The many historic castles and tower houses of North Clare have become the subject of a unique training course, the first of its kind held in Ireland.
More than 70 people from all over Europe and from as far away as Lebanon travelled to County Clare at the weekend to learn more about the repair and consolidation of historic ruins.
Facilitated by Clare County Council, the Killinaboy Heritage and History Group and the Ireland Branch of SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings), the course took place at An Cabhail Mhór (The Great Ruin) in Killinaboy, the 400 year old plantation fort of The Blood family who were later associated with the great country houses of Corofin, Applevale, Riverstown, Roxton and Clifden.
Following an introductory health and safety talk by Eoin Madigan of SPAB, volunteer participants began work on the re-pointing of the historic walls of An Cabhail Mhór using hot-lime the first time in a public training course in Ireland. Volunteers were treated to a demonstration of “soft” wall capping, using local clay and native plants, to reduce moisture in ruined walls, while there was a demonstration of stone carving by cutting a new “Síle na gCíg” from a block of local Burren limestone.
The visit to An Cabhail Mhór concluded with the site being opened to the public and visitors who were treated to a talk on the local stone monuments and a demonstration of traditional crafts including thatching, mediaeval joinery, stone cutting and metal work.
Volunteers also visited Dysert O’Dea Castle where Risteard (Dick) UaCroinin, Clare County Council’s Architectural Conservation Officer / Archaeologist, spoke about the restoration of the late 15th century castle and the numerous masonry monuments at Dysert, famous for being the location of the Battle of Dysert O’Dea which drove the Anglo-Normans from the region for over 200 years.
Commenting on the weekend, Mr. UaCroinin said, “This was the first SPAB training course organised in the Republic of Ireland and was a very successful training course, organised to coincide with National Heritage Week.”
“The course is the culmination of years of preparatory work, surveys, assessments, and statutory permissions prepared by myself, Tom Keating and Frank O’Grady of Killinaboy Heritage Group, and Carol Gleeson and her Geopark team for the Burren LIFE Project (BLP),” he continued. “Following a very successful lime course last December it was decided to expand the training this summer and SPAB were invited to plan a weekend in North Clare. Under the efficient leadership of Triona Byrne, Róisín Beirne and Eoin Madigan of SPAB, who conducted the training, invitations were sent to interested parties, worldwide, attracting over seventy participants, over three days, from all over Britain and Ireland and even as far away as Lebanon.”
“The weekend event brought a great boost to the local economy in food, drink, entertainment and accommodation and plans are already afoot to make this an annual event,” he added.