Galway recreation of a 1916-period town celebrates rural heroes of Easter Rising

THE revolt in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916 did not immediately spread to the rest of the country as was intended.

Galway recreation of a 1916-period town celebrates rural heroes of Easter Rising

But that was no reflection on the commitment by rural people, including the many farmer’s sons and labourers in the Irish Volunteers.

They were ready to join in the Rising but were unable to do so due to confusion and the mishaps of history.

Their chance came in the subsequent War of Independence during which they played an active and supportive role.

People over the years have often wondered, however, what life was really like in rural Ireland and in the farming community in 1916 and afterwards.

They are to be given the chance to live and observe that lifestyle at Mellows Campus in Athenry, Co Galway.

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Teagasc and Galway County Council, with the support of many national and local bodies, will host Farming and Country Life 1916, a free to attend event, on this coming Friday and Saturday.

It will be the single largest Easter Rising celebration of farming and country life and is expected to attract 50,000 people from all over the country.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, speaking at the launch of the event last year, said it is an integral part of official 1916 commemorations.

“It is important that, as a nation, we take time to reflect on how farming and rural life in Ireland has progressed,” he said.

Director of Teagasc, Prof Gerry Boyle said they had chosen to host the event at the historic site of Mellow’s Agricultural Campus in Athenry due to its close association with Easter 1916 in County Galway.

“Liam Mellows, who was the leader of the Rising in Galway, as well as over 500 Volunteers, camped at the Agricultural College farmyard during the Rising,” he said.

Yet, the first World War in Europe was reflected in very high agricultural prices in Ireland at that time, according to Dr Kevin Hanrahan, Teagasc, writing in the current issue of TResearch.

He noted that the economic conditions of farmers and agricultural labourers in rural Ireland in 1916 were significantly improved on those that prevailed in the pre-war era and were unlikely to have been a key driver of the rebellion.

The reasons why so many rural people, including farmers, were still willing to take part in the Rising and the subsequent War of Independence are expected to be explored during discussions that will form part of the Athenry gathering.

Visitors will also be brought back in time to experience the sights, sounds and smells of Ireland from 100 years ago.

There will be a traditional cottage and a farm with the poultry, cattle, sheep and pig breeds of the time and much more besides.

The Athenry college has been providing agricultural training courses for young farmers since 1905. A new college building was officially opened in 1966 and was named after Mellows.

Teagasc has now transformed the research farm at the campus into seven thematic villages for the commemoration.

Four of these will highight Ireland in 1916, the farm family and rural life, the land, education ad co-operation, while the other three will focus the mechanisation of farming, livestock and sporting and cultural life The seven themes will be animated through interactive exhibits, dramatic re-enactments, talks, debates and reconstructions bringing to life the rural Ireland of our ancestors.

The role of women in the Rising and rural society in 1916 will be highlighted.

A life-size replica of the General Post Office has been created at Mellows Campus. It was featured in ‘Wrecking the Rising’ on TG4 before making its way to Athenry.

Visitors can also contribute to a time capsule and ‘post’ a souvenir postcard in the GPO which will be sent out 50 years from now, marking the 150th anniversary of the Rising.

People are being invited to dress up in 1916 attire. They will be in with a chance of winning prizes.

Special attention is being paid to activities for children with trails and games All aspects of farming and country life in Ireland 100 years ago and the major developments in the first half of the 20th century will be charted.

Professor Gerry Boyle said Teagasc had received enormous co-operation from all of its collaborators. It also wished to acknowledge title sponsor, FBD, and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who have been extremely supportive of the project.

An Easter Rising period rural town will be recreated to allow visitors experience walking down a street in 1916.

It will have a bustling square, a fair day, GAA matches and other sports. There will be a typical farm, house and yard of the period, with livestock, enterprises, crops and haymaking.

“The horse was the most important animal. We will have a major exhibit of the working horse. We will recreate the farmhouse and have a major focus on the role of women on the farm.

“We will recreate the traditional crafts of the era – including blacksmith, cooper, wheel right, thatching and many others,”Professor Boyle said.

Musicians, actors and artists will perform.

Craft and artisan producers’ will give live demonstrations of the skills that were part of life in 1916.

A family entertainment area will feature a community circus Agricultural education from the period will be outlined.

There will be a rural electrification display and exhibits of farm machinery including steam powered tractors.

Professor Boyle said the event is very different and more challenging than the more normal open days that Teagasc regularly organise.

“It will reflect on an important part of life in Ireland at the beginning of the last century,” he said.

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