in the UK it was a complete culture shock to me, leaving the hustle and bustle of a city life, my friends, and my independence of hopping on a bus anywhere, practically from outside my front door, for the deafening quiet of rural country living.
The Ballagh was a very sleepy village back then, with a shop which was also a bar attached and outside a petrol pump if you needed to fill your car. There was another pub down the road, a post office a church, a national school and a run-down community centre, with very little activity.
Outside of the post office was the iconic green and cream public phone box and it was my link to the outside world, out beyond the Ballagh. There was no bus service, except for the secondary school bus which passed through, twice a day, once to take us to school and the next to bring us home.
I had been known to miss the bus, on occasion, in the morning, knowing there was no other way to get to school….
Back then I felt totally trapped in this little village and the only way to get anywhere was to stick out my thumb and hitch a lift. This was a complete no no in the city from whence I had come, but here, in the country, it was an acceptable and encouraged part of everyday life.
I would love it when I would go into Wexford Town, 20 minutes away. There was more ‘life’ there down along the main street and the quay front, and the view looking out across the water filled me with joy. There were people, lots of them, just milling around doing ordinary things, shopping, browsing and crowds of kids hanging out. There was a good vibe about the town, and I longed to be a part of it.
Now and in the last 23 years, this little village, had expanded somewhat with new one off houses popping up everywhere and a few new housing estates. The post office completely renovated and expanded to give us a much needed supermarket, but alas the iconic phone box has long gone.
The shop with the bar has also been expanded, well the pub part of it, and it also gained a function room, but lost the petrol pump.
Back in the day, if it was a function room you were after, it was the Un Yoke, down the road, and everyone, from all over, flocked to it
Now that was a great place, and at the time, it was my saviour because every week-end I got to go there and enjoy the hustle and bustle again, dance to the local bands such as Theresa and the Stars or indeed the big bands like Joe Dolan and the Wolfe Tones.
Sadly, it burned down many years ago, but the car park is now used for the very popular Car Boot Sale, on a Sunday morning.
The national school has been extended twice in the last 23 years to accommodate the ever expanding population and the secondary school bus still comes but twice a day.
The Ballagh may be known more specifically for its GAA than anything else as it has produced some great hurling and camogie players over the years, even winning the All Ireland back in 1996, the year before I moved back here. It’s full title of course being Oulart the Ballagh, as our two half parish’s make a whole.
This village is more than GAA however, it has a good community spirit. The new and improved community centre has many uses, from running a boxing club, youth club, active retirement group and a preschool, to name but a few.
We have a lovely forest walk just outside the village at Kilbride and another up Ballyboy Hill. We have cool named roads to walk such as the Fairy Lane and Tea Pot lane. But do not dare to walk the Fairy Lane past midnight or you will be stuck there until Sunrise! After that enjoy the fairy lane walk to the village and back and your steps for the day will be covered.
Before Covid put a halt to things, our annual field day would be held in the school grounds and is always a winner and great day to be had by all, young and old, with the whole community coming together to donate, participate and confabulate.
The many fundraisers held by the local people, giving up and dedicating their time freely to help further on desperately needed projects, like improving the church, the community centre, the GAA or helping those that are sick.
We have builders, carpenters, hairdressers, beauty therapists and bakers to name but a few of the tradesmen and craftsmanship that goes on here. We have a community Facebook page to ask, advise and advertise anything and everything you wish.
The two pubs, Bob’s Bar and the Sawdust Inn, both family friendly and welcoming and not only can you get a good Céad Míle Fáilte there, you can eat drink and be merry. Dance the night away to the varied entertainment they put on, and you can also do so in the knowledge that at the end of the night, if you are stuck for a lift home, the owners are only too happy to oblige.
As much as I didn’t like living in this village when I was a 14-year-old ‘blow in’ and swore, I would not I live here again, I am glad that I did, with a renewed appreciation for country living.
I raised my family here, and was happy to do so. But now, I guess I am seeking another new life and meet other new souls, perhaps in a new state and maybe a bit more hustle and bustle.
It just feels like my time here has come to a natural end with the end of raising my children, who are off on their own discoveries.
I hope that the people that come to live in my house, not only appreciate and enjoy the house but the village that it is in and all it has to offer.