Heritage Week in Laois this year has been the biggest and best with over 50 events all over the county, ranging from bat walks and history talks, to weekend festivals celebrating the high nelly and garden heritage.
Catherine Casey, Heritage Officer with Laois County Council said, “We are delighted with how well the whole week has gone. Communities all over Laois have really taken Heritage Week to their hearts this year, and enormous effort has gone into showcasing the best of local built, natural and cultural heritage”
Libraries across Laois come to life during Heritage Week, with presentations, workshops, exhibitions & re-enactments in all our libraries from the smallest to the largest.
Michael Moylan of Irish History Live brought his very popular historical re-enactment show back to the libraries of Laois again this year, bringing to life topics as diverse as the Stone Age and the Tudors, with costumes, weaponry and his very engaging sense of humour and gift for communicating with young people.
Old favourites like the ever-popular genealogy workshops were joined by new exhibitions and events like a display of folklore and local history at Mountmellick Library (organised by Mountmellick Heritage Society) and talks on Kevin O’Higgins and the War of Independence at Portlaoise and Abbeyleix Libraries.
The theme this year was “Past Times – Pastimes” and many groups really embraced the theme of exploring old pastimes, with Sandymount Heritage in Abbeyleix holding hands on events on making toy soldiers, flag-making and vintage games, a talk on the history of bridge, straw craft for children and explorations of traditional embroidery and turf-cutting in Mountmellick.
A new guide to the archaeology of the Heath was launched at the Heath House, and a guided walk of the Heath by Dr Eoin Sullivan was very well-attended.
The local pride in the history and heritage of many communities was evident as groups in Mountmellick, Kilminchy, Ballinakill organised events to celebrate the best of their local heritage.
Mountmellick Heritage Society also organised a series of fascinating exhibitions in the Owenass hall. The exhibitions featured a wide range of modern and historic Mountmellick Work, showcasing the beautiful patterns and exquisite handiwork of this unique craft.
Walks and tours during the week included a bat walk in Castletown, the open day at Abbey Leix Estate and guided tours of Ballykilcavan Farm and Brewery, Emo Court and Stradbally Hall.
A trip on the Stradbally Narrow Gauge Railway is the highlight of the Heritage Week for many people. The oldest established heritage railway in Ireland, it features the recently renovated steam locomotive engine pulling passenger carriages through the scenic woods of Stradbally Hall.
Museums and Heritage Sites
In addition to special Heritage Week events, many of the county’s Museums and Heritage Sites had special open days.
Laois is lucky to have several very high-quality museums, which deserve our support all year round. These include Donaghmore Workhouse Museum, the Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum, Mountmellick Museum, Durrow Bygones Museum, and Abbeyleix Heritage House.
Heritage Week gives us the opportunity each year to revel in the best of the built and natural heritage of our County, whether it is attending a talk, going for a guided walk or visiting a local heritage site.
This is just the beginning though. Most of the Heritage sites celebrated during Heritage Week are open all year-round. The museums of the County, many built heritage sites and wildlife areas are all there to be explored at any time.
Just some of the heritage events lined up for later this year include a special collaboration with Midlands Science and the National Museum of Ireland to bring family workshops on Vikings and an evening talk on Bog Bodies to Portlaoise, on Thursday November 14th, as part of Science Week.