independent

Sunday 15 December 2019

Former staff relive hotel's heyday

Great Southern Hotel reunion

The organisers Noel Patten, Aine Kehoe, Maria Winters, Claire O’Rourke, Caroline Harpur, Bride Hayes, Pat Doyle and Imelda Lawlor
The organisers Noel Patten, Aine Kehoe, Maria Winters, Claire O’Rourke, Caroline Harpur, Bride Hayes, Pat Doyle and Imelda Lawlor

Maria Pepper

The glory days of the now derelict and soon to be demolished Great Southern Hotel in Rosslare Harbour were recalled at a reunion of former staff organised to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Over 100 people attended the event in nearby Hotel Rosslare which was held by a group of past employees who decorated the reception with old photographs of staff and the GSH hotel itself in more prosperous times.

The hotel opened its doors in 1969 and developed a reputation as one of the leading hospitality providers in the south east.

The origins were the old railway terminal hotels built by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company in the 1960's with the Great Southern Hotel group consisting of six State-owned CIE hotels in Kerry, Galway and Rosslare.

The 100-bedroom Rosslare hotel, perched on the hillside overlooking the harbour with a panoramic view of ferries entering and leaving the port, was one of the first hotels in the south east to provide a swimming pool and leisure centre, according to former employee Claire O' Rourke.

For many years, the premises also operated as a training school for the hospitality industry, which was run by CERT, the State training agency for the hotel industry. Hundreds of chefs and hospitality workers were trained there by top instructors.

Throughout its checkered history, the Great Southern Hotel, Rosslare enjoyed prosperity, welcomed dignatories and also survived recessions and even a bomb attempt by the IRA.

Aer Rianta, now the Dublin Airport Authority, took over the chain of hotels, adding three properties in Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. In 2009, due to reduced profits, the Government decided to sell the hotels, which proved the end of the line for the Great Railway hotels.

Ms. O' Rourke said that lasting legacy locally were the friendships and even marriages made over the years by staff of the Rosslare hotel, who have many fond memories of the good times.

The hotel breathed life into a small village, providing employment and hospitality. There is hardly a family in Rosslare Harbour that didn't have someone working there at some time, she said.

The hotel is now a deteriorating shell of a building and those who worked there can't help viewing it as a wasted opportunity on a prominent site at the gateway to Europe.

The staff reunion was organised to mark the hotel turning 50 and over 100 ex-employees travelled from all over the country to enjoy a night of dancing, singing and reminiscence.

The night began with a prosecco reception sponsored by family celebrant Diana Goff. The organisers thanked the sponsors of the event for their support, including Murphy's SuperValu, Lloyds Pharmacy, Griffin Hotel Group, Circle K service station, Wild and Native, Rosslare, Perennial Freight, Diana Goff, Eadaoin Lawlor, Talbot Hotel Group, DPD Wexford and Simplicity.

'It is with sadness that we now watch as this hotel which created so much local employment and brought tourists to the area, is being demolished', said another former employee, Caroline Harpur.

Wexford People

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