The Living Bog had a very active Heritage Week, with a number of key events happening throughout the period of August 18 – 27.
All of our events were a success with numbers way above what we expected or estimated, so thank you to one and all who attended, or even checked in online. Valuable community and heritage links are established during Heritage Week, so it was great to bring the word of raised bog restoration and The Living Bog to so many.
The week started off on Friday August 18 with The Living Bog being chosen as a showpiece Heritage Week provider by radio station Midlands 103. Their top-rated show, the Will Faulkner Show which airs 9am-12pm did an outside broadcast from Clare Bog Visitor Centre to celebrate the start of Heritage Week, and Ronan Casey from the Living Bog and Rebecca Dobson from Clara Visitor Centre were both on air to bring the bogs to the nation. Also on the show were Heritage Officers from Counties Offaly, Westmeath and Laois. It was a great opportunity to talk abo0ut the Living Bog and raised bogs in general, and it was a pleasure to do.
One of our signature events was our ‘LIFE on Westmeath’s Bogs’ talk in Streete Parish Park & Community Centre (close to Garriskil Bog SAC). Here, we hosted an informative evening talk with Ronan Casey (The Living Bog), Manchán Magan (author/broadcaster) and Trióna Finnen (NPWS) talking about all aspects of the bog story – from restoration work and the Living Bog to the cultural significance of bogs to the life that raised bogs support. Over 60 attended the event, which was supported by Westmeath County Council, and attendees came from the local communities in Streete, Lismacaffrey, Rathowen and Ballinalack as well as Mullingar, Longford, Dublin and rural Westmeath.
The venue was perfect with delightful cakes and tea/coffee rounding off the night, and the event received very positive press coverage before and after, particularly in local newspapers the Westmeath Topic and the Westmeath Examiner. An extensive poster campaign in North Westmeath also worked fine.
Two bog walks were organised on Clara Bog SAC in Co. Offaly. The first walk on the Wednesday was hit by bad weather, but we ploughed on regardless! However, better things were to come later in the week with the Friday walk a big success with over 40 in attendance, with tourists from Japan, visitors from Dublin and others from all over the midlands among those enjoying an informative guided walk from Ronan Casey (The Living Bog) and Rebecca Dobson (Clara Bog Visitor Centre). The Tullamore Tribune newspaper tagged along and the event received good coverage in it and on Midlands 103 FM.
Another big Living Bog showpiece event was our revival of Mullagh Day on the Bog. The long-planned revival of the former local festival celebrating Killyconny Bog SAC took place on Saturday August 26th and saw the local St Kilian’s Heritage Trust committee assisting Ronan Casey and Jack McGauley of The Living Bog. The enjoyable day featured old turf-cutting equipment displays and talks about the days of old on the bog at St Kilian’s Heritage Centre in Mullagh town, before the crowd were bussed out to Killyconny Bog SAC for a walk and talk by Ronan and Jack. Over 50 were in attendance and as the lads got the walk underway on the bog, there was more left waiting at the Centre, such was demand! The crowds were not just local, with tourists from Asia and America, plus people from Derry, Dublin, Kells, Navan and Drogheda enjoying the walk. There was a great atmosphere on the bog and in the town on the day, and it is hoped the event will be built on for next year.
To tie in with the event, we re-posted videos by local man Jim Smith to YouTube of old events from 1997 – 1999. These have attracted a lot of attention. A photograph display at St Kilian’s Heritage Centre was also well-received.
A few weeks before the event, a special radio outside broadcast from Mullagh Heritage Centre was arranged by Shannonside Northernsound’s Joe Finnegan Show. Ronan Casey from The Living Bog was invited along to talk about ‘Mullagh Day on the Bog’, the Living Bog and the St Kilian’s Heritage Trust event on Killyconny Bog SAC. The broadcast went down well, and Ronan has been back on the station since talking about The Living Bog.
Killyconny Bog was once upon a (recent) time home to a truly Irish occasion: the Mullagh ‘Day on the Bog’.
You can read more about it HERE in this archived IRISH TIMES article (please note: A subscription may be needed to read the article in full)
With thanks to local man Jim Smith of Rantavan, Mullagh, who has had a great interest in preserving Killyconny raised bog for many years, we present rare and restored footage of three of the great ‘Mullagh Bog Day’ community events, from 1997, 1998 and 1999.
The days were organised by the St Kilian Heritage Trust. The aim was to recreate the part the bog played in rural life and at the same time to heighten awareness of the importance of conserving as many as possible of our bogs for future generations. Each featured a packed programme of events, including:
• Guided tours of the bog
• Flora and Fauna talks
• Pond-dipping and Wildlife
• Exhibition of turf-cutting and turf-cutting competition
• Exhibitions of tools used on the bog – from the slean to barrows to bog crafts to heather ‘beesoms’ (brushes)
• Traditional music and song
• Story-telling and comedy
• Irish dancing
• Refreshments, and much more…
We are very lucky that Jim filmed these events and the restored footage is here for generations to enjoy. If you see a familiar face and can help us identify everybody in the videos, please drop us a line, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 076 1002627 and we’ll endeavor to update the credits. The videos are property of Jim Smith. Feel free to share on social media to give the Diaspora of Cavan and Meath a great window to our recent past.
1997 was the first year of the Bog Day and it was a historic one for Cavan, as they beat Derry to become Ulster Champions! The bog event was great craic, as Jim’s video below details, and later on in the video, some of the Cavan team come to Mullagh with the trophy, and wild celebrations ensue on both the bog and on the streets!
1998 saw the event grow, and it was a huge success with a big crowd enjoying the very best Mullagh had to offer. There was plenty to see and do, and the importance of preserving the bog and restoring it became a reality and was much-talked about locally. 1998 was an historic year too as the bog was officially designated an Special Area of Conservation after Michael D Higgins had signed the Habitats Directive a year earlier.
1999 was another great year for the Mullagh Bog Day, as Jim’s video shows the community really getting behind it. Sadly, despite the interest and the good weather the event was blessed with for its three days, it was to be the last staging of the event… for now…
The event was resurrected by a committee featuring members of the LIFE team and St Kilian’s Heritage Council in 2017, when a smaller-scale staging took place on Saturday August 26, as part of National Heritage Week. This successful event will pave the way for bigger community events on the bog in the future.
As reported on our BOG BLOG page, the event attracted a large crowd, with all aspects of the bog covered, from turf-cutting days to today’s restoration plans.
The day commenced with old turf-cutting equipment displays and talks at St Kilian’s Heritage Centre in Mullagh town, honouring the turf cutting past of the bog. A number of local elders spoke about the days on the bog before the large crowd was bussed out to Killyconny Bog SAC for a walk and talk by Ronan Casey and Jack McGauley. There was over 50 in attendance and more left waiting at the Centre such was demand! The crowds were not just local, with tourists from Asia, Great Britain and America, plus people from Derry, Dublin, Kells, Navan and Drogheda as well as local media (Anglo Celt) and Cavan County Council reps all enjoying an informative walk and talk along the edge of Killyconny Bog SAC. It is hoped the event will be built on for next year and there is considerable local community enthusiasm and involvement for it to grow.
Check out the photo gallery from the day here:
PICTURES OF OLD
With thanks to local man Brendan Clarke, here are some photographic memories of the original ‘Day on the Bog’ events, mainly 1998.
Killyconny Bog SAC (also known locally as Cloghbally Bog and Mullagh Bog) is a 191 hectare raised bog just outside the historic Cavan town of Mullagh. It is an important bog which has played a big role in the local community for generations, and its location is unique as not only is it the most northern project site, but it is the only LIFE project site to share two counties: Cavan and Meath. It is said that the Apostle of Franconia, St Kilian, had connections to this impressive bog.
The bog has been at the centre of the local community for many decades, and it received widespread attention in the 1990’s when the local community came together to host three ‘Day on the Bog‘ festivals.
As the crow flies, the bog is approximately half-way between Virginia and Kells on the Cavan/Meath border. The bog was historically divided into five different townlands: Cloughbally; Fartagh; Leitrim; Killyconny; and Fegat.
The hollows between the hills of this beautiful part of the country fostered many a raised bog, but today there are very few raised bogs left in the north-east region and Killyconny Bog is the best developed of what remains. It is unusual as it developed with two lobes formed on adjacent ancient lakes. As the bogs rose side by side over thousands of years, they spilled over towards each other. Today they are joined by a narrow strip of bog, with the bog an odd ‘figure of 8’ shape.
Though some marginal drainage and cutting has taken place and there is subsidence on the margins, the central parts of the bog are relatively intact as little drainage was ever done on the ‘high bog’. Some restoration works took part on this bog in the past (including LIFE project LIFE04 NAT/IE/000121) with favourable results. Overall, there are good restoration prospects on Killyconny and the project aims to almost treble the existing areas of Active Raised Bog (ARB) on the high bog through a restoration programme aimed at raising the water table.
This bog is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) selected for Active Raised Bogs 7110 and Degraded Raised Bog 7120 – habitats that are listed on Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive (992/43/EEC), where Active Raised Bogs 7110 is further ranked as a “priority” habitat. Depressions on peat substrates of the Rhynchosporion (EU code 7150) are also found here.
There is a tremendous community spirit in the environs of the bog. Killyconny has had a high amenity value for many years, from the ‘Mullagh Bog Day’ festivals of the 1990’s to present day walking routes around the bog. There are many fond memories locally of working on the bog in the hey-day of peat extraction by hand (see HISTORY page).
Mullagh town is one of Ireland’s hidden gems with enviable heritage and tourism assets. Every year thousands of tourists visit the area to celebrate the town’s links to St Kilian, the 7th and 8th Century Apostle of Franconia and Irish Missionary Bishop, who was born close to Killyconny Bog. The St Kilian’s Heritage Centre in the town is at the heart of everything that happens in the area, and is an ideal starting point to learn more about Killyconny Bog and this the surrounding area.