The 22-member guild still has one of their founding members, Nora Beecher, a nonagenarian who had her birthday on Christmas Eve.
“She tells us how members often cycled, walked and ran to those early meetings and how they had a lot of interesting guests back then – Mrs Crosbie from the Cork Examiner family, Mr Gerald Goldberg [Cork Lord Mayor from 1977 to ‘78] and two Gaeilgeoirs from Ring,” says guild secretary Eileen Fitzgerald, a member of Ballyhooly ICA for 32 years.
“I joined as an outlet. I had four young children. Quite a few of us stay-at-home mothers joined at the time. You got a great sense of individuality from it – that you weren’t just someone’s mother/sister/daughter. You were just yourself and you learned so much.”
Eileen recalls feeling shy at that first meeting but says she soon felt at home. Over the years, she has particularly enjoyed being introduced to artwork. “I’ve done a lot of artwork – we’ve done silk painting, mosaics.”
The guild has availed of Go for Life grants that enabled them hold classes in Tai Chi, set and line dancing, as well as participate in history walks.
“We’ve been to the Nano Nagle Centre in Kilavullen, we’ve had a historical tour of Doneraile Park and we did a guided tour of the historical tour of Fethard in October.”
To commemorate 1916, they visited Collins Barracks.
With members ranging in age from 50 to 95, they don’t feel any generation gap, says Eileen.
And in a bid to entice new members, they’ve held photography and interior design classes, as well as flower arranging demos, which they’ve opened to non-members.
“Early last year, we made our own unique ICA flag with a Ballyhooly theme – apples on a tree – because Ballyhooly means ‘ford of the apples’. Each member had an input – I sewed on an apple, as did others and some sewed on green felt leaves.”
The guild loves visiting An Grianán. Having had a big bash for their 60th birthday, they’ll no doubt spend 2017 planning an equally big one for their milestone 70th one.
Ballyhooly ICA meets on the second Thursday of the month at 8pm in the local hall. New members welcome.