Spotlight shines on Ferns as ancient capital of Leinster
Efforts at establishing Ferns as a heritage tourism destination took a step forward recently as two events took place which focused on the history of the village.
A talk in Gorey Library by Catherine MacPartlin, chairperson of the Ferns Heritage Project Group, attracted a packed house.
Catherine gave a broad outline of Ferns as the ancient capital of Leinster, and the seat of Diarmuid MacMorrough, a much maligned figure in Irish history.
She asked if he was as bad as is made out, and stripped back the stories surrounding him to reveal a more rounded character and a man of his time. 'Inter-dynastic rivalry was rife at the time,' she said.
The talk also touched on the wealth of stories surrounding well known historical characters linked to Ferns including Strongbow and Aoife.
'There are so many fascinating stories, and we're trying to put Ferns on the tourism map,' she said. 'The story is such a complex one.'
Two days later, St Mogue's Cottage in Ferns hosted a talk by Dr Edel Bhreathnach, CEO of the Discovery Programme, titled 'The changing landscape of Ferns in 11th to 13th centuries'.
The talk was followed by a site visit to the Abbey field where the Discovery Programme is currently conducting a survey.
Catherine explained that the purpose of the survey is to further investigate the extent and significance of St Mary's Abbey where a previous geophysical survey found evidence of underground boundary enclosures.
Funding for the survey was sourced by the Ferns Heritage Project Group from the Irish Heritage Council.
Welcoming Dr Bhreathnach to Ferns, Catherine spoke of the importance of working with archaeologists and historians to uncover the hidden gems in Ferns and helping to further develop the story of the ancient capital of Ferns.
Dr Bhreathnach's talk covered: St Mary's Abbey, founded in the 12th century; the cult of Maodhog and the strong links to Wales; the arrival of Strongbow; and William Marshal. Dr Bhreathnach said the chapel in the 13th century Ferns Castle is the finest of its kind.