The Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews, was in Laois on Wednesday to visit the home place of a family of Irish and Australian patriots.
Mr Andrews visited Raheen on Wednesday, February 14 and was charmed by the local children from Tobar An Léinn National School in Raheen as they presented him with handmade Australian and Irish flags.
Mr Andrews visited the school’s junior pupils and was welcomed by staff members Poilin Ni Leathlubhair, Margaret Campion, Marie Moore and Ann Marie Hickey.
The pupils sang renditions of ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ as violinist Erin Lalor supplied the music.
Mr Andrews made the historic visit to Raheen on Valentine's Day to visit Tenakill House.
The ongoing restoration of Tenakill House, Raheen, Abbeyleix, has attracted considerable interest at home and abroad.
Mr Andrews was given a detailed account of the committee’s plans for the building which is home to the famous Lalor family.
The ancestral home of the famous Lalor clan is currently being restored. It is hoped to have the project completed by 2020 which will be the dwelling’s 250th anniversary.
It is felt that it would be a major link in the Ireland's Ancient East tourism drive as it is intended to establish a museum which will reflect the considerable contribution of the members of the Lalor family to the history.
It is also hoped to establish a library which will house the contributions of Honest Pat Lalor MP and his son Richard MP in the Westminster Parliament.
Speeches and texts by James Fintan Lalor on the Irish agrarian problems of the nineteenth century and the contributions of Peter Lalor to the Parliament in Victoria, Australia would also be included.
Kevin Lalor-Fitzpatrick and his wife Mary hosted the ambassador and other guests at Tenakill House.
After leaving Tenakill House, the ambassador travelled the short distance to Raheen’s old cemetery, where he laid a wreath on the Lalor family tomb.
Among those interred there are Patrick Lalor and his son Richard.
The other famous members of the family are tenants’ rights campaigner and patriot James Fintan Lalor, and his brother Peter who, in 1854, led the famous Eureka Stockade miners’ revolt in Australia.
He went on to become a very successful politician.
And, seemingly, he was also romantic. Kevin Lalor-Fitzpatrick reminded the gathering at Tenakill House that it was St Valentine’s Day, a fact which he marked by telling how Peter Lalor had once walked 50 miles to meet his sweetheart and future wife Elisha.
Kevin said it was a great honour to have the ambassador in attendance and, he noted, it was the preservation committee’s ambition to restore Tenakill to its full potential.
In reply, Mr Andrews said it was wonderful to come to a place so connected with Australian history. When Peter Lalor left Tenakill, he took with him his courage. He stood up for what was right and for his friends.
Mary Lalor-Fitzpatrick traced some of the clan history and paid tribute to her late parents-in-law, Richard and Millie, for their dedication to the historic 18-room house.
Laois County Council Chairman Padraig Fleming also addressed the gathering. MC was Preservation Committee Secretary Dan Carmody.
Among those present were project architect Richard McLoughlin, Heritage Council Chairman Michael Parsons, former Lalor clan chief Tom Lalor, County Heritage Officer Catherine Casey and Raheen PP Fr Michael Kelly.
Enjoyed meeting descendants of the Lalor Clan at their ancestral home Tenakill House earlier. Fascinated to learn more about the Lalor family & future plans by Tenakill Lalor House Restoration Committee for this important site @LaoisCouncil @Laoisheritage— Richard Andrews (@AusEmbIre) February 14, 2018