The Sound of music by Padraic Neary ( an open letter)

Dear Sir;

A wonderful thing happened in my little town last week. The Phoenix Players drama group in Tubbercurry, undertook presentation of probably the greatest musical ever written; “the Sound of Music”. This was a totally home grown product; the cast, all 90 of them, from stars to cameo, are local; relatives, friends, neighbours ranging in age from 6 to 86; people known, loved and cherished within the community which is immensely proud of the achievement. There were at least 50 other individuals involved; backstage, front of house and undertaking the innumerable tasks needed to present such an enormous show. And the wonderful thing, the incredible thing, the thing that will not be forgotten as long as the youngest participants survive, is that the show presented for 7 nights to absolutely packed houses, was an enormous success. The sets, although miniscule in comparison, the costumes, the lighting, the effects and especially the singing and acting were not what the cynical might expected from a small rural town. They were akin to and in many instances surpassed what might be seen on professional stages in Dublin, London or even Broadway itself. This may appear preposterous exaggeration, but for the people of Tubbercurry, it is one of the great and most uplifting truths of 2019.

Tubbercurry, once a hive of Industry where seeds of technology and smart economics first sprouted in Ireland, has suffered substantially in recent years with loss of almost 200 jobs. The apparently forgotten town is located on a section of the N17 roadway, which, apart from surface renewal, signage and some realignment, has not been upgraded in living memory. Yet this glorified “cart-track”, for that is what it was constructed as, is regarded as a national highway with a 100 kilometres speed limit although its width in many places is criminally inadequate for vehicular traffic never mind ability to accommodate cycling or walking. It was reported some time ago that EU funds to upgrade this section of substandard road were allow be diverted to other projects by the present leadership of our country. To add to feeling of abandonment, the people of Tubbercurry and district can no longer drink water from their taps and must look to an indefinite future of purchasing bottled water, on which incidentally, they pay 23% Value Added Tax. And nobody in governance and officialdom appears to give a damn.

This forsaken town however, has the ability, the talent, the community spirit to produce one of the finest amateur shows ever seen on an Irish Stage. It indicates what small towns faced with grave insecurity and creeping decay can do when a sense of community, cooperation and preparedness to use their finest talents in the interests of the common good, comes to the fore. In this age of rampant individualism, which appears in danger of corroding the very core of community, it is gratifying to find an event which bucks the trend and solidifies cohesion and self-belief in the knowledge that given viable scripts, they can provide leadership, activists and the will to achieve anything. Such spirit in this age of phenomenal change, is what will save rural Ireland and vulnerable communities all over the world. As yet however, nobody appears to have written a viable script, which is where government should urgently concentrate its energies.

In the meantime to all who participated and attended, I say well done; you have excelled in your efforts and left a joyous sound of music ringing through the hearts of Tubbercurry. You will long be remembered with great affection and pride. You provide a resounding encouragement to many small communities unsure of themselves, that the apparently unachievable can be achieved and that dreams of security, prosperity and a better life can be realized by those who work together and selflessly express their substantial talents in the common good.

I am immensely proud of my place and the people in it. Congratulations to all concerned.

Padraic Neary.

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