Mountbellew Agricultural College (ATU) was the venue recently for the launch of a new publication entitled ‘Ever and Always: The marvellous story of Aleen Cust’. The publication is a new bilingual primary school workbook which will also appeal to readers of all ages.
Niamh Ní Chróinín (TG4’s newly-appointed ambassador for children and presenter of the dedicated children’s channel Cula4), together with Cllr Michael Maher (Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council), launched the publication. The publication has added educational value as each section has an exercise to provoke searching minds, featuring quizzes, word games and artistic challenges. Copies of the workbook have been distributed to all primary schools and libraries in the county by the Roscommon County Council Heritage Office.
Aleen Cust was born at Cordangan Manor, close to Tipperary town in 1868 to Leopold and Lady Cust. Despite being disowned by her family she went to the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh and graduated with merit in 1900. The Royal College in London refused her permission to sit their final examinations because she was a woman.
Undeterred, Aleen returned to Ireland and took a position assisting a well-known veterinary surgeon in Athleague, Co. Roscommon, William Augustine Byrne. In 1905, Aleen obtained a controversial position as a Local Authority Veterinary Inspector for the Mountbellew District, which she held until 1915 when she drove her own car to France to treat injured horses during World War I.
‘Miss Cust’ or ‘Vet Cust’ is remembered for her integrity, intelligence, wit, charm and determination. The women who followed in her footsteps found employment difficult as societal prejudices and economic depression were formidable barriers in the earlier years.
Veterinarians Brendan Gardiner, Donal Connolly and Ascinta Kilroy of the Aleen Cust Memorial Society, Marie Mannion (Heritage Officer of the Galway County Council), Nollaig Feeney (Heritage Officer, Roscommon County Council) and Róisín O’Grady (Heritage Officer, Tipperary County Council) managed and directed the project.
This workbook was funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (Decade of Centenaries Local Authority Funding); Galway County Council, Roscommon County Council and Tipperary County Council. The publication is an action of County Roscommon Heritage Plan as part of a series of Aleen Cust celebrations over 2022 & 2023. Further resources include ‘Aleen Cust: A Woman of Measure’ Podcast Series and ‘Aleen Cust: A Pioneer Remembered’ video.