Prestigious EU award for Strokestown Park owner Jim Callery

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Prestigious EU award for Strokestown Park owner Jim Callery

Jim Callery, founder of the Irish National Famine Museum & Archive and owner of Strokestown Park, Co Roscommon, has won a top EU prize in the 2017 Europa Nostra Awards, the EU’s top honour in the heritage field.

There were 202 applicants in various categories and Mr Callery, the only winner from Ireland, came top in his category of "Dedicated Service to Heritage".

In all, 29 laureates from 18 countries were recognised for their notable achievements in conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising.

Citizens from around the world can now vote online for the Public Choice Award (www.europanostra.org) and rally support for the winning project(s) from their own or another European country.

Voters have the chance to win a trip for two to Finland and be a special guest at the Awards Ceremony that will be held in the historic city of Turku on Monday, May 15. During the ceremony, the seven Grand Prix laureates, each of whom will receive €10,000, and the Public Choice Award winner, chosen from among this year’s winning projects, will be announced.

Background on Jim Callery

In 1959, the year in which Mr Jim Callery established his motor garage at the gates of Strokestown Park in County Roscommon, he never envisaged that he would come to own and restore the estate on which his ancestors had once been tenants. At its height, the private country estate of Strokestown Park with its extensive Palladian residence was the second largest in Ireland with over 27,000 acres of land being rented out and worked by Irish tenant farmers.


The estate continued to operate on this scale even following the Great Famine of 1845-1852 which resulted in approximately one million Irish deaths caused by starvation and a further population decline of approximately one million due to emigration.


By the time Mr Callery came to buy the estate in 1979 however, it had shrunk to just 300 acres with the house, ancillary buildings and gardens in a state of complete and advancing decay. The entirety of the contents of the house were later purchased resulting in over 300 years of the family’s history being preserved in the house along with thousands of estate documents which provide an extraordinary perspective on Irish history.


Nearly 40 years on, Mr Callery has spent millions of his own money, along with help from European Union funds, to restore the house, the gardens, to create a museum to the Irish Famine and an archive of the estate documents which number over 55,000 items.


The restoration and establishment of the world renowned Irish National Famine Museum & Archive by Mr Callery has been the largest act of private philanthropy for cultural heritage in the history of modern Ireland. The Strokestown estate is now a flourishing hive of activity which provides education, employment and enjoyment for the surrounding region.

The Jury greatly appreciated this personal dedication, stating: “Through his small business, Mr. Callery has saved a vital historic country estate for Ireland and has created an important museum and archive dealing with this pivotal moment in the country’s history. He has ensured an expert restoration of the house, opened it to the Irish public and preserved the legacy of this important memorial”.

Congratulations

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has extended congratulations to Jim Callery.

“I warmly congratulate Jim Callery and pay tribute to him for his exceptional achievement-for the past forty odd years Jim has Callery has spent millions of his own money, along with help from European Union funds, to restore the house, the gardens, to create a museum to the Irish Famine and an archive of the estate documents which number over 55,000 items. Nearly 40 years on, Mr Callery has spent millions of his own money, along with help from European Union funds, to restore the house, the gardens, to create a museum to the Irish Famine and an archive of the estate documents which number over 55,000 items.

“It truly is a remarkable achievement as the restoration and establishment of the world renowned Irish National Famine Museum & Archive has been the largest act of private philanthropy for cultural heritage in the history of modern Ireland. The Strokestown estate is now a flourishing hive of activity which provides education, employment and enjoyment for the surrounding region. Jim has created a very important museum and has helped to preserve significant archives from the Irish Famine."