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Meet the Laois woman who injected some creativity into her retirement with fabulous results

Kate Ramsbottom ceramic

A former anaesthetist is injecting lots of creativity into her retirement.

Kate Ramsbottom from Ratheniska who worked at both Portlaoise and Tullamore hospitals, now crafts ceramic witches and jewellery and writes short stories and blogs.

Another big change for the former city girl has been getting used to the huge influx of people on her farm as the National Ploughing Championships will be held on the family’s land for the fourth time this year.

“Prior to retirement I had been dabbling in ceramics,” said Kate who is originally from Galway city and married her late husband, Joe, when she moved to work in Portlaoise in 1984.

“Joe bought me a kiln when my youngest, Alex, was born. He is now 25 and starting as a trainee auditor with EY next week.

“I had gone to classes and used to come home going on about how much I liked them, but it wasn’t until I retired that I realised just how much I really enjoyed ceramics,” she said.

Growing up, there wasn’t that much evidence of an artistic talent, she remarked modestly.

“I was absolutely useless at art. I just passed it in the Inter Cert. It is all very different to my work as a consultant anaesthetist.

“You have to be a bit OCD to be an anaesthetist but now I can take a much freer approach to what I’m doing.”

While some creatives can find their lifestyle isolating, Kate is fortunate to have like-minded friends who provide support.

“When I retired in 2016, I joined the Laois Craft Group and four of us work together now in a little sub-group. We are all from different backgrounds and are good buddies.

“Stephanie Lewis is a retired bank official who mainly does photography, patchwork quilting and card making.

“Maria McGarry is a scientist who worked in brewing and gave up her career after she developed breast cancer. She took to creativity as a form of art therapy, and she now does fashion felting and eco printing on silk.

“Marie Farrell was an administrator in the HSE and she does wood carving,” said Kate. “What we have in common is that we just love crafting.”

Kate, along with Stephanie and Maria, will be displaying their work at Laois County Council’s ‘Welcome to Laois’ marquee at block B, row 18, stand 292 of the ploughing championships.

Kate has created the intriguing ‘Witches of Dysart’ ceramics range which she sells at markets and through Sheila McCabe’s shop in Hinds Square, Portlaoise.

Her small bowls and earrings are also sold at Anthology, Abbeyleix. Inspiration generally comes from her surroundings.

“My husband and I were both involved in trying to conserve the old ruin of Dysart which is just over the hill from our home. We kept the grass cut and the graveyard plotted out.

“We formed a committee and for the last two years the local monuments fund gave us grants to conserve the tower and what’s left of the building.”

Kate wrote about the ruin on her blog. “The site was in the ownership of the established church and then they abandoned that site and the church beside the Rock of Dunamaise was built to replace it.

“I made up a story of why it was abandoned. I had read that to be buried there in the 1700s, you had to pay a £5 fee which would have been enormous at the time.”

She had a short story published which was based on the tale of the water supply to Ratheniska in the 1970s, centred around Har Ramsbottom falling down a well in Kyle.

The ploughing championships will keep her busy for the coming days, both as a landowner and an exhibitor.

“The first year our land was used I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the crowds, but I have got used to the idea,” laughed Kate. “Once I get over the ploughing, it will be back to writing classes.”

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