A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.Steve Berry (American author, 1955 – present)
We all know our picturesque village of Castleconnell, situated on the banks of the River Shannon, is steeped in history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a popular spa resort patronised by the local Ascendancy classes and visiting gentry from overseas. Evidence remains of the fine Georgian houses that were built with impressive architecture and spacious private grounds and which bordered the magnificent scenery and fishing grounds of the Shannon. Castleconnell was known far and wide for its salmon fishing, the famous Castleconnell Rod, and John Enright, who became World Fly-Casting Champion in 1906. As well as the lands, buildings and streetscape we know this through stories passed down through generations of local families. We also know this from painstaking work and research from historians such as Kevin Hannan and the late Joe Carroll amongst others. How though could we ensure that such information on our local history was retained in the village and accessible to all?
The answer was to have a centre in Castleconnell that would educate and entertain and provide a repository of information to view, read and research. A place where locals and visitors alike could linger and browse and come away with a little more information about us. Where we might store, index and preserve material, and make this accessible to everyone.
Finally in 2011, supported by the ACM, a group of local individuals got together to make this happen. All work was done voluntarily and over the last few years precious historical information was gathered and documents and artefacts sourced and donated. Projects such as the survey, map and recording of the Stradbally and St Joseph’s graveyards were undertaken by the community. Similarly the painstaking scanning of local birth, school, marriage and death records took place, the results of which are available to see. Information on the Castle and Great Houses have been edited and is now on display.
The ACM Community Centre ideally situated in the heart of the village made available a room to display this material and the new Castleconnell Heritage Centre was formally opened by local historian Paddy Tuohy on St Patricks Day 2016 providing a central location to store and showcase the rich history of the parish for visitors and current and future generations to enjoy.
As any local could tell you, we are only scratching the surface of the history of the area. It has been easier to document the Anglo Irish gentry and their lives but what more is yet to be discovered and publically shared about our local native Irish, our culture, and environment? What material is still stored in attics and under beds that we could copy and showcase? Even at this early stage we are already running out of space to store and display everything we have.
The good news is that the ACM has recently purchased the Shannon Inn and it is intended to move the Heritage Centre there. As the former Shannon Hotel that was run by the Enright family of rod-making and casting fame, it is rather fitting that the centre will find its permanent home in a place integral to village history and will cater for our growth. Exciting times ahead indeed.
What’s in our Heritage Centre?
Details of the Ballyhoura supported survey, map and recording of the Stradbally and St Joseph’s Church graveyards that forms part of a nationwide resource now available on-line www.historicgraves.ie.
St Joseph’s Catholic Church parish records including Baptisms from (1850), Marriages (1863), Deaths (1938) Confirmations (1921)
Registers from Castleconnell, Ahane and Lisnagry National Schools.
Historical artefacts, maps, books, documents, photographs and information for display and research
Complete Index of the local parish annual An Caislean
Display boards about the River, Castle, Great Houses and Mesolithic discoveries
War of Independence Castleconnell Banner
Exhibition on the Mesolithic archaeological find at Hermitage, Castleconnell
And more besides!