by Paul Healy, editor of the Roscommon People newspaper
“I’ve always had a soft spot for Boyle…
How can you not like a town so steeped in a fascinating history? Boyle has – like many towns – been economically challenged, having at times suffered in the face of the often unforgiving winds of change. But it breathes history, its buildings and streets possessing a character that draws the visitor towards its richly varied past.
As for history of a more showbiz nature, the legendary actress Maureen O’Sullivan was born there. She starred as Jane in those evocative Tarzan films of the 1930s and ‘40s. The muscled hero was played by Johnny Weismuller.
Recently, Minister Heather Humphreys was in Boyle, supporting plans for regeneration of the town centre. Whether this leaves the role of a heroic modern-day Tarzan to Micheál Martin or Leo Varadkar, is debatable. Maybe toned tearaway Richard Bruton could not be overlooked?
Yeah, I’ve always had a soft spot for Boyle. My late father was a native of Corrigeenroe/Knockvicar. We heard a lot about Boyle when we were growing up. He had great stories of great characters, of places of intrigue. As a teenager, our father had worked for the gentry at Rockingham House. When we got to see Boyle, and the beautiful countryside which embraces the town, we were charmed. There were many family trips to the fabulous Lough Key Forest Park, now back in all its glory.
When we were kids, my father used to ask us: “Would you rather be oiled in Boyle or boiled in oil?” (The catchphrase dates from the 1940s, apparently).
Forty years or so later, I went back to Boyle with my Dad (a few times) and his love for the place was evident.
On one trip, we went to see the house in which he was raised (in the 1930s). It was now occupied by a German family. As we circled it, my father quipped: “And see that satellite dish? That’s the very same dish we had when I was a child in that house!”
On Saturday August 8, we set off for a first day trip of the pandemic. Sligo seemed like a good idea. What could possibly go wrong?
What could go wrong?
Pandemic-pummelled, we’re long overdue this day trip! The sun is shining, and we’re free! The garden and numerous other chores could wait. We had to be back by 7 pm, and were a bit concerned that traffic into Sligo might be heaving with beach-goers, but we’d deal with that when the time came.
The drive to Boyle is always a pleasure. We stopped at Cooney’s, which was buzzing. It’s a superb store, which has had a makeover since I was last there. I was well impressed. There was a positive atmosphere; sunshine putting it up to the (Covid) clouds of gloom.
Could anything go wrong? The car dashboard had been sending me messages…for a while. ‘ENGINE OIL (NEEDED)’ it solemnly declared – for some time. I purchased some oil in Cooney’s. After putting the oil in, we resumed our journey. No current affairs or sport on the radio today, which was fine; the girls had a playlist of ‘hits’ lined up.
Just as we reached Boyle Abbey, the smoke appeared. Smoke at The Vatican is a sign of progress; not so at Boyle Abbey. My heart sank. Next, a smell, the scent of an engine in distress. My heart sank lower. In my mind, I saw the day trip to Sligo collapsing, and I feared for the car engine too. We pulled in opposite the historic Abbey, merging history and hopelessness.
Our children (who’ve experienced one or two ‘car dramas’ on our family holidays over the years) were very good-humoured about the abrupt turn of events. They went for a walk, Fiona and I began to make calls for help. The man in ‘Roadside Assistance’ mused about sending someone to collect the car (€150). Someone else would have to collect us, and later we’d have to get the car fixed. We agreed to talk to him again if we failed to source a friendly local garage. We got a mechanic on the line – he was nice, but he was at a christening. I didn’t get the name (of the mechanic, or the baby). After another call or three, we got lucky. Very lucky.
The gentleman from McGlynn’s Garage (Deerpark, Boyle) came and drained the excess oil from the engine (I had put far too much in). Then he asked us to drive after him, back to the garage. This we duly did.
At the garage, mechanic Kevin and boss Liam spent well over an hour on our car. Fabulous service. Our spluttering, smoking, smelling, rattling vehicle was skilfully rescued from what might have been.
They were very understanding. Boss Liam, an experienced garage man, broached the subject with tact. He knew, I knew, I had put far too much oil in. ‘Cos the ‘ENGINE OIL (NEEDED)’ symbol had been on for a day or two, and wouldn’t go off! He was chewing an apple, I was still on humble pie. He arched an eyebrow upwards.
“You…just went by the dashboard?”
Meekly, I agreed. He was easy on me. He was probably biting his lip, along with the apple.
“And the dipstick? You didn’t dip it?”
“I’m the dipstick” I whispered to Fiona, as the boss returned to the mysterious world under the raised bonnet.
When the mechanic took our car for a spin up the Curlew Mountains, we walked a little in the beautiful sunshine. As chance would have it, we had ended up at McGlynn’s Garage, and just up from it, there was a sign for Corrigeenroe, where my Dad was born 90 years ago. I looked at it and thought of my father, of conversations and days now gone.
Back in Boyle, motoring nicely again thanks to the two gentlemen and the excellent service from McGlynn’s, we met up with our children. It was too late to continue on to Sligo. Instead, we had a lovely afternoon in Boyle.
We spent a while in the very nice Boyle Pleasure Grounds, followed by a walk around town, as always inhaling its sense of history. King House. O’Sullivan’s home. The Abbey.
In ‘Ireland’s smallest bookshop’, we chatted with the friendly proprietor and bought a couple of books (no book on car engines that I could see). A charming store, well worth popping into.
A little later, a trip to the Gaelic Chieftain sculpture, followed by a lovely drive, savouring the beautiful scenery. We went as far as Lough Arrow, where there were plenty of campers, a lovely summer atmosphere, defying Covid!
It turned out to be very enjoyable day, even if there had been some unexpected drama. Boyle and the surrounding countryside has a special charm, and great beauty.
When we met up with our children, out of the blue the girls revealed what their giddy analysis of our plight had been when they went for that walk earlier. At the time, they were walking, we were talking (to mechanics).
“It’s like that saying” they said, bridging almost half a century in my mind. “‘Would you rather be oiled in Boyle or boiled in oil?’ Well, we’ve been oiled in Boyle today!””