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Brief History of Ennistymon Public Library

Tessie Hill retires

In May 1933, a room was made available, free of charge, in the Town Hall (now the Community Centre) for the purposes of lending books, and this service was managed voluntarily by a Miss Kerin.

In 1944, Mr. Frank Henchy was appointed as the first Branch Librarian in Ennistymon, and in 1946, the library was transferred from the Town Hall to Main Street. (This building once housed a thriving hardware business called Carmody & Hogan. After the library left in 1981, it operated as a fruit and vegetable shop, then a health food and flower shop, and is now the Medical Centre).

A maintenance contract for the library was awarded in 1946 to Henchy Brothers, Ennistymon. Coincidentally, the same company had the contract for the new custom-built Ennistymon Branch library in 1981, some thirty-five years later.

During the years of the Second World War - and through to the early 1960's - a privately-owned lending library on Parliament Street called Foyles run by Mrs. May Byrnes was lending books at a rate of 2d per week.

After Mr. Frank Henchy, Mrs. Rita Ahern was appointed Branch Librarian in 1952 and she was followed by Mrs. Peggy Smith. In 1962, Mrs. Tessie Hill began her service, during which she experienced the move from the old Main Street location to the new branch in 1981 and the changeover to computers in the late 1990's.

Anecdotes of the old branch on Main Street are many. One story related by Mrs. Tessie Hill tells of having to wear an overcoat at work while standing on the bare flagged floor; and in extreme circumstances, when an ancient paraffin stove was teased into action, the malignant fumes were more often than not more unbearable than the cold!

In 1986, Anthony Edwards was appointed Senior Library Assistant in charge of Ennistymon Library, and proceeded to initiate many projects in association with enthusiastic members of the local community, until his move on promotion as Assistant Librarian to library headquarters in Ennis in 1993. Anthony was subsequently promoted to Executive Librarian and later Senior Executive Librarian.

In 1987, Anthony encouraged Kevin O'Hara, an American on extended holiday in Ireland, to become 'Writer in Residence' in Ennistymon Library, offering space for Kevin to pursue his writing in an office in the library, while Kevin agreed to hold story-time sessions for young children. With Kevin's help Anthony also founded the North Clare Writers Workshop, a workshop to promote creative writing. In 1990 Sticks and Stones, the first annual collection of short stories and poetry was published by the group, followed by Roughly Speaking (1991), This is Where We Came In (1992), and Footprints On The Limestone (1993).

In 1989 Anthony decided to organise a festival to ‘celebrate and promote an awareness of traditional unaccompanied singing’ with the help of Maureen Rynne. The Ennistymon Festival of Traditional Singing took place over the June Weekend in 1990, being opened by Dr. Patrick Hillery, then President of Ireland. The Festival is an annual one (and was subsequently renamed 'The Clare Festival of Traditional Singing'), and is recognised as the foremost of its kind in the country.

Ennistymon Library’s Annual Amateur Photographic Competition (1987 - 1993)
Anthony also initiated annual photographic competitions with resultant exhibitions which toured all Clare library branches. Entries were received from all over Clare and beyond.

In 1990, with the help of William Callinan, Anthony set up the North Clare Historical Society to explore and publish aspects of the history of North Clare Area. The Society runs annual series of monthly lectures, which are extremely well supported by an enthusiastic community interested in its past. Lectures are held in venues throughout North Clare. A year-long, major project on Ennistymon Union Workhouse, based in Ennistymon Library and with support of FAS, resulted in publication of Minute Books of Board of Guardians for the period 1839-1852 and an exhibition launched by then President Mary Robinson.

Anthony was also a founder member of The Old Ennistymon Society, set up in 1992 to ‘preserve, protect and promote the Heritage of Ennistymon’. The Society acquired Ennistymon Courthouse from Clare County Council and offered artists studio facilities in the building for many years. In 2004, the society re-developed the building as an Artists Studio, Gallery and Rehearsal Space following receipt of major grants from government and Clare County Council.

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