On Thursday the 9th of June 2016 we celebrated our 70th anniversary as a hotel. In 1946 the hotel was owned by the Irish Tourist Board and the official opening was conducted by An Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and the Parish Priest of Roundstone, Fr. Cunningham, both signing the first visitor book. Two young ladies, Maureen Breslin from Co. Longford and Sheila Hayden from Co. Roscommon were among the staff on that date.
70 years later Maureen and Sheila were guests of honour at a celebration to mark this Anniversary with their friends & families for afternoon tea. Throughout their visit the ladies reminisced of times gone by, “the good old days”. It was a full life, both ladies married locally and raised their families in Connemara. They spoke of their time at Ballynahinch, which was still experiencing post war rationing and it was very much a large part of their lives. Maureen remembered a time when a colleague tried to sneak a cup of tea for himself but was caught by the manager on duty. The staff member was told to run an errand, on his return he discovered the pot was found, she had probably had the tea herself as it was never mentioned.
During their time at Ballynahinch, the Castle had 24 bedrooms, but the ladies were kept busy. They worked six and a half days per week, Maureen was a waitress and Sheila a cook. Maureen spoke of their adventures in Connemara giving detail on how she met her husband. The ladies had spent their time cycling throughout Connemara. Maureen married John Davitt, a local Connemara man from Ballinafad and Sheila married Eddie Nee, their son Eamon is our postman.
The ladies spoke of some guests that had visited Ballynahinch during their time here, they recalled the Queen of Tonga visiting after Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in London, and many guests visiting from Ashford such as John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara while they were filming The Quiet Man.
Both the ladies and their families laughed as they were shown black and white pictures where they were both dressed in uniform, in some they could be seen holding up fish as big as 14 pounds caught on the grounds. It was the perfect afternoon to celebrate such as special occasion.
Pictures by Cliodhna Prendergast