Friday, June 19, 2009

Remembering Kilcullen stalwarts

Anyone taking a walk through Kilcullen's Valley Park will notice that quite a few people are remembered there in plaques at different points.


But there's a generation of Kilcullen people who wouldn't remember these community stalwarts, and have no idea of why their names are recorded in the park. And nobody in the 'new' Kilcullen cohort, who came to live in the town during recent years, could know how much of what they have in their adopted town was due in no small measure to those named on the assorted plaques.

They include George Spiers, Landscape Consultant of Burtown Nurseries, Athy who advised free of charge on the layout of the shrubs and trees over a two-year period 1976-1978

Sylvester Barrett TD, Minister for the Environment, who performed the opening ceremony in June 1978

Michael St Leger, a Clare man who lived his entire working life in Kilcullen, and worked tirelessly as a County Councilor for all the local people. Michael was a driving force in setting up Kilcullen Development Association and from his employment on The Curragh raised a large amount of the funds for the Kilcullen Non-Stop Draw. It was his idea to build affordable houses in Bishop Rogan and Moanbane Park, which he saw completed. As chairman of Kildare County Council he had the honour of cutting the tape to open the Kildare section of the new dual carriageway. Also as chairman of KCC, he welcomed Richard Nixon, President of the USA on his visit to Kildare. The President responded by inviting Mick to visit him in The White House, which he didn’t get around to doing.

Barry Coffey, Engineer, Kildare County Council Roads Engineer and Kilcullen resident, was very involved with Kilcullen Canoe Club and advised The Valley committee on various aspects of the development from 1975-1978.

Jerry Kelly, Chairman of Kilcullen Community Council was a great community worker during his lifetime and over a period of 40 years supported community endeavors and encouraged the local residents to become involved. Jerry loved Kilcullen and his songs and poems about Kilcullen remain with us to this day.

Fr Henry Flanagan OP, Dominican College, Newbridge, carved the sculpture in Portland stone of St Brigid feeding the poor, which was unveiled by Jerry Kelly in 1977.

Paddy Brangan, resident of St Brigid’s Avenue, over a period of three years used 400 tons of stone from the Hill of Allen to build everything you see today in The Valley – walls, St Brigid’s Grotto, picnic area, pond, steps, paths etc. A quiet unassuming man, every stone had to be laid correctly in place and admired before Paddy would leave work each evening.

Mary Connolly, Chairperson of Kilcullen Community Council from 1978 to her death in 1983, was the driving force that kept us all together. Her talents for organising and leading the community were unparalleled. She led by example and wished to include everybody. She was highly respected by the local people and various statutory bodies which she dealt with during the very successful years of KCC. One of the high points for her was Kilcullen winning the Best Environmental Award in Ireland 1979 for The Valley development. The development and building of the Kilcullen Community Centre during her five year stewardship, led Kilcullen to be recognized nationwide as a leader in community development.

(The Diary is grateful to Jim Collins, known as 'Mr Valley' during the 1970s/1980s, for his work in fundraising for the purchase and building of the Valley Park, for providing the information above. As it happens, he is the only living person of all those who have their names on plaques in the park. This article originally appeared on the Kilcullen Page of the Kildare Nationalist.)