The magical sounds of summer in the place that made me
The latest episode of The Women’s Podcast is full of summer stories. Here Niamh Towey looks back on her childhood in The Avenue in Castlemore, Co Roscommon
The Avenue in Castlemore, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon
The Avenue in Castlemore, Co Roscommon is a place of magic to me. Driving home on a beautiful summer’s evening, I am brought back to my formative years and my innate connection with this land.
Evening sunlight trickles through the leaves of the beech and oak trees which flank The Avenue from start to finish, a distance of about a mile. Stone walls make a perfect vantage point over a tiny tributary of the River Lung and a little wooden bench proves the perfect perch to watch the world go by.
Grass grows in the middle of the road, while rolling fields and roaming cattle intersperse the few houses which accompany ours on The Avenue.
Our childhood here was idyllic. My little brother spent his first few summers here watching hay being cut, turf being footed and lawns being mowed – always eager to sit up on someone’s lap and give a helping hand. Stephen is a grown man now working in the corn fields of Minnesota in north-western America, following a dream which I know was fostered by our surroundings in Castlemore.
The impact of this place on my sense of self first became clear to me when I was about 14 years old and spent a summer in Castlemore which will be forever etched in my mind.
Stephen and I were best friends with the Beirnes, a family who lived next door to us on The Avenue. Together, we spent an entire summer building campfires and setting tents under a large oak tree in their father’s field.
We made tea light holders and wooden benches; we roasted marshmallows and listened to Kings of Leon. We rambled through neighbour’s fields, splashing in rivers and picking blackberries.
For the first time I can remember, we spoke about the beauty of this place which we called home. We recounted tales of our generations gone by. My Granny met my Grandfather in the old clubhouse next to the Beirne’s, she danced with him at the crossroads at the end of The Avenue. My Great Grandfather had inherited the land on which our home stands in the same 20th century land act which also gave the Beirnes their claim to Castlemore.
My identity, my history and my people are tied to this land, and so too am I.
As I grow older and take up life in the capital city, I have learned to appreciate my parents’ decision to raise us here. They left a comfortable life and good jobs in London to return to a land which would serve them economic recession and lacklustre career prospects. They did this so we could call Castlemore home, just like so many previous generations of my family have.
In my apartment in Dublin, I am kept awake at night by teenagers shouting at one another; by amber street lights and constant passing cars. It is a cacophony which you get used to, and it is one of the few negative aspects of this city which has given me so much opportunity and fulfilment.
Nevertheless, during the summertime I yearn for home. There are no streetlights, no noisy teenagers or passing cars.
There are crickets in the grass, a cool breeze through the window and a feeling of nature being thick with life, teeming with plants and wildlife, ripening like fruit.
There is the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of old tractors chucking through open fields and the echo of the cuckoo in the early summer months. There are foxgloves, honeysuckle and bluebells cropping out of overgrown ditches.
The most noticeable difference is the space; vast, lush and untouched land opening out in front of you and inviting you to explore.
Sitting in my duplex apartment in Dublin 8, which is sticky with city centre humidity and loud with the sound of passing buses, racing commuters and dogs on leashes, I yearn for The Avenue and its Summer bliss.