Abbeyshrule held on to its county crown at this year's Tidy Towns awards
Abbeyshrule is a picturesque village. Nearly 40 years ago, the people of Abbeyshrule decided to enter the Tidy Towns competition.
In those days, the Tidy Towns Committee was really all about no litter and plenty of flowers. They had to make a start somewhere.
While it was a lovely village, there was one bad eyesore in it. The canal was no longer in use.
Many years before that, it had been used to transport goods from Dublin. And to transport food back to the city.
By this stage, it had dried up and was completely full of weeds and anything but attractive.
The committee did the best they could and concentrated on the attractions and more scenic parts.
Each year we made a special effort to enhance the village a bit further. Our mass in the competition continued to increase little by little every year.
Then, about 15 years ago, a great development took place. For years before that, there were many canal committees, which worked on the reopening and the development of the Royal Canal.
At last, it had come and they had realised their competition. Like many other little villages and towns along the route of the Royal Canal, Abbeyshrule saw major development taking place.
Nearly up to €4m was spent on the canal alone. The canal was reopened at last, and this time it was for tourism.
Water once again filled the canal. The bridges and stone walls were restored. This was the biggest transformation of Abbeyshrule.
To add to the enhancement, Waterways Ireland also carried out major landscaping on the village.
The Tidy Towns committee were very excited and made a special effort in the Tidy Towns competition which resulted with the canal.
This, together, with the opening of the canal resulted very successfully in the Tidy Towns competition. For the first time there was an increase of nearly 20 marks in the results and they received their first ever, not silver or bronze, but gold medal. This was the beginning of the end.
Within a few years, in 2012 we had won the overall award in the Tidy Towns competition (the best of the villages/towns in Ireland).
As well as people from Co Longford, bus loads came from all over the country to savour the beauty of Abbeyshrule and to see how proud and excited the committee and residents were of their native Abbeyshrule.
That same summer, we were nominated by the Government to represent Ireland in the ‘Entente Florale’, a European competition.
Again, there was great preparation for this competition. 9/10 judges came from the participating countries, on a beautiful July summer's morning.
They spent the whole day going through a programme touring the village and inspecting every aspect of it.
The grande finale was a specially prepared concert held in Abbey Cemetery, which the monks took part in and which was the highlight of the day.
Finally, a banquet was held in the Rustic Inn where all the residents, the people of the community and the judges from Europe enjoyed a festive meal. With this the judges departed.
Now 13 of the committee went over to Holland for the results of the competition, in mid August.
The highest award was granted to Abbeyshrule with a gold medal presented and with the top marks of all the European villages.
The following year, 2013, we were nominated for a Canadian competition ‘blooms’.
Again, two judges from Canada spent two days in Abbeyshrule, judging its village and surroundings for its results.
Ultimately, the chairman of the Tidy Towns and his wife flew to Ottoway for the presentation.
Again, we won the highest accolade, ‘5 Blooms’. The three awards are on display in the village.
Ever since 2013, the village has maintained its high standard, retaining gold medals and only a few marks short of overall winners.
This year, 2018, we did exceptionally well receiving our 10th gold medal in a row in the Midlands East award.
We were nominated one of the best three villages in the country, being the second best, and two marks behind the winning town.
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