Saturday 17 March 2018

Rushing to carry the cross for Ireland's second saint

Conor Nelligan, County Heritage Officer

The first day of February is St. Brigit's Day, a celebration of Ireland's second patron Saint.

According to tradition, Saint Brigit blinded herself in one eye so as to make her unmarriageable and as a result this allowed her to devote herself completely to God.

It is believed that she founded a monastery in Kildare in the 5th Century and to this day she is still honoured on February 1 in many parts of the country.

Her Feast Day has a number of traditions itself. In some places certain types of work were not permitted on the day. For example, in West Cork any practice involving the turning of wheels was generally avoided in that dressmakers refused to spin, and men walked long distances rather than use their bicycles. In almost every household also, the neighbours were invited over with those gathered often feasting on bairín braic and ale. Of course the most widespread Irish custom connected with St. Brigit is the making of the St. Brigit's Cross, used, as custom would have it, to honour the saint and to obtain her protection.

While on the subject of protection - although this time in relation to natural heritage - February 2 is International World Wetlands Day. The Ramsar website (Ramsar being an Iranian town in which the International Convention on Wetlands was adpoted on Feburary 2nd, 1971 clearly conveys the importance of wetlands when it states: "Wetlands are vital for human survival. They are among the world's most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival".

In addition, it is known that wetlands act positively for flood control and offer climate change mitigation.

On the subject of Natural Heritage, details of Tree Week 2018 - themed 'Just Plant' - have recently been announced. The week takes place from March 4 - 11 and is organised by the Tree Council of Ireland, supported by Coillte.

Communities, schools and members of the Tree Council throughout Ireland are invited to organise one or more events for the week. As well as tree planting ceremonies, the range of events can include forest and woodland walks, nature trails, workshops, woodturning displays, listening to the trees and what lives in the trees. Talks, tree climbing, broadcasts, launches, poetry readings, exhibitions and dramas, and other similar ideas and events are all welcome.

Cork County Council, thanks to the support of the Tree Council of Ireland, will have a number of native trees to give out to local schools, community groups and organisations on a first come first served basis, which can be planted during local Tree Week Events (email for more details).

All proposed Tree Week events can be registered on the Tree Council's website, To ensure maximum exposure and promotion it is advised that event details are submitted by 20th February 2018.

It is hoped that Tree Week 2018 will see a number of the county's schools busy planting. Educating the youth as to the importance of our trees, our nature and our biodiversity as a whole has significant benefits and a wonderful new website aimed at bringing biodiversity into the heart of the classroom has just been launched. The website, which is approved by the Heritage Council's Heritage in Schools Programme, is and it is packed full of free biodiversity resources that both schools and local community groups will be interested in. Further information on biodiversity is available at the National Biodiversity Data Centre website where copies of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan can be downloaded.

For those with an interest in exhibitions depicting the fascinating history and heritage of County Cork there are a few worthwhile exhibitions currently on display. In the Cork County Library HQ there is an exhibition entitled Road Bowling in Ireland - a display exploring the tradition of road bowling in Ireland, and specifically Cork with particular reference to Mick Barry and the many attempts to loft the Chetwynd Viaduct.

In St. Peters Church on North Main Street, Cork City, Passage West Maritime Museum and Festival Group together with the Cork Harbour Heritage Alliance (CHHA) have wonderful exhibitions in place on early ship building in Passage West as well as the US Navy in Cork Harbour. This latter exhibition by the CHHA featured in the Foyer of Cork County Council HQ for the month of October 2017 and was tremendously well received and the exhibition on ship building in Passage West is most fascinating for anyone with an interest in maritime heritage. All welcome.

Next week's article will take a look at a number of heritage events taking place during the month of February and lastly, community groups are reminded that there is still time to apply for the Heritage Council's Community Grant Scheme (open until February 9th 2018) and the Cork County Council Municipal District Grant Scheme (open until February 16th 2018).