Derelict houses on Barrack Street, Carlow rightfully hold the title of ‘the town’s ugliest eyesore‘. However this row of houses is just one of many elements that makes Barrack Street a fascinating snapshot of the changes Ireland has experienced.
Growing up, Barrack Street was such a significant fixture in Carlow. The cattle mart, the bowling alley, Carpenters pub and funeral home, Doyles Of The Shamrock, buses to every match and concert you ever went to, Deanes shop, traffic jams on the way home from Dublin, a perfect row of parking, late night kebabs at Abra. Door to door, colourful, low rise shop fronts that screamed Irishness. As Irish town streets go, it had it all.
Sadly Barrack Street now resembles an aging glamour model with several botched plastic surgery procedures. At the ‘Top Of The Town’ side of the street, the bustling Doyles Of The Shamrock yard has been replaced with a concrete monument dedicated to the memory of the Celtic Tiger, the Shamrock Plaza. As if it fell from the sky, this multi storey mass of concrete is nestling in for a lifetime of dominating the Carlow skyline.
Cross the street to a building that I am sure once served a purpose. However it has been gutted for so long, its original purpose is completely gone from my memory. Picture below is slightly dated as the building now has board windows and subtle orange paint job.
Last orders have long been called at the John Tyndall bar. A small row of paint flaking shop fronts remain with many businesses coming and going. The bowling alley, like many businesses, is now conveniently located out of town on easily accessible ring road. The Cattle Mart and New Oak pitch are now a distant memory, replaced by the international brand names at the Fairgreen Shopping centre.
Abrakebra perseveres, now wafting the smell of kebab meat on to Fairgreen shoppers walking by. Carpenters is one of few local Barrack Street strongholds remaining. A rare constant through the good old days, the building boom and the recession.
Traffic has improved, largely due to the M9 bypass. Carlow Town is no longer one of those towns on a major route where traffic is can be brought to a standstill by a single pedestrian at a level crossing. For those that to take the Barrack Street route, two new roundabouts interrupt your passage through the street and hurry you on your way. Which given the streets current state, may not be a bad thing.
While every town undoubtedly has areas suffering a similar fate, Barrack Street manages to cram so much in to such a small space. The fading Irishness, the poor planning and the boarded windows skirting the global brands. Despite some investments in town improvements recently, it is hard to imagine Barrack Street ever regaining its former glory.