A very special launch of a new centre for Traditional Building Skills took place at the EDI Centre in Longford town last week. It was history in the making as it was the first ever centre of its kind, not just in Longford, but in the country.
The need for these highly specialised conservation courses became apparent in the wake of the fire in St Mel’s Cathedral in 2009. The official duties were carried out by Duncan Stewart, who pointed to the importance of our heritage and the “wonderful” legacy that had been handed down to all of us.
“It is a privilege to be here today; these are matters of traditional craft skills and there is such a lack of joined up thinking in Ireland in relation to our heritage, vernacular buildings and heritage buildings,” he said. “Our heritage is so valuable and we have inherited it and it seems that in 21st Century Ireland, we have disregarded our heritage.”
Mr Stewart went on to say that vital to broadening our understanding of local heritage was the ability to gain an insight into tools and how they were used.
“I feel that our political structure has let us down - because we want to have pride in our heritage and pass it on to future generations; so many of our young people have given up and it is they who are the soul of our society - that is going.”
The EDI Centre commissioned a feasibility study into the centre and research revealed the potential for utilising the existing construction skills abundant locally and building.
“This was borne out of an interest to help those seeking work and the restoration of St Mel’s Cathedral,” Pat Kelleher, REVAMP told the audience. “With a good strong committee on board we fought for this. Co Longford was most affected by the building collapse and this will be something wonderful for our county. I want to take the opportunity to thank Adrian Greene, Longford Community Resources Ltd (LCRL) and Sweeney Architects for their input.”
Chairman, St Mel’s Restoration Committee, Seamus Butler said, “It is over two years since we got the idea about how we could maximise the local input into the restoration of St Mel’s Cathedral. Out of a great loss and trauma, good came through the Traditional Building Skills, and as a result we hope to have the Cathedral open for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2014,” he smiled. “We in Longford have become a centre of excellence in Ireland in Conservation Skills.”