A new road is being built between Castlebar and Westport. The N5 is being upgraded to a dual carriageway between the two towns. It is a big project and not before time. Tourism has brought much traffic to the West and the old road was all twists and turns and up and down and too narrow for all that came its way. So now the final stretch of road is being made and the driver can then enjoy a high road from Dublin City all the way to the western sea.
Changed days from the fifties when my father drove the road on holiday and all the roads were small roads. Changed days from the time we came by train and bus and piled into Tom Conmy’s vanguard car in Bangor, which seemed to be the only car in Erris at the time.
When I started driving the roads of Mayo, in the 1970s, it was a pleasure to be out on them, and the car gave me the chance to see most of the county during summer holidays when I acted as chauffeur to mammy and daddy. I was grateful then for the open road and the quiet road that allowed me to see places from Ballina and Killala to Belmullet and Blacksod, from Mulranny and Achill to Louisburgh and Leenane. Now my driving days are over but memory allows me to revisit lovely places again.
In earlier days, of course, they had great ambitions to bring the railway all the way to Belmullet. That would have been a great achievement had it happened. As it was a line was built to Achill and tragedy accompanied both its opening and its demise. The drowning in Westport harbour of Achill youngsters bound for the harvest work in Scotland, and the return of the dead from the fire tragedy in Kirkintilloch, again of Achill harvest workers.
I am glad I do not drive anymore. Roads are now congested and people drive at fierce speed, and many people are killed on the road. I enjoy the gentle pace of my local bus that takes me into town for shopping. I also have a great fondness for trams and their leisurely style. I remember one time visiting my sister, Sheila in Dusseldorf, and taking a tram into the Alt Stadt there and thoroughly enjoying the easy yet efficient way in which we travelled.
We sometimes talk about the community of the road, and I guess there is some truth in that idea, since when we all drive carefully and patiently we are exercising community virtues of consideration of others. But sadly the temptation to speed and the isolated condition of being inside a metal box often causes us to give in to our worst selves.
I remember being the object of road rage twelve years ago on a country road in Galway. I could see this woman driver in my rear view mirror shouting obscenities at me and gesticulating at me to move faster. I came to a stop as a car approached at a narrow spot, and I intended to get out and speak with this lady until Margaret told me not to. She feared a scene. I felt very calm and had no intention of raising my voice, but instead I sat there and let the angry lady pass us by.
I would not want to be young and on the roads today. Bus, train and tram suit me now. I enjoyed my driving days when it was holiday time, but other than that driving now is hard work and stressful and dangerous.
But there is a good road to Westport coming soon.
17 May 2022