The 16-member South Cork Guild marked the occasion at Tracton Arts & Community Centre — the restored Knocknamanagh Old School, where members first gathered in March 1957.
Carmel Murphy, who holds 60 years unbroken membership, says it’s difficult today to understand the challenges faced by those “pioneering women” in the guild’s early days.
For a start, rural electrification hadn’t yet arrived and the ladies depended on oil lamps lit by the caretaker, the late Dan Murphy.
At the 60th celebrations, Carmel pointed out how important the ICA was to women who hadn’t had a chance to pursue secondary education — soon after setting up, members travelled to Kinsale’s technical school to do a two-year evening course that included subjects like dressmaking and civics.
From the outset, the guild got great encouragement from then parish priest Fr O’Donoghue. They showed flair for theatrical performance and with input of tutors Margery Fitzmaurice, Breda Flaherty and Flor Dullea, they won prestigious competitions such as the Dan Desmond Cup for Drama.
They also ventured abroad, visiting the UK and mainland Europe. Carmel recalls a 1980s visit to EU headquarters, where they met “a number of well-known MEPs, allegedly including the Reverend Ian Paisley”.
Carmel’s recollection of an excursion to Bunratty Castle had an unexpected twist: The bus wouldn’t start and 20 or so women were persuaded to give it “a gentle nudge”, to the great merriment of some US tourists.
An altruistic guild, which has fundraised for charities over the years, it was Elaine Murphy’s win at the 1991 Calor Kosangas Housewife of the Year competition that put the guild’s success on the map. Carmel Murphy, Elizabeth Harrington and Margaret O’Reilly have all earned national titles at An Grianán.
Last year, Minane Bridge won a guild competition judged at Cork Federation Day, when they chose Rosie Hackett as their subject for ‘Your Female Hero from 1916’.
The guild teamed up with Ballyfeard Community Alert for a trip to the National Stud and Japanese Gardens in 2016.
“We’ll team up with them again this year. We’re getting ready for road — destination unknown,” says current guild secretary Margaret O’Reilly. Minane Bridge Guild meets 8pm, second Wednesday of the month, in Tracton GAA Community Hall.