Cullenagh people tell their story

NEXT week the people of scenic Cullenagh will be launch a new book entitled ‘Cullenagh - Digging and Ditching an Authentic Land - A Heritage Study’.

NEXT week the people of scenic Cullenagh will be launch a new book entitled ‘Cullenagh - Digging and Ditching an Authentic Land - A Heritage Study’.

The book chronicles the diversity of the area near Ballyroon after a number of studies which trace the history of the land, and and the people who lived there.

Cullenagh Community Group was formed by Paula Byrne and Breda Foyle a number of years ago when an unauthorised quarry began operating in Cullenagh. But the campaign led local people to began to look at ways that they could protect their area and they approached the Heritage Council for funding which was granted.

The group used the money to commission archaeologist Franc Myles and Dr Fiona McGowan, ecologist with a doctorate in bog botany who lives in Ballyroan, to survey Cullenagh.

These surveys were completed in 2009 and group founder Paula said that both experts went “above and beyond the call of duty”. Franc, who didn’t know the area was assisted by local historian Willie Mc Grath who has great knowledge of the locality. Cullenagh was one of the original baronries of Laois.

Although it now is a rural and agricultural area, it has a strong industrial past and was well populated untill the Famine as there were two mills providing employment. Further back there is a history of mining ( both coal and ironstone) on Cullenagh Mountain. The community group now believe that many of the local Ballyoan population may have ancestry in English, Cornish and Welsh miners being brought over to the area.

Wildlife in the area is also rich and diverse, with the protected red squirrel, pine martin and otter as well as a vast range of birds, insects and water life, including the ferocious Giant Diving Beetle. The launch takes place in Cullenagh on Thursday August 25 from 7pm to 8.30pm.

It will be hosted by Sean O’ Rourke of RTÉ. All are welcome to attend the launch and those going are advised to travel from Ballyroan, taking the Stradbally Road. After three miles, turn right at the crossroads, come up the hill and the launch is taking place in the second house on the right.

The route will be signposted from the crossroads. For further information contact 086 8241523.