Naas - town of the kings
Without needing to know what period some of the buildings belong to; it’s apparent that the main street is the prettiest of any thoroughfare in the fair County of Kildare. It’s true that some business have closed and others have relocated to the out-of-town shopping centres, but the big buildings are easy on the eye.
The main street of the nearest similar sized town, Newbridge, is a comparative ugly duckling. The low level sameness of most of the main street there has the appearance of something designed in a hurry and on a budget.
The Town Hall
There’s hardly a more attractive building anywhere in the town and certainly few if any better kept.
It marks the official dividing line between North Main Street and South Main Street and though it’s woefully underutilised, your local councillors are keen to see it accommodate many more uses, including the public library.
Naas Town Hall and the pretty streetscape on Main Street
The Eircom Building
Sure, Eircom was rebranded to a squiggledly-writ Eir and it cost all of €16m to get that lovely little squiggle on to their shopfronts and vehicles. But there’s no transforming this ugly warthog of a building that could also double as the last KGB outpost.
Functional it may well surely be, a thing of beauty it ain’t. It makes the list because very grateful we are that it’s hidden away from the main street.
The Eircom building - it looks like the last KGB outpost
Naas Country Market
Apart from the Naas Court Hotel (or the Osprey) after dark on a weekend evening, it’s the only place in Naas that attracts a queue on regular basis. It’s the place to go if you have concerns about factory-manufactured food or a penchant for genuinely free range eggs and organic cabbage.
It’s not the cheapest food market on God’s earth; those women of a certain age know the value of a euro, but it gives you the feeling you’re living well. If you’ve money left over take it to the more recently inaugurated Naas Farmers Market on Saturday, from 10am, where nothing is mass produced.
It’s the concept even more than the place. The complex itself is impressive; over 50 apartments within walking distance of anywhere in Naas. But it places older people at the heart of the community, in the centre of things and it hosts a multiplicity of events, encouraging all-comers in.
McAuley Place is about the people who live there. And all of this was led by the community itself who fundraised for it. The State authorities just wouldn’t have had the imagination or the vision.
McAuley Place, Naas, volunteers with Naas RFC junior players
With the letters aa in the middle it looks like a town in Finland - and it sounds more sophisticated than Ballydehob or Ballickmoyler or Hackballscross or Puckane.
It’s Social & Personal versus The Farmers Journal. Nobody outside Ireland can pronounce Naas. We all know it rhymes with “Pace” but invariably anyone from the UK or the US believes it rhymes with “Pass”. And it’s almost unique. The nearest other Naas is in Austria, which is also home to a town called Fucking.
The three lakes are man-made but are easy to look at. The walkways are a genuine amenity and the pathways are as flat as you could imagine, making the area accessible to everybody. Also, they’re close to the town centre.
And if you live in Lakelands you have a wildlife/aquatic amenity on your doorstep. Nice.The Grand Canal harbour is not exactly Europort Rosslare but it is another attractive feature. The canal branch stops dead here and the area is enhanced by some of the buildings, the lighting, the planting, the chain railing and cobblestone surface. The approach from Basin Street is a little less pleasant.
Never before has so much been owed by so many to so few. The Tidy Towns volunteers are few (given the population of Naas). Despite the derelict buildings, the abolition of Naas Town Council - which some councillors say has led to a reduction in services - and the inability of some to recognise the purpose of a bin, NTT has a very realistic ambition of winning the overall national title.
The town wouldn’t look great if they weren’t around. They want more involved. A social media post advises us to say “Sorry you dropped something” if you see someone creating litter. Try that of a twilight in Monread Park as some hairy six-feet-plus unit walks away from a half empty can of Dutch Gold. It’s the hardest working voluntary group in Naas. God bless them, their litter pickers and their high viz vests.
We’re grateful they’re here in the significant numbers they are because we hope to learn more about how to play Gaelic football from them. And while the smugness of the yerra-this-yerra-that Kerry folk is to be avoided like a dose of the clap, the very fact that the Dubs fret because they feel that they’re not universally liked makes them more appealing.
Maybe the launch of a Love a Dub Week would be a starting point to make them feel more welcome. Not that we’d want them getting too uppity; the last time Kildare played them in the Leinster GAA football championship there were more blue than white flags flying in Naas. Christ.
The Dubs - they just want to be loved...
The Tipping Point
If the Dubs are the new rich of GAA culture these Tipperary folk are the old money. (If the Dubs had money they'd spent it on decking for the house, the Tipp folk would buy a second hand Land Rover). This cohort differ from the Dubs because the Dub craves affection whereas this lot have enhanced Naas’s refinement.
There’s a surprisingly high number of them scattered about Naas who never tire of reminding the locals they’ve as many All-Ireland senior football titles as Kildare.
They’re organised. They’re manageable enough when Munster play rugby. But, once the Munster hurling championship starts, they become as bould as terriers.
And if they get a run they’ll want Tipp jerseys mounted behind pub counters. The trophyless natives nod politely and let them at it. Don’t slag them when they lose or you’ll invite the following gem: “When the GAA built the new Croke Park they sent the bill for the steps to the Hogan Stand down to Tipp - because we had them worn out walking up to collect trophies.”
They set out, like pilgrims, from places like Silvermines, Boherlahan and Ardfinnan on a one-way neverending cultural exchange mission to Naas. They enrich our lives with tales about “The Rattler “ Byrne, Hell’s Kitchen (Gordon Ramsay wouldn’t survive this version), Dan Breen and someone called “Babs” who won an All-Ireland playing in his bare feet - in between lusty renditions of Slievenamon.
Tipp fans celebrating last year's All Ireland
Yes, horseracing is one of those pursuits you’re interested in or you’re not. However it’s not just about gambling and watching jockeys working their mounts through the duration of a race.
All those gushing brochures advertising houses for sale never fail to mention both.There’s more to it that than though. Both Punchestown and Naas are to be refurbished again and this work will enhance facilities like bars, restaurants and access. Go on… you’d rather tell the buds you live close to a racecourse than a whorehouse. Naas is the only town in Ireland with two racetracks. There’s not a one in all of Wicklow, Laois, Offaly, Fermanagh, Clare, Leitrim. Not even Cavan - well they’re too “mane” to train or own a horse there.
Residential property prices are rising in Naas, even if many businesses are struggling and the number of minimum pay jobs being created is also rising. If you own a gaff in Naas or are on you’re way to owning one, the chances are it’s worth more than its equivalent in many other places - bar the leafier parts of Dublin.
If you’re feeling restless, fancy a change of scenery and sell your house you might be able to buy all of, say, Newtownforbes in County Longford.
Then again, Newtownforbes doesn’t have any of the above.