Co-operation Ireland chairman, Dr Christopher Moran (left) and IPB Insurance chairman George Jones (beside host Marty Whelan) with Meath County Council cathaoirleach Nick Killian, Suzanne Mahon of Meath County Council, and David Lloyd, Marie Felle, Angela O'Reilly, and Luke Colleran of Dunshaughlin Tidy Towns.

How Dunshaughlin won its Pride of Place Award 2022

Town was named a winner at gala event at weekend

Dunshaughlin was honoured at the Pride of Place community awards at the weekend when it took top spot in the ‘Town with a Population between 2000 and 5000’ category.

Judges praised the community spirit amongst the residents.

“On the day of their visit the judges were met by a community en fete. It seemed the whole community had turned out to showcase their town. The judges were impressed with the palpable enthusiasm, an excellent PowerPoint presentation and amazing list of achievements to date.”

And here's how Dunshaughlin won their second Pride of Place Award, having taken their first in 2015 .... by Susan McCabe

When the call went out last July for the community of Dunshaughlin to show pride in their locality as part of the IPB All-Island Pride of Place Awards 2022, the call was answered with enthusiasm and passion by the many community and voluntary groups that contribute so much to the quality of life in the village. Dunshaughlin was nominated by Meath County Council to represent Meath in this year’s awards and the event was co-ordinated by Dunshaughlin Tidy Towns Group.

On Wednesday 27th July last, the excitement in Dunshaughlin Community College built from early morning as more than 30 local groups assembled their displays in preparation for the arrival of the adjudicators. Exhibitors ranged from charity organisations, cultural groups and sports clubs to hobby groups.

The musical entertainment provided by the Voculeles (dressed appropriately for the 1920s) created the perfect atmosphere for the arrival of the adjudicators, Eddie Sheehy and John Fitzgerald, who were accompanied by Susanne Mahon of Meath County Council. They were formally welcomed by representatives of the Tidy Towns Committee, Luke Colleran (chairman), Marie Felle-Brady (vice-chair), and Patricia Lynch (treasurer) along with Cllr Nick Killian (cathaoirleach, Meath County Council). The adjudicators were then escorted to their seats by members of the local scouts group, Anna and Emer.

Following formal introductions, a 20-minute presentation was delivered by co-presenters Ciarán Flanagan (creative and marketing consultant) and Naoise Blake (training and development specialist), both residents of Dunshaughlin and active in local community groups. During the course of their presentation, Naoise and Ciarán traced the history of Dunshaughlin and the origin of its name from St Seachnall, (believed to be a nephew of St Patrick).

Reference was made to some of the historical sites in the village including St Seachnall’s Church with its medieval arch, the Toll House, and the Famine Cauldron. One or two of those in attendance acknowledged the fact of hiding their shoes in the hedgerow on their way to school! The presentation included a wealth of photographs depicting Dunshaughlin as a vibrant community, growing and expanding, welcoming new members and providing a wide range of projects in which people can engage. At the end of the presentation the adjudicators were presented with copies of the book Dunshaughlin Through the Years, published by John Donohoe.

Following the presentation, the adjudicators visited each of the 32 exhibitors, taking a few moments to ask probing questions on relevant themes including climate action and global warming. Each of the exhibitors demonstrated how innovation, resilience and community interaction are important themes in our community and how working together we can influence the decision makers.

When proceedings finished in the Community College the adjudicators were treated to an entertaining dance routine by Dunshaughlin Dance, under the guidance of Zoe Koulianou. They were then driven in vintage cars by Donal O’Sullivan and Pat Naughton on their tour of key locations in the village.

The first port of call was to Dunshaughlin & Royal Gaels GAA Club where the adjudicators were welcomed to the new clubhouse by Declan Bannon (secretary). Not alone one of the longest established clubs in Meath, it is one that is rapidly expanding, diversifying and is more than about football alone. The club has embraced the One Club model with approximately 1,000 members and was one of the first clubs in Meath to do so. Colum Bracken from the Health and Wellbeing Committee outlined the work that has been undertaken in recent years from the food home deliveries with SuperValu during Covid to the many social and community activities now being promoted.

Eadaoin Slattery explained how the club came to adopt the values-based system summarised by the ICare acronym, that promotes Inclusion, Community, Respect, Accountability and Excellence as the clubs’ core values. Hannah Leahy updated the Adjudicators about the recent quizzes hosted for the schools of the parish and the plan for rolling out the All-Star Programme for children and young adolescents with disabilities. Mary O’Regan gave an overview of the men’s and ladies adult team’s community-based fundraising for Pieta House and other charities. Caoimhe Delany explained about the diversity within the Gaelic for Mothers & Others group and how they have translated brochures into different languages to attract and welcome new members from different cultural backgrounds. The stars of the day, however, were Val Izon (UK) and Marusia Geampana (Romania) who gave personal accounts of how they came to get involved, what the Gaelic for Mothers & Others means to them and how it has helped give them a sense of belonging in the community.

At St Seachnall's Church, Anne Boyland, outlined the history of the Church and its association with St Seachnall who established a church at that location in 435 AD. Anne also highlighted the various aspects of the stain glass windows, the pulpit, wall plaques and in particular an ancient lintel and a holy water font. The tour continued outdoors to the graveyard where one remaining arch of an earlier church still stands. The arch is thought to be medieval and is a national monument.

The adjudicators and the entourage then proceeded on foot in the direction of the Courthouse but were detained briefly at the Toll House Turnpike where two gentlemen Ralph Lynch and Pat McMahon dressed in appropriate attire of the period (1800s) demanded a toll payment of 6d (old money). Following fractious negotiations calm was restored and payment was issued. Frank Daly (chairman, Dunshaughlin & District Historical Society) outlined the history of the Toll House and disclosed details of the appropriate charges of the time which led some people to believe that they may have been ripped off by those two “imposters”.

Along Main Street, traditional music was being played outside the Dublin House Pub (James Lawless’s) by members of the local Comhaltas group.

At the courthouse, Patricia Lynch, (secretary of Dunshaughlin & District Historical Society) greeted the visitors and outlined the history of the building which was designed in 1799 by Francis Johnston. The adjudicators were invited to view the Feasibility Study for Dunshaughlin Courthouse which was commissioned by the community and funded by Meath Leader funding and community contributions. With funding from Meath County Council together with funds secured from the Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF Category 2) a full restoration is planned for the Courthouse to be used as a multipurpose community facility with an open space in front.

Neil O’Riordan (president, Dunshaughlin & District Historical Society), invited the adjudicators to view the Parnell Banner, used by Charles Stewart Parnell during his campaign for Home Rule in the 1880’s. Neil explained that when the Banner was discovered locally it was in a very poor state. The Society commissioned Rachel Phelan, (an expert in textile conservation at Collins Barracks Museum) to restore the banner to its former glory. The restoration was funded by a grant from Meath Leader Programme and community contributions. The wording on the front of the banner is “Parnell’s Principles are Ours” while the reverse has South Meath, Culmullen INF (Irish National Federation). The Society has accounts from the Drogheda Independent of the banner being used at a local political meeting held on 10th October 1903 before the general election in the same year. The Banner is listed as a National Monument and the Society hope to have it on public display in the Autumn.

The adjudicators were invited to follow the progress of the trojan work that has been undertaken by a large number of enthusiastic volunteers on Trevet Graveyard and Church. Trevet is an early mediaeval monastic foundation, thought to have been established by St. Colmcille circa 563AD before he left Ireland for the island of Iona. The community were praised for their commitment to this project.   The ongoing maintenance of Trevet Graveyard & Church and other heritage graveyards in the area (Famine Graveyard and Old Culmullen Graveyard) were discussed.

Frank Daly invited the adjudicators to view a photographic display of 1916 and 1918 commemorations, the Slí Seachnaill village walks and a host of talks and tours organised by the society. Frank presented the adjudicators with local publications together with the Historical, Archaeological and Survey Report for Trevet Church and Graveyard. The local councillors were thanked for their support of the society’s projects.

At Dunshaughlin Library, a former church constructed in 1841, the adjudicators viewed the Heritage Trail display panel. On entering the building, they were greeted by Librarian Barbara Scally who outlined the facilities they provide for local community groups including educational, cultural and recreational activities. The library hosts poetry events for local poets and spoken word performers. Poetry Ireland named Dunshaughlin as County Meath’s Poetry Town 2021. The library also hosts historical talks and participates in the annual celebration of culture night. Weekly events include English conversation classes for foreign nationals facilitated by voluntary tutors from Fáilte Isteach and there are also Irish conversation classes. There is an adult and junior book clubs, mother and toddler story time activities, adult and children’s art groups, knitting and quilting groups, bridge lessons and also lectures on numerous topics. The highlight of the visit to the library was the Sensory Pod, funded by the Dormant Accounts Fund, Department of Rural and Community Development and the Magic Table (Toverafel) funded by Meath County Council both of which are aimed at enhancing the library experience for children and young adults with special needs.

At St Seachnall’s National School exhibits for the Dunshaughlin Tidy Towns Climate Action Poster Campaign entitled “Protect Our Planet” were on display. Some 208 students from Coláiste Ríoga, Culmullen NS, Dunshaughlin Community NS, Gaelscoil Na Ríthe, Rathbeggan NS and St Seachnall’s NS participated, demonstrating their artistic skills by designing posters to create awareness about climate change and global warming. The adjudicators were greeted by the principal Ciara Whelan who spoke about the school being a Centre for European Schooling (CES) the only such national school in the country and they share this distinction with Dunshaughlin Community College. Naoise Blake was also present to talk about the School Book Rental Scheme with 3,200 books scheduled to be reused in the next school year. Posters for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were also on display.

The final destination for the intrepid travellers was the Pastoral Centre where Frank McNamara kindly provided a rendition of soothing and relaxing music as the visitors and the entourage availed of copious refreshments. Roisin Blake spoke about the success of this modern building which is primarily a Pastoral Centre but is available to the entire community having been constructed in 2009 at a cost of €2 million and with extensive community fundraising the entire debt was cleared in 2012.

The proceedings throughout the day were captured by photographer Des O’Neill (Photos by Des) and on video by Martin Connolly (Martin Connolly Media). Having enjoyed the interaction with the adjudicators we bid them farewell. Normal service has now resumed as we prepare for the arrival of the adjudicator for the Meath County Council Pride of Place competition next month.

Exhibitors who participated in the Main Hall in the Community College

Dunshaughlin Athletic Club

Dunshaughlin Civil Defence

Dunshaughlin Community Centre

Dunshaughlin Community Harvest Group

Dunshaughlin “Daffodil Day” Group

Dunshaughlin Dance

Dunshaughlin & District Historical Society

Dunshaughlin First Responders

Dunshaughlin Friday Club - Senior Citizens

Dunshaughlin Harvest Festival

Dunshaughlin ICA

Dunshaughlin Knitting Circle

Dunshaughlin Men’s Shed

Dunshaughlin Refugee Support Group

Dunshaughlin Special Olympics

Dunshaughlin Tidy Towns Group

Dunshaughlin Youths Football Club

7th Meath Dunshaughlin Scouts

Black Bush Golf Club

Countrywide Walkers Association

Daisy School of Dance

Drumree Hurling & Camogie Club

Failte Isteach – English conversation classes

IB Health & Fitness

Hillview Residents Association

Meath Public Participation Network

Meath Partnership

Meath Tús Work Placement Scheme.

Meath Volunteer Centre

Multicultural Dunshaughlin

Recycling Vending Initiative – Supervalu

Riding for the Disabled

Society of St. Vincent De Paul