Tom Jones, member of the Sligo daytrip group has prearranged a few of these visits by logging on their facebook pages/emailing and telephoning and has kindly put the links at the end of the piece for you. (While the guide names and contacts for tours are real the tourist group is fictional and based on many who have visited one or other of the sites)
The Day Out begins: 10am to 12.30pm
Tom and his friends are full of fun and ready to try new things so Tom decided as an entertaining start to the visit he would bring the group to the ladies in Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre, (off the N4 from Longford or Edgeworthstown if you miss the Longford turn) to partake in one of their many interesting workshops. His group have decided that they will take part in the Midir and Etain drama that Annette Corkery has written based on the ancient legend of the area. The group arrive to their pre-arranged morning tea/coffee and scones laid out for them in the cafe area of the centre. While they are enjoying their leisurely snack Annette and Ann provide them with their script. (Don't be afraid! It is all narrated and actions only required!!) They laugh nervously as they decide who will play what with some of the extroverts agreeing to take on the main characters of Midir, Etain, Eochaidh, Aonghus, Fuaimneach and Etar's wife. The quieter ones in the group happily taking part in the crowd scenes and audience. Once the refreshments are taken the group move through the art room and the Craft Gallery to the Heritage end of the building where they put on their costumes and dramatise the play to much laughter and joy. "We find that even the most reluctant player gets very enthused before it ends" says Ann Gerety Smythof Creative Ardagh. When everybody has been entertained and educated on this wonderful legend Ann and Annette give a brief history of Ardagh and Moydow to the group. The group take their time reading the interesting exhibition and browsing the Craft Gallery which stocks handmade crafted good made by local craftspeople, many of whom are members of Longford's Craft Network, Creative Longford. The more energetic of the group take a wander through the village exploring St. Brigid's Church where the high altar and altar rail were designed by William Hague and carved by James Pearse (1839 - 1900), father of the sculptor Willie Pearse and the more famous political figure Patrick Pearse(1879 - 1916), visit the grave of 1916 Easter Rising Rebellion soldier Alfred McHugh, St. Patrick's Church and the site of the original St. Mel's Cathedral, the clock tower, the traveller's rest and on the way to visit Bonny Pat Farrell's grave, general of the Granardbattle in the 1798 rebellion, in the old graveyard they notice the plaque relating the tale of how Goldsmith was inspired to write She stoops to Conquer. The rest of the group take a leisurely stroll in the Neighbourhood Park and Woods or sit and read many of the interesting books in the building.
A little diversion: 12.30pm/12.45pm
A light lunch: 1pm to 2pm
Our group are slightly peckish so they stop at The Park House Hotel for some soup and sandwiches where they are met as pre-arranged by Matt Farrell of the Maria Edgeworths Literary Trail to begin the next part of their journey.
The Literary tour continues: 2pm to 4pm
Matt led the trail which started at St Mary’s church, continuing to Edgeworthstown Houseand walled gardens - the ancestral home of the famous Edgeworth family Richard Lovell, Maria, William and Michael Pakenam to name but a few. The trail then proceeded to the historic St John’s Rectory birthplace of ‘The Abbe Edgeworth’ confessor to Louis XVI of France. The Rectory was also the house in which Isola Wilde - sister to Oscar Wilde - tragically died at the tender age of nine while on a visit to her aunt Margaret Noble. Local history tells us that Oscar Wilde paid many visits to her grave in St John’s and composed his famous poem Requiescat in Isola’s memory. The poem was recited for the group and they then proceeded to St John’s Church and graveyard where they saw the Edgeworth family tomb and the memorial to Isola Wilde, as well as many interesting headstones and the graves of many eminent churchmen. The final leg of the trail took in the beautiful stone cut St John’s school and ended at the Edgeworth Schoolhouse on the Ballymahon Road which was built in 1840 just nine years before the death of Maria Edgeworth.
St. Mel's Cathedral, dinner and home: 4.30pm - 7pm
Of course the group had to have a final stop on their journey home via Longford town at the beautifully restored and prizewinning building of St. Mel's Cathedral.
Heralded as the Phoenix rising from the Ashes, the town of Longford and its surrounds cried in devastation on Christmas morning 2009 as they watched helplessly while their Cathedral burned. The brave firemen fought to save the building with the worst frost in years preventing them from getting access to water and the centuries old dried wood lighting up in front of them like kindle.
Bishop O'Reilly issued a letter to his 41 parishes: "I am now writing the kind of letter that I never dreamt I would need to write. I must do so, since I wear a ring that Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich placed on my finger as a reminder that for my time as Bishop I am bound to the Diocesan family in a bond that, like marriage, is for good times and bad. I write this letter to acknowledge that we must stay together in this time of sorrow and bewilderment. I also write to bring some solace to the many who are quite truly heart-broken."
The original building was built between 1849 and 1856 as the cathedral church of theDiocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise with the belfry and portico added on in later times. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mel (died 488), who came to Ireland with Saint Patrick and who was ordained bishop at Ardagh, County Longford and where the originalSt. Mel's Catherdral ruins are located.
The restored cathedral re-opened in December 2014 to the delight of all the parishioners and people from near and far have been flocking to see this major architectural undertaking. Nothing like it has been built or rebuilt in Europe in recent times.
Interesting facts about the Cathedral:
The Cathedral is a Neoclassical stone building. It was begun in 1840 to the design ofJoseph B. Keane, with the foundation stone (taken from the ruined cathedral in nearby Ardagh) laid by the then Bishop Dr. William O'Higgins, on 19 May 1840. Work was delayed by the devastation of the Great Famine but the church was opened for worship by Rt. Rev. John Kilduff on 29 September 1856.
Harry Clarke studios designed the stained glass windows in the transepts.
After having met with one of the local clergy and having an informal tour of the Cathedral the group went on to their booking in the Aubergine Gallery Cafe for an award winning meal and a glass of wine while they discussed all the interesting sites they visited, friendly people they met and the many suggestions given by the locals for return visits. A few discussed returning for a weekend trip.
Comment from: Máirtín Smyth [Visitor]