There was a real buzz under the arches at the Main Guard, Clonmel, on Saturday last, with the launch of not one, but two initiatives of tourism promotion for Clonmel town and South Tipperary in general.
The Butler Trail - A Tour of Tipperary’s Medieval Towns saw its Clonmel leg launched by Mayor Darren Ryan, while Festival Cluain Meala - Celebrating Heritage Week - was launched by chairman of South Tipperary County Council, Michael FitzGerald. Entering in to the true spirit of the occasion both Councillor Ryan and Councillor FitzGerald donned medieval garb, along with a whole host of others to create an authentic community and festival spirit.
The launches were organised by the South Tipperary Tourism Company in partnership with the Festival Cluain Meala organising committee, chaired by Clonmel town clerk, Ger Walsh. Mr. Tony Musiol, chairman of South Tipp Tourism, explained the significance of the day and the event and paid tribute to everyone involved including all the side attractions who had made the effort on the day to attend. Medieval knights in shining armour, the Shellikybookie giants (thanks to creator Anthony Lawless), spinners, weavers, rush workers, etc. He also paid tribute to South Tipperary County Council, South Tipperary Development Company, Failte Ireland, the OPW and South Tipperary County Enterprise Board who have all supported the development of the Butler Trail since its inception.
There was a great sense of community spirit attached to the launches on Saturday also. Indeed so enthusiastic were those present to get dressed up for the launch that in the end it was the ones in their ordinary day-to-day dress that looked the odd ones out. Councillors Pat English and Helena McGee were joined by Clonmel Town Clerk Ger Walsh and former town clerk Billy Doyle. However, Deputy Mattie McGrath, while lending his support to the launches, resisted the encouragement to don a medieval costume.
And just what is the Butler Trail?
The Butler Trail brings together the historic towns of Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel and Cahir and their common connection with the Butler family, once one of the most powerful families in Ireland from the 13th to 18th century. The Trail encourages the visitor to come and experience the splendour and magnificence of the likes of Carrick’s Ormond Castle, Clonmel’s Main Guard and Town Walls and in Cahir the pristine 12th century castle and Swiss Cottage. And while in the area the tourist is encouraged to seek out and discover the richness of history associated with each Butler town.
The Mayor explained to the many inquisitive passers-by who had stopped to listen on a welcome, if all-to-rare, sunny afternoon, what the Butler Trail was about.
It is “a new initiative by the South Tipperary Tourism Company, which stretches 38 kms along the River Suir, focusing on the towns of Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel and Cahir.”
“As a tourism initiative,” he said “the Butler Trail aims to attract visitors to South Tipperary by profiling our unique Butler castles, architecture and historical characters such as our own James Butler, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormond. The trail will encourage visitors to stay in the locality and in turn provide a boost to the local economy.”
The Mayor outlined that the Butler Trail has been under development for the last 18 months and he praised the efforts of the Butler Trail Committee who have been “very generous with their time and supportive of South Tipperary Tourism’s efforts in every regard.”
Following on from the Carrick-on-Suir leg launch at the Ormond Castle the previous week, last Saturday was Clonmel’s turn, and Mayor Ryan encouraged “everyone living in Clonmel and the surrounding area to rediscover their local history and experience some medieval culture.”
In launching Festival Cluain Meala - which will run over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, 25th and 26th August - Councillor Michael FitzGerald, said it was a great pleasure for him to be associated with this wonderful festival. He went on to say that throughout the whole of South Tipperary we are indeed “rich in heritage and culture” and referred back to President Higgins’ recent visit to Clonmel and how the same richness of heritage and culture was “close to the heart of President Michael D. Higgins”.
Festival Cluain Meala returns for its fourth year and in a new location this year, at Gordon Place Car Park (near White Memorial Theatre) in August.
On the Saturday Liam O Maonlai will perform in concert at Old St. Mary’s Church beside the historic walls and this will be followed by a medieval-style barbecue.
At 10 o’clock on the Saturday night we will be “RIVERberating” on the River Suir with Shellikybookie (the Clonmel-based street art and entertainment venture run by volunteers). It promises to be a spectacular light show along the River Suir. And an added bonus - it’s all for free.
Sunday, 26th August will be Medieval Family Fun Day from 12 noon to 5 pm at the Gordon Place Car Park with archery, wall climbing, combat re-enactments, mobile farm, craft tents, traditional demonstrations, music, artisan food and lots, lots more.
Earlier in August there is also a special night lined up for Friday, 10th August, with the very popular “Inn Trail” which will coincide with the Busking Festival in Clonmel. Costumes will be available for hire on the night or you can bring your own.
Finally, in conjunction with Saturday’s launches, South Tipperary Tourism organised a special walk-about around the town led by archaeologist Micheal O Droma, which proved so very interesting over 80 minutes or so. Starting at the Main Guard and its history, the walk meandered up and down side lanes and beyond to reveal hidden gems that many never knew existed in the town. To the magnificent walls of the town surrounding Old St. Mary’s Church, to Ss. Peter & Paul’s Church and a magnificence of history and architecture not truly appreciated for what it is, to Hearn’s Hotel and its commercial significance, and so much more as in the Italian architecture of the Bank of Ireland in Parnell Street, the Courthouse in Nelson Street and its similarities to Leinster House, the Quayside breweries of yesteryear, the Franciscan Abbey with a depth of stories over many centuries.
And when the sun shines everything is so much easier and more interesting. So let’s all hope for lots of sunshine to bless our festivals here in South Tipperary over the rest of the summer 2012.