PRIDE OF PLACE - “ We came as strangers and left as friends” were the words spoken by the two Co-operation Ireland judges who spent the afternoon in Bagenalstown on Thursday last, June 21, judging the town’s entry in the 32 county Pride of Place Competition 2012. The Pride of Place Competition is organised on a national level by Co-operation Ireland, a peace promoting charity, run in association with Local Authorities both north and south of the border.
The selection of our town by Carlow Local Authority to represent the county was a great honour. It was also an exciting challenge as it would be a unique opportunity to recognise initiatives taken by the community to take pride on their area and celebrate the important contribution that community groups make to society.
Five months ago, a committee was formed to set the ball rolling. Carlow County Council admin. staff, Margaret Moore and Janette O’Brien, led the team of voluntary committee members that met every week to prepare for the big day - the arrival of the judges. They were supported by Joanne Donohoe and Karen Mullins. Representatives from all strands of community life got involved, including Muine Bheag Town Council, BIG, FAS, traders, voluntary agencies and organisations, sports clubs. etc. and more people came on board as the weeks passed. There was a great sense of “Working together to promote our town and show it at its very best”.
The town looked beautiful on Judging Day and although the sky was overcast the rain stayed mostly away, maybe all the statues of the Child of Prague helped!
There was a great buzz at the McGrath Memorial Hall when the judges, William Beatty and Donal Connolly, arrived with hosts for the day, Mary Foster and Cllr. Liam O’Brien. A Guard of Honour was formed by the O.N.E. and students from St. Brigid’s N.S. Leighlinbridge Brass Band played outside the Hall.
Among the attendance - Town Manager Bernie O’Brien, Carlow Local Authority; Tommy Kinsella, Cathaoirleach, Carlow Local Authority, Ken Hickey, Incoming Cathaoirleach of Muine Bheag Town Council, and Ray Wickham, Area Engineer. Daniel McGrath was on hand to greet the guests (in the person of retired school principal, George Darcy).
After a short welcoming prayer service by Fr. Declan Foley, PP and Rev. Charles McCollum the judges were invited into the Town Council Chambers for a Power Point presentation to introduce the town. Presenters were Lisa Healy, Rita Hughes, John Murphy, John McNally and the youngest member of the planning committee, Michael Cahill. Stunning portraits painted by Polish artist, Iwona O’Reilly who lives in Bagenalstown, were on display in the foyer. The judges toured the exhibition in the main hall featuring local businesses, sports clubs and voluntary organisations.
The judges met the three young girls who will represent Ireland in the Karate World Championships in Lithuania in July – Danielle O’Neill and Eve Sinnott, Bagenalstown and Jamie Campbell, Myshall. This is a wonderful achievement for these young people.
Outside the Garda Station on Kilree Street a group of young people acted as the D’unbelievables and local Gardai, and halted the Santa Sleigh to check its roadworthiness! passing the oldest family run small shop in the town, The Little Shop, which opened in l938.
The guests were brought around in a variety of vehicles - a June Santa sleigh with pink tractor; vintage fire engine; splendid horses and carriages with drivers provided by Carlow Trap and Carriage Club and local man, Liam O’Neill, driving his own horse and carriage, resplendent in his Lord of the Manor attire. Padraig Cahill and local Civil Defence members took the guests on a boat trip to the swimming pool to see the wonderful facility built in l947 by a group of local volunteers.
Local historical characters were on the streets during the afternoon. Railway workers at the Station; three Pike Men patrolled the Market Square, Walter Bagenal (in the person of great community activist, Hughie Hickey) was at the library when the guests arrived and inside they were greeted by a judge, (Betty Hughes looking very much the part). Liam O’Brien outlined the history project he had compiled.
The Town Park did not fail to impress and the upgrading of the children’s play facilities and the Graffiti Wall Project, designed by the Tagsters (a group of environmentally conscious teenagers) with funds from the Town Council, drew favourable comments.
Well done to Josephine Tierney, Family Resource Centre, who presented a wonderful display of the many activities in the Centre when the judges arrived and the exhibition of arts and crafts showing the creative talents of local people. The judges were introduced to Bagenalstown Young Person of the Year, Dean Egan, and Carlow Rose, Marian Hynes.
John Murphy, Olive Keating and Fr. Pierce Murphy were hosts when the judges called to the BEAM Centre on Regent Street where 32 people with intellectual disabilities are catered for. International artist, Laurence O’Toole, who has made his home n Bagenalstown, displayed some of his work there.
Finally, the journey continued by horses and carriage from BEAM to the river where a group of young people, dressed as mill workers, waited opposite Rudkin’s Mill to pay their respects. On the river trip to the swimming pool the group saw people using the fishing stands erected for people with disabilities along the river bank. The day ended with a Community Party in the McGrath Park.
The winners of the Competition will not be announced until late Autumn but the experience of being involved in the Competition has encouraged local people to buy into the simple idea that people can really make a difference in their own areas and make them a better place to live, work and visit. Hopefully, it will have a positive impact in our community.
BAGENALSTOWN SUMMER FESTIVAL 2012 - The Festival will open this year on Friday, July 20 with the Michael Lyons Memorial Fishing Competition The Festival will feature raft race heats, Trial 1 of I’m a Civilian, Get Me out of Here. The official opening will be in the Estoria Restaurant, followed by Festival King and Queen Competition. Tickets for this event are €5 and can be purchased in advance from any committee member.
Saturday July 21- Country Markets in St. Mary’s School, Church Road; raft races; Bounce Zone in Jordan’s field; children’s disco in the Community Centre; Trial 2 and 3 of I’m A Civilian Get Me out of Here; soccer tournament, pub to pub wheelbarrow race. To finish off the evening there will be live music from Double Trouble, followed by comedy hypnotist Paul Dee in the Estoria at 9.30pm. Tickets €5 can be bought in advance.
Sunday July 22- 12pm military weapons display; Trial Four of I’m A Civilian Get Me Out Of Here, barge trips, raft race finals. Jordan’s field will be alive for the afternoon with Bounce Zone; a car-boot sale and activities 2.30pm live music from Blackstairs Rebel; 3.30pm Irish Dancing by Adeline Dargan School Of Dance. Annual duck race at 4pm and then at 4.30pm the winner of I’m A Civilian Get Me Out Of Here will be announced. Finishing off the entertainment on Sunday are the ever popular Mad Caps. The Festival will close with the Mile Swim. In the next few weeks the committee will have cards for the duck race, tickets for the King & Queen competition and for comedy hypnotist. For further information you can visit www.bagenalstownfestival.webs.com Also on Facebook- Bagenalstown Summer Fest, or pick up a brochure which will be available around the town in the next week.
BALLINKILLEN FIELD DAY - Sunday, July 1. Free activities for under fives. Starts at 2.30pm. Giant sand pit, kids’ play area, face painting, fishing game and art competition, plus good quality second hand toys, baby and toddler equipment. Fun races, welly throwing €200 first prize. Bottle stall, books, bric a brac, wheel of fortune, tea tent, strawberries and cream, and lots more.