19 Aug 2022

Opening of refurbished south Longford community hall set for this weekend

Ballycloghan Hall

The official opening of the refurbished Ballycloghan Hall takes place this Saturday, July 2 at 2pm

The official opening of the refurbished Ballycloghan Hall takes place next Saturday, July 2 at 2pm and it promises to be a great occasion for the local community.

Ballycloghan Hall has been at the heart and in the heart of the community for many years. It was originally a two teacher school established in June 1847 during some of the darkest days in Irish history.

A letter from FR Richard O’Farrell PP to the then equivalent of the present day Department of Education, dated November 23, 1847 has inescapable evidence of that darkness. He wrote, ‘’There is not a single spot in Ireland where learning is at so low an ebb.’’ The teachers were William Lawlor and Ellen Farrell and there were upwards of 100 pupils on the rolls.

The last principal was Miss Maura Keogh, later to become Mrs Ledwith from Mullinalaghta. She was appointed in July 1916.

And remained until the school closed in 1950 34 years later. The school furniture was in such a deplorable state in 1917 that Miss Keogh wrote to the Department and posed the question, ‘’how could children in a poor district , coming into school half starved and with no desks to sit at be expected to do good work?’’

On several occasions some children had come into school without breakfast or lunch. It was the era of turf fires, outdoor toilets, chalk and talk, no facilities or back up services, large classes and big doses off corporal punishment.

It had its lighter moments too. One day a pupil who later in life became a successful businessman , mounted a stray donkey and rode him into the classroom, there is no record of his punishment if any.

On another occasion, a Miss Reilly from Longford who was subbing, brought out a leather football for the boys who up until then had to do with a ragdoll. The inevitable happened, a school window was broken! The football went back to Longford never to be seen in Ballycloghan School again.

In 1950, after over a century of service Ballycloghan School was closed and pupils and teacher Mrs Ledwith and Mrs Kenny, transferred to a brand new school in Cairne Townsland in Ballycloghan.

The building now became a hall and a very busy hall at that. Bingo, table tennis, snooker, indoor soccer, plays , card drives, cake sales, dances and concerts and political meetings were all part and parcel of Ballycloghan Hall for the next 60 years. Sadly the building fell into disrepair some years later.

Noeleen Doyle, Secretary Ballycloghan Carrickboy Development Association, explained, “Thankfully, it's now fully restored and once again is a building to be proud of. For this we must thank a vibrant dedicated committee who have worked with might and main to achieve what we see here today.

“Following on from the loss of our post office, pub, and primary school in recent times, the community of Ballycloghan and Carrickboy organised a public meeting for the area to see if there was any way we could do something to stop the demise of our community and make some improvements locally.

“At an extremely well attended lively meeting in our neglected run down hall a committee was formed called Ballycloghan Carrickboy Development Association. Set with the task of refurbishing the Community Hall, and with a limited amount of money from parish funds, and a loan secured from Glan Creado we contacted Longford Community Resources Clg and made an appointment with the staff from the Leader office to apply for funding.

“We were extremely lucky to have the services of a local engineer to draw up our plans for the refurbishment and sort out planning application issues. We found the staff from the Longford Community Resources Leader office extremely helpful in particular Caroline, Margaret and Charlene in helping us prepare our funding application. Longford County Council and the LCDC. Our project went out to tender and a local contractor was successful in winning the contract, which also helped us a lot.

“Then the dreaded Covid came along and stopped work on the project for a few months and made ordering materials very hard, but in the end we got the refurbishment completed to a very high standard as can be seen today. We have a new roof and windows. The walls are re-slabbed and insulated. The building has been rewired and plumbed with kitchen and toilets upgraded and painted inside and out.

“With the help of funding from the leader programme and local fundraisers, we also managed to purchase a performance stage, lighting, seating and tables and a tractor lawnmower to maintain the green areas in the community.

“Also with Leader funding we have installed a patio area, and an imprinted concrete driveway to allow vehicular access. We are currently working on a plan to install solar panels to generate and store electricity to power the hall.

“We have had many ups and downs along the way but we are all proud of what we have achieved. We now have a modern facility available in the community for all age groups to use.

“We are extremely grateful to Longford Community Resources clg, Leader office staff, Longford County Council, LCDC, local clergy Fr Charlie Healy and Fr Peter Brady. Also to our engineer Brendan Quaine and building contractor Gerry Burke, local county councillors and of course our local community. All of whom contributed to this project.

“We look forward to seeing it being utilized for many activities for all in our community.”

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