After losing five shops, three pubs and the post office, how this rural community is revitalising itself
"I have seen rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." With these rousing words, the world was introduced to 'The Boss' in 1974.
Recently, I was struck by a similar feeling, regarding the future of rural Ireland, when I visited Billy's Tea Rooms and Shop in Ballyhale, Co Kilkenny.
Driving into the village on a dreary March morning, it looks little different to numerous struggling settlements across the country.
Albeit with one notable exception: the famous white and green bunting of Ballyhale Shamrocks, the most successful club in the history of the All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship.
It is easy to pick out Billy's, because there are lots of cars parked outside, with few elsewhere.
The place is humming with soft country chat and the gentle rattle of mid-morning cutlery and delph. The décor is bright and cheerful. The furniture is not perfectly matched. The staff are wearing their own aprons.
I have visited a number of such ventures but this seems to be an ideal mix of old and new, of rustic and urbane.
On the shop shelves, there's Batchelors mushy peas, Kelloggs Cornflakes, Chef brown sauce and Chivers strawberry jam alongside penne pasta and olive oil. But there are also lots of artisan foods, with emphasis on the local, including several award- winning Mileeven and Highbank Orchards products.