Portlaoise Tidy Towns committee are planning to restore St Peter’s graveyard on Railway street, to provide a quiet place to sit and relax in the centre of the town.
The graveyard lies behind a high wall with iron gates, across from the Educate Together School, formerly Portlaoise vocational school.
The committee also plan to restore and light up the belfry tower beside the graveyard, all that remains of St Peter’s Church, built in the sixteenth century.
The ambitious project will be completed over the next three to five years, says Cllr Kathleen O’Brien, committee secretary.
“We have submitted our plan for the National Tidy Towns competition. The judges will visit it now every year to see how it is progressing. We are hoping to have it open to the public during the day, with a few benches, a passive little park, somewhere to reflect,” she said.
Much of the restoration will be carried out by specialists, and advice will be sought from the Heritage Council and the Office of Public works. Laois County Council will be sourcing grant assistance for it.
The site is an important historic record of times past in Maryborough (Portlaoise). It served as a place of worship for many different religions throughout its history.
Among those in repose there are a highwayman executed at the nearby gaol, and members of the Jacob family. The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, once preached from it,
The tidy towns committee have already begun clearing weeds and cutting grass from both St Peter’s and the Burial Ridge cemetery, which will soon have new railings erected.
Last weekend they got busy planting up flowers and cleaning streets in the run up to the Regional Finals of the Rose of Tralee, working up till night fell. Their annual grant from Laois County Council was slashed by €2,000 this year, to €5,700.
Cllr O’Brien is hoping their flag day on June 15 and 16 will help to make up the shortfall.
More volunteers are welcome she says.
“It’s not just about planting, there is a lot of maintenance, painting, watering and litter picking. Our volunteers are great, and the humour is great too,” says Cllr O’Brien, who can be contacted at 20141.