Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Lighting the fire of my intellect
in the library in Askeaton
I often joked that when it came to moving out of Dublin, I wanted to live in a town large enough to have all my needs within walking distance, including a church, a newsagent, a coffee shop, a pharmacy and a book shop.
Perhaps I had always imagined returning to a town or small city such as Wexford or Lichfield, or perhaps even Kilkenny or Carlow. Despite some formative early years on my grandmother’s farm near Cappoquin, in west Waterford, I never thought of myself as a ‘country boy.’ I am more of what people in provincial Ireland know as a ‘townie’ and I enjoy all the benefits of town-living, including proper public transport.
I might never have thought of a small town like Askeaton, but I have been here for almost three months, and I am enjoying every moment of life here, with country walks, riverside walks and a rich tapestry of local and church history that I am only beginning to explore.
The provincial bus strike that has lasted for three weeks has left me cut off from easy access to Limerick. Although it is only 25 km away and less than half an hour’s drive from Limerick, I cannot drive and so I am missing ready access to Limerick, with its beautiful architecture and its great bookshops.
Of course, Saint Mary’s Church is just a few paces from the rectory, and the supermarket, a small café, the pharmacist, and walks by the River Deel are all on my doorstep. But I miss having a good bookshop to browse and delight in.
This afternoon, I signed up for the local library. It’s small, and it is only open for 18 hours a week. But without easy access to Limerick, it offered a lifeline this afternoon, and I spent a little time there after signing up, browsing the books on the shelves, especially those on local history.
The library is housed in Polly O’Mahony House, a former school looking out across the River Deel as it flows swiftly under the bridge and on down past the ruins of Askeaton Friary.
Polly O’Mahony founded Saint Mary’s Secondary School here in 1940, and this became the library when a new school was built on the site of the former Church of Ireland school beside Saint Mary’s Church.
A plaque on the façade of the library quotes WB Yeats: ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’
My fire was lit this afternoon, I signed up for this small library, and I borrowed my first book.