Community spirit shines down on Rathowen Pride of Place

Jodie Devine, Abbi Thomsen, Tommy Lambden, Alex Thomsen, Janet Thorn, Denise Fulham, Lennart Thomsen, Glen Thomsen, Margaret Beirne. Photo: Michelle Ghee.
When it comes to getting the shoulder to the wheel, the close knit community in the village of Rathowen are to the fore.

When it comes to getting the shoulder to the wheel, the close knit community in the village of Rathowen are to the fore.

And if the boss himself - Bruce Springsteen - were to drop by the village some day looking for some information on his great, great grandmother who was born and reared in the area, there would be plenty of people in Rathowen willing to help him, that is for sure!

The village has been nominated by Westmeath Co Council for a national Pride of Place award in the Community section of the competition, and judges were left more than impressed by what they saw when they visited the area last week.

Tommy Lambden is chairman of Rathowen Community Development. He said the idea behind all the hard work and dedication to enhancing the village was to create a community that people were proud of.

The village boasts a brand new state of the art playground which is an impressive effort located in the heart of a new community park. It is also one of the first playgrounds of its kind to be established in a Co Westmeath village. “We spent five years working on the playground and community park,” explained Mr Lambden. We also worked closely with Westmeath Co Council to provide housing for the elderly here in the village and that too has been a very successful venture for us.”

The bustling village of Rathowen is ideally located along the N4 Sligo Dublin route and is approximately 15 miles from Mullingar. It is a community that is made up of numerous organisations including the ICA, Stepping Stones, a local gun club, Waddlers & Toddlers, Tidy Towns and lots more. Over the years, everyone has worked together for the betterment of the village, Mr Lambden added.

Last week, when Pride of place judges arrived in the area they were treated to a guided tour which included a stop off at the local school, churches and graveyard as well as St Dermot’s Well and local firm Green Farm Foods which not only employs nearly 200 people, but has now also engaged in a new wetlands project, an initiative that has garnered interest from all over the midlands. 20,000 litres of water used at the plant daily is currently going through a state of the art filter system as part of a new integrated westlands project. Classman is a peat factory based on the outskirts of Rathowen and it too has been deeply involved in the development and enhancement of Rathowen and its environs, another interesting fact that judges learned on the day.

“We also have Glen Lake in the area and the judges were treated to a history of the area when they arrived at the peat factory, which is quite extensive,” Mr Lambdon continued. “Everyone has worked really hard to get this village to where it is today and we have received great financial support from Westmeath Co Council as well.”

Rathowen Community Development also celebrates 20 years this year and this very special anniversary was marked when the judges arrived in the area last week. There was a cake and plenty of music and song at the beautiful community hall to celebrate the event. “The playground that we have here in Rathowen is the first of its kind in Co Westmeath,” a very proud Tommy Lambden added. “We received €30,00 from Westmeath Co Council for the project and also received €5,000 from the Chairman’s Awards. Westmeath Pride of Place also provided us with an award of €1,000. So we have been putting all that money to very good use here in Rathowen over the past while. We have gotten young and old into the community spirit here and everyone has worked together, and we have made Rathowen a better place to live in.”

Just last year, authors of a new book on Bruce Springsteen traced his roots right back to the village of Rathowen. His great, great grandmother, Ann Garrity was baptised in the village in 1830. Records show that she lived there, before emigrating to America during the Famine years and made her home on the now famous Leopold Street in New Jersey where her super-star great, great grandson Bruce was born some 70 years later. Ann’s sister Elizabeth also moved to New Jersey from Mullingar around the same time.

“If Bruce wants to come to Rathowen, he will be very welcome,” smiled an enthusiastic Lorraine Tormey. “We have everything here that he needs; we have the hotel for him to stay in, great Guinness and we even have our own horse breeder - we know that the Boss loves horses!”

The results of the prestigious Pride of Place competition will be revealed in November at a special event in Ennis. There are 93 competing in the Community section and everyone in Rathowen remains quietly confident that their village can secure top class honours this year. “It would indeed be a great honour,” smiled Mr Lambden. “Our neighbours Streete and Ballynacargy have both secured second place awards in the Pride of Place competition, so hopefully we can do it too. Without the help of all the community we would not be here today and I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone for all their help and support over the years.”