independent

Saturday 18 November 2017

Autumn rambles will go to the heart of things in the county

The late Dick Fortune, Ballygarrett pointing out a carving of a schooner in Clonevin, and (inset) the carving in close-up.
The late Dick Fortune, Ballygarrett pointing out a carving of a schooner in Clonevin, and (inset) the carving in close-up.
The schooner carving in close-up

David Tucker

Why not shorten your winter by getting out into the fresh air and explore some of County Wexford's hidden gems, lesser-known history and folklore?

Artist/folklorist Michael Fortune, supported by Ballygarrett Tidy Towns, has announced a series of autumn rambles through the heart of the Macamores.

So, if you have an interest in local folklore and customs, local placenames, holy wells, mass paths, old forts, buried treasure, battle sites and general sites of cultural and historic importance these rambles are for you.

Michael says the walks are the culmination of months of work which he conducted in the village as part of his larger umbrella project 'About This Place' which records and maps local specific sites of historic and folkloric importance within the county and which has been produced with the support of the Arts Department of Wexford County Council via the Artist-in-the-Community Scheme.

The walks are open to all ages, however, children must be accompanied and supervised by an adult at all times.

Starting on Sunday, October 8, the rambles take place from 2-5 p.m. and continue on the following two Sundays, October 15 and 22 and are a must for anyone interested in a rich local history that is often hidden from view.

Michael said that over the past year he has been assisted by many local people, including his own parents who sadly passed away in December and June just gone.

Luckily for him, they had a deep understanding of these local places and he was fortunate enough to get to know them during their lifetimes and most importantly he was in the position to record them at various times over the past two decades.

His father, in particular, had a deep knowledge of numerous sites and weeks before he passed away he took him to forgotten holy wells and graveyards in the area:

These include Kiltresk Well, St Patrick's Well, in Donaghmore, and a series of old graveyards and burial grounds which were never marked on any maps and only remembered within local folk memory.

The walks will pay tribute to many local people who's names and memories survive in local folklore and song.

One particular man, the notorious Hawtry White, a local magistrate and yeoman who was affectionately remembered as 'The Priest Hunter', has his initials adorning the walls of Clonganny House and the legacy he left on the area post-1798 is still remembered.

Happier reminders of the past are featured in a series of little engravings of schooners which were cut into the walls by local lads in Clonevin and Cahore where they'd congregate to chat and play pitch and toss.

There will be references to more recent histories also and the tours will touch on many World War Two sites and stories which are numerous in the area.

Once such story involves the wheel of a crashed plane and Michael, who is working as a curator on the new RTE 'National Treasures' programme, recently brought an RTE film crew down to Wexford to film local man Jim O'Connor explain the history behind it.

All are welcome on the rambles but booking is essential so please call Michael by phone on 087 6470247 or email him at micfortune@gmail.com

Each ramble begins and ends in the church car park in Ballygarrett and will depart at 2 p.m. and return at 5 p.m. The tours involve driving out of the village so car pooling is encouraged. Dress according to weather on the day and pack snacks and drinks. Check out facebook.com/AboutThisPlaceWexford for more up to-date information or to find general information on the project website www.aboutthisplace.ie

Gorey Guardian

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