Sad Story of The Rushes Inn.
On my way from Kilkenny to Dublin the other day, I decided that as I was in no great rush, to eschew the M9 motorway and to take the ‘old road’, the N78.
Taking these old roads can be an evocative experience. Old memories of the many times you travelled by certain landmarks can come rushing back. Memories of the people that were with you; what you were doing at the time; where you were coming from or where you were going, can be stoked up by the smallest sights encountered on one of these unhurried trips down memory lane.
That was the way the other day until we stumbled on the landmark that used to be ‘The Rushes Inn’ in County Laois. I can’t count the number of times we have stopped-off at this historic and welcoming spot in the past; just to break the journey for some rest and sustenance. Situated as it was, in a sheltered grove near the top of a hill, it was an ideal spot to pull in. Drive a little bit up the road to the other side of the hill and you get a sense of the elevation; you can see three counties from that spot. During colder weather the area is regularly mentioned in news bulletins as one of the first areas susceptible to snow-ins.
Alas though, what started out as a nostalgic trip, turned into a bit of a nightmare. This idyllic pub of memory is now no more than a dump. Words cannot describe the horror when I saw the state of the place. The old car-park is covered in rubbish. Black refuse bags and household waste are strewn across the entire area, and weeds are waist-high in places. The porch of the pub has already collapsed, and the burnt out shell is about to cave in. Gone are the lovely shrubs and flowers, the carefully kept frontage and well painted facade. Plaster is coming off the walls and the windows are sadly, now all gone.
The TV aerials on the roof are gone, but the ‘Nature’ Channel seems to be getting a great reception. The chimneys that used to draw smoke from the generous open fires within, are now a nursery for trees and other plants. The interior is a burnt and charred shell; rubbish, fallen rafters and masonry have turned a once warm and welcoming hostelry into a death trap.
It is hard not to get annoyed about the fate of this establishment. Indiscriminate dumping of household waste aside, this is not only a shame but also a tragedy, as there has been a tavern or inn on this route for many centuries. Again though, as in other parts of the country, many factors seem to have conspired to contribute to its closure. I don’t know the exact circumstances of the previous owners, but I would hazard a guess and say that this is the story of the stereotypical isolated roadhouse that has been bypassed. The combination of drink-driving laws, lower traffic (due to motorway), the recession, emigration, and changing drinking habits (more people deciding to drink at home), have all contributed to its demise. The sad fact is that this is happening all around the country and we will probably be seeing a lot more of it in the coming years. This is as much a symbol of our changing society as it is a consequence of recession.
I must give a big thank you here to Trish Downes. I was having difficulty locating a ‘before’ photograph of the pub until I stumbled on a post by Australian researcher Patricia Downes. She took photographs in 1998 when she toured around Ireland doing research to illustrate her work on ‘John Sharp, the Whitefoot from Queen’s County.’ A truly fascinating story by the way, and you can read more about it by hopping over to http://members.pcug.org.au/~pdownes/sharp/index.htm#intro. So thanks to Trish we have these two great ‘before’ photographs of the pub as a record of how it looked before it literally fell by the wayside.