Preserving the Past with Bealtaine

Clare Champion, Friday, May 12, 2006

By Jessica Quinn

Members of Raheen Day-care Centre along with Clare Museum have been embarking on a project which will bring the past to life for this year’s Bealtaine Festival. A petition on behalf of the residents of O’Briensbridge, dating back to 1928 calling for the then Minister for Commerce and Industry to move the proposed bridge crossing the River Shannon at Knockadrehid is just one of the items to go on display as part of the project recalling Tuamgraney’s past.

The Bealtaine festival, celebrating creativity in old age, is running throughout May and all over Clare events are taking place.

Preserving the Past came about as a result of an outreach programme run by the Clare Museum at the daycare centre in East Clare. “We began by bringing in material to the day clients, with the aim of having them bring in items themselves. They were invited to bring in family heirlooms, or objects that represented the lives or achievements of either themselves or their relatives, and to recall memories associated with them, getting them to reminisce and stimulate conversation. This was the starting point of this project,” explained John Rattigan, museum curator.

The items were then photographed, and the pictures as well as the stories behind the objects are to be posted on the Clare Museum section of the Clare Library web site. It is also planned to display them in the daycare centre. Items on display include coins, photographs, a 100-year old apparatus to remove boots, a device for “cranking up the slack springs on a bed”, an old corkscrew and a shoemakers last.

Patrick Skehan of O’Briensbridge brought the petition for the project which had been signed by his father Bartholemew Skehan, PC. The bridge was to be erected over the Shannon Electrification Canal at O’Briensbridge, but had been moved to Knockadrehid on the plans when the parish priest Canon Anthony Clancy became aware of it. The petitioners were concerned about the fact that the bridge would extend the distance for locals attending the parish church at Bridgetown. The petition was successful and the bridge was subsequently built on its planned site over the canal.

A photograph of the legendary goalkeeper Dr Tommy Daly has been provided by Bridget Rodgers of Tulla. Dr Daly was tragically killed in a road accident in Tuamgraney when Bridget was 10 years old. She remembers that a woman came to the house with the news of the crash and the deep sadness it caused.

This Preserving the Past project is one of many events happening throughout Clare as part of the Bealtaine Festival. The festival is now in its eleventh year and continues to grow and develop, with 840 events countrywide and an audience of 35,000 people in May 2005. Running until May 31, the annual Bealtaine Festival is an agenda-setting cultural first, unique to Ireland – with no similar event taking place anywhere in the world. Co-ordinated by Age & Opportunity, it is one of Ireland’s biggest arts festivals, and programmes and promotes all art forms made by and for older people.

This year’s festival has an intergenerational focus – looking in particular at the traditional arts – music, song, storytelling and dance. Themed From Hand to Hand – The Creative Exchange the festival will explore the benefits from the living link between different generations of traditional arts practitioners. Concerts, conversations and classes will celebrate this potent, positive symbol of the strong intergenerational family ties at the heart of Ireland’s artistic life.

Bealtaine caters for people who have never participated in an arts event before as well as those who are regular participants in the arts. The ethos is one of fun and empowerment, with people encouraged to go along to events as audience and participants, but also to organise their own events. It has been proven that participation in the arts is good for us – studies show enhanced morale and better health for older people involved in ongoing arts programmes with professional artists.

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