Category Archives: 2013

‘Battery Belles’ brush up on their DIY skills at B&Q training workshop

A corner of the B&Q store in Athlone hummed with chat and laughter last Wednesday, as a group of women from Battery Heights took part in a workshop which taught them how to make planter boxes for a community garden in the Athlone housing estate.
The women took to their task with great relish. “I think they know as much as I do, if not more,” said Declan Keighery, who was their instructor at the store in the Arcadia Retail Park.
This workshop was the latest step in the Westmeath Independent’s ‘Get Involved’ project. This initiative involves local newspapers highlighting the work of a community group – in our case, the Monsignor McCarthy Family Resource Centre in Battery Heights.
In recent months, the centre has worked with local residents to transform a strip of wasteland into a community garden decorated beautifully with hand-crafted tile mosaics.
When we visited during last week’s workshop, Ann Westman Elazir, Nora McEvilly and Sheila Duffy were hard at work crafting their wheelbarrow planter boxes.
Ann explained that the women, and their friends in Battery Heights, were known as the ‘Battery Belles’, and one of the new mosaics in the community garden bears this name.
When asked how she was finding the workshop, Nora McEvilly replied: “It’s fun. It’s nice to know that we’re able to do it. I didn’t think I had the brains to do it!”
She said community initiatives like this one “are giving us ideas… they’re bringing us places and showing us how to stand on our own two feet.”
The coordinator of the Monsignor McCarthy Centre, Sheena Lawless, said it was grateful to B&Q, which has “agreed to come on board with both the family resource centre and the residents’ association to help us to develop the community and surrounding areas within Battery Heights.
“From a community point of view, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get training for free. Obviously with all the cutbacks, everybody’s trying to be as creative as possible in learning new skills,” she said.
The ‘Get Involved’ initiative is still ongoing, but already plans are in place for Battery Heights to also enter a Tidy Towns ‘pride of place’ competition next year.
“We’re really hoping the community will take ownership of the grounds surrounding the houses and that (the estate) will become aesthetically more pleasing to the eye,” said Sheena.
B&Q Ireland went into examinership earlier this year and, for a time, it looked as if the Athlone store would close. Lorraine Garvey, a supervisor at the store, said it was seeking to ‘give back’ to the local community.
“The community has obviously supported us through the examinership so I think this will be good for everybody. At the end of the day, as a community, you always have to stick together.”
She said in-store DIY classes for members of the public had commenced recently, and this was something B&Q was planning to develop and expand as time goes on.

Battery Heights strides ahead with ambitious project

‘Get Involved’ community initiative nears completion

Turning a strip of wasteland into a beautiful community garden is no easy feat, but that hasn’t deterred the residents of Battery Heights who have been making great strides with their ‘Get Involved’ project.

Earlier this summer the Monsignor McCarthy Family Resource Centre was chosen as the Westmeath Independent’s ‘Get Involved’ project and was selected following an applications process advertised in the newspaper. Their entry will see an area of wasteland transformed into a community garden for all, complete with handcrafted tile mosaics made by the residents themselves.

Get Involved is a community initiative that sees community groups have their activities highlighted in local and regional newspapers across the country. A reception will be held in Arás an Uachtarain for the winning entries in September.

The award-winning architect and well-known TV presenter Duncan Stewart will chair the national judging process and will be assisted by judges from provincial regions.

Residents and volunteers have been extremely busy over the past couple of months and since the Westmeath Independent last visited the area, the walls have been whitewashed and the mosaics have been completed, with most of them already adorning the walls.

Shrubbery has been planted and on Thursday of last week Midland Stone had just made a delivery of stones to the area, which will cover the pathway between the allotment and the wall adorned with the mosaics, which was previously overgrown.

The area being transformed by the residents is located in the upper most part of Battery Heights and Monsignor McCarthy FRC Co-ordinator Sheena Lawless explained that three years ago the centre approached the council to see if it could take ownership of the piece of land, where it hoped to locate a men’s shed. A greenhouse was erected on the plot of land in 2011 but this was damaged and as a result the men’s shed was moved to the back of the family resource centre and the plot of land was instead used as an allotment.

The community, assisted by the resource centre, is now tackling a piece of land adjacent to the allotment, which had been attracting dumping and anti-social behaviour and so far has added spectacular colour to the area, with the project now nearing completion.

It was initially planned that there would be six mosaics created by six different groups and while the completed mosaics represent six different aspects of the community, Sheena explained this week that the project really brought the whole community together, with everybody contributing to all of the mosaics.

The ‘Battery Belles’ women’s group’s mosaic contains lots of cups and saucers and teapots, representing a group that began by meeting once a week over a cup of tea and is now playing an intrinsic role in the community and is often the driving force behind many of the activities.

Another of the mosaics represents the allotment and shows the various vegetables that are grown there. The Family Resource Centre’s mosaic contains a butterfly, which is also contained within the logo of Monsignor McCarthy Family Resource Centre.

One of the mosaics shows the sun, moon and stars and Sheena explained that this represents the dreams, aspirations and hopes of the community. Another represents the different sporting interests of the community and shows the Sam Maguire Cup, a football, two hurls and a sliotar, a rugby ball, a dart board and darts and boxing gloves.

The project has evolved along the way and while initially it was planned to decorate the wall of the allotment with fish mosaics created by the Kids in Training Together group, these fish mosaics will now adorn the back wall of the area, while the community has other plans for the allotment wall.

The project has brought on board more than just the community of Battery Heights, with offers of help from volunteers and many local businesses offering products/services free or at discounted prices.

Sheena explained that one man who recently moved from Dublin to take up a job at Ericsson will now help residents to make furniture for the allotments. She said after moving to the town he researched some community initiatives and offered to help make furniture for the allotments out of pallets, with the furniture set to hang from the walls in the allotment.

Sheena thanked Brendan Gaffey for clearing out the strip of land, as lots of weeds and topsoil had to be removed as part of the project. Local tile companies Right Price Tiles, Graphic Tiles and Doyle’s provided the community with old tiles for the mosaics.

She thanked Midlands Stone for the stones for the community garden as well as PJ’s Florist in Rochfortbridge for providing flowers at a discount as well as Dooley’s, which is helping the community to plant climbing roses which will frame the mosaics on the wall.

This week B&Q will hold a workshop for members of the community to teach them how to make planters for the garden and feeders for birds. Staff at B&Q are also going to help with the green area in front of the family resource centre house and it is planned to create a grass mosaic in this space, with mannequins to represent the family.

Sheena commended all those involved in the project this week, saying people have been putting in eight and nine hour days and said all of the students and those on CE schemes are owed hours as this stage! She also thanked Nuala O’Brien from Westmeath VEC for all of her help.

She said the project has really brought the community together and the residents have learned a lot along the way.

“We’ve really realised the importance of doing a project that’s going to involve all of the community or as much of the community who want to be involved,” said Sheena.

She added that the push is on now over the next couple of weeks to ensure the project is completed before the end of the month.

While the mosaic and garden area are set to be finished, the project has sparked new ideas for the community and it is now hoped that ‘A Wish Tree’ will take pride of place in the area, which was previously just wasteland. Sheena explained that the idea of the wish tree will be to have special cards, on which residents can write their wishes or thoughts and these will be tied to the tree with ribbons. The community also hopes to create a memorial mosaic for the wall in the allotment, which will remember members of the community who have passed away.

With lots of ideas and plenty of enthusiasm among the community, it seems as though this project could continue to grow and grow, with hopes the residents can get help to replicate their great work in other parts of the estate.

To find out more about the project you can read further updates in coming editions of the Westmeath Independent or look at Monsignor McCarthy’s Facebook page at You can also see details on this and other projects on the Get Involved website

Tree planting to further enhance the almost completed river bank project

Sean McMahon

The community enhancement project at the section of the river Inny which flows between two bridges in Ballyjamesduff, is nearing completion and the transformation is pretty spectacular.

A dedicated team of people has worked hard to ensure that the project is being completed to a high standard. A footbridge has been put in place and a paved walk area. A stone wall has been constructed to keep the upper river bank in place and it has been back filled with clay.

A timber fence has also been constructed as part of the project and affords a nice backdrop, with potential for enhancement in the future. A picnic bench has also been placed on the decking. To enhance the biodiversity of the area, seven trees were planted towards the end of last week, including weeping willow and weeping birch and alder.

The team who have seen the project through to this stage include Kevin Fox, assistant chairperson of the Tidy Towns, Gerry Smith, Brendan Fox, Brian Slowey, Paddy McInerney, Tommy Tracey, Harry Brant, Sean McInerney, Eileen Lynch, treasurer, Rosemary Galligan and Susan Willis, chairperson of the Tidy Towns. FAS workers also helped to clean the river.

Susan Willis says that the team were fortunate to avail of Tommy O’Neill’s expertise; he volunteered to help and put his machinery at the committee’s disposal. They were also fortunate to have access to Aidan O’Reilly’s yard to store materials during the works and also Sean McBride’s yard on the other side of the river.

“We had so much stuff there at one point, including backfill, stones, that we required those yards,” she told the Celt.

The final touches will be put to the transformation of this Inny River stretch this week, courtesy of the team putting creepers in place and completing the various painting jobs.


Susan Willis says the lower bank of the river will have to be left for a while to let nature take its course. It is not feasible to plant anything on that area, as the rising level of the river would take it away. Time will allow the natural grasses to return to knit the bank in place.

Consideration is being given to putting a weir in place in the future and more stones to be placed on either side of the river, to enhance the flow and create more oxygen in the water.

“We have completed what we are going to do aesthetically – the other works are designed to nurture the river itself – that will be an ongoing project. We will continue to liaise with the Fisheries people on this project”, said Susan.

Tubberpatrick Cemetery and restored stations of the cross

A north Longford cemetery was arguably the place to be last Sunday afternoon as local parishioners turned up in their dozens to witness a small slice of history taking place.


Tubberpatrick Cemetery was the venue not just for the perennial blessing of graves.

It was also the day which brought the curtain down on many months of diligent, behind the scenes work on restoring the cemetery’s age-old Stations of the Cross.

Despite the somewhat erratic weather conditions at times, worshippers stood silently, many of them visibly moved by the sheer volume of work that had been undertaken by a 17-strong commmittee.

One of those members and local Cllr John Duffy led the tributes.

Edward Foster, another north Longford resident, was complemented for his help in providing timber based supplies. Maurice Lenord was likewise singled out for his scuplting capabilities in restoring the stations. So too were the Conefrey’s, John Dolan, community employment scheme workers and others.

Even the Fine Gael representative’s opposite number, Fianna Fail Cllr Luie McEntire got a mention for “working the oracle” in getting Longford County Council to row in behind the project.“I would like to pay tribute to Luie,” said Cllr Duffy. “I hope he would pay tribute to me also.”

Tongue-in-cheek it may have been, there was no denying the sense of pride and mild contentment that was clearly evident within the rocky surrounds of Longford’s oldest cemetery last Sunday.

Two figures who tried their best to steer clear of the limelight were committee chairperson Peter Cosgrove and its secretary Peggy Kiernan.

Cllr Duffy, with what appeared to be a pre-prepared speech in hand, was clearly having none of it.

“Peter led the team with great vigour,” he said, pointing out Peter’s other gratuitous role in donating a parcel of land to help with the work.

The man at the centre of it looked humbled. Fellow committee member Peggy Kiernan gave off similar vibes as attention came her way.

“Without Peggy, the committee wouldn’t have worked the way it did,” said Cllr Duffy.

“She was what you would call the brains behind the operation.”

The stations themselves are dedicated to the memory of Rev Laurence Cosgrove of St Paul’s, Minnesota who originally donated them to the north Longford parish over 100 years ago in 1911.

His brother, Michael was the man tasked with transporting the heavy sculptures from the former Arva Road Railway station by means of a horse and cart.

As reported previously, the Tubberpatrick restoration has resulted in its nomination for a national community based award.

Fronted by regional newspapers, the Leader hand-picked the project for the ‘Get Involved’ accolade a number of weeks ago.

Judging has already commenced on some proposals which is chaired by renowned architect and environmentalist Duncan Stewart.

The results of that evaluation will be made known on September 12 with a special ceremony in Áras an Uactaráin and a meeting with President Michael D Higgins.

Whether Tubberpatrick Cemetery and its dedicated committee of volunteers are included in that line-up, only time will tell.

Bringing the golden era of cinema back to life


John Ford’s The Quiet Man has long been an iconic part of Ireland’s cinematic history and Ballyglunin Railway Station has successfully brought that part of history back to life.

It was back in June 1951 that The Quiet Man first came to Ballyglunin Railway Station. The feet of Hollywood stars such as John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara walked along the platform as director John Ford arranged scenes for the iconic film that put Ballyglunin, or Castletown as it is called in the film, on the map.

The Railway Station has been through a lot in the past 62 years, and now, in the summer of 2013, it has been restored to some of its former glory, with Chicago-based playwright Frank Mahon’s stage adaptation of Maurice Walsh’s The Quiet Man.

Set in 1921, the play follows the storyline of Maurice Walsh’s original The Quiet Man rather than John Forde’s film. It tells the intricately woven tales of domestic and romantic relationships between the characters, bringing great humour and emotion to the story. The two-act play has something for everyone; local and national politics, romance, humour and that famous fight scene.

Directed by Padraic Mannion and Marian Williams and performed by a cast of seven, the play was staged over three nights, selling out each night, and finishing with standing ovations from the audience.

Some very special guests arrived in Ballyglunin to see the play. One of these was Tom Bawn Enright who watched the Sunday night performance.

“He was the son of the main character, Paddy Bawn Enright who, in the film, would have been John Wayne. So the son of the guy that the original story was based on was here and he was in tears in the audience and the cast were all quite moved by that,” said Mark Gibson, Secretary of the Ballyglunin Restoration Project.

Other VIP guests included the grandsons of Maurice Walsh, Barry and Ross, who travelled from Dublin to see the play. There were people from Hungary, Germany, the UK and other parts of the world, as well as several from Chicago, where Frank Mahon is from. There were also members of the Niland family whose history is connected to John Forde’s film.

Joseph Niland, the son of the Ballyglunin Station Master, Tommy Niland and his wife ‘Baby’ of the Corofin Stephens football clan, was a seven years old when the Hollywood stars came to his house.

“I remember a lot of action around the station. There were vans and cars parked everywhere and my mother decided that we should have a day off [school] to see what was going on,” he said.

“I remember my mother providing a bicycle to John Ford while she also supplied a few old trunks that John Wayne had when he arrived back from America. My mother just seemed to take things in her stride – everyone got the same welcome whether it be John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara or the neighbour down the road,” he recalls.

The Connacht Tribune edition of June 23, 1951, carried a feature on the filming of The Quiet Man with access to the stars being given to the unknown reporter of the time, through the local press liaison officer, Lord Killanin. When interviewed at the time, Maureen O’Hara painted an idyllic picture of the West of Ireland and Cong, where most of the filming was done.

“I have never experienced such luck on any film. When we require brilliant sunshine, we get it, and when we need rain, it comes almost on the minute.

“I think Ireland is the star of this picture. No one has ever put Ireland in Technicolor on the screen before. This is something I have always wanted to do – the filming of The Quiet Man had been planned back as far as 1946 but something always turned up to postpone it,” Maureen O’Hara told The Connacht Tribune back in that Summer of 1951. In March of this year, she expressed her support of the restoration of Ballyglunin Railway Station, saying that “it truly is part of Ireland’s great cinematic history.”

The Quiet Man story first appeared in the US weekly magazine, the Saturday Evening Post of February 11, 1933, and spawned the notion in John Ford’s head of making a film version of the tale. The rest is history.

Community uses the foundations of past glories to build a bright future

Its railway station was captured on film forever as one of the iconic scenes of the Quiet Man – but that was ancient history. And, as JESSICA THOMPSON discovered, restoring the old railway station in Ballyglunin was as much about ensuring a vibrant future as reliving those halcyon days.

Basking in past glories is good and well, but the community around Ballyglunin realised that time might have somewhat eroded the village’s fame as one of the focal points of the Quiet Man.

So rather than resting on their laurels, they set about restoring their old Railway Station – famed from the John Ford movie that starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara – into a modern, vibrant part of their village today.

And, almost as a parallel, the Ballyglunin Railway Restoration Project teamed up with local drama group Abbey Acts to bring back the Quiet Man itself to the place where it all began.

With the script provided by Frank Mahon, a Chicago-based playwright who adapted the original story by Maurice Walsh for the stage, the play was directed by Padraic Mannion and Marion Williams and performed by a cast of seven from Abbey Acts.

“It was an equal partnership between the two groups and I think that’s what led to the whole success of it,” said Mark Gibson, Secretary of the Ballyglunin Railway Restoration Project.

“We [the Ballyglunin Restoration Project Committee] focused on the production side. We commissioned a local artist who came down here and painted a lovely painting of the station specifically for the promotion of the play and that was the start of people really getting involved. From there on we just grew and grew and grew,” he said.

Local artist and art teacher Órla Forde produced the painting used on the posters – 500 were circulated all over Galway, and fliers and booklets were printed and distributed by the committee who also set up the website and online ticket sales.

Meanwhile, Abbey Acts focused on the acting and performance of the play, which was completely sold out for all three performances.

Micheál Finn, Chairman of the Restoration Committee, pointed out that “the sales surpassed all expectation. We’re delighted with the result. It was a complete success from the first night to the last.”

The local community really got involved in every aspect of the project, with people donating gravel, flowers and their time. The Rural Social Scheme did a huge amount of work to prepare the site, including strimming, painting, raking, sweeping, construction of flower boxes and the planting of flowerbeds.

A major part of the project was the transformation of the storehouse, in which the play was performed. The storehouse was first restored in 2006, when the community raised enough money to reroof the building to prevent any deterioration to the walls and structure of the building. The Restoration Committee hopes to turn the building into a visitor’s centre.

“We’re very much of the mindset that we cannot put all this effort into restoring the building and just wrap it in cotton wool and try and preserve it. It’s very much about using it for the community and any profits would be reinvested into the site, and even the area once we get this up and running,” said Mr Gibson.

As part of the transformation, a stage had to be erected, the building had to be secured, and seating area had to be constructed, as well as a set. All of this was done by Eugene Finnegan.

“Padraic Mannion was probably the main driving force behind the layout of the building and Eugene Finnegan got involved then. When he heard about this project he just leapt on board; he just loved the idea of it. He was a major inspiration,” Mr Gibson explained.

The creativity and innovation of the community provided a positive visual impact to the project, using theatre to bring a historical building back to life. The Quite Man has long been an iconic part of Ireland’s cinematic history and by bringing it back to the railway station, Ballyglunin has been firmly put back on the map.

The Ballyglunin Railway Restoration Project hopes to run regular events at the station to help fund the restoration project. The plan is to create an internationally recognised heritage site that will attract foreign and Irish visitors alike. It will also be a key meeting place for the Ballyglunin community.

“This whole event has really opened our eyes to what the possibilities could be. We could have some really lovely, intimate gigs here. There’s a place down in Dingle that kits this old church out and puts on gigs in it.

“We could do the same thing here,” said Mr Gibson who would be interested in using the building for “classy” parties or conferences as well as an annual staging of The Quiet Man.

Set in 1921, the play follows the storyline of Maurice Walsh’s original The Quiet Man rather than John Forde’s film. It tells the intricately woven tales of domestic and romantic relationships between the characters, bringing great humour and emotion to the story. The two-act play has something for everyone; local and national politics, romance, humour and that famous fight scene. Most poignant of all are the loyal friendships that run deep throughout.

With all three nights sold out, and a standing ovation to finish every performance, the play was a huge success.

“It was really humbling and totally deserved. It was really gratifying and satisfying. It was a genuine appreciation. People are just sending us message saying they had a fantastic night. A lot of people didn’t know where Ballyglunin was, so [the play] has really put it on the map,” said Mr Gibson.

The benefits this project will have on the community are endless. The Restoration Committee firmly believe that it has created a huge sense of community and boosted morale in the area.

New lasting relationships have been formed and local pubs and hotels have confirmed that the play has made a big difference to their businesses.

The restoration of Ballyglunin Station’s storehouse will continue, with rising support from the local residents, businesses, and even Maureen O’Hara, who starred in John Forde’s classic.

In a personal message to the Ballyglunin Restoration Committee Project last March, Maureen O’Hara said: “The wonderful Ballyglunin Railway Station is one of those special locations used in The Quiet Man that helped bring the cosy village of Innisfree to life.

“John Ford loved the name Castletown used for the station and I can still remember sitting in the last carriage of that grand old steam train waiting for John Wayne to come and save me.

“I hope everyone will join the cause and help save the Ballyglunin Railway Station. It truly is part of Ireland’s great cinematic history.”

Now that Ballyglunin is firmly back on the map, the committee hopes to see more visitors arriving at this iconic symbol of Ballyglunin’s heritage.

All in the name of community spirit

From small beginnings come great things.

It’s the byword locals from the tight-knit parish of community will no doubt be brooding over this Sun-day (August 11, from 1pm) as parishioners celebrate the unveiling of Tubberpatrick Cemetery’s restored stations of the cross.

The 14 hand crafted sculptures have been steadily remodelled over the past two years, led by a 15 strong committee and its chairman Peter Cosgrove. The north Longford native had always longed to refurbish the near 100 year old stations after several years of wear and tear.

“I don’t want to be taking the credit for this,” he said modestly. “All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the work of our committee and local people who gave very generous donations.”

The stations themselves are dedicated to the memory of Rev Laurence Cosgrove of St Pauls, Minnesota who originally donated them to the north Longford parish over 100 years ago in 1911. Members of the Tubberpatrick Restoration Committee. His brother, Michael was the man tasked with transporting the heavy sculptures from the former Arva Road Railway sta-tion by means of a horse and cart. From there, the story sur-rounding the stations goes cold. That was until former Moyne CS principal James McInerney penned the much acclaimed ‘Well of St Patrick’ in 2000. Three years later, Dromard welcomed Maurice Lenord into its community, a man with extensive restorative experience. With that expertise add-ed and a committee formed, work began on bringing the stations back to their former glory. Land, courtesy of Peter was kindly donated, the road widened and resurfaced, a fence erected and poles removed. County Council staff helped out as did FAS workers, a real community effort according to Peter.

“The response was amazing. Sunday wouldn’t be happening otherwise,” he said.

It’s also a day that has resulted in the group’s selection for a major community newspaper Get Involved Award. That, according to Peter, would be a bonus. For now, the focus is all about this Sunday and seeing the best part of two years voluntary efforts finally realised.

Proud day for Connonagh people as Cellmount Loop officially opened

THE official opening of the Cellmount Loop in Dromillihy was a proud day for the people of Connonagh, as this enhanced recreational amenity is already proving a firm favourite with both locals and visitors alike.

Cutting the ribbon to officially open the amenity was then Mayor of County Cork, Ms Barbara Murray, who was very complimentary of all involved in the project – from Connonagh Community Development Association to the various agencies and local businesses – for their support.

The County Mayor was joined on the speakers’ podium by a representative from each of the funding agencies and by Mairin McCarthy, chair of the Connonagh Community Development Association.
There was a marvellous turnout for the event, estimated at between 250 and 300 people of all ages.

After the official opening ceremony, entertainment and guided walks were provided. Light refreshments, music and chat were enjoyed later on at the Morris Arms, in Connonagh village.

The work at Dromillihy Wood consisted of draining and the upgrading of the already existing pathways in the wood, along with the construction of a new section, creating a pleasant, all-weather looped walk suitable for all ages. A number of information points were created, seating was installed along the route and the picnic area in the car park has been greatly upgraded.

The 1.6km Cellmount Loop takes 30 to 40 minutes to complete – depending on how quickly one negotiates what local wags have dubbed as ‘Heart Attack Hill’ at the start!

Without doubt this all-inclusive project has brought new life and energy to the village of Connonagh and it is hoped it will encourage the next generation to be actively involved in village life and its future development.

As the old and wise Irish saying goes: ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’ – in unity there is strength!