The many and varied talents of Callan people were to the fore once again at this year’s Abhain Rí Festival.
From boxing and hurling to art and architecture there was, as they say, “something for everyone”.
New to this year’s festival was a Battle of the Bands, which was won by Callan band Shiksa, and one of the great things about it was that the event was organised completely by teenagers, with support from Ossory Youth, said Patrick Lydon, chairman of the festival committee.
It fit in with the festival’s theme of inclusion and participation, as did a performance by an integrated dance group, which also interacted with the Equinox theatre group.
The festival’s field day was another highlight, Mr Lydon noted, was the use of the old Co-Op building, which just three weeks ago was a “seriously derelict building”. “The use of the Co-Op was definitely a major step forward,” he said.
The spectacle that helped bring the festival to a close was again a delight, and overall the town’s festivities received very favourable reviews.
One of the most illustrative comments, according to Mr Lydon, came from Jimmy Walsh of the Callan Boxing Club, who said that in all his 78 years, it was the best thing he’d ever seen in Callan.
The attendance numbers agreed, with the Coillte walk alone attracting over 120 participants.
It all built on the success and momentum of last year’s inaugural event, and it bodes well for the future as well.
But wait, there’s more still to come.
Terence Reeves-Smyth, noted garden historian and Senior Inspector of Historic Buildings in Northern Ireland, will give an illustrated presentation on ‘The History of Walled Gardens’ as a part of the Commonage project in Callan on Friday at 5pm. Being held in the Commonage theatre installation in the Old Co-op Stores in Green Street, the presentation will be followed by a walking tour of the old gardens at Westcourt, taking in the other two Commonage sculptural/architectural installations: ‘When Things Meet’, a piece by Rhona Byrne that is placed under the by-pass bridge, and ‘Gardener’s World (Future)’ by Tom Maher and Eamon Peregrine within the Westcourt walled garden.
The Westcourt Demesne was long the seat of the gentry in the Callan area but fell into serious decline and dereliction in the 20th century. The house was burned down in the 1950s but the walled garden and neglected remnants of the landscape are still visible. Terence Reeves-Smyth will lead a tour that will take in what appears to have been a Bog Garden, featuring a remarkable Horse Chestnut tree that is now listed in the Heritage Tree Register, and a Lime Allee that leads to the Walled Garden. With his knowledgeable and experienced eye, he will try to re-create what was designed and established in the Georgian period.
Turn to page 14 for a gallery of images from the festival.