During the Spring of 2012 I was at home and took a cylce around the coast road between Oranmore and Galway city which has been spared the brunt of the traffic since the 90’s when they built the dual carriageway bypassing the village. The poet Rafferty called it “a mean little town with its back to the sea”. Now the view of the tower by Galway bay is largely obscured by a gargantuan 24 hour Tesco and the mini-mountain of rubble created during its construction. Oranmore was a meaner little town when I was a teenager but I’ve watched it rapidly transform into commuter town/suburb with all the generic blandness of modern Ireland. The Hasty Tasty is now a Supermacs and Celtic Tiger estates stand atop rubble spread over marshlands. An old church has been converted into a library and there’s a café/Charlie Byrne’s bookshop upstairs in Lidl but these days Oran’ is tending towards boom-built sameness as everywhere else. It’s the closest village to Galway on the Limerick road but my native Clarinbridge (second village from Galway, 5km down the road) has grown in a much more pleasent way to include a boutique, antique shop, 3 coffee shops and a yoga studio all managing to stay in business without the swelling ill-advised housing estates. Cycling past Oranmore I found the abandoned buildings much more interesting than the modern mutants crowding around the village.
In the early 80s my mother worked on the census. I would often accompany her in the car after school. This house was ocupied by a stubborn Frenchman who kept refusing to participate even though he’d be present on the census date as he would only be in Ireland for a year or so. He wasn’t lying.
As I was standing on the roadside to take these pictures a woman about my age came out of her house a field away. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t feeding her horse junk food. She’s lived her life in Oran but neither of us could quite remember when this nursery closed down. I love these heads someone painted on the front. She tipped me off that the same artist has similar heads stenciled the Bluebell estate and Renmore. I’ve since found them but the canvases aren’t as large as the old nursery.
Around the countryside I can now see two generations of unfinished houses abandoned during my lifetime. I remember being haunted by these bare-blocked shells as a child on Sunday drives to the Burren or Connemeara, wondering what people left behind and if they went to America like some of our aunts and uncles did. They were much humbler than the houses abandoned in recent years which, when you think about it, shows how much we’ve progressed as a society.
This is near where the train station is now.