Group with the judges pictured in front of the Proclamation Wall at the Further Education and Training Campus. – Photo Paul Ward. – Abbeyfeale Pride of Place

It seemed like it had just been a few short weeks since news first broke that Abbeyfeale had been shortlisted for a prestigious All-Ireland Pride of Place award. Frank Dennison (Joint Treasurer) of Abbeyfeale Community Council was one of a number of key people who would help to finalise details of a promotional tour to be visited by the Pride of Place judges and which would help to showcase what the community of Abbeyfeale had to offer. However, on Wednesday 4th September the enormity of that announcement truly began to hit home and a real sense of excitement began to unfold as two of All-Ireland Pride of Place judges – all the way from Co. Monaghan and Co. Longford – together with representatives from Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) began to arrive at Leen’s Hotel in Abbeyfeale for what would be the start of a four hour tour of the town and community.
James Harnett, Joint Treasurer of ACC officially welcomed the judges along with representatives from LCCC and accompanying media to Abbeyfeale. This was immediately followed by a half hour presentation by ACC Executive Board on the various aspects of Abbeyfeale from old to new, including a look at some of the many voluntary, educational and sporting organisations throughout the area. Pride of Place judges were then invited to officially launch a new website for Abbeyfeale:
Next was a visit to Abbeyfeale Town Park where the judges paid close attention to the newly completed Wheelchair-Friendly Outdoor Gym and the Autism friendly Sensory Space which greatly helped to showcase the thirty acre facility. Workers from the Community Employment (CE) Scheme were very much commended for all the work they had undertaken down through the years as part of the ongoing development of the park.
This was followed by a visit to The Square which included details of Fr. William Casey, Tourist Information Board, heritage plaques and a very unique visit to Batt Harnett where an old letter from Daniel O’ Connell to Batt’s ancestors was shown to the judges.
Shortly afterwards was a visit to St Ita’s Hall where
judges met with repre-sentatives from West Limerick Resources, along with members of various local groups such as The Wednesday Club, The Writing Group, The Knitting Group, The Traveller Group, Arts and Crafts Group etc. Judges also awarded certificates of achievement to two young boys who took on an enhancement project at the back of St Ita’s Hall and continue to maintain it long after its initial completion.
Limerick and Clare Educational Training Board’s (LCETB) Further Education and Training (FET) Campus at Mountmahon, Abbeyfeale was next on the list where the judges saw first-hand the significant investment being rolled out throughout the campus in order to prepare the site for the next phase in long-term training and education within the community. Part of this visit also included the amazing story behind the success of the hugely successful Adult Sign Language Group where tutor Maria Barrett and translator Ita Barrett expressed their delight at being involved with the project since its inception only a few years previously.
Adjacent to the FET Campus was the Men’s Shed where judges got to meet with various members and see the many improvements made to the facility in recent years. There was a presentation by Paddy Sullivan of two hand crafted bird boxes to the judges before they set off on the next stage of their tour.
The Glórach Theatre may have been the last location to visit on their whirlwind tour of Abbeyfeale but the judges instinctively knew on arrival that this was going to be no ordinary stop off. First to greet them at the main door was a very impressive “Celtic Man” performed by Jimmy Dennison in full authentic looking costume. This was followed by a heart-warming welcome from Chairman of Glórach Theatre John Nelligan to the judges which in turn was followed by a rousing round of applause and cheer from the near capacity crowd within. The judges then began to make their way around the various displays set up in the stage area and met with all the respective representatives from what was a good cross section of voluntary, educational, arts and crafts and sporting organisations.
To round off the event Chairperson of Abbeyfeale Community Council Maurice O’Connell thanked all those involved in any way in making this such a wonderful display of Abbeyfeale’s sense of belonging and collaboration and pride and the judges for their time and patience in meeting with the twenty five plus different groups and organisations at six different locations throughout the community. As part of the final farewell, two students from the nearby Colaiste Ide agus Iosef Secondary School presented each of the judges with a personally inscribed memento from the people of Abbeyfeale to commemorate their Pride of Place tour of the community.
Before leaving the judges announced to those gathered that Abbeyfeale was no longer going to represent just itself at the upcoming All-Ireland Pride of Place awards but would also be representing the county of Limerick at the prestigious event which is due to take place in late October.