It is unusual for anything to happen in Durrow without Hugh Sheppard having a hand in organising it, so last Saturday was a big surprise, when many friends, colleagues and family gathered to honour his retirement from Durrow Development Forum.
A little subterfuge was involved, leading Hugh to believe the night was organised to thank everyone involved in the Howya festival, but the penny finally dropped when he was honoured by the forum with a presentation of a painting of the Durrow millwheel by John Walsh, and a piece of genesis sculpture. His wife Kay also received a gift of flowers and a voucher, to acknowledge her quiet but dedicated work behind the scenes over the years.
Hugh was one of the founders of the Forum, which in the past fifteen years, has transformed Durrow. Along with developing the leafy loop walk, amenities areas, restoring the courthouse and building a new playground, Durrow became the centre of festival success in the county, with the Howya festival gaining nationwide publicity.
Hugh says his decision to retire was taken lightly.
“I’m 100 percent committed to everything I do. It had become a passion, but in the past year it got too intense. It was a full time volunteer job with plenty of overtime. The only way to have time to myself was to cut the cord. It wasn’t an easy decision,” Hugh told the Leinster Express.
Aged 64, Hugh isn’t the type of person that can sit back and do nothing. He is two years into a degree course in Rural Development.
“I go for lectures once a month, and do the rest online, so that keeps me busy,” says Hugh, who is also looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“I’m leaving a great committee, I’ve no doubt they will do a terrific job. I’m always there if someone thought my advice was worthwhile,” he added.
Committee member Evelyn Clancy spoke of Hugh’s constant hard work for his native town.
“He dedicated his life for the past fifteen years to it. He’d be up in the morning and straight on the computer. He’d be all over the country sussing things out, and never took any expenses. He instigated the idea of a non-motorised parade and the scarecrow festival. He would bring up ideas and we’d be wondering where he got them, but they worked,” she said.
Throughout the night, all had a chance to pass on their personal good wishes to Hugh and Kay.
“Everyone acknowledged on a personal level Hugh’s hard work, and wished them both well. We committee are really sorry to see him go, but he feels it is the right time. We know he’ll always have the best interests of Durrow at heart,” Evelyn said.