What started with a rather fanciful conversation over breakfast could end up in the transformation of a major south Longford based stone reserve.
And in an even more unsual twist, it may well involve more than a passing interest from Irish Times columnist John Waters.
The Co Roscommon journalist visited the area last month to launch Lanesboro’s newly rebranded Lough Ree Environmental Summer School.
Unlike past festivals organisers decided, somewhat courageously, to host the event outside and in the confines of the town’s local quarry.
Adventurous or otherwise, Waters appeared visibly impressed. “Even if it had rained, I think we would have sat through it anyway because the evening has been so fantastic,” he told a hushed audience.
Four weeks on from that visit, locals in the greater Lanesboro and Newtowncashel area remain quietly hopeful Waters will make a return visit and kick-start plans of a similarly linked project.
John Grace, owner of Newtowncashel’s Woodcutter’s Lodge, recalled the moment when first exchanging views on the idea over breakfast.
“When you get used to people in my business, you can tell if they want to talk or not,” he explained. “John turned sideways on the chair and straight away you knew he wanted to talk. Then I just happened to say that there was a lot of places around that were quite historic. I said ‘If you have time I could show them to you’. His reply immediately was ‘Oh God yeah’.”
Within a matter of hours, the bed and breakfast proprietor brought Waters and his partner Rita on a mini-tour of the village and surrounding areas, taking in the likes of Barley Harbour, Saints Island and Bellyreeve Quarry.
Waters himself paid testimony to the locality, its natural beauty and hardworking residents this week. “I was greatly taken by what I encountered on my recent visit to the Lanesboro area to launch the programme for the Lough Ree Summer Festival. The quarry at Lanesboro where the launch took place has the potential to become a really exceptional amenity, thanks to local and official efforts,” he said.
Since that response, John accomponied the Leader on an almost identical voyage of discovery, much of which also centred around Bellyreeve Quarry and how a similar outcome might be replicated at its neighbouring site in Lanesboro.
Again, Waters appeared suitably impressed. “Bellyreeve Quarry really fascinated me. I was especially impressed by the use of stones and statues, and by the way the atmosphere of the quarry was enhanced by several features,” he said.
Laying claim to what might be incorporated at its neighbouring quarry in Lanesboro, Waters even hinted at returning to the site over the coming months, bringing some of his Dublin based neighbours with him.
“I look forward to revisiting the area soon to see the progress that’s being made with the quarry project at Lanesboro, and I have a mind to bring some of my neighbours from Dalkey down to show them what is possible with a little effort and imagination,” he said.
For the man who accomponied the celebrated journalist on his recent tour of Newtowncashel and Lanesboro, that return visit can’t come soon enough.
“When people come to stay we show them what’s around and they then say to us ‘God we might stay another night’” said John. “You see Longford is left out of everything, so hopefully something comes out of all this.”
Not the worst aspiration, given that it all started over the breakfast table.