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Review of Ballymote Heritage Weekend 1st to 5th August 2013

Ballymote Heritage Weekend which took place from Thursday 1st to Monday 5th August was a notable success. The Ballymote Teagasc Centre proved the perfect venue for lectures, with its state of the art facilities. Those attending also particularly enjoyed viewing the Exhibition of Historic Photographs of Ballymote which had been put together earlier in the year by Ballymote native and resident Mary Cawley at the instigation of Ballymote Business Association.

Those who attended the restored Art Deco Theatre and Cinema on Thursday 1st for the screening of the classic 1958 movie Dracula with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee had a real treat – including the pleasure of sitting in the remarkably fine art deco interior. Those who came along fearing that they might have to hide their heads in their hands found a piece of very polite old fashioned English theatre and, though it had its gory moments, the horror paled into insignificance in the light of the blood and guts we are constantly exposed to on television and in cinemas today.  The cardboard-like sets were more akin what one would find on the stage for Tubbercurry Drama Festival productions than what we have come to expect from movies today. The film proved to be a perfect preparation for Paul Murray’s lecture later in the weekend on Bram Stoker, the author of the novel on which the film is based. Paul Murray’s lecture inspired lots of discussion and curiosity to read the original novel and indeed Paul Murray’s own book, From the Shadow of Dracula: A life of Bram Stoker.

The Heritage Group and the Art Deco might consider showing other classic films in future as part of future heritage weekends. Art Deco management are looking at the possibility of establishing a film club.

On Friday Malcolm Billings, Journalist, Radio Producer and Author performed the official opening and delivered a fascinating lecture the theme of his recently published book on Vartan of Nazareth: A Missionary and Medical Pioneer In the Nineteenth Century Middle East.

The outing on Saturday to County Tyrone got off to a good start when the group were greeted on arrival at Clogher’s Church of Ireland cathedral by guide for the day, local historian Jack Johnston, and given a particularly warm welcomed by Canon Noel Regan, a Sligo native who had worked for many years in Brooks Hanleys. After the long bus journey welcome refreshments were provided by the local branch of The Mothers Union. Having seen the cathedral, the former See House, and nearby hill fort, lunch was served in the village hall with catering by the Tyrone County Club. The group viewed Liam McCormack’s catholic parish church and the earlier catholic church outside the town where all were saddened to view the grave of Avril Monaghan, her two unborn twins and 20 month old daughter who were victims of the Omagh bombing.

The audience on Saturday evening was enthralled by Peter Bowen’s vast knowledge and extensive collection of historic photographs displayed in his lecture on The Railways of Co. Sligo. It is to be hoped that this can be distilled into a book.

Almost 70 came to Temple House on the Sunday and the sun shone as the crowd gathered for the promised tour of the house. After Roderick Perceval’s talk and tour of the house, everyone could sympathise with Roderick Perceval and his wife Helena who have taken on the mammoth task of looking after the place. We saw the rooms that they have painted themselves and the vast semi-derelict attics where keeping the roof on is the first challenge. The guest rooms are beautifully arranged. A delicious lunch was prepared by Helena and her hard working assistants and served in the splendid setting of the ballroom. After lunch all emerged into glorious sunshine and wandered around the gardens and down to the ruined castle by the lake. It was agreed by all that it was a perfect afternoon and a memorable occasion, not least for the warm welcome provided by the Perceval family.

The weekend was completed on Monday with a fascinating visit to Tullynally Castle where the group  were lead on a tour of the house by Tom and Valery Packenham and a visit to the extraordinary complex of monastic buildings at Fore Abbey lead by historian Frank Tivnan who is well known to those who have attended on previous years. Dr. Padraig Deignan’s lecture on The Sligo Port Strike of 1913 maintained the high standard evident throught out the weekend.

Ballymote Heritage Group’s Journal The Corran Herald 2013-14 is now on sale in the shops with a wide ranging collection of articles and costs a modest €8.