19 Aug 2022

#ThrowbackThursday Longford's main tourist attraction Corlea Visitor Centre officially opened by Michael D Higgins in 1995

Corlea Visitor Centre was officially in May 1995 by then Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D Higgins TD, and in this Longford Leader #ThrowbackThursday we look back at that momentous occasion by reproducing the report and a selection of photographs.

County Longford's main tourist attraction, the £2m Corlea Visitor Centre a mile from Kenagh village, was officially opened last Friday evening.

The centre, which could attract up to 25,000 visitors annually, hosted an army of VIPs as the Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D Higgins, cut the ribbon.

A 'who's who' of dignitaries attended the opening, however, one missing face was that of Longford TD Albert Reynolds, a spokesman for whom said this week that the former Taoiseach would have been delighted to attend the opening, but that he only received an invitation two days before the event, at his home in Longford town, which is not where Mr Reynolds lives.

Friday evening's opening took place in lovely spring weather, the kind of weather which would have been perfect for 'a day in the bog'.

It is hard to know whether any of the dignitaries in attendance would be any good at footing or clamping turf, but all in attendance showed a great appreciation of the bog, its cultural value to us as part of our heritage and of its revenue potential as a tourist attraction.

After timber was uncovered on the bog which dated to 150 years before Christ, Professor Barry Raftery of UCD undertook an investigation of the Corlea site and almost a dozen years later, a £2m 'interpretative centre' which reveals secrets about our early Iron age ancestors, is open.

If the monies which went into the centre and the road leading to it were great, so was the investment made over 2100 years ago, according to Minister Michael D Higgins.

“The trackway found here in Corlea is quite exceptional and it represents a huge investment and achievement by our ancestors”, Minister Higgins said, adding that “in a sense, it is the Iron Age precursor of the modern-day motorway”.

Everybody in Longford and the surrounding counties should visit what is now Longford's major tourist attraction, as it offers a tremendous insight into the lives and work of the first Midland residents.

Apart from the 18 metres of trackway which has been freeze-dried and relaid exactly where it was found by Bord na Mona workers, the centre is also created to preserve a bog area which is 'built' to stay wet and preserve 80 more metres of trackway which lie beneath the surface.

Dr Wils Casparie of the University of Gronigen, Holland, was thanked for his advice on bog preservation during the project, which was carried out by Coffey Construction of Athenry.

Many residents of Kenagh came to the function, and a veritable feast of food was laid on for the guests.

Saying that the local community had played an integral part in co-operating with Bord na Móna, the Office of Public Works and UCD, Minister Higgins said, “oh that all things in life were so simple!”

“This ceremony would, take longer than the Oscars”, the minister joked, pointing out that he wouldn't be able to name every person involved with the Corlea Trackway project.

The Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht told the Leader that the Office of Public Works had sent invitations to Albert Reynolds, TD, in good time and that the address given by Mr Reynolds to the Institute of Public Administration listings (the acknowledged source) is the Longford TD's Longford address.

Invitations and attendances aside, the Corlea Trackway Centre at Ring Dong Bog near Kenagh is now included on countless tourist guides and maps, and the village of Kenagh will be watching with interest how the cars and busses pull up to the county's main attraction.

You may also be interested in reading: 

Twenty things your aul lad said to you on the bog growing up

Corlea Trackway remains the hidden gem in Longford's crown

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