‘Announced at Mass’… and then the momentum built!
The close-knit community of Ballygar have been preparing diligently for their 1916 Centenary Commemoration, which will take place on this Sunday, April 24th. The origins of ‘Ballygar Remembers 1916’ can be traced back to the end of last year.
Just prior to Christmas, Liam Mulrooney approached another Ballygar resident, Séan Nolan, and suggested that the town marks the 100th anniversary of the Rising, as many others places in the State were in the process of planning.
“I said ‘we will’,” Mr. Nolan told the Roscommon People. “I went to the priest at the time and got an announcement made at Mass and it took off from there.”
It certainly did. Since January 5th, the organising committee have met every Thursday night in either the old Ballygar National School building or in the nearby Mattie McDonagh Centre.
The committee, now comprising of 25 people, has members ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s. Mr. Nolan, the chairperson, has been involved in several projects in the town over the years, but never saw such levels of enthusiasm as there are for this weekend’s event.
“There is a huge interest,” he said. Local businesses have generously supported the Centenary plans. “We have raised about €4,000 from sponsorship and donations,” Mr. Nolan said.
Other organisations, such as Ballygar Tidy Towns and Ballygar Community Alert, have provided support, too. It is a united effort to ensure that Sunday’s proceedings are a big success.
Up to 600 people are expected to attend the three sections of Sunday’s celebration, taking place in St Mary’s Church, Market Square and at the Mattie McDonagh Centre.
While Ballygar doesn’t have a particularly strong connection with the Rising, it does have close ties to the War of Independence.
Séan Nolan: “They organised here, trained and drilled secretly. They played their part here during the War of Independence and during the Civil War.”
Accordingly, Sunday’s events are marking the whole War of Independence period.
Mr. Nolan added: “There are an awful lot of people here who have direct relations that were directly or indirectly involved in the War of Independence.”
There were a lot of local people ‘on the run’ during that period, he said.
“There was safe houses where they slept and were fed. They would have been raided by the Black and Tans, and the people there would hide them and the ammunition,” Mr. Nolan added.