On Tuesday last, April 30, in the Abymill, Cóilín Ó Drisceoil of Kilkenny Archaeology made public his discoveries following his investigations in the Town Hall over the winter months. He again emphasised that the Town Hall building began life as an alms-house (or an old people’s home/hospital in today’s language) around the year 1600 AD. He then listed some of the subsequent uses that the building was put to; including – Tholsel, Court House, Market House, Town Hall, Dance Hall – to name but a few.
He again stated that Fethard’s Town Hall is one of the biggest public buildings of its age, 400 years, still in use in the country and that it was truly wonderful that it is being brought back to life by the people of the town.
In fact his investigation indicated that a much older building stood on the same site and he also felt quite sure that there was a ‘basement’ in the building which may have been filled in over the years (or it may still be there or, even better, connected to a secret passage way). He showed photographs of the three wonderful cut stone fireplaces that lay hidden under the wainscoting and plaster that has covered the inside walls in living memory.
His archaeological survey, financed by Fethard & Killusty Community Council, was completed as a necessary part of the planning application to the County Council by the Fethard Business and Tourism Group (FBTG) for their very ambitious plans for the Town Hall.
It is hoped that planning permission will be granted for the revamping of the Town Hall as a tourism hub for the town and area and the Business and Tourism Group are very busy pushing ahead with fundraising to ‘match’ the funds already committed by the County Council and also with their application to South Tipperary Development Company (LEADER) for the bulk of the funds for this major project.
It is widely felt by all the government agencies, especially Fáilte Ireland, that Fethard can’t take off as a visitor destination unless it has a ‘focal point’ building with all the services that visiting groups require, i.e. Tourist Information, Toilets, Café, exhibitions, in other words a place where visitors can ‘hang out’ and get a feeling for the town and area.
Already groups are being brought to the town by local guides Terry Cunningham and Colm McGrath (www.BacksToTheWallTours.com) but the absence of some essential facilities makes the planning of group visits somewhat difficult at certain times.
New Tourism Centre
Hopefully, all going to plan and especially fundraising, Fethard should have a visitor centre up and running within two years, which will be a great boost to general business in the town and hopefully spawn new enterprises and attract further funding and capital to the area. If you would like to support the Town Hall project you can do so by purchasing a ticket from any committee member or online at www.fethardbusines.com where you will also find details of the upcoming ‘Fethard Gathering Festival’ planned for June.