The year 2003 saw some 20,000 posts on the Castlebar bulletin board – our popular Online Forum, which gives Castlebar a say on matters from the trivial to the serious. A lot of people read it – many more than will ever actively contribute by posting. The month by month review below hopefully will give a feel for the range of the topics discussed during the past year. Because it’s always highly topical you will get the latest news here first but it also includes a wide and varied diet from the very trivial to the very serious. You never know what’s coming next and that is its main attraction.
You can access the archive of posts most easily through the BB Index which provides links to some 70,000 posts. Remember, however, that you cannot reply to any of the archived threads. You can only post on the current, active version.
The year started with a request for photos of the interior of a famous Castlebar establishment, Johnny McHales. A prospective visitor looked for advice on living in Castlebar started an interesting debate on the pros and cons of Castlebar as a place to live. A Mayo County Council contributor started a seasonal debate on recycling of Christmas trees and packaging and outlined the facilities available at Derrinumera and elsewhere around the county. Whether phone books should list full mailing addresses or not was also hotly debated. The dangers of email address harvesting were addressed– (note that Castlebar.ie now has a private directory which does not reveal email addresses and allows you to make contact with other people in the directory with a Castlebar or Mayo background). The dangers of growing up in the 60s and 70s provided fodder for a whimsical Breaffy nostalgia thread. A long thread started by ‘JB’ dealt with petty crime in Castlebar in mid January which was a topic returned to a number of times during the year. Obviously Iraq featured very heavily throughout the year as in all Irish media with an early thread discussing a poll on bombing Iraq . The smoking ban for workplaces came up for discussion a few times during the year too as another ‘burning’ issue of course. Peter Jordan’s photo essay on the Mulranny Great Southern Hotel came in for some well-deserved praise. In January we served up 600,000 pages from Castlebar.ie.
Muirsin Durcan posted a photo of Dublin’s new and controversial ‘Millennium’ Spire in early February. Castlebar’s car park pay controversy was up for discussion early in Feb as was the 6-million person protest against the war – the war that was still to come at that stage. On St. Valentine’s day we had a plea from those without a current valentine! As always throughout the year there were pleas too for help with computer programming projects such as this MSAccess query from Candy Cane. Happy news for cat lovers with a lost cat and a found cat thread. The Chavez documentary which went on to win prizes was appreciated too by our readers as was an article from one of our own regular posters writing about the imminent war in Iraq. St. Pat’s 6th class watercolours came in for praise too in February.
The Iraq war started in March and some of our readers could not understand why we were still concerned about innocent civilians being killed in Iraq while US soldiers were being taken prisoner! In the middle of all the war talk cats were again in the ascendancy and humour too was never far from the surface even in the middle of the Baghdad bombing campaign. Marty B’s "You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the Swiss hold the America's cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance and Germany doesn't want to go to war." as an example. Sport and rugby especially got a good look in this year – we beat Wales in March. Computer games also reared their ugly head and in total contrast there really was something fishy about a certain very long thread in late March. Of course St. Patricks Day trips by town councillors always attract attention. Another article from took an interesting slant on the war and was commented on. The Occasion at the Castle came up again – it has been a regular topic for nostalgic discussion.
Sports on the BB are always popular and on April 1st Candy Cane asked for an explanation of the rules of rugby. Of course as anyone who has ever played rugby knows there are no rules! Local issues concerning coffin makers in Castlebar were also of concern in early April and this post wasn’t the normal www.castlebar.ie April Fool’s joke. The 'official' April Fool's joke in 2003 concerned the Town Council’s extraordinary but entirely fictitious diplomatic coup in NYC. The story was false but the photographs were all totally genuine (they never went anywhere near Photoshop and apologies to Dalemedia for using his photos in this manner!). The nagging doubt that Iraq’s WMD had been decommissioned many years before the war started was also voiced in April after the first phase of the war ended. A certain cynicism was apparent too about the ‘gravy train effect’ of the war as a contributor put it. The fact that more civilians and soldiers were killed after the war officially ‘ended’ was also commented upon right up to the end of the year. More mundane topics like where would you live if you had the choice also came up for discussion in April. It was well after the 1st of April before Lord Lucan appeared on the BB scene in 2003! Boy racers with those very large spoilers weighing down the back of their cars were a subject of some annoyance - rather than admiration. A pleasant local topic was the 50 years celebration of Moran’s Pub. Waste charges were a hot topic all over Ireland in 2003 and also in here Castlebar. As always the great philosophical questions of our time continued to occupy the minds of our BB contributors and readers! The dry weather and forthcoming long hot Summer of 2003 was presaged in April. The price of houses in Castlebar also came up for discussion as did commuting to work from Castlebar. The question of whether one should buy surgical masks to protect against the SARS outbreak was still an issue in April. Movies and music are always good for a lengthy thread on the BB - Bob Dylan and Gregory Peck were part of a movie quiz question from Peter Jordan. Perhaps the biggest local news of the month was the refusal of An Bord Pleanala to grant permission for the Bellanaboy Gas Terminal.
In early May we were pleasantly surprised to see our total castlebar.ie page impressions had now exceeded 990,000 pages for the previous month. Ed Gilligan a relative newcomer to the BB in 2003 provided information on a wide range of topics throughout the year including medicinal plants and soil science. Board readers took Ed to their hearts. Sporting events are important to lots of our contributors and readers and Mayo defeating Sligo gave us all some hope on the 5th of May. Of course not all is always rosy in the garden on the BB and we get brickbats about the site from time to time – in this case about our change to commenting on local issues via the local papers commentary. In May too there was very sad news indeed from Celia, one of the regular contributors and hopefully the kind words offered online were of some solace to her. The successful Irish Everest ascent was noted in Mayo with a humorous slant to the thread. By the end of May some were still hopeful of finding WMD in Iraq. Traffic continued to increase and page impressions for the site as a whole had doubled in comparison with January at almost 1.25 million pages in May.
The Blues Festival is an annual Castlebar event and a number of threads discussed its merits and sought information. We posted photographs of the event. BB readers are always ready to offer advice on matters such as what film should I rent tonight? Praise in June too for the Hawk’s swan photos and advice on where to go for a good cup of coffee in Castlebar? Debate continued on all sorts of issues – Guinness sponsorship of the GAA for example and a long thread about the where the Connaught Final should be held. Should the National Anthem be sung at rugby matches? – another question posed in June. There’s no knowing what will come up from day to day so a discussion about tractors slowing down the morning commute near Ballindine that ends up suggesting the purchase of a second hand Iraqi RPGs to clear the road is not really that unexpected. Louis Walsh’s famous gaff about the Special Olympics came in for quite a bit of criticism in the build up to the Special Olympics. Pensions were discussed referencing the WHB in particular. The Special Olympians from Venezuela came to Castlebar in mid June and Murisin Durcan photographed some of the events. The price of petrol and diesel is a perennial question too. Advice on children in front seats of cars was sought and given. PJ covered the midnight launch of the new Harry Potter book which had children queuing up on Castle Street. A contributor described her visit to the Jeannie Johnston in the USA.
The makeup of the Mayo team exercised contributors quite a bit in early July during the run up to the Connaught Final. Google fighting reared its head in July and the first reference to a Google-bombed site was from Mike on July 4th! ‘Uncle Sam’ appreciated a 4th of July fireworks photo from a contributor with a Castlebar link taken in Manhattan. A request for help in building a time machine caught the humorous attentions of some of the regulars. The etiquette or otherwise of BB contributors came in for a surprisingly calm discussion with few insults hurled. Wireless Internet like broadband is an attractive for those on the BB who pine after faster Internet access. The BB has lots of advice and discussion about satellite TV from time to time and in this case the question was how to receive the new BBC free-to-air digital channels. Of course Castlebar’s Online Forum is always first with the latest warnings about scams or new viruses or topical twists on old spam scams. July and holidays are synonymous so advice on touristy things to do in Mayo was quite appropriate in mid summer. Ever wondered how to go about checking your house for radon levels? The BB tells you how. Politics is never far from the surface and what better time to discuss Northern Ireland than in the week of the 12th of July and of course discussion of the Iraqi war was still continuing on the BB in July. Johnny McHales upside-down flag also caused some controversy.
August was a hot dry month this summer and global warming seemed ever more likely to be real. The translantic flight of a model aircraft attracted attention in mid August. An early mention of the Governator of California turned out to be less (?) of a joke than was no doubt intended at the time. Public lighting was blamed for the fill-in of Lough Lannagh with reeds and rushes. Mayo hit temperature records in August as contributors sweltered over hot their keyboards. Castlebar litter came in for some criticism from a Castlebar-born visitor back for an annual visit. The North American blackouts provoked a long thread in mid August and the issuing of the Leaving Cert results were noted. While it can become very fraught sometimes, people on the BB are always very good to help with advice and info on issues such as job-hunting. The great rural housing debate appears to have started sometime in August with a tongue-in-cheek (we hope!) comment. A question posed by a contributor asking for advice on whether to dump the girlfriend and head to OZ was answered in good faith. A discussion on licensing laws rounded off the month of August.
Jack the 12-year old wrestler started off the month causing quite a bit of a stir with a few separate threads. The Sunday car boot sale traffic jams got a good airing as did the aftermath of dumped rubbish. As the long dry spell continued pollution of a Lough Mask river came up for comment. If you ever wondered whether frozen vegetables were as good for you as fresh vegetables the BB provided the answer (or was it answers?) and ditto for a question about how long an opened bottle of wine will keep. The Castlebar BB could have saved TV3 a lot of trouble with the Eamon Dunphy thing if they had read the googlefight post where Pat Kenny trounced Dunphy. The auctioneering councillor debate started to heat up in September too - was this what prompted the Connaught Telegraph to comment on the issue? Music, film and entertainment threads are always popular and Johnny Cash’s death was marked appropriately. The ferocious vandalism at Christchurch came in for severe criticism. The sale of pre-signed Mass Cards also provoked a lengthy debate. There’s always someone ready to stir things up but the ladies showed real restraint in the face of provocation by men accusing lady golfers of being too slow among other things. The Pollatomish landslide occurred on the 19th September and obviously received a lot of attention. The issue of overgrazing as a ‘root’ cause was debated extensively. The famous boycott of Frank Durcan by the CT came in for discussion as a motion went before the Town Council in September.
The thorny should e-mail be monitored at work question came up in early October. The Mayo women’s football team won the All-Ireland again in October (succeeding where the men failed). Is the footpath a workplace was the question posed by ‘fagged off’ as the no smoking legislation became more incendiary than ever. Is Knock Airport a white elephant? October 11th was marked as the end of our soccer dreams Switzerland 2 - Ireland 0. Music popped up again in October – this time lamenting the demise of the Castlebar music scene. Complaints about taxi meters not being switched were a regular subject of postings during 2003. Should all drugs be legalised – is it as daft as it sounds at first? Electronic voting got people exercised in October too. Suspicions of conflict of interest arising when auctioneers who are also county councillors make changes to county development plans became a major discussion point on the BB towards the end of the year. A conspiracy theory, proposing that not all of the Kilimanjaro Nine had reached the summit, was scotched failry comprehensively by a number of contributors. The Northern Lights hit Mayo in October following a solar flare. The illegal demolition of the old listed Mercy Convent building was still raising hackles in October. Ireland v Australia in the rugby world cup was another one of those near-miss things.
Castlebar’s Garrison Keillor fans were delighted with RTE’s Saturday night broadcast of the Prairie Home Companion show. Michael Moore fans were also pleased to hear that he was appearing in Dublin. The change of local area phone numbers was noted in November too as people got the annoying please redial message. Davitt College held a 21-year anniversary reunion in mid November. Speed limits and speed traps come up on a regular basis – are concealed Garda speed traps ‘fair’? Religion comes up regularly on the BB but a query regarding change of religion provided an unusual twist. Pool hall memories also pop up from time to time with obvious nostalgia and affection for the old pool hall on Main Street. Surprising as it may seem but there were cheers for the end of Ramadan on the Castlebar BB but there are a few expats in the Middle East who post regularly. We saw this particularly in the FIFA U20 World Cup when Emirati provided both match commentaries and some really excellent photos for our readers to enjoy. The statement from an Irish politician that the Simpsons are rotting our minds gave rise to some hilarity. The extraordinary boast made on local radio by a county councillor that the county councillors had ‘mutilated’ the draft County Development Plan was picked up and discussed. Russian Brides seem an unlikely topic but all of human life is discussed on the Castlebar BB.
The changes made to the County Development Plan by county councillors once again sparked off a lot of controversy in December - over the course of the year this issue almost got as many posts as the Iraq War. Concerns about employment and development of the town are always near the top of the agenda as shown by an open letter to the Town Council urging a serious effort in order to attract a large employer to Castlebar - one such as Amazon or e-Bay who were in discussion about their Irish location. The budget speech proposal to decentralise government departments with their ministers gave rise to a certain degree of scepticism. Benchmarking explained? – well perhaps - but a topical issue like this is bound to come up for discussion. At Christmas time junk mail from charities inevitably increases but should it happen at all? The kidnapping of an Irish tourist in Iran led to a discussion that roamed from Iran to Pakistan to the Gulf to Belfast, Limerick and Iraq – all discussed in one thread which is the beauty (or the frustration depending on how you look at it) of threaded discussions – you just never know what’s coming next. The year finished with lots of Christmas and New Years Greetings, the Westlife wedding photographs by Michael Donnelly, which appeared on the site within a couple of hours of being taken. The happy outcome at Knxus after a payday hiccup rounded off the year nicely especially for those who received a delayed pay cheque.
A special thanks to the new moderators who have helped to keep an eye on the content during the year.