Residents of several small Wexford villages are being invited to reconnect with their hometowns in a new community mapping project funded by Wexford County County Council.
The project, which will be conducted by heritage expert Michael Fortune, is based around the mapping of sites of local, cultural and historical importance.
In conjunction with Tidy Towns and local youth groups, Michael will spend several months creating online maps for Kilmuckridge, Taghmon and Fethard On Sea.
This follows a similar endeavour previously undertaken in other villages which, according to Michael was ‘too good not to repeat.’
For Michael, who grew up in Ballygarrett, the aim of the project is to reconnect people with their homeplace and its history.
‘We won’t be mapping obvious sites such as castles and churches,’ he explained. ‘I want to rekindle that connection to place through ordinary things.’
With the help of local residents, Michael will create online maps pinpointing sites that may otherwise be forgotten. These include old handball alleys, holy wells, old paths and raheens. He also hopes to speak with people living in these villages and collect their stories from the past.
The first project meeting was held in Kilmuckridge on June 24 with over 15 people in attendance. During the meeting, which took place in Hammel’s Lounge, members of the Kilmuckridge Tidy Towns Committee joined with other local people to discuss their village with Michael.
In addition to a map, Michael explained how he intends to undertake several smaller projects that are specific to Kilmuckridge.
‘Ned Kavanagh, a local man, wrote a book several years ago and now only has one copy left,’ he said. ‘As part of this project, I hope to make a digital copy of his work and put it online.’
Michael and local residents will also use the project as an opportunity to mark the 200 year anniversary of the Tinnaberna fishing disaster.
This incident, which involved the loss of six fishing boats off the Wexford coast, has only ever been recorded through song.
‘A man named John Furlong knows the words to The Tinnaberna Fishermen,’ explained Michael. ‘Over the next few months, we hope to record him singing it so that those who were lost at sea can be commemorated.’
For John Hearne, Chairman of Kilmuckridge Tidy Towns, it is important to remember such events.
‘We must preserve our local history and heritage,’ he said. ‘By taking part in things like this, we will be able to keep old stories for future generations.’
Although originally from Buckinghamshire, local resident and Tidy Town’s Secretary Samantha Paya said she is looking forward in getting involved in the project.
‘I am eager to find out more about Kilmuckridge,’ she said.
Michael will work in Kilmuckridge for up to five months before conducting similar research with residents in Taghmon and Fethard On Sea. He hopes that this year’s projects are successful as his previous ones.
In 2014, Michael developed a website and corresponding map for Blackwater village called Aboutthisplace.ie.
He has also worked on many other Wexford-based photography and film projects, including ‘Around the House’- a photographic publication produced by pupils of Coláiste Abbain, Adamstown and Ramsgrange Community School.
(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/lifestyle/wexford-locals-reconnect-with-their-community-in-online-mapping-project-31341364.html)