Gathering a ‘people’s project’

“COLOUR, pageantry, music and tradition” were all on the menu at County Hall last Tuesday evening (not to mention an exquisite buffet), for the official launch of the calendar of events for Laois’ The Gathering 2013.

“COLOUR, pageantry, music and tradition” were all on the menu at County Hall last Tuesday evening (not to mention an exquisite buffet), for the official launch of the calendar of events for Laois’ The Gathering 2013.

A strong crowd packed out the top floor of the council offices for the launch, which drew representatives from Laois’ community, business and arts sectors. MC for the evening was RTE journalist Justin Treacy, who said The Gathering is uniquely suited to the Irish, being as they are great talkers renowned for their generosity and hospitality. Before Mr Treacy introduced the guest speakers, the audience were treated to musical numbers from local band, Adela and the Meanits, while various stands around the room from the likes of the local High Nellies club, The Gordon Bennett Route, Mountmellick Museum and the Durrow Scarecrow Festival, all provided information on the various events planned.

First to speak was chairman of Laois County Council, Paul Mitchell. Cllr Mitchell enthused that he was absolutely delighted with the gathering present on the night and spoke of Ireland’s sad history of emigration.

“People left Ireland in very miserable circumstances, they left after half their family had died of starvation,” he said. “My own family ended up in America and we have to reverse that journey now, get them to come back to Ireland and see how things have changed.”

He said that people returning would like to see “the little church on the hill where their grandparents were married”, and he recounted how a distant relation of his had returned from America to visit Laois in recent times. Next up was Jim Miley, project director with The Gathering Ireland. Mr Miley explained that the idea had been nurtured by the government, but over time it had changed into a “people’s project”.

“People looked at The Gathering and moulded it into the shape they wanted,” said Mr Miley. “What’s important is a group of people making it relevant and having a bit of fun.”

Mr Miley went on to praise the turn out and said that the buzz evident in County Hall was as good if not better as anything he had seen across the country.

Among the organisations he name-checked as partners of The Gathering were councils across the State, the IFA, the ICA and the GAA. Signing off with an apt sports allusion, Mr Miley said that The Gathering was still “only in the first quarter of the match”, with a long way to go until the end of the year.

County manager, Peter Carey said it was wonderful to see so much “colour, pageantry, music and tradition” and he praised the great turnout on the night.

“(The Gathering) is about heritage and tradition, but most of all it’s about celebrating people and communities,” he said.

The county manager went on to jokingly suggest that, as he hails from a family of 16, if he were able to get all his in-laws together they might qualify for a Gathering grant of their own.

Also taking to the podium was Con Cleary, head of marketing with IPB Insurance, one of the main sponsors of The Gathering. Mr Cleary remarked that there is a peculiar Irish trait of knocking things before they begin, but he said he believed that only positivity would come out of this initiative. Speeches were also made by Delores Dempsey, of the Mountmellick Development Association, and Michael Parsons, of the Laois Heritage Society.

Some of the Gathering events scheduled to take place in Laois this year are the James Fintan Lalor Inaugural School; the Durrow Scarecrow Festival; the O’Leathlobhair Clan Gathering; and a Quaker tapestry exhibition which will be on show in Mountmellick Museum.

For more on the local events visit www.thegatheringireland.com.