The final meeting of the Ballinalee ICA Guild was held at Currycahill Hall on the outskirts of the north Longford village last week.
And what a journey it has been for so many of the local women who have been involved.
The Guild was established by the late Alice MacEoin, wife of General Séan MacEoin in 1939 and provided generations of women with a social outlet.
And, while it was an evening tinged with sadness, those present at that final meeting recalled the many wonderful memories they have of an organisation that was not just at the heart of the community but provided a voice for the women of Ballinalee for nearly 80 years.
The ladies of the ICA Guild in Ballinalee actually have in their possession, Ms MacEoin’s spinning wheel - a rare artefact these days.
It is currently in safe keeping at the home of Rose Foster.
“When the ICA was first established in Ballinalee it was the only social outlet that was available to women at that time,” said Pat Wilson who has been a member for nearly 40 years.
Maureen Carrigy said she joined the Guild when she was just 18-years-old.
It was the creative aspect that appealed to her.
“I was in it for a few years and then I got married and had children, so I wasn’t involved for a few years - then I rejoined.
“I found the ICA brilliant for learning crafts and that type of thing; back then there was so many people in ICA and it really was great.”
Creative women from all over the country often descended on the latest ICA Guild meeting in Ballinalee.
They brought with them many talents and life lessons that they kindly passed on to local women.
They smiled as they recalled those memories, now mere moments in an 80 year history.
“Those women would give demonstrations and often provided courses for five or six weeks; we would have the best of fun,” recalled Maureen in a conversation with the Leader at the last meeting.
“One of the big things for us was going to An Grianan - we learned skills there and we were enabled to teach some of them as well, so that was a wonderful opportunity for us.”
Meanwhile, Pat recalled the work that the women did for the Ballinalee/Clonbroney History book that was published a few years back.
And while it was a community effort, the women of the local ICA Guild had much to offer on that particular project.
The Granard Country Market was also mentioned by the women - an initiative that was started by ICA ladies in the north Longford area back in the 1980s.
It was an effort that proved hugely successful until the market’s untimely demise just over 12 months ago.
“Nowadays most women are working out of the home, but back in our day women were at home because they couldn’t work, so ICA was an outing,” continued Pat.
“We did not want to be stuck in the house 24 hours every day and we made amazing friends over the years.
“The friendships have lasted the test of time.”
An so as the end of an era draws near in Ballinalee, Pat puts the closure of the local guild down to a number of factors.
“Numbers were going down; none of us are getting any younger and on a bad night you might only have two or three at the meeting,” she added.
“Women nowadays lead a very different lifestyle.”
“But we certainly have had wonderful years here.”
For the ladies of the Ballinalee ICA Guild there are many memorable moments but the Guild’s 50th anniversary celebrations are to the fore.
“That was a wonderful occasion,” said Pat before pointing out that the Guild was given the opportunity at the time to host the Longford Federation meeting.
This , she said, “was a great honour for the Guild”.
“We also had an anniversary dinner at Crover House on another occasion, and that was so enjoyable.”
For the women of Ballinalee, the closure of the local Guild means the end of their involvement in ICA, despite the fact that there are a number of guilds still going strong throughout the county.
“It’s a case of been there, done that, now” smiled Pat.
“Between arthritis and the bad knees and the bad hips, it’s time now to bow out!”
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