Early February brought sad news with the death in Helsinki, Finland, of Liam Kelly. The eldest son of Mary and the late Liam Kelly of Church Street, Creagh, there was an added poignancy in the fact that the last time Liam had been home to Ireland was for his father's funeral in January 2020. Aged only 53, Liam had battled cancer for more than 7 years and his death led to a huge outpouring of sympathy for his wife, son and family from the numerous friends he had made in the hospitality industry in Helsinki since he moved there in 1987.
Known in his adopted home as ‘Billy’, Liam, who was a popular barman in different premises over the years, had such a positive impact on people's lives that the ‘Helsingen Sanomat’, the largest subscription newspaper in Finland, ran a major feature days later with the headline “Helsinki's Nightlife Legend of the 1990s Billy Kelly is Dead”. The article paid tribute to his warm and personable nature, his unflagging sense of good humour and his dedication to his wife Teija and son Luke.
There were also literally hundreds of tributes paid by former customers on social media and on the Facebook page of Helsinki`s Malaga Bar, patrons described Liam as “so unforgettable”, “so special and so amazing”, “always friendly, a good guy”, “warm, thoughtful and funny” and “legendary”. Liam never forgot his home in Ballinasloe and looked forward to his annual visits, timing them to help his father Liam draw home turf.
He was also in almost daily contact by phone with his mother Mary, his brothers Oliver, Michael, Declan, Alan and his sister Emer. He faced his illness with the most tremendous courage and never lost his irrepressible sense of humour. He died peacefully on 9th February with his wife, son and his brothers Michael and Alan by his side. His obituary in the ‘Helsingen Sanomat’ noted that “He will be missed in Helsinki”, but his loss is all the more keenly felt by his wife, son, mother and siblings and indeed all who were privileged to know him and have him as a friend. May he rest in peace.
By John Power
In August 2000 I along with some two hundred other people was made redundant from A.T.Cross Ltd the manufacturers of writing instruments. I had suspected about a year before that the “axe” would fall and decided I would try to set up my own business.
With my business experience I identified a gap in the market for start-up’s and early stage companies. Business needs technical expertise which is usually the founders skill. They also need Management skills and access to funding which I could provide.
Entrepreneur’s, Engineers, Bio Tech. IT experts et al have the ideas and I put their plans together and provide management support. This allows them to do the technical aspects of the job, without the worry of all the other stuff.
The plan was to work from home, no need for offices or overheads. Sounds familiar!. My first client; a company developing an application for mobile phones arrived at my house for an initial meeting. There were three people from the Company ushered into our front room. First question, where was my phone and land line. Our phone at the time was in the hall and was almost at the ceiling to stop our four active children dialing numbers for fun. No bluetooth or broadband in the year 2000. The initial meeting was a fiasco.
I was in trouble. I headed to the fledgling Enterprise Centre where I met Gerry Cleary and Terry Noone, to look into office space to rent. The only two floors up and running were fully let to a US online gambling Company. I met the Manager of the US Company. A nice young man from Arizona who allocated us some unused space on the ground floor.
We agreed a rent of €100 a month with a review and I moved in that day. Shortly after I moved in, work commenced on renovating another part of the Centre. Four offices, toilet and a small conference room were built where the St Thresea’s special school is now located. I took the lease on the entire unit and was joined by Sean Brennan who ran a Consulting Business for Electronics companies, Colm Croffy a Festivals and Events Consultant and David Flynn Health & Safety expert. The conference room was used by the Board of BEC and by a number of businesses and organisations from the Town.
After the crash of 2008/9 we had to reconfigure. With the help of the BEC Manger we downsized and David Flynn and myself continued in a smaller office where we continue to operate. Mike Dowd a project Consultant in the construction industry has joined us recently.
During the period I have been involved with around forty start up companies and early stage businesses. Many have survived and prospered others failed. Such is the nature of start up’s. We also work with County Enterprise Boards, EI. IDA and other State agencies.
Projects have covered IT, State bodies, Sports Organisations, Food, Bio Technology, Sustainable Power, Executive training & Mentor programs.
In partnership with BEC, Ballinasloe Credit Union and John M.Power & Associates we ran the successful BEST Entrepreneur’s awards program for Secondary Schools for about six years. I look forward to seeing some of the prize winners emerging as Entrepreneurs of the future.
We have managed through the ups and downs of redundancy, banking crisis, clients going bust and not been paid money we were owed and other unplanned events.
The Covid 19 crisis is another such event along the business path. During our time we have received help from unlikely sources at critical times, some local some international. In these times of no meeting up, we try keep your network channels open by phone, letter, email or however we can.
The last 21 years have been really enjoyable. I continue to work with Entrepreneurs of all types and ages. Almost all of them are very talented and capable people. Every day I myself am educated and stimulated by their ideas and energy.
Our Enterprise Centre has been an amazing success. It has been operational for almost 22 years. Without it I would never have got my business up and running. We will continue to partner with BEC and look forward to a major “bounce back” in business start-ups when Covid 19 has been eliminated.
Locally based and acclaimed novelist, short story writer and poet NUALA O’CONNOR is publishing her fifth novel this April.
Living in Old Mountpleasant, with her husband Finbarr McLoughlin and children Cúán, Finn and Juno since 2005, with their cats Nora Barnacle and Pangur Bán, Harmione (aka Harry) the canary and Pod their Staffordshire terrier pup.
She is the author of four previous novels, including Becoming Belle (2018) – based on the last Lady Clancarty who was a commoner and married into Aristocracy at the turn of the 20th century. Miss Emily (2015), a reimagining of the life of Emily Dickinson, and seven short story collections, her most recent Being Birdie (2020). She has won numerous awards throughout her time as an acclaimed writer.
Her new Novel “Nora“ focusing on Nora Barnacle, a twenty-year-old from Galway working as a maid at Finn’s Hotel in Dublin, when she meets a young James Joyce on a summer’s day – which in time became celebrated by Joyceans as Bloomsday..
New Islands Books are the publishers and it is expected on our shelves from April 10th, the 70th Anniversary of Nora Barnacles Death.
Following the recent monthly meeting of Galway County , Councillor Timmy Broderick has secured funding of €200,000 to facilitate street scaping renovation in town.
Councillor Broderick along with fellow Councillor Dr Evelyn Francis Parsons and TD Denis Naughten have been campaigning for increased funding from Galway County Council in association with the Street Scaping Scheme.
The scheme was announced at the end of last summer as the Big Dig wound down and saw nearly 80 business owners apply for grant assistance to renovate, paint and repair the front facades of premises.
News broke around estimates, that a meagre €80,000 had been allocated. Cllr Broderick labelled it: “An insult to those who have to undertake major works to improve the streetscape in the town… what we are looking at is a paltry amount considering the turmoil that all businesses in Ballinasloe in recent times from the pandemic to the Town Enhancement Scheme, and associated road closures.”
“Unreachable expenditures were built up a huge number have subscribed to it and the sum will be quite small. €1,000 each was not very much for them. There is no news on whether an architect will be appointed. I am very disappointed to what has come to pass on what looked to be a great scheme," explained Cllr Parsons.
Galway County Council Acting Director of Services - Alan Farrell explained: “A decision has been taken to further finance Ballinasloe Streetscapes in terms of shop fronts. We will get the highest impact in terms of expenditure, in the region of €200,000 is expected to give the town an uplift.”
Cllr Parsons said: “The investment of €400,000 in the street scape will transform the town and be beneficial to both businesses and the people.”
The scheme will now be archeitect-led which means that colour pallet, styling and upgrading pf pelmets and signage will follow a uniform theme – anchored around a Victorian Provincial Market Town, to be able to draw down the support with will match fund 50% what the business owner is contributing.
Senator Aisling Dolan who in late summer of last year pro actively canvassed businesses to apply for the scheme referred to the project as as generational “ We have the ability to resemble the bright engaging facades of a Clonakilty, Skibbereen or a Westport with this once in a lifetime project and I am so looking forward they way the town will look for out community and visitors alike in the late summer when all the sprucing up is done “, noted Aisling.
She also referenced the work the local Street Representatives and BACD did in advocating for the scheme from the Council to assist town centre businesses.
TD Naughten added: “This funding will allow businesses to make a real difference to the appearance of the town and its potential to attract not just shoppers but also new businesses. Galway County Council investing €200,000 in Ballinasloe will help to encourage families and potential investor to choose our town rather than continuing struggling on a regular basis in Dublin and will, in the long run, increase the rate base and income for the Council to invest in other local projects.”
Denis Naughten T.D. has also been pushing for the vacant houses on busy streets to be purchased with a €15,000 grant being provided as a boost to new owners that would assist them with their mortgage.
“The reality is that there are quite a number of towns like Ballinasloe, where bringing families into vacant homes and buildings will bring new life into the community as well as supporting existing schools, clubs, and local services, “ stated Denis.
Credit Union holds first Virtual AGM
Given the unprecedented year in terms of the changes that the pandemic has wreaked, the Virtual AGM, was a first for Ballinasloe Credit Union. Members were invited to register to attend the meeting online where a comprehensive review of the financial year was reported.
Strong attendance from the membership was evident and attendees were advised they are members of a strong Credit Union with assets of €129 million. Income for the financial year was €3.6m from which a surplus of just under €1m was generated. The Gross loans to total assets ratio of 32%, is one of the strongest among peer Credit Unions in Ireland – those with total assets of over €100 million.
Chairperson, Marian Brady, advised that the Credit Union will soon be offering both Home Mortgages and a Current Account with Debit Card, from May 2021.
Speaking at the AGM, Marian explained that “Every day, we're taking enquiries from members who want to do more and more of their financial services business with their Credit Union. We're delighted that we'll shortly be offering a full-service current account, with a debit card and a competitive mortgage product.”
It was also reported at the meeting that a project to complete internal renovations to the Credit Union Building on Main Street had begun. The refurbishment will allow the Credit union to provide members with a modern, safe and welcoming space within which to conduct their business. During the year, further digital enhancements to members online services are planned with the introduction of remote member onboarding and full end to end loan application including digital signature capability so that the credit union can continue to provide services both in branch and online that will make a positive difference in members lives.
Speaking at the meeting, CEO Grainne Murphy, acknowledged that while the Credit Union was looking forward to the introduction of these new products and services it is important to remind the public that throughout the pandemic, credit unions have remained on hand to support members during a very challenging and uncertain time. “We are here to support our members and the local economy and remind members that BCU is lending. She went on to add "In the wake of the recent commentary about the closure of bank branches, our message to our local community is very clear. We are here to stay. We're committed to playing our part in supporting the people within our local community by providing an exemplary, personalised service to our members whether they choose to conduct that business online or in branch. We will continue, as ever, to put the needs of our members at the heart of everything that we do. We also understand the importance of supporting our community and this has always been practically demonstrated through our donations to, and sponsorship of, a wide range of community groups. This strong commitment to supporting organisations and initiatives that benefit the local community is also dependent on members continuing to borrow from the Credit Union”, states Grainne.
They continue to offer loans to existing members, members not have seen for a while and of course those in the local community who have yet to become members and may be new to the idea of the credit union. So call in, go online or contact them today and enquire because they’re lending!.
Prior to the election of the Board of Directors and oversight committee, retiring Board members Mike O Reilly, Michael Mc Keown, John Doolan & retiring BOC member Sinead Manning were thanked for their endeavours. Re-elected Adrian Ahern, John Coughlan, Mary Feeney with new directors Brian King, David Gallagher & Sean Madden.
The 2021 Board is completed by Mary Coughlan, Patricia Tierney, Seamus Kelly, Sean Kelly & Marian Brady who was also re-elected as Chairperson. Aidan Clifford joins Elaine Bannerton and Edward Kelly on the Board oversight committee.
Ballinasloe Credit Union is open for business Monday – Friday 9.30 – 5.30 & Sat 9.30 – 4.30. Tel 0909643179 or visit the website www.ballinasloecreditunion.ie
There are over 400 workers in Ballinasloe classed as essential retail during this pandemic. One such worker is James Caulfield, a 61-year-old native from Creagh, entering his third decade in Grocery Retail, in a long varied working career.
Technology has evolved since James started out at Haslam & Mahon in Main Street, aged 12 and grocery retail has certainly come a long way since rashers were sliced to order.
James remembers: “We used to call him Horace Jenkins – Manager but he ran it himself along with his wife. You’d do your deliveries to your customers by bike with your box of messages on the front.” James remains nostalgic of Haslom’s, but is amazed at how retail has progressed through changes in technology over the years.
A visit to the shops is great for mental health and wellbeing during lockdown, it has allowed customers a quick physical hello should they meet loved ones. For so many of us – often a few pleasant words exchanged with our cashier or sales assistant is as much social engagement that we have outside of family in the week!
James who currently holds a senior position with a leading multiple chain exclaims: “I am very proud to be of essential service to the local community of Ballinasloe in these tough times. Sooner rather than later we will be coming out of this pandemic, and I hope that I, along with my customers will be able to move onto the new norm and I hope to accommodate them in every way possible.”
Its all systems go for Ahascragh native Alison Greene who took up the daunting challenge of being Marketing and Communications Lead to Ireland’s newest Distillery Mc Allisters recently.
Alison is no stranger to the picturesque village that straddles the Bunowen – her Grandfather John ran Greene's Animal Disposal Business for years, whilst Dad Kevin and Mum Anne operate the successful Topline Greenes Hardware Store.
Educated locally at Fohenagh N.S. and later at Holy Rosary, Mountbellew Alison despite growing up in a hurling mad family preferred the stage to the pitch – being the eldest of three with her sister Sarah working in France and youngest Robert a leaving cert student! Her extra curricular interests saw her a keen supporter of Fohenagh and Galway Hurling but also finding her own creative expression on stage.
“TY , after school – the Centre Stage Youth Theatre with Majella Flanagan, Alfie Kilduff, The Pantos, the Musicals in the Town Hall and of course Fohenagh Drama Group locally gave me a huge love of theatre “, states Alison.
Little wonder that her third level choice was a BA in Theatre and Performance at the O'Donaghue Centre, NUIG followed by a Masters in Arts Management and Cultural Policy at UDC. She was accepted on a Graduate Development Scheme with Business to Arts in Dublin and eventually came back west to work as Marketing and Communications Lead with Gary Hynes’s acclaimed DRUID in Galway.
“There is something of DRUID that is so appealing to the creative, that you can be anchored in the west but that your horizon of ambition must always be the world, maybe it’s the Synge legacy “, she muses .
Whatever about the lure of thespian world there is nothing that she has not honed skills in Marketing and Communications that she will be not transferring to her new role with the Mc Allisters Distillery "if I can take a pinch of DRUID’s ambition , an ounce of Gary’s determination and boldness to what we are doing here I will be happy. “ exhorts Alison.
Her last project with DRUID was organising the tour of Gregory/Murphy around the County in Autumn of last year – including Ballinalsoe before she took up her role in early winter with the Mc Allisters Eco Distillery.
As many readers are aware ; the old 19th century Mill complex is being completely overhauled as one of Ireland first eco – (powered by renewal energy) distilleries and will complimented by “ The Old Mill Shop and Café “ directly across the road which will be renovated and open in mid - summer this year.
The distillery and bespoke visitor centre is to open in late 2022 but the Mc Allisters have been in the whiskey business in Antrim in the mid 1700s and have been sourcing and blending Irish batch whiskies and Gins for a number of years – especially for the Asian emerging markets. Clan Colla was one of the first brands produced by the family in the 1700s and this will be the name of the first source- release .
“This is a hugely exciting opportunity for me to help deliver over 70 indirect jobs and some 15 direct jobs over 3 years to my home village in a sustainable and rooted way, I will be responsible for telling people our story, explaining the products we will be making , the sustainable processes behind it and indeed the original history of the Mill complex before it’ new role “ she states.
She is genuinely marvelling at how in her late 20s and in the early stages of her professional marketing career she finds herself back in the west of Ireland and pursuing a dream job : “This just proves that with broadband, modern communications and creative enterprise my generation can dream of living in the countryside without a lengthy commute, horrific accommodation costs and a better quality of living -with clean air, great amenities and the bigger cities within easy reach. “ Alison expounds.
Her first marketing campaign is the new cask programmes which have become very popular with families, groups of friends, clubs or companies. Obviously it’s a great investment but It’s also a very special way of marking a milestone or celebrating an occasion .
This Founders Cask Programme is quite unique in that it’s customizable. The client chooses the spirit, the wood and the finish. “It really is your whiskey, made by you. You can be as involved in the process as you want to be. There are benefits including tours, discounts, a founders event and more but I think what makes this programme particularly special is that by purchasing a cask you become a Founder Member of the Ahascragh Distillery and you get to own a little piece of Irish whiskey history” , explains Alison.
Asked to what her appointment and the project signals for rural villages she is of the opinion that post pandemic many couples and professionals will be looking out for lifestyle changes and that East Galway / South Roscommon will have advantages.
“Covid is forcing us all to look differently on what is around us, and we are so ingrained in where we live, if our villages and towns can have appealing cultural , leisure, amenity, food, health and educational facilities with decent broadband and affordable housing – the trickle could become a stampede”, enthuses the daily runner and regular open swimmer – although she does admit it may be less of Salthill dipping and more Bunowen bathing on the Clonbrock estate this summer!
In describing what future success might look like she is keen to stress the importance of the project being ingrained locally and working with the suppliers, the growers, the craftspeople, the community and surrounds in a sustainable way.
“I hope to help establish a new lease of life for the Mill, the visitor centre, the village in a modern and environmentally sensitive way – we will not have Cliffs of Moher bus loads here ; we will have quality small holistic visitor experiences that will reflect the ambiance and positives of Ahascragh and our pastoral setting for domestic and international culturally curious “.
Further details on the distillery |www.mcallisterdistillers.com
Bank Chambers New Life As Remote Working Hub
The Bank Chambers Building on Society Street has been purchased by Ballinasloe Community Development Company (BACD) to facilitate Pulse Club members, local entrepreneurs and hubs to strategically locate in the town, collaboratively working together alongside the existing enterprise centre in Creagh.
The original Enterprise Centre is full, the Library Hub is full and there is limited modern dedicated office / hub type space in the locality.
This will add 6000 square feet of space for the Enterprise Centre to use. The modern office renovation, installation, upgrades and facilities for approximately 35 workers foresees a budget envelope of €580,000, with nearly €500,000 coming by way of Grant Aid from the Bórd na Móna - Just Transition Programme.
“We have lots of enquiries for new space at the Centre, with people who are remote-working from home - even to come in and use their own dedicated desk space for a few days a week and this development will follow best national and international design and practice in accommodating a mix of remote, office and self employed worker who need blended office and desk conditions within a specialist environment and supports “, stated Lyn Donnelly BACD Manager who will manage the project and select successful clients.
Formerly a National Irish Bank it was taken over by the Bank of Ireland in the late 1940s where it remained until 1993, and since then it has been in private ownership.
The premises had been secured for purchase through a loan from Ballinasloe Credit Union. The Design Team for the refurbishment works will be appointed over the coming weeks and once the project is given the green light, the plan is to have the centre open for business within 12 months.
BACD Chairperson Seamus Duffy is very excited : “This has been the result of hard work and prudent management of the last 20 years by successive boards of directors in managing all previous state grants for job creation and town development, in building direct partnerships with state agencies and lenders. The Just Transition Fund have found a worthwhile and serious partner for support for their objectives and we look forward to delivering this first job creation project for them."
Brendan Kelly KPW stated: “Not many might remember that KPW spent 35 years (1950-1985) in Society St., and we all have great memories from there. Society had a great mix of businesses from Retailers to an Egg and Wool store, Solicitors, Restaurants, Schools and a Bank too. We are delighted to see our old Bank of Ireland being developed into a business Hub – this is very exciting news for Society Street and Ballinasloe. KPW have always had an association with Society and the many friends we have there to this day, we want to support it in any way we can.”
For further details contact Lyn Directly in Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre on 090 9646516
A final decision on the Waste Transfer Licence will be made by Galway County Council by The Environment Section in mid-April. Hundreds of submissions were made even during lockdown. Families, clubs, community groups, businesses – everyone had their say on the future for the town.
Over the past number of months, many people have been out enjoying the walks within the 5k through bogland areas along by the bog roads through Poolboy/Kellysgrove and along the Grand Canal during this tough time of Covid-19 Lockdown.
With no official public park in Ballinasloe; this amazing natural resource full of beauty and biodiversity has really been rediscovered and has to be protected for future generations
PRO and Co-Founder Senator Aisling Dolan again praised those involved: “Thank you from all on our Committee to all our Volunteers and again to all who have supported our fundraisers over the past number of years. It is thanks to the people of Ballinasloe that we have been able to fight this battle and it will continue”.
All notified parties to the decision will have the right to appeal .Contact: Aisling Dolan for further queries 086 3690719
Be in with a chance of winning a 100 euro ShopBalinasloe.ie voucher by simply sharing your colourful photos of Ballinasloe
Since the launch of the Ballinasloe Town Team Instagram page we have noticed our followers posting beautiful pictures of Ballinasloe as they enjoy the outdoors on their walks, cycles etc.
We love to see this, as it is the very ethos of the Town Team - promoting our community as a great place to live, work and visit. We have so much going for us a Town & community and sometimes we all need to be reminded of this.
We have decided to launch a photo competition and would encourage people to pop onto Instagram and follow our page; ballinasloetownteam.
Post your great photos of Ballinasloe and tag us in your post.
Deadline for entries is the 10th May 2021. The Town Team will pick our favourite 5 photos . These top 5 will be posted on Town Team Insta and Bsloe Life social platforms for a public vote. The most liked and shared photo will win.
Winner announced on June/July edition of Ballinasloe Life Magazine
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