Léargas Deireadh Re: Oifig an Phoist
Up and down country - institutions which we have taken for granted for decades are closing before our very eyes. The Léargas team in a new 3 part series sets out to document some of these before they dissappear forever - the local post office, a local school and literally "the local" - the rural pub.
In the first programme we focus on the demise of the post office - in the last 5 years over 400 post offices around the country have closed already and closures are continuing in cities and towns as well as the most rural areas.
The Béara Peninsula is a rural as you can get - Allihies post office is 100miles from Cork city and has been in the same family for almost 100years. The post offices in the neighbouring villages of Eyeries, Ardgroom and at Garinish near Dursey Island (next Post Office to New York!) all tell a part of the story of post offices past, present and future. Serving their community in a very special way - they too are serviced since 1948 by Donal (Dan R) Harrington's "the mail car" which brings the post without fail from Castletownbere. Léargas closely observes the smallest details of the post office way of life and brings a unique insight into the central part it plays in the life of small rural communities and how that role is changing making the future very uncertain.
But Béara people are a hardy lot and not ones for giving up - Noralene Ní Urdail has taken over the Post Office in Ardgroom from her mother Mary in 2002. Mary had been Post Mistress in Ardgroom for over 50years. She had in turn taken over the job from her mother who'd begun the office in 1907. For three generations the men have been marrying into the business, Donal (Dan R) Harrington as well as farming tendered for the "Mail Car" contract in 1948 and since then has been collecting the mail for Eyeries, Urhan and Ardgroom everyday. In the early days the mail car also provided a public transport service for locals into and out of Castletownbere. For Ardgroom not only does Donal deliver the mail to the post office but also sorts & delivers the village post.
The country post office is seldom a solo enterprise - and so it is in Béara - Ardgroom PO not only has a shop but since taking over the business Noralene has opened a café & Deli as well as extending and adding an Internet Café. But the big question is does it actually pay - and can it survive?
Allilhies' Post Mistress, Eileen Kelly has continued in a family tradition since 1910. The village office, picture postcard perfect, with kelly green artisan shop-shelving colourfully stacked with all sorts of wonderful products from branston pickle to organic chocolate. The post office is still the centre of village life but is restricted by An Post in the postal services it can provide.
Perhaps the most unique Post Office on the peninsula is Garinish - located at the end of the road at Garinish point - since the post office on Dursey Island closed, it is the last PO before America. Margaret O'Neill as post mistress runs an exceptional office for her community - most of her customers are served in her kitchen - it's like private banking!
All this and the stunning landscapes of Béara which make this observational documentary not so much an Obit but a beautiful celebration of the "Oifig an Phoist."
Catch yours while it's still there !
Series Producer & Directed by KEVIN CUMMINS
Reporter / presenter : PAT BUTLER