It seems there’s no stopping the Coon Redevelopment Committee.
From footpaths and stone walls that now line the picturesque village, basketball and tennis courts, and a state-of-the-art playground that is being enjoyed by dozens of children every day, all of the work has been carried out on a voluntary basis by the community itself.
And now they have plans for a building beside the playground that will house a piece of village history: a butter churning machine and culm grinder. The building will also contain a wheelchair-accessible toilet and there are eventual plans for a car park.
“I think it was a forerunner of the Co-op here in Coon,” committee treasurer Seamus Hahessy said of the innovative piece of machinery, and because of its large size, it is thought to have been for communal use.
If made headlines in this newspaper back in 1995, in an article that outlined how the device was used to mix culm with yellow clay to make culm balls for heating, while at the same time powering a butter churn:
“While the horses or donkeys were hitched up to a rigging and walked in circles to temper the culm and clay, they also operated a nearby dash churn through a series of gears, or cogged wheels”.
It probably operated back in the late 1800s up to around 1925 when the Coon creamery was built.
The production of dairy products is central to the village’s heritage. Along with Ballyfoyle and Castlewarren, Coon was a collection point for milk, and the butter was then made in Muckalee – which was one of the original founders of Avonmore, along with Castlecomer and Ballyragget.
“In the early 1970s there were 153 suppliers just to the Coon Co-op,” Mr Hahessy pointed out.
With the help of a recreational, cultural and heritage grant from Kilkenny County Council, their plan now is to add this next piece of infrastructure to the North Kilkenny village.
The work from the planning stages to the construction, as usual, has been voluntary, which is again a tribute to the community spirit in the village.
“It’s a great community, because there is no bother getting help; everybody lends a hand,” said committee chairman Sean Haughney. “I always like to stress the importance of the people behind the scenes. If they weren’t there, we wouldn’t be able to keep going.”
To raise money for this next stage of work, they are hosting a Vintage Run on September 18 with vintage cars and tractors travelling from Coon to Old Leighlin, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Paulstown and back to Coon.
Their redevelopment of the village has been going on for seven years now, and they still have praise for former County Council official Tony Walsh, who secured the council’s purchase of the land on the promise that the local people would put in the hard work themselves.
With the setting looking so impressive now, it’s easy to forget that at that time “this was just a swamp.”
And as these committee members talk about their plans for the future, and numerous local children come out to enjoy the playground that is the result of so many years’ effort, there is a satisfaction in seeing the fruits of their labour bringing joy to the people of the village.
“It makes it all worthwhile,” Mr Haughney said.
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