By John Fitzgerald
Torrential rain failed to dampen the zeal of the Local History Walkers Group last weekend.
Every Saturday without fail they set out from the Horse Trough on the Parade to bring the past alive through meticulously-researched talks, taking in both prominent heritage spots and lesser known or even hidden antiquities.
The skies darkened on Saturday as they prepared to embark on their latest foray into yesteryear…a tour of St Patrick’s Parish. Those without umbrellas bore the downpour stoically.
Dark clouds looked apt when the group reached the grounds of St Joseph’s Industrial School, but the speaker managed to steer a delicate course between hard fact and raw emotion by giving a straightforward chronological rundown of how the institution came into being and its subsequent troubled history.
The rain didn’t bother anyone. “We never cancel”, a seasoned walker told me, “Hail rain or snow we’ll be here. Nothing would keep us from walking, not even the Beast from the East or the Apocalypse!”
The group marked its tenth anniversary before Christmas, having notched up more than 500 walks since 2012.
Every step back in time connects you with ages long consigned to library shelves, quant copper plaques, and oil paintings.
You can’t avoid hearing some new snippet of local folklore or seeing old familiar buildings in a new light. You’ll come away from a walk marveling at the achievements of the philanthropic Lady Desart, the story of Woodstock where the Tighe family once held sway and the Tans had their HQ, or with a fond appreciation of the calm and sanctity to be found at a holy well, such as the one devoted to St Brigid in Ballycallan parish.
You might hear about how Cromwell’s cannon bombarded the city, and from recollections of war and strife your feet will take you directly to contrasting and uplifting anecdotes of great local achievers associated with the various landmarks and venues along the way and the uproarious local characters who knocked about in decades past. Not forgetting the lords and ladies who ran the show back when the peasantry and the “lower classes” barely got a look in.
All those bygone days in the city and county are brought to life by the well-informed and articulate speakers who take turns at offering their own unique historical and sociological perspectives.
So, if you fancy a bit of Saturday morning exercise wrapped up in a gentle history lesson, you could do worse than to join the walkers when they set off from the Horse Trough on the Parade at 11. a.m.
The trail may vary from one week to another, with different speakers holding forth, and the weather might be dull or bright, but one thing’s for certain:
It’ll be a step in the right direction!