New plan to protect famed Ahenny high crosses

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

Conservation architects are devising a conservation plan for the eighth century Ahenny High Crosses near Carrick-on-Suir, which have deteriorated due to erosion caused by wind and rain over the past 25 years.

The OPW confirmed this week that work is underway on preparing a conservation plan for the Western Ossory Crosses, which includes the Ahenny High Crosses, and the Kilkieran and Killamery High Crosses a few miles away.

The High Cross at Kilree has been included in the conservation plan although it’s strictly not one of the Western Ossory Group.

The OPW said the conservation plan and its recommendations will be be presented by conservation architects Margaret Quinlan & Associates to the OPW by mid-September.

However, the the implementation of the plan’s recommendations will be dependent on the availability of resources in OPW, which like all government services, has been hit by funding cutbacks in the recession.

“The recommendations will be considered by the OPW in consultation with relevant bodies and groups and implemented as resources allow,” said the OPW statement.

Carrick-on-Suir Labour Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald has welcomed the appointment of the consultants to draw up the conservation plans to protect the crosses, which are some of the earliest examples of celtic ringed stone crosses in Ireland.

“I’m delighted that the over-riding principle of the specialist team will be the retention of authenticity of the crosses with the primary aim of keeping the crosses on their present sites,” said Cllr Fitzgerald.

He claimed the conservation measures that will form part of the plan will include improved access to and within the sites of the crosses, their protection from weathering and the provision of information about the sites and their importance to the public.

Cllr Fitzgerald welcomed the fact that the landowners of the sites the crosses are located on will be involved in the decision making process, especially in relation to the protection of views.

The OPW’s move to devise a conservation plan for the Western Ossory Crosses comes two years after South Tipperary Co. Council raised concerns about the deteriorating state of the high crosses in Ahenny Graveyard.

The scale of the erosion of the intricate carvings covering the sandstone crosses was brought to the attention of Cllr. Fitzgerald’s predecessor on the Co. Council Denis Landy at that time by primary teaching student Ashley Cooke, who visited the crosses as part of her college history project on national monuments.

Denis Landy, who is now a senator, said he had seen photographs of the crosses taken about 25 years ago and there was an “extremely noticeable” difference in their condition between then and now.

“Unless there is something done very quickly, we will lose them”, he warned the Council at the time.