The official launch of Fethard’s Historical Town Trail signage took place, most appropriately, in the grounds of the 13th century Holy Trinity Church, the heart of the medieval town, on Saturday, August 20.
Terry Cunningham, PRO Fethard Historical Society, welcomed all present and explained that the signage, comprising information boards, finger posts and plaques, had been funded by Failte Ireland and the project had been facilitated by South Tipperary County Council. Terry further explained that the Fethard Historical Society were responsible for providing the historical content of the signage, which is displayed in both English and Irish. He thanked all those who had volunteered their services in this regard and he also expressed the Society’s gratitude to local archaeologist Barry O’Reilly for his assistance. An t-Uasal Liam O Duibhir, Cluain Meala, came to the rescue when the original Irish translation proved unsatisfactory and he, too, was thanked for his invaluable help.
Cllr Liam Ahearne, Chairman South Tipperary County Council, stated that the council were delighted to be involved in such a worthwhile project in Fethard where one is ‘surrounded by history’. He thanked his colleague, Ms Eileen Horgan, Community and Enterprise Development, for her commitment to the undertaking and for ensuring that it came to completion. Michael stressed the importance of recognising the potential of places such as Fethard in terms of tourism and heritage. Gary Breen, Manager of Fáilte Ireland South East, reiterated that point alluding to the fact that their research has shown that visitors to Ireland come mainly seeking a heritage and cultural experience. As a result, Failte Ireland has provided substantial funding to towns like Fethard to enable them to further improve the experience they offer tourists. He pointed out that places like Fethard that are ‘off the beaten track’ are proving increasingly popular with foreign visitors.
This year, there has been a significant increase to date in the number of tourists coming to Ireland from Europe and the USA. However, the number of visitors from Britain remains low but Gary is confident that it will be possible to market Ireland as an attractive destination ‘to our cousins across the water’.
South Tipperary is blessed with a wealth of historical attractions and Fethard is now well placed to fulfil its potential as a tourist destination. In conclusion, Colm McGrath, Chairman, Fethard Historical Society, once again thanked all involved in bringing the project to a successful conclusion stating that the new signage was a most welcome means of highlighting the many historic features of the town. Colm hinted that the society’s next project might be a brochure to supplement the new town trail signage, should funding be available for same!
The official launch of the signage was followed by a walk of the Medieval Town Trail led by Terry Cunningham and Colm McGrath. The walk focussed on the information displayed on the signage and time constraints meant that our guides could only give a brief overview of the history of Fethard.
As Colm said, people interested in history come asking questions such as why? when? where? Some questions are easily answered, others are the subject of much debate and on-going historical research means we often have to look anew at previously accepted ‘facts’.
All this merely adds to the fascination of all things relating to Fethard and Colm expressed the hope that those interested in the town’s history would come back again to avail of the guided tours now available in town.
About eighty people came along to follow the route around by Watergate and the Sheela na gig, down to the Augustinian Abbey, back along the river to walk beside the Town Wall, over Madam’s bridge to the Pop-Up Cafe in the Youth Centre where refreshments, sponsored by the County Council, were provided for everyone.
Harpist Anja Bakker provided a musical accompaniment and a video of last year’s Medieval Festival was screened to give a flavour of Fethard en fete.