Motorway takes its toll

The Milltown Mart, closed shopfrontI had the misfortune of mechanical issues with my vehicular transport this past week. Specifically, one of my wheels virtually came unmounted from the rear axle of my car. Not the tire now, the actual wheel mounts.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t be arriving home in said vehicle that evening. I turned off the motorway and drove the ailing machinery in question at 10mph until I arrived in Milltownpass, where she came to a rattled, unsteady rest in front of the Milltown Mini Market.

Normally, I would have felt a bit odd parking my car on the path directly in front of a shop door, but this shop had closed less than 2 weeks earlier, as a handwritten sign on the door attested. I looked around the town and was struck by the silence.

Just a few months ago, this town was a busy stop on the N6, the roadway stretching between Dublin and Galway. Just months ago, thousands of people travelled through here every day. Of course, a few months ago the new motoway opened, bypassing Milltownpass.

A single bird called clearly from a couple of fields away and I realised the Milltown Mini Market wasn’t the only place that had recently closed.

sign in the milltown mart window reading, "This shop will be closing down on 10th march"I mentioned the changing face of Ireland’s motorways last October, and recently talked about how rural Ireland is dying a death as recently as January. Standing outside the Milltown Mini Market, however, I was faced with the actual, firsthand evidence of what could almost be considered an Irish ghost town.

I rang a tow service, they told me it would be at least an hour, so I went down to the local pub for a cup of tea. Sitting alongside the pub’s only other patron, I asked the publican how the opening of the motorway had affected Milltownpass.

“Completely,” came her answer. “The petrol station was first and the mini-mart closed there as well.”

“How is trade in the pub?” I asked.

“There’s no passing custom at all anymore,” came her answer as she turned back toward the dish washer. I noted there was a handwritten sign advertising live music two Saturdays ago on the wall.

A sign outside the pub advertised lunch, catering and service for coaches full of tourists. I considered how many tourists stopped in this fairly unremarkable place prior to the opening of the motorway and then wondered how many tourists will now never see Milltownpass on their visit to Ireland.

My tow truck ended up taking closer to two hours to arrive, during which not a single additional patron entered the pub.