THE Jealous Wall at Belvedere, near Mullingar.

A tale of two towns

There’s a healthy rivalry between Athlone and Mullingar

IT DOESN’T compare with the old N17 in the sentimental journey stakes, but taking the old N6 Dublin Road from Athlone stirs quite a few memories.

Before the motorway was built there seemed to be just one bottleneck after another. The first was Moate; but arriving there on a bright October morning made the stagnation and frustration of those slow-coach decades seem like a bad dream.

The wide, wide main street is now divided by traffic islands, providing plenty of parking space, and the town looked cheerful in the sun.

That street was once a marketplace where thousands of the famous Westmeath cattle changed hands, and the days of the fairs and markets are remembered in a sculpture depicting two farmers about to clap hands on a deal.

There’s another, slightly peculiar monument on the street opposite. It’s a Celtic harp in stone. On the back of the plinth, you can read that it was donated by the Cooney family, but the planting to the front has obscured whatever inscription there is…

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