Find out what’s happening in your area during Heritage Week
Free cultural events are planned across the county this week in celebration of National Heritage Week, which runs until Sunday next, August 21.
National Heritage week is part of European Heritage Days in which over 40 countries participate. In Westmeath, it is spearheaded by heritage officer, Melanie McQuade.
The aim of Heritage Week is to build awareness and knowledge about our built, natural and cultural heritage and to encourage its conservation and preservation. Young and old are encouraged to get outdoors more and value the wonders the world has to offer.
Still reeling from the excitement of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Mullingar will play host to a number of events this week.
Among the highlights are guided tours and talks given by local historian, tour guide and author, Ruth Illingworth. She will give guided tours of Historic Mullingar on Wednesday August 17 and Friday August 19, setting out from the Market Square at 2pm.
Noel O’Callaghan, retired Regimental Sergeant Major, will give an illustrated talk at Columb Barracks on Tuesday, August 16 from 7-7.30pm. He has been working on an oral history project, ‘Columb Barracks and Me’, which records the experiences of retired members of the defence forces. Samples of the recordings will be played on the night and are available in the local studies section of Mullingar Library and in the Military Archives.
Mullingar Library is also hosting a presentation on the history of repair in Westmeath, as uncovered by historic documents, from 6.30-7.30pm on Thursday, August 18. The talk will be delivered as part of the Repair Acts Project that is currently underway.
The people behind this project have been working with communities, repair enthusiasts and experts, DIY hobbyists and passionate amateurs to build the people’s online photo archive of everyday repair objects.
On the same day, a talk on conserving and managing Belvedere House, Gardens and Park into the future will be given at the Lakeview Meeting room at the visitor centre between 11am and noon.
Conservation architect, Fergal McNamara is leading a team preparing a conservation management plan for the estate. He will give a presentation on the house, gardens and park and what is involved in preparing a plan for this special amenity. Audience input will be welcome.
Mac Conmara Heritage Consulting is undertaking an audit of oral heritage collections relating to Westmeath. On Friday at 3pm they will give an online presentation showcasing what recorded memories they have captured so far with audio samples from identified material where possible.
Nearby, in Killucan, a talk on the building of the Chapel of Ease at Griffinstown some 900 years ago, will be given by John Ennis at Columba College, Killucan, from 8-9pm on Tuesday, August 16.
On Saturday next, August 20, the grounds of Killua Castle will be open to the public from 10am to 4pm. This impressive castle was built in the 18th/early 19th century and was home to the family of Lawrence of Arabia.
Killua Castle lay in ruins for over 60 years, but has been masterfully restored by the present owners over the last 20 years.
The imposing castle is surrounded by beautiful, undulating landscape and is now home to rare breeds of moiled cows, old Irish goats and parkland deer.
Staying in Clonmellon, visitors can explore the restored St John’s Church. The church, like the castle, dates from the 18th/early 19 century and retains many of its original features. It is open from 10am to 5pm daily.
There will be tours of Tullynally Castle and Gardens in Castlepollard each day at 11am, 12.30pm and 2pm and special family tours on August 15 to 19 at 2pm and 2.45pm.
Tullynally has been the home of the Pakenham family, later Earls of Longford, for nearly 400 years. The original fortified house was extended to a magnificent Gothic revival castle in the 1800s and is now one of the largest houses in Ireland to survive in the private ownership of the same family.
Some of the cultural contributions made by residents of Tullynally Castle will be on display at the local studies centre in Mullingar Library from 10am to 7.30pm on August 16.
There are many outdoor events planned in Westmeath. The Hill of Uisneach which, it is hoped, will be declared a national heritage site by UNESCO, is a gem in the crown of cultural and historical attractions in the county. It is to be a hive of activity next weekend with hours of fun planned.
On Saturday, August 20, at 11am, Kate Egan, ecologist and Farming for Nature ambassador from An Ghrian Glas Farm, will give a walk and talk on the nature of food. She will explain the importance of designing our food systems with provision for nature.
“Threading the Táin”, a tapestry inspired by the epic tale of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, will be on display at the Hill on Sunday August 21 from noon until 1pm. Six artists and over 40 volunteers from across Westmeath, Meath, Longford, Roscommon and Louth have worked on this impressive creation.
The Westmeath panel of the tapestry was designed by Claire Delabre of Handmade Design Studio on Mount Street, Mullingar. Claire will give an illustrated discussion on how the piece was made and the story it illustrates.
Another historic stronghold, Fore Abbey will see a talk by geologist, Robert Meehan on Tuesday, August 16 at 7.30pm. He will give an insight in to the amazing geological features in and around Fore. Outdoor attire is recommended.
Ecologist, Goska Wilowska will give a guided walk of woodlands near Castlepollard on Sunday, August 21. The walk will start off from Castlepollard Community College at 3pm and will last an hour and a half.
Ecologists from Flynn Furney are currently studying Portlick Forest and will share their knowledge of the place with visitors on Tuesday from 6.30-7.30pm on site.
Memories of the Big House is a three part series of short films featuring interviews with many people who have family memories of, and connections to, the big houses of Westmeath. The films focus on life in and around the big house from 1916 to 1923 and will be screened at Tuar Ard Theatre, Church Street, Moate on Wednesday from 7-9pm.
The first film, A Taste of Luxury, explores life inside the big house, particularly below stairs and those who worked there. Part two, The World Changes, looks at the beginning of the end of Big House dominance and the growth of new jobs and opportunities outside domestic service. A Different Country, part three, covers agitation and IRA attacks on various houses.
The Blacksmith of Moydrum is a short film about the Hatton family who were blacksmiths to Lord Castlemaine of Moydrum Castle. The trade of blacksmithing was passed down from generation to generation and in this film, you get a chance to see the family forge which is still intact, in action.
Moate Museum will be displaying over a thousand artefacts relating to the folk history of the town and its environs, especially from the 1700s, between 3-6pm each day from August 15 to 19.
Moate library will present a workshop in sustainable gardening led by Anna Browne of Big Sky Flowers on Thursday, August 18, from 6.15-7.15pm. Anna is a micro flower farmer in Mullingar and sells beautiful, sustainable, fragrant flowers locally, working in harmony with nature.
Athlone Castle, one of the leading tourist attractions in the county, features prominently on the list of events planned for this week.
If you want a taste of how people lived, what they ate and how they shopped in medieval times and to even try on some period costumes from back then, you can do so on Wednesday.
Storm the Castle – an open day at the castle’s visitors centre on St Peter’s Square, Athlone, will be held from 9.30am to 5pm.
Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism will be on hand to demonstrate how materials were used to make clothes, accessories, household items etc and will answer questions about how people shopped and what they ate in medieval times.
There will be plenty of fun and games for younger enthusiasts at Athlone Castle over the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21, they can rediscover the joys of such traditional favourites as Xs and Os, tumbling town, and Connect 4.
On Sunday, there will also be Punch and Judy shows at 1pm and 2.30pm. Custard Pie puppet theatre company will showcase a unique Irish adaptation of a Punch and Judy performance. Booking is essential as places are limited.
Elsewhere in the town, local historian, Gearóid O’Brien, and heritage officer, Melanie McQuade will take you on a walking tour of the historic defences and upstanding sections of the Town Wall in Athlone on Wednesday, August 17 at 11am. They will set out from Athlone Castle.
Athlone Canal Heritage committee invites you to a poetry reading and the official unveiling of Athlone Poets on Athlone Canal on Tuesday, August 16 at 7.30pm. The event will take place on the northern stretch of Athlone Canal on Talbot Avenue.