By Jimmy Rhatigan
THERE is more than a touch of irony to the modern story of Ballyhale and Knocktopher.
The reality is that it was progress that led to a downturn in the proud South Kilkenny area.
Ballyhale was a once thriving rural village, with excellent community facilities, a post office, supermarket, petrol pumps, pubs, a local chipper et al.
It didn’t happen overnight. Slowly but surely the development of the Kilkenny to Waterford motorway led to a local falling asunder.
Not too long ago the lone ranger of Ballyhale business was Andy’s Bar, a popular local waterhole run by local Andy O’Keeffe.
In recent weeks the number of local business has doubled as a proud village fights back.
Billy’s Tearoom was the brainchild of a positive local people who are determined to travel a road of positivity.
The Tearoom, called after a local man who lived where the new parish facility now thrives, includes a dining area, leisure area, meeting room and a place where locals can once more purchase their groceries or pick up their Kilkenny Reporter.
With respect, there is great life back in the old dog yet as evidenced by the continuous work at the high profile Shamrocks GAA Club and the popular Mountain View Golf Club.
The Tearoom, as reported in our other news pages today, was given the seal of approval by hurling genius Henry Shefflin on Saturday when he performed the official opening.
Ballyhale is back is the message as a dedicated committee and board of directors plan to continue their good work for a region where their first initiative is enjoying tremendous community support.
Meanwhile, neighbour Knocktopher is still buzzing thanks mainly to the Carroll family who over the years have progressed a great rapport with their own people.
The family has a top class hotel which includes bar facilities, function areas and restaurant facilities.
The family’s nearby supermarket and extensive petrol pumps area is the heart of local shopping, another top of the range initiative that enjoys a super relationship with community groups and clubs.
The Carmelites, ever close to the local congregation for centuries, have moved on but their abbey remains and the Carmelite Church continues as a place of prayer seven days a week, now manned by the clergy of Ossory.
And let’s not forget a family wonder that it seems has been part and parcel of Knocktopher since the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
That is the Heaslip Family Store, still thriving with former hurling star Denis Heaslip behind the counter.
Here is a true community business that provided all kinds of everything for local families before the word superstore was even in a dictionary.
Motorways apart, rural Ireland has been taking a pasting.
Garda Stations have been closed, pubs put up the shutters and post offices are no more.
There is an outcry from those who are proud to call rural Ireland their home.
Many are shouting from the rooftops, calling on government to stop the rot and to invest in rural life.
Ballyhale and Knocktopher certainly support the fight for a better deal but actions rather than words are their weapons of war as proud locals roll up their sleeves.
The Reporter salutes their resilience and courage.
Reporter photographer Donal Foley rambled locally with his camera during the week.