‘Don’t mind the red carpet George – come home and open our new tearoom!’
By SINÉAD CONNOLLY
HOLLYWOOD star George Clooney, whose ancestors hailed from Windgap, hit the headlines over the past week when he visited Ballyfin House, just over the county border in Abbeyleix, as part of a family reunion with some of his Irish relatives.
And now the famous actor has been issued with a personal invite to return to his ancestral village – to cut the ribbon on Windgap’s new local shop and tearooms!
Local woman Michelle O’Brien, who is one of the driving forces behind the innovative local cooperative initiative, said Clooney and his family would be received with open arms if they returned to Windgap.
Michelle knows it’s probably unlikely the Hollywood star will make an appearance, but she laughed: “You never know, we’ll keep our fingers crossed!”
Regardless of whether ‘Gorgeous George’ can make it or not, the vibrant community in Windgap will have plenty to celebrate with the opening of their own local hub, which will be called the Lakeside Shop and Tearooms.
Michelle told KilkennyNow.ie: “We had a meeting in the old hall in 2012 and Fr Flavin chaired the meeting. It was to get an idea of where we’d like to be in seven years’ time, a seven-year plan. We talked about a playground, a new hall, a loop walk and a lot of those things have come together.”
Like many rural areas, the people of Windgap have sadly witnessed their community slowly fade away in recent years, but they were determined to breath new life into their village.
Michelle recalled: “When I moved to Windgap in 1991 there was four shops, two pubs, a post office and now there’s nothing except one pub left. Our little village is after disappearing and we just wanted to rebuild it. Our hope is that the shop and tearooms will be a hub for everybody.”
Numerous local meetings were held to find out exactly what people wanted and to mobilise volunteers.
Michelle said the local committee were very grateful to Billy’s Tearooms and Shop in Ballyhale for offering them some advice on the practicalities of the day to day running of a business with the help of volunteers.
And she added: “I believe it’s going to benefit every member of the community. Young and old. We are hoping to collect some of the older members of the community and bring them down for a chat and a cup of tea one morning a week.”
If you would like to get involved with the Windgap community cooperative, you can contact Julie on 086 809 5328, Michelle on 087 681 2357 or Noelle on 087 211 5089