The record clearly shows that a small group of dedicated individuals have created a vibrant and active society

which has, over the ten years of its existence involved almost every person in the parish of St. John’s in South Roscommon either as supporter or participant in the voluntary community work undertaken by the Group. This is therefore not the nomination of any individual but the recognition of an entire community.

~ A Decade of Community Service ~

St. John’s Parish Heritage Group 2002 - 2012.

St. John’s Parish Heritage Group 2002 - 2012.
~ A decade of community service ~
A meeting was held in St. John's Community Centre on 10th July 2002 and a large attendance decided to re-form the local history group, which had gone into abeyance for a number of years. A committee pro-tem was elected which consisted of: Liam Byrne (Chairman), Ann Griffin & Margaret Egan (Joint Secretary), Donald Feeley (Treasurer), Jack Kilcline (Asst. Treasurer), Paddy Kilduff, Kevin Coyle, Elizabeth Donlon, Timmy Donlon, Diane R. Dunnigan, Michael Connaughton, Pat Grady & Bertie Fallon. The first official meeting took place on 23rd September and the name St. John's Parish Heritage Group (Grúpa Oidhreachta Pharóiste Naomh Eoin) was chosen. The Group is a non-political, nonsectarian, voluntary organisation and its ethos is to promote local heritage, to organise the restoration of sites of local historical significance, to organise lectures, to collect materials with a view to publishing local history and to collect funds towards these aims. During the first year a number of lectures were organised: "St. John's Parish & The Great Famine" by William Gacquin MA, "Mills & Milling in South Roscommon" by Edward Egan, "The Railway - Athlone to Roscommon" by Michael Conlon and "O'Kelly Country South of Roscommon Town" by John Kerrigan. On 19 October a social function was held in St. John’s Community Centre. The First AGM was held on 1st July 2003 and the following officers were elected; Chairman: Liam Byrne, Vice-Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Margaret Egan, Asst. Secretary: Kevin Coyle, Treasurer: Donald Feeley, Asst. Treasurer: Jack Kilcline. Fr. Sean Kelly PP was unanimously appointed President. The meeting was followed by a talk on local heritage by Diane R. Dunnigan. During 2003/04 the following events were held; a guided tour of Rindoon with Dr. Harman Murtagh, "Festival Day Traditions in Old Roscommon" a talk by Albert Siggins and "Customs & Traditions Surrounding Marriage in South Roscommon" by Rosaleen Fallon. A fundraising night was held in Kelly's Lounge, Lecarrow and "Rindoon" a lecture and guided tour by Dr. Kieran O'Conor was held. Finally an illustrated talk on the collection at Derryglad Folk Museum by proprietor Charlie Finneran rounded off the season. During 2004 the Group commissioned research into two local sites of significance – St. John’s Protestant Graveyard and the dolmen in Lecarrow known as The Stones (or colloquially “Nellie’s Rock”). Both projects were undertaken by archaeologist Theresa McDonnell of The Achill School. The cost of the reports was €1,300. In November 2004 "The Rindoon Journal - Volume 1" was launched by William Gacquin MA in St. John’s Community Centre. This 186 page illustrated book contains a diverse range of essays including; A Brief History of Glanduff

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National School by Donald Feeley, Roscommon Traditions & Heritage by Noel Beattie, Brian O'Fearghail - poet, herd & farmer by William Gacquin, Coyle’s of the Forge by Kevin Coyle, Placenames of Rahara by Rahara National School Pupils, Medieval Rindoon by J. A. Claffey, Rinn Dún Scouts by Kevin Coyle, Community by Margaret Egan, Memories of meeting two people who led fascinating - and very different lives by Paul Healy, Jim Delaney & James Grady help the National Museum by Albert Siggins, Some notes on St. John's Church by William Gacquin, Crusheen Bush - Tor Croisín by Marian Gavagan, St. John's and area in 1837 by Liam Byrne, Historic Townland Names (St. John's) by Diane Rose Dunnigan, Knockcroghery Ablaze and Interview with Mr. Jimmy Murray by Riona Egan, The Disappearing Lake - Lough Funshinagh by Jack Kilcline, The Greenes of Hill House, Lecarrow by Audrey & Richard Devlin, The Diaries of Benjamin Greene of Hill House, Lecarrow - Part 1 by Mai Byrne, Fundraising in Lecarrow by Kevin Coyle, Some Historical Notes on Kilmore House by Liam Byrne and Rindoon Windmill Tower by J. A. Claffey. The book sold over 950 copies. The second AGM was held on 25th January 2005 and the following officers were elected: Chairman: Liam Byrne, Vice-Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Margaret Egan, Asst. Secretary: Kevin Coyle, Joint Treasurer: Donald Feeley & Edward John Beattie. PRO: Mai Byrne. (President: Fr. Sean Kelly). A Cemetery Restoration Sub-Committee was set-up under the chair of Diane Dunnigan. This sub-committee undertook the restoration of Kilcommon and Old St. John's Catholic Graveyards and St. John's Protestant Graveyard. Initial estimates for the cost of the work was just over €11,000. A well attended community work-day was organised on 7 May 2005. The work in our cemeteries continues to this day under the Chair of Donald Feeley. Kiltoom Protestant Graveyard has recently been added to the list and work on the graveyards is greatly assisted by Roscommon Leader Partnership - Rural Social Scheme, by cemetery grants from Roscommon County Council and by an annual church gate collection, which is generously supported by the people of the parish. Work on the graveyards includes controlling weeds, cutting grass and making the graves more accessible, planting native trees to enhance the area and planting flowers. The graveyards have also been surveyed and the names recorded and placed online. On 17th July 2005 Mass was celebrated in the refurbished Kilcommon Graveyard for the first time in many, many years. A large congregation attended this significant religious event. A FunRun was organised on the same day to help finance the work in the graveyards. During 2005/06 the Group organised; "Ploughing in South Roscommon" a talk by Tom Egan, "The Great Famine in Roscommon" by Fr. Ray Browne PP Kilbride and “Yesterdays Rubbish, Todays Antiques” a talk by Cecil English. The third AGM was held on 29th November 2005. The officers elected were: Chairman: Liam Byrne, Vice-Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Marian Gavagan, Asst. Secretary: Michael Connaughton, Treasurer: Margaret Egan, PRO: Mai Byrne. A new President, Donald Feeley, was appointed to replace Fr. Sean Kelly who passed away in April 2005 (RIP).

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Also in 2005 the Group began a collaboration with Roscommon Leader Partnership to employ a Rural Social Scheme worker, Mr. Hugh Tumelty, to undertake historical research on it’s behalf in Roscommon County Library. This unique project is continuing and to date has produced four volumes of typed research containing a large database of indexed historical information which is available for local history research purposes at our room in St. John’s Community Centre. On 10th December 2005 "The Rindoon Journal Volume 2" was launched by Seamus Duke in Culleen Hall, Knockcroghery. The illustrated volume has 207 pages and the contents include: A link with the past - "House Stations" by Marian Gavagan, The Story of a Local Family - Dunnigan Families of St. John's Parish 1659 - 2004 by Diane Rose Dunnigan, The Hill House, Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon by Audrey Poynton Devlin, The Diaries of Benjamin Greene of Hill House, Lecarrow - Part 2 by Mai Byrne, The Earl & Silverstream: Prize Horses and The Poynton Family, Bondville, Lecarrow by Audrey Poynton Devlin, Meeting with a great Roscommon man - Phelim Murray by Seamus Duke, John Hubert Plunkett - An Architect of Australian Freedom by Tony Earls (Australia), The Priests of Knockcroghery, St. John's & Rahara by Donald Feeley, Shannon View School by Hazel A. Ryan, Bartley Madden's Story by Declan Coyne, Memories of Lloyd's School by Teresa Killian, The Results of Portrun Regatta - A Great Success by Albert Siggins, Childhood memories of Peter John Fallon by Monica Beegan, The Woods of St. John's & Lough Ree (Poems) by Ned Brennan, St. John's Community Centre - 21st. Anniversary, Peter Connaughton of Ballyduff by Michael Connaughton and Macra na Féirme by Laurence Fallon. This volume sold nearly 800 copies. Income from sales of the Rindoon Journal Vol. 1 & 2 allowed St. John’s Parish Heritage Group spend over €12,000 locally - including spending on the maintenance of cemeteries and as our contribution towards the conservation work etc. at Rindoon. In 2006 a "Design a Christmas Card" competition was run. Local school children and those from further afield took part. A large entry was received which was judged by an independent adjudicator. The winners in the six different categories were each given book vouchers and their entries turned into a series of six colourful cards which were sold for Christmas. In February 2006 a sub-committee was formed to organise the erection of Townland Markers. Donald Feeley was Chairman. Meetings were held throughout the parish, money was collected, sponsorship sought and much hard work done. This project was completed during 2009 at a cost of approx. €8,000. A limestone marker for each townland in the parish was erected and placenames in English and Irish were inscribed on them. This project would not have been possible without generous grant aid from CLÁR and Foras na Gaeilge and in particular without the support of the local community whose generous contributions helped to finance the project. Representatives from every townland in the parish were involved on the committee. The fourth AGM was held on 3rd April 2007. The following officers were elected. Chairman: Diane R. Dunnigan, Vice Chairman: Ciaran Egan, Secretary: Marian Gavagan, Asst. Secretary: Michael Connaughton, Treasurer: Margaret Egan, Asst. Treasurer: Liam Byrne, PRO: Richard Collins. (President: Donald Feeley).

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A very successful Guided Walk in St. John's Wood was held as part of Heritage Week in August 2007 and in September a well attended Ecumenical Service was held at the Church of Ireland Graveyard in Rinnegan, St. John's. This was the second successful religious service organised by the Group as a commemoration of all the dead of the parish and to remind the community of it’s links with the past. About the same time the Group took over arrangements for the annual Pattern Mass at St. John’s Holy Well on 24th June. Refreshments are provided afterwards in St. John’s Community Centre. The fifth AGM was held on 6th February 2008. Officers elected were: Chairman: Ciaran Egan, Vice Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Marian Gavagan, Asst. Secretary: Michael Connaughton, Treasurer: Liam Byrne, Asst. Treasurer: Margaret Egan, PRO: Richard Collins. (President: Donald Feeley). Richard Collins took over as chair of the Cemeteries Sub-Committee. A St. John's Wood Sub-Committee was also formed, but was later disbanded when the National Parks and Wildlife Service took over the proposed work in this nationally significant woodland. A Walk in St. John's Wood was organised for the May Bank Holiday 2008 and the first Fr. Sean Kelly Memorial Lecture was held. The guest speaker was Anne Ridge and the topic was "Death Customs in the West of Ireland". During Heritage Week in October Marian Gavagan organised a "Schools Display" in St. John's Community Centre. The exhibition was very well supported and a collection of local school memorabilia and ephemera collected, some of which is now on display upstairs in St. John’s Community Centre. The sixth AGM of St. John's Parish Heritage Group was held on 23rd March 2009. The officers elected were: Chairman: Ciaran Egan, Vice Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Marian Gavagan, Asst. Secretary: Michael Connaughton, Treasurer: Liam Byrne, Asst. Treasurer: Margaret Egan, PRO & Rindoon Sub-Committee Chairman: Richard Collins. (President: Donald Feeley). During 2009 the first phase of major stabilization work began at Rindoon, a site which is acknowledged to be the best preserved deserted Norman settlement in Ireland. A generous grant from The Irish Walled Towns Network (IWTN) (of which St. John’s Parish Heritage Group is one of only a few non-Local Government members) enabled one of the three towers of the town wall to have major work done, including ivy removal, arrow loops and stone repairs, together with steel re-enforcing to one side of the tower. The work was carried out by Rainey Conservation Ltd. A grant from Roscommon County Council allowed St John’s Hospital, built before 1216, to be similarly repaired, closing a large crack in the gable end which was in imminent danger of collapse. A conservation architect Kevin Blackwood and an archaeologist David Sweetman were employed on both sites and assistance given by Roscommon County Council Conservation Officer, Katriona Byrne and Heritage Officer, Nollaig Feeney.

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"This project is a shining example of what can be accomplished through the co-operation of the local community heritage group and Roscommon County Council, with much work on both sides’, states Katriona Byrne, Conservation Officer, Roscommon County Council. ‘It is no doubt the national significance of the site and the best practice approach taken to the works and the presentation of the site that has enabled us to attract the degree of funding we have and I hope that this increases into the future" (Press Release 2009).

During 2009 a National Looped Walk of approximately 4.5 kilometers was installed around the shores of Rindoon, in Warren townland. The Warren Looped-Walk was made possible by Fáilte Ireland, who provided map boards, waymarkers, metal stiles and technical assistance from their Trails Adviser. With finance from local sponsorship and with help from many local people the route of the walk was cleared, metal stiles installed, three stone stiles built and waymarkers placed along the length of the walk, which passes by all the major archaeological sites at Rindoon - the hospital, the Roman Catholic and Protestant cemeteries, the town wall, castle, windmill, bee bole and parish church. Rindoon Wood, one of the best preserved medieval woods in Ireland, is also included. Funding from the Heritage Council allowed each site to have its own Heritage Information Board explaining its history and context within the Rindoon complex. The walk has attracted significant numbers of visitors to South Roscommon with consequential benefits to the local economy. It was featured in The Irish Independent “Weekend” magazine on 21st May 2011 (http://www.independent.ie/travel/inside-ireland/walk-of-the-week-warren-point-loop-coroscommon-2653886.html) and is also listed online at: http://www.everytrail.com/guide/warrenpoint-looped-walk-of-rinn-duin. The walk would not be possible but for the continued support of the local landowner P.J. Grady. Assisted by a grant from Roscommon County Council, an inscribed stone in memory of those who have no memorial was placed in Kilcommon and Old St. John’s Roman Catholic cemeteries. Trees were planted in these two cemeteries and in the restored St. John’s Church of Ireland graveyard. During Heritage Week in August 2009 the Group put on a Display of Historical Documents in St. John’s Community Centre and held a public walk at Rindoon. Both were well supported. The seventh AGM of St. John's Parish Heritage Group was held on 1st March 2010. The officers elected were: Chairman: Ciaran Egan, Vice Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Marian Gavagan, Asst. Secretary: Michael Connaughton, Treasurer: Liam Byrne, Asst. Treasurer: Margaret Egan, PRO: Diane Dunnigan. (President: Donald Feeley). Richard Collins was appointed Cemeteries officer and continued as Rindoon Project sub-committee Chairman. On 30th April the Group participated in Roscommon Lamb Festival 2010 by providing two well attended guided tours on the Warren Loop Walk. In May The Fr. Seam Kelly Memorial Lecture was held in St. John's Community Centre. The speaker was Dr. Kieran O'Conor and his talk was on the importance of the Medieval Castle site at Rindoon.

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Heritage Week was celebrated on 22nd August with a Fancy Dress Event at Rindoon. The day was a spectacular success. Hundreds of locals (and people from as far away as Dublin and Cork) took part and the event won the inaugural Best Event Organised by a Community Group award from The Heritage Council. On 14th January 2011 Roscommon County Council awarded the Group a Civic Reception in honour of it's Heritage Week success and on 9th February 2011 St. John's Parish Heritage Group was presented with it's Heritage Council Award at a ceremony in Kilkenny. Ciaran Egan and Richard Collins represented the Parish. In February 2011 the meeting room upstairs at St. John's Community Centre was refurbished, repainted, floored and fitted out as a research room and library. The cost of the work was ca. €2,000. Furniture was procured - including filing cabinet and map locker and shelving erected for books and artefacts of historical or heritage interest from the area. A selection of books and magazines on genealogy, archaeology, heritage, family and local history are available and four display cabinets and a shelf have been filled with local artefacts. On 2 nd March a talk was given by Diane Dunnigan on Irish US emigration. The eight AGM of St. John's Parish Heritage Group was held on 23rd March 2011. The officers elected were: Chairman: Ciaran Egan, Vice Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Marian Gavagan, Asst. Secretary: Mel McGerr, Treasurer: Christopher Keane, Asst. Treasurer: Margaret Egan, PRO & Journal Editor: Liam Byrne. (President: Donald Feeley). Donald Feeley was appointed Cemeteries officer and Richard Collins continued as Rindoon Project Sub-Committee Chairman. In August the Group participated in Irish Walled Towns Day – part of Heritage Week 2011, at Rindoon. It is estimated that over 1000 visitors attended the two-hour event. “The day began with Shannonside Radio broadcasting from 12.30 am but the real fun began at 2 pm. The highlight was a Viking Raid into Safe Harbour, but the Cois Claddagh Coir singing in the old church - the first choir to sing there in 700 years, was also a gem. A big crowd of locals turned up suitable dressed in period costume and a great time was had by all”. The event was widely covered in the local newspapers and over 200 photographs from the day are on display on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/st.johns.heritage. Other events included ogham writing, medieval life artifacts and animals, falconry, a medieval medicine talk and herbwalk in Rindoon Wood, medieval stocks, sheep dog demonstrations, a celebrity tug-of-war and a children's art competition. Another super day and the event was THE topic of conversation around the parish and beyond for manys-a-day afterwards.

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Throughout 2010 and 2011 conservation work continued at Rindoon. The work is part of a five-year strategy by The Heritage Council and The Irish Walled Towns Network (IWTN), in co-operation with St. John’s Parish Heritage Group. Over €350,000 has been spent on the project to date. The IWTN awarded the Group €120,000 in 2011 with an additional €10,000 coming from The Heritage Council. In addition to the ongoing stabilization of the town walls, church and hospital, conservation work and a photographic survey were conducted on Rindoon windmill. The new information uncovered during the project has led to a significant update of the 1998 Rindoon Management Plan. This new document was officially launched in St. John’s Community Centre, Lecarrow by Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan TD on 26th March 2012. Over 100 people attended the event and it received much local publicity. It also featured on the Six-One news on RTÉ. The launch was organised by St. John’s Parish Heritage Group. During work on the hospital a 13th century medieval stone head was uncovered. It is currently being professionally conserved by The National Museum of Ireland. In the summer of 2011 the National Monuments Service confirmed that a grave marker found in the hospital grounds dating to 1539 is officially the oldest known dated grave in Ireland. The Rindoon Journal Volume 3 was published on 27th November 2011. It was launched by Fr. Ray Milton PP Knockcroghery in St. John’s Community Centre before a packed house. The publication of this volume brings to nearly sixty the total number of essays on local history, archaeology, heritage, literature and folklore that has been made available to the general public through our publishing efforts. Volume 3 has 194 pages and includes articles on Rosie & Lily Cadiz - St. John's Suffragettes by Frank McNally (courtesy of Richard Collins), The Diaries of Benjamin Greene of Hill House, Lecarrow - Part 3 by Mai Byrne, Jimmy Furey - boat builder by Christopher Keane, Our Heritage by Sandra Grady (poem), Lecarrow Carnival by Marian Gavagan, Dr. Edward George Levinge MBE by Eamon Leonard (Cork), Local Place Names - Carnagh by Marian Gavagan, Local Poems - Culleen Hall So Many Years Ago and Portrunny's Lovely Shore by Paud Sexton, Knockcroghery's Lovely People and The People of Lecarrow by John J. Kenny, Rambling in Bygone Days by Marian Gavagan, And his place will know him no more: the return of James Finnerty by Diane Dunnigan, Diocesan History: Parish of St. John's, The Stones Lecarrow by Theresa McDonald, Souterrain at Killiaghan and Gort by Liam Byrne & William Gacquin, Pat Fallon by Ita Fallon Commins, In Praise of those who Serve - Priests of St. John's Parish, Priests of Rahara Parish, Bishops & Priests of Knockcroghery Parish, Lives Happily Spent (Nuns of Parish) by Donald & Phil Feeley and 1911 Census - Parish of Rahara & St. John's by Donald Feeley & Ciaran Egan. The book also contains a multi-page photograph section. Half the print run was sold by Christmas and money from this venture will be used to develop the Heritage Centre within St. John’s Community Centre.

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The ninth AGM of St. John's Parish Heritage Group was held on 22rd March 2012. The officers elected were: Chairman: Ciaran Egan, Vice Chairman: Paddy Kilduff, Secretary: Mary Mullally Keane, Asst. Secretary: Marian Gavagan, Treasurer: Christopher Keane, Asst. Treasurer: Margaret Egan, PRO: Liam Byrne. (President: Donald Feeley). All Sub-Committee Chairpersons remain in place. On 29th March St. John's Parish Heritage Group was informed that it had been selected as one of the finalists in the 8th Annual Athlone Rehab People of The Year Awards. This is a great honour for the Group and confirms the commitment and enthusiasm of it's voluntary members and supporters. The awards took place in the Radisson Hotel, Athlone on Friday 27th April. A presentation of Athlone Crystal was made to all eight award winners. The Fr. Sean Kelly Memorial lecture 2012 was given by Regina Donlon on 4th April. Her talk was titled "The Irish danced while the Germans sang - Irish & German social and cultural traditions in the American Midwest 1850 - 1900". Approx. thirty people heard Regina talk about living conditions and social interactions between Irish and German immigrants to the American Midwest during the period. Light refreshments were served afterwards. After our success in the past the Group is planning another community Heritage Week event for August 2012. Further work is also in train to develop the remaining upstairs rooms at St. John’s Community Centre to house a meeting / lecture room and a display areas to commemorate local heritage and community achievements and success. It is hoped to complete this work during this 10 th Anniversary year. Rindoon and the Warren Loop Walk has been selected by Roscommon County Council to represent the county in the 2012 Pride of Place competition in June / July. A number of new community projects have started - the Naturalists Field Club held it’s first meeting on 6th February and a field-names survey of the parish began on 8th February. Other initiatives are under active consideration. A Facebook page has been set-up to raise the public profile of the Group among younger people and a website has also been designed. Three archaeological investigations are proposed for the Rindoon site during 2012. A geophysical survey and a survey of the castle by NUI Galway and an underwater survey by the University of Ulster, Coleraine are planned for the summer. In addition an aerial survey was conducted by the Irish Army Air Corps in February. An Historical Guide and a leaflet for the site are in the pipeline. St. John’s Parish Heritage Group is proud of its achievements during its first decade but is not sitting on its laurels. Its volunteer members continue to dedicate their time and energies to making St. John’s Parish a better place for visitors and parishioners.

Heritage Day 2011 at Rindoon.

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Notes.

Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of every month. New members are always welcome. Additional information and photographs are available on St. John’s Parish Heritage Group webpage at: www.roscommonhistory.ie/orgs/SJPHS/heritage.htm or on the Group Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/st.johns.heritage Contact us on: stjphg@gmail.com

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