Weekly Blog, Thursday 27th August
A Bridge to the Past
On Sunday August 30th, Cleenish Island near Bellanaleck will be the unusual setting for a free event hosted by Bellanaleck Local History Group. Entitled ‘A Bridge to the Past’, it will showcase their findings about a piece of little known World War One heritage – 11 houses once lived in by soldiers returning from the Great War. Visitors will be able to learn about these men’s experiences and take a step back in time to get a flavour of country life in 1920’s and 1930’s.
Marion Maxwell, local historian and secretary of the group explains, “Through our research, we have become very involved in the individual stories of these men and their struggles to establish themselves on an island with no infrastructure and no bridge.
Finding out more about what they had come through in the war and the challenges, both physical and mental, they had faced, has brought the history of WW1 to life for us in a really meaningful way. Whereas most current WW1 projects tend to centre on the war and the casualties of war, our focus is on the aftermath of the war and attempts to restore normality in a changed world. As the story of the Cleenish resettlement scheme is showing us, surviving the war was for many only the beginning of a new struggle.”
The 1919 Irish (Soldiers and Sailors) Land Act empowered the Irish Land Commission to buy land in order to provide homes for returning soldiers, each with a plot or an allotment. Dubbed by some as ‘homes for heroes’ these were popularly known as soldiers cottages. Readers will know of examples dotted around the county and beyond, many built as large estates on the outskirts of cities including Belfast, Dublin, Limerick and Galway.
The Cleenish Island scheme was different, possibly unique, in that each veteran was provided with a two-storey farmhouse, stone built and slated, and a farm of land of between 30 and 40 acres, the value of which they would repay through a rental system. Capt. Collum of Bellevue, who owned the island, had facilitated the scheme by selling three quarters of the land to the Commission.
Organisers of the event point out that no visitor parking will be available on the island. Access for the public will be by a free shuttle bus service operating from McCullagh’s Farm Machinery car park in Bellanaleck, from 1.30 p.m. and thereafter at intervals of approximately 30 mins. The last bus with new passengers will leave for the island at approximately 4.00 p.m. Returning buses will ferry people back to Bellanaleck throughout the afternoon and up until 6.30 p.m.
Passengers will be given an introductory commentary as they drive to the island and past the ex- servicemen’s houses. They will then be welcome to spend time at the marquee area to explore the historical display, find out how it felt for a WW1 soldier to carry a 60lb pack on his back, view some old farming implements and machinery, have a go at making a hay rope, see some old breeds of poultry or watch and listen as Flo Creighton makes butter and tells about domestic life in the old days.
Those who come attired for walking can explore on foot and see the old graveyard which marks the site of Cleenish Island’s famous monastery, the place where Columbanus went to school.
As well as these ongoing activities, there will be some timetabled elements to the afternoon.
Between 2.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. and repeated again between 3.30 p.m. and 4.30.p.m., there will be a two-part programme of music, singing and storytelling. Members of Letterbreen Silver band will play tunes made popular during the WW1 era, joined by children from St. Mary’s, Mullymesker and Jones Memorial who will lead the singing of Pack Up Your Troubles and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. The second half of the programme each time will be a performance by Tracey McRory, musician and storyteller from Donegal, who will play harp and fiddle and recount moving stories from the war.
Complimentary tea and scones will be available throughout the afternoon, with seating in a marquee and there will be an ice cream van on site.
The culminating event will be a commemorative tree planting at 5.00 p.m. Signalled by the playing of a WW1 lament on the pipes, people will make their way back to the bridge to watch as the guest of honour, Flemish diplomat Mr. Nic van der Marliere, presents a bag of soil brought from the battlefield at Messines Ridge and invites representatives of each of the original 11 ex-servicemen’s families to assist in the ceremony. Tracey McRory will play on tin whistle her plaintive composition Messines Ridge and Andrew Gordon’s sounding of the Last Post will bring the proceedings to a fitting close.
The shuttle service will be available to bring people off the island in the course of the afternoon and at the end of the event.
As this is an open event, the organisers will try to ensure an efficient shuttle service to and from the island, but they would ask for patience should there be any delays.
Any groups wishing to come are advised to email email@example.com as soon as possible with numbers.
Fermanagh Recreational Trust open for applications
– Provision of equipment
– Provision of courses, training and coaching
– Contribution towards training or training costs
– Contribution towards the development of facilities
– Bursaries to assist individuals develop their potential
– Activities and events which will benefit young people
DATES FOR THE DIARY
End of Summer Party, Sunday 6th September, Derrygonnelly Community Centre
Derrygonnelly Community Centre are hosting an end of summer party on Sunday 6th September from 2.30pm until 6pm. There will be a face painting, bouncy castles, a barbeque, barrell stacking and a fancy dress competition to name but a few. Admission is £2.50 with pre-schoolers free of charge. Click here for more info.
Derrygonnelly & District Community Partnership will hold its next monthly meeting on Monday 14th September 2015. Time and venue to be confirmed. All welcome. In the meanwhile we hope you all have a lovely summer.
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