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New whingers’ club highlights local issues needing attention

January 17th, 2023 5:50 PM

By Jackie Keogh

The bridge ‘to nowhere’ is off Main Street in Skibbereen. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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SOME Australians rather scandalously refer to the English as ‘whinging poms,’ but there is one Australian, living in Skibbereen, who has outed himself as being British-born and a whinger!

John Guttridge is one of a group of four men who have formally formed The Whingers’ Club to bring matters of civic interest to public attention.

The list of things that they say ‘need looking at’ includes the state of the roads in West Cork, Skibbereen’s ‘bridge to nowhere’, and the lack of outlets – like a dedicated café – as a place where younger people can meet.

‘There’s no cinema, no bowling, no recreational outlet where they can congregate,’ said John, ‘which means younger people are left hanging out at street corners or glued to their mobile phones.

‘Walk around places like Skibbereen – because places like Clonakilty would put Skibbereen to shame – and you will see young people sitting in coffee shops because there is nowhere else for them to go,’ he said, in full whinging mode.

‘The soccer facilities here, in Skibbereen, leave a lot to be desired,’ said John, who referenced his own grandson, who will be part of the West Cork Football Club playing Liverpool Boys in February.

‘He goes for training to Bandon every week. They go all over the place – Clonakilty too and Dunmanway – but rarely Skibbereen because the facilities don’t really allow.

‘What I want to highlight,’ he said, ‘is that they played against Cobh Football Club and Cobh has built a stadium and training grounds while there is nothing here to push the club.’

There are two football pitches on the Baltimore Road in Skibbereen, and a changing room, but John said it doesn’t have showers, and ‘there isn’t even a weekly training session.’

Changing tack, John, a retired civil engineer, complained about the state of the roads throughout West Cork, as well as the condition of speed and road signs.

‘Half of them are missing; the potholes are appalling; the camber of the road leaves a lot to be desired; and drainage in a lot of places is not evident and, in fact, causes the deterioration of road surfaces.’ 

The traffic system in Skibbereen is another contentious issue for The Whingers’ Club, all of whom are men but new members – including women – are actively being sought. 

‘The traffic situation in Skibbereen is contentious because trucks and buses jam up the town,’ said John.

‘We actually had a one-way system, on a trial basis, down North Street, but that was stopped despite the fact that it was better and safer.

‘And don’t get me started on the bridge to nowhere – a huge pedestrian access bridge in the middle of the town – that was supposed to connect to the Marsh land, where there was supposed to be a bus stop and a car park to alleviate congestion.’

With a chuckle, John said the other three whingers are maintaining their anonymity, for now, but he believes there is a place for people who are genuinely concerned about ‘infrastructural deficits in the town, or the lack of action by the local authority, the most appalling of which has to be the continued closure of Skibbereen Town Hall.’

John said the group meets once a week at 11am on Thursday mornings at the West Cork Hotel to air their grievances.

It is their hope that more people will become members so they can address local issues.

‘I believe that people should have facilities that are normal in any town, such as access to toilets, public seating, and communal areas where people can meet.

‘There is no place,’ he added, ‘for concerts or gatherings, except for churches or pubs.’

‘I hope people won’t think that I am a cranky loner and a blow-in,’ said John. ‘What I’ve said might sound harsh in print, but I can confirm that I am fully-socialised and have family living in the area!

‘But there must be people out there, like me, who want to see change, including the return of Skibbereen Town Council, which was elected by the people and was a force for change, and good, in the community.

‘By becoming a member of The Whingers’ Club,’ he said, ‘people can address these issues. That does not mean we have a mandate,’ he concluded, ‘but it does mean we are prepared to stand up and be counted.’

Anyone wishing to become a fully-fledged whinger can contact 086 0746726.

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