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John Ryan

Interviewed by Roisin Conlon & Sarah Keenan / Photos by Emma O’Brien.

Roisin & Sarah: How long have you lived in the area?
John: All my life. I was born in Athlone in St. Vincent’s hospital.

Roisin & Sarah: What’s a fond memory you have of living here?
John: I remember going into Longford in a cattle trailer to watch my first match with 100 people piled in the back. There were very few cars and it was very unusual to see a new car. The first television that came to Ballymahon was in a pub called The Sheey’s. The young people would jump up and peek in the window and see the horses racing.

Roisin & Sarah: Have you seen this community come back from hard times before?
John: Yes. Nobody had cars or phones to go to Dublin to visit sick friends or family. My brother died of leukaemia and nobody could call or visit him. It was very difficult on the community when situations like this occurred.

Roisin & Sarah: What are some things that have helped you through lockdown and what brings you joy?
John: Technology was helpful to talk to people. The GAA- going to matches and meeting people there. Local history about Ballymahon. The weather was really good, that helped lift my spirit.

Roisin & Sarah: What does community mean to you? What sort of things are you doing now to stay connected to your community and family?
John: The community means a lot to me. I enjoyed socialising in pubs and at GAA matches. I remember when there used to be 14 pubs in Ballymahon and there was an open window where someone would keep a look out for the Gardaí. I remember when the library used to be a courthouse- there was a case where the people of the town lined the streets to hear the verdict. I’m involved in organising the St.Patrick’s Day Parade & Tidy Towns with litter picking every Sunday morning. I help with the GAA and the local pitch. I started a project on the graveyard where my parents are buried.

Roisin & Sarah: What message do you want to share for yourself and this community in 10 years time?
John: There are a lot of things in the pipeline for the town. They want to widen the footpaths and build a road off the back of the shops for the workers to park off the main street. They are going to build a hub in the old convent. They hope to put the wires above the ground underground. There is talk of putting up new traffic lights. There is strong opposition.

Pictured below are photos of John from a gathering in the Ballymahon library of the students and seniors who took part in the project, which took place on Ash Wednesday. Also pictured are Roisin & Sarah’s creative responses to their interview- a drawing inspired by John’s love of GAA and a painted mirror.

John Ryan

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