Stan looks forward to giving walking tours of Kilbeggan
Stan McCormack has been writing about and bringing to life in numerous forms the history of Kilbeggan and its environs for the last 25 years, and now he is embarking on what he says is his final project – facilitating a walking tour of historic Kilbeggan.
Over that 25-year period, Stan has completed or been attached to numerous projects, with the intention of recording the history of Kilbeggan or improving the town.
These include six history books, among them ‘Against the Odds: Kilbeggan Races, 1840-1994’ (1995) and the recent ‘Kilbeggan Memories’.
Between 2012 and 2016, Stan was part of a committee that organised Kilbeggan Knighthood Festival. The committee only expected the initiative to run for a couple of years, but it ran for five. The festival was based on the historic knighting of a local innkeeper, Thomas Cuffe, who received a title from the aristocrat and soldier, the Viscount Townshend, in 1772 after a night of drinking.
Stan was also involved in the mounting of two plaques along Main Street, acknowledging local people involved in the Irish revolution and the First World War. He also organised photo exhibitions in the town, and is one of the main organisers of and contributors to the ‘Kilbeggan past & present’ Facebook group, which currently has some 2,300 members.
The walking tour, Stan says, is a personal project that will take months to plan and will require fundraising. This, which he is “putting down as [his] last project”, will hopefully be ready to go by mid-March, depending on the public health situation.
“The tour will go from the Green to the Distillery Bridge, with four main focal points – the Green, the Square, the entrance to the graveyard, and the Distillery Bridge,” Stan explained. “This will still incorporate the canal, church, school, convent, the GAA and Kilbeggan Races as part of the overall Kilbeggan story.
“All the main events in the history of the town took place on the extended Main Street, which makes it invaluable. These include the opening of Kilbeggan Distillery, the 1798 rebellion, the knighthood story, famous historical figures from Michael Collins to John Philpott Curran, artists Eileen Coughlan, Liam C Martin, Fiona Kelly and many stories of the local houses, shops, buildings, people and sports, as well as international stories arising out of 28 gravestones in the Church of Ireland graveyard.”
The main aims of the tour include Stan’s ambition to vividly present the history of Kilbeggan’s main thoroughfare. “A major objective will be to create the possibility that the tour could, in the near future, be filmed and put online for Kilbeggan people, both home and abroad,” he said.
“It will be a major task but I will follow it up, with financial support. I am also looking at developing an online oral account of our history.”
Secondly, Stan believes the tour can be used for all kinds of local groups – historical societies, schools, and groups from outside the town. He says that he would love to link up with Kilbeggan Distillery at some point to further develop the project.
The third objective of Stan’s initiative is to put up more plaques and erect a history timeline for visitors to Kilbeggan, and that if local businesses were amenable, old photos of the town could be displayed in their windows.
Finally, Stan hopes to secure support to make more of the fact that what scientists believe was Europe’s first tornado was at Rosdella, Kilbeggan on April 30, 1054. The Annals of the Four Masters appeared to describe a fire tornado on that date. “It would be unique in the history of Ireland and is specific to Kilbeggan and Westmeath, and it would be a great way to highlight the town for visitors,” he said.
Stan is hoping to give Kilbeggan “a lift” through the initiative. He has intense pride in his town, and has enjoyed recreating its history over the years. He believes that highlighting its vibrant history will dovetail nicely with the development of the Grand Canal Greenway.
When asked what his favourite project was, he said that he greatly enjoyed working on his six books but particularly enjoyed working on the Kilbeggan Knighthood Festival. The festival was a real example of what the community and a strong committee can do when everyone pulls together, he said.
Over the years, Stan has also worked hard for the community of Kilbeggan, raising money for Westmeath Hospice, the Caring for Kids initiative, and local schools. But his favourite moment was getting to the opportunity to interview local woman Kitty Flynn when she was presented with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Kilbeggan community in 2016.
Kitty is an author, community worker in many organisations, a historian and a lover of life. “As a friend, I know her as a remarkable, intelligent woman who at 96, lives a life of always looking forward to the next challenge.”
Stan is grateful to all who have shown interest and given financial support for his walking tour initiative so far, and is appealing for more to help “make this possible and leave our recorded history in a good position”.
He can be contacted on 057 9332683, 087 79499857, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.