A strong Dublin accent was heard to say in the Cashel Palace grounds on Sunday, July 3: “You wouldn’t get nicer anywhere in Ireland, this is better than an afternoon in Stephen’s Green”.
The occasion was the fourth annual Walled Towns Day, brought forward to July from its usual August slot so as to coincide with EU Rural Charter.
The sunshine came out and so did the crowds with a steady stream of visitors to the sun drenched Palace gardens; where history was on display in one of the town’s most historic settings.
Olivia Quinlan from the Cashel Heritage Trust, who oversee the annual Walled Town Day on behalf of the Heritage Council and the Town Council, said; “We were delighted that Pat Murphy, the owner of the Cashel Palace Hotel, provided us with the Palace grounds for the Heritage Trust’s Wall Town day this year.
“Every summer we try and highlight a different part of the mile of town walls we still have standing. Last year we held our day at the Sally Port behind Hogan Square and the year before we had the grounds of St. John’s Cathedral earmarked until the storms drove us indoors.”
No rain this year meant that it was a case of extra sun-block and sandals instead of brollies and wellies. Visitor numbers were up, the crowd of over 2000 were drawn in part by the EU Village as it became a hands on a craft centre for the Heritage Trust for the afternoon.
As co-organiser Geraldine Laffey told us “we are building up a name for a great little heritage event and we attracted a significantly different crowd to the Heritage Trust’s Town Walls Day, in fact we had so much interest we kept the site open a good hour and a half longer than we planned, we just couldn’t stop people coming in.
“The team from the Heritage Centre were brilliant, dressing up and getting into the spirit of the day and helping out with a cheery smile”
One family of visitors had come all the way from Israel and they were impressed by the Mir Cat longbow stand. ”We were delighted that our son got some real tuition, the bowman took his time to explain how the bow worked and my son got a bull’s eye with his first shot,” he told us with a proud smile on his face.
Cashel resident Pat O’Donnell was full of praise for the event. He had brought in two visitors from the EU delegation with him, in town for the EU Rural Charter Event, and Pat said he was delighted to show them the depth of history we have in Ireland. To see the kids enjoying themselves was a terrific accolade for the family event, he added.
There certainly was plenty for both young and old to get involved in; from copper craft, archery, bow making, pottery, Heraldry, basket making, coin striking, calligraphy and art work for the youngest children.
Philip Quinn was on hand to show budding stone masons the art of wielding a chisel. For the less energetic there were harvest crafts and demonstrations of felt making.
Gaius Antinius had arranged for Romans Ireland to set up camp in the Palace grounds and they even brought with them an ex- Cashel resident Pat Murphy who is now a senator in Romans Ireland. We over heard a conversation where he compared the way retired legionaires were allocated parcels of land to the way Cashel was divided up after the Williamite war. Cooper’s lot was cited as an example.
Joanne Hughes and Mick O’Droma were back with their ever-popular team of archaeologists and their dig in the box. This brought squeals of delight when the small children uncovered a hidden horse’s jaw.
Joanne and Mick also presided over a two-month long school’s project. Ten local primary schools each made a large display of “What life was like when Cashel Town Walls were built”, the very impressive winning entry came from Rosegreen.
Spare a thought for the musicians at the Walled Town’s day. Wynndebag (Paul and Eric to their many new friends in Cashel) played for four hours under the historic mulberry tree in the Palace gardens. No mean feat in the heat when you are wearing Renaissance costumes.
The crowds of children were intrigued by the strange instruments; English bagpipes, the hammered dulcimer and the hurdy-gurdy.
Another hard working troupe were the Armagh Rhymers, who had been in town since the previous Wednesday. They presented a mumming and wren boy show, with Irish traditional music and story telling.
Seán Laffey who brought them down to Cashel for the Heritage Trust said he was delighted at their enthusiasm for the job, “We’ve worked them really hard; they gave five performances on Sunday, had promoted the Heritage Trust’s Town Walls Day at the Source in Thurles on Saturday, had appeared twice on local radio, had played at Bru Boru and the Cashel Folk Village. They began their stay with a performance to about 500 children at St John The Baptist Schools.
“They had been out at the ‘Folk around the Festival’ session trail every night since they got here” said Seán.
Commenting on the good will that ‘Folk Around the Festival’ had received from the publicans of the area Seán said he was delighted with the response to his “Pass The Hat” idea.
“Thanks to Ted Fahey, Aidan Muldoon, Seamus Foley and Gerry Ryan in New Inn for hosting the trad sessions in their bars. I also have to thank the Cashel Credit Union for being the major commercial sponsor of the Armagh Rhymers’ visit. I know we appreciate it and the lads are very grateful for the support from Tim Molam and his team.
“I would really like to see a Wren boys troupe started in Cashel this year and I think the lads from Armagh have given us a good idea of how to do it, call me on 062 62685 if you are interested ” added Seán.
The Heritage Trust’s Town Walls Day was a resounding success and Olivia Quinlan put it in context, “it’s a recurring festival, we might have to wait twenty years for the EU Charter to come around again, but we have the town walls here all the time and we intend celebrating them every year.”
Liam Mannix the national project manager for the Irish Walled Town Network visited Cashel on Sunday and he said of the event “Cashel Walled Town’s Day was an excellent event with a high educational value. What I liked was the way that people were really getting into the activities such as archaeological excavation or medieval archery. Everyone was smiling. It was great to see that you don’t have to dumb down to make learning about the past enjoyable, you just have to be smart about how you do it. And the organisers in Cashel were.”
Looking forward to 2012 Olivia Quinlan said; “We know next year will be tight financially. We had our budget cut by 40% this year and we ran on less than a tenth of the money the EU Charter got for their equally successful festival. We get grants from the IWTN and from South Tipperary County Council, which is invaluable.
“Next year to maintain the quality we had this year we may have to seek local sponsorship. So once again a huge thank you to the Cashel Credit union for making such a large contribution to the Heritage Trust’s Town Walls day of 2011.”