St. Mary’s Garden of Remembrance – The Echoes of Ballaghaderreen 1989

What was long an unsightly and overgrown area in the centre of Ballaghaderreen has now been replaced by a beautiful Garden of Remembrance, a source of immense pride to all who worked to make it so. The transformation of St. Mary’s cemetery was finally achieved thanks to the Tidy Towns committee, which in 1988 organised a year long FÁS scheme. This scheme is now finished, and there has been favourable comments on the work that has been carried out – the cleaning and repair of headstones, the walkways, lawns, shrubs, flowers and seating, all of which have provided a fitting memorial to the dead who lie here, and an added amenity to the town.

Many ingenious ideas were spawned as far as fundraising was concerned; of course, the committee became experts in the art of begging – politely termed raising sponsorship! The May Day Fair was one memorable occasion. A trailer and make shift table placed on the town square with an advertising board emblazoned with the slogan ‘Sponsor a Shrub Day’ stood in a prominent position. Over 200 shrubs of different varieties were on offer. Committee members who could most kindly be described as amateur horticulturists, were busy making sales and supplying to the unwary buyers information on growth, flowering, etc., all gleaned from a handbook.

Another problem of great height remains – the boundary wall, which is falling in places and imitating the leaning ‘Tower of Pisa’’. Planning permission has been granted to lower and rebuild it at a reduced height. The committee applied to Roscommon County Council in April this year, for £15,000 under the Amenity Grant Scheme, which is financed from the National Lottery surplus funds, the reply as follows dated 18th September, 1989 : ‘It is unlikely that further funds from the National Lottery will become available for the amenity grants scheme in the immediate future. However, the project has been noted for consideration in the event of additional monies being made available from lottery funds’’.

The general appearances of St. Mary’s would be improved with edging stones on all walkways, to prevent grass encroaching on them. However, the materials grant from FÁS was sufficient to allow only the barest essentials. It is the hope of the Tidy Towns committee, who were responsible for getting the FÁS Social Employment Scheme, that the community will help in the maintenance of the cemetery during the growth season; volunteers are asked to give one evening a week to do mowing and weeding.
The committee thank our sponsors and community, who garden what it is today. Hopefully our community will continue to support us in our fund raising ventures until the outstanding debt on the project is cleared.

The Grotto
The high point of the year took place on 15th August, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, when Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Flynn, Bishop of Achonry, assisted by Rev. Fr. Patrick Peyton, Adm., blessed the statue of Our Lady which stands in the specially contructed Grotto in the Garden. The Grotto has now become a focal point of St. Mary’s and many people drop in to say a prayer there. The statue of Our Lady is illuminated from dusk to dawn.

The Statue
When the idea of a grotto was first mooted a major problem presented itself – where to get a suitable statue. Eventually it was decided to enlist the help of well-known personality, Gay Byrne, and as a result of an appeal made on his radio show, three offers were received. These were from Mrs. Curran of Walkinstown; Mrs. Kohler, Ballybough, both in Dublin and Mrs. Nora Hurley, Cork, the latter offer being the more suitable. This is the beautiful statue which now stands in the Grotto in St. Mary’s.

The statue originally stood in the front garden of St. Bonaventures, a Capuchin Friary in Cork. It was erected there in 1920, shortly after the Capuchins brought the building, which was previously Victoria Lodge. (The first superior was Fr. Edwin Fitzgibbon, who presented the Cup for the Universities Hurling championship). In 1988 the Capuchins sold St. Bonaventures, and the statue was presented to the Hurley family who intended to place it at their holiday home, in Dun Chaoin, Co. Kerry. Then Mrs.Hurley heard the appeal from Ballaghaderreen, and with the approval of the Provincial , Fr. Eustace, who had presented the statue to them, she decided to answer the request.

A lot of planning went into the arrangements for transporting the statue from Cork, as the height (5’ 5’’) and weight posed problems in getting it safely to Ballaghaderreen. Pat Higgins, Knocknacunny, and Gerry Deignan, Hawksford set out at daybreak on the day of the General Election and arrived back that evening at 8 pm with the statue intact, wrapped in polythene and protected by bales of hay in a trailer borrowed from Martin Carty, Aughalustia. It was erected in the grotto the following morning, a major engineering feat in itself. The statue has now been painted and shortly a crown of stars will be placed upon it. The crown is being sponsored by Mr. William Earley, Dublin.

The Tidy Towns committee would like to express its thanks again to one and all for your generous support during the last 18 months. Hopefully, this support will continue.