Gardener, John Duffy and tour members standing in front of Emo Court Arboretum’s heritage trees. Picture: Ann Lawlor
The second tour in the series of ‘Welcome to Laois’ initiatives took place this summer.
The ‘Welcome to Laois’ tour is an innovative initiative of the Creative Ireland Laois 2019 programme in partnership with Laois Asylum Migration and Integration Support Services.
The aim is to introduce Laois to new communities and in particular those coming from diverse international backgrounds.
The latest in July event focused on an excursion for residents from three Direct Provision Centres in the county.
Adults and children participated in the tour from nationalities as diverse as Somalia, Iran, DR Congo, Palestine, Nigeria, Latvia, Botswana, Guatemala, Togo, South Africa, Georgia, Zimbabwe, Bangladeshi and Ghana, with around thirteen different languages spoken throughout the day.
For many on the tour, it was their first time to get out and about in the county with pickups in Rathdowney, Abbeyleix, Portlaoise and the Montague, Emo.
The day included a guided tour of Emo Court House and an arboretum walk led by Gardener, John Duffy who shared knowledge and expertise on the extensive tree collection.
En route to the medieval Round Tower in Timahoe, the coach passed through Vicarstown and across the Grand Canal.
Tour guide, Trudy Carmody from Experiencing Laois, explained the history of Vicarstown as a significant inland Viking settlement from the 9thcentury and Vicarstown’s connections with Irish politician and member of the Irish House of Commons, Henry Grattan (1746-1820).
She introduced the historical role of the Grand Canal.
The day culminated in a visit to Timahoe’s 12th century Round Tower standing at 96 feet in height, and as well as ice cream being enjoyed on the village green, the children entertained themselves the local playground.
Another tour in this series is being planned for later in the year and will focus again on welcoming new communities to Laois and introducing them to the treasure trove of arts, heritage and tourist attractions in the county.
The organisers say the initiative is a pathway to integration by imaginatively responding to migration from areas of conflict in the Middle East, Africa and other parts of the world.
Creative Ireland Laois is a five-year programme (2018-2022) and is part of Creative Ireland, a culture-based programme designed to promote individual, community and national wellbeing and places creativity at the centre of public policy. For further information, contact Muireann Ní Chonaill, Arts Officer, Laois and Creative Ireland Laois Co-ordinator.