In mid 2011, local elections took place in Aghabullogue, Coachford and Rylane, and a new Community Council emerged. The merits of a heritage committee quickly became obvious. On 28 July 2011, the first committee meeting took place at Coachford Community House. Soon afterwards, we adopted the working name of ‘ACR Heritage’. Since early days, our committee has consisted of members of the Community Council, members of the (now disbanded) Coachford Historical Society and other people from the local community, brought together by a common interest.
In the beginning, our work schedule was easily sorted, as it came largely from the results of ‘Needs Surveys’. These were surveys previously distributed to the local community, who were asked to make suggestions, complete forms and return them to the Community Council. In the ensuing years, our focus has adapted to changing circumstances, but the primary goal is still the same … preserve and promote local heritage.
Our first public event coincided with National Famine Commemoration Day. We gathered on 11 September 2011 at the burial plot known as ‘Famine Corner’ in Magourney Graveyard, Coachford. Prayers were said by Fr Peadar Murphy and Rev. Ian Jonas, and a wreath laid by young Jack Murphy. The large gathering then adjourned to Coachford Community House, where Anthony Greene gave an informed talk on the effects of the Great Famine locally.
Much of the rest of 2011 was taken up with funding applications and groundwork. An application was made to the Heritage Council, seeking funding for the ‘surveying and recording of local sites and items of interest’. In the face of stiff competition this proved unsuccessful, but we did draw praise from the Heritage Council in the detail of the proposal submitted. ACR Heritage proceeded nevertheless to survey and record local items/sites, and continues to do so to the present day. Another funding application, made to West Cork Development Partnership in late 2011, was successful and allowed ACR Heritage members to attend a ‘Care & Maintenance of Heritage’ course. In doing so, we gained valuable knowledge and experience, which has since often been put to good use.
The year that was 2012 saw us deciding to host, for the first time, events to coincide with National Heritage Week. Not one, not two, but three outings were chosen to kick-start our participation in this annual and popular event.
On 18 August, a Heritage Treasure Hunt took place in Coachford, in conjunction with Coachford Autumn Festival. It was an instant hit, particularly with children, who happily got into the swing of things, learning as they went with their parents around the village. The format was simple enough: each clue sheet would lead the treasure hunters (if they solved the clue correctly) to a heritage building/item of interest, where they would find a letter of the alphabet displayed and write it down. Gathering eight of these letters enabled them to spell the name of a famous person, directly connected with Aghabullogue parish. In this way people visited and/or learnt about St Patrick’s Church; Coachford Creamery; Magourney Church & Graveyard; Herbert Webb Gillman; The Railway; Coachford Courthouse; the RIC Barrack Site and the 2012 Olympics Sculpture. Activity Sheets were given to children to fill out and they were entered into a draw. Answers to the clues were given out at the end, as well as brief outlines of the history of each building/item. And the famous person? None other than John Allen, Aghabullogue native, GAA stalwart, medal winner for club and county, and team manager at the highest level.
On 25 August, exactly one week later, we were on the road again. First stop was Cronody Dovecote with the kind permission of landowner Margaret Barry. The Sheahan family were equally kind in arranging parking facilities. In perfect weather conditions we wandered through the lanes and fields of beautiful Cronody, overlooking the River Lee, until we arrived at and entered the dovecote. This structure, despite its age, was in fine condition. There we were treated to a talk by ACR Heritage member Joan Hinchion on the dovecote’s past uses, the history of the townland and the even more colourful history of some of its residents through the ages.
With those reflections we happily headed back to Sheahans to collect our cars. Joan wasn’t finished yet though, as it was time for the cortege to drive the short distance to nearby Derreen townland, to visit Broomhill with the welcome permission of owner Paul Murphy. Again Joan wasn’t found wanting, giving an amazing talk on the history of the building, once known as Ellen Ville, and the equally colourful history of its past residents.
By now ACR Heritage was up and running for just over a year. Much had been achieved, but there was still plenty to do, in a parish with thousands of years of heritage. 2013 would see our efforts brought to another level.
To be continued …