Funds drive to repair famed Abbey
A major fundraising drive is underway to raise £300,000 to carry out vital repairs to one of the oldest Augustlnian abbeys In the country.
The Fethard abbey will be 700 years-old in 2005 and Prior Fr. Ben O'Brien is determined to see that the work is carried out well in advance of the milestone celebrations.
Fethard, along with Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, is home to one of the oldest Augustinian abbeys in Ireland and a great bond has developed between the friars and the townspeople over the centuries.
Already Fethard people have contributed generously to the fundraising appeal but much work still needs to be done to reach the target
"And the £300,000 only covers essential work that has to be done," says Fr. O'Brien, reflecting on the affect that the ravages of time have had on the famed abbey.
Repairs to the roof will cost £150,000, £78,000 is needed for a new heating system while a complete electrical re-wiring job will cost £68,000.
"There are many other things that need to be done to restore the abbey to its proper condition but they cost a lot of money and will have to wait until the essential work is carried out first," says Fr. O'Brien who is heading up the fundraising committee given the task of finding the money.
The abbey in its present state suffers in comparison with its nearest neighbour, the magnificently restored Abymil Theatre, says Fr. O'Brien.
Thankfully the structure is basically sound but still the extent of the work that needs to be undertaken is major for a small community. In addition the abbey doesn't attract huge congregations because the town also has its parish church.
And yet local fundraising has made a major dent in the overall sum to be raised with £90,000 collected over the past 18 months. Based on that trend, Fr. O'Brien hopes to have reached his target within three years.
He realises that he has to go outside the Fethard community to bring in such sums and last year the committee organised a golf classic which proved a huge success and introduced many people to the abbey's needs.
This year's major fundraiser is a greyhound benefit night at Clonmel Greyhound Track on 19th June which is expected to add more than
£15,000 to the appeal's coffers.
Fr. O'Brien describes it as a major event with attractive prizemoney for owners that is expected to attract huge interest from a wide area. "This is a very important event for us and we are appealing for as much support as we can get," he says.
A lotto draw is bringing in £800 per week for the fund which Fr. O'Brien says reflects the feeling that local people have for the abbey.
The abbey was built outside the town walls of Fethard, following an Augustinian trend of caring for the needs of the most impoverished members of the population who lived outside town walls.
Their care for the poor was legendary as they established a special place in the affections of Fethard people. The martyred priest, Fr. William Tirry, was a member of the order.
While there are just four friars remaining in Fethard, the abbey housed as many as 16 at times in the past.
Fr. O'Brien and his three colleagues are now carrying on the proud tradition of the order in Fethard but also have the added task of overseeing the restoration work. Some restoration work has been carried out in the past at various stages in the abbey's history and Fr. O'Brien hopes to see the next development start by October such is the urgency of what needs to be done whether the money* is in or not.
In addition to local fundraising and major events such as the benefit night at the greyhound track, Fr. O'Brien is also hopeful that. Government funding may be available for the repair programme.
Congrats to Cathal Maher, Dun Abhoinn and Jack O'Sullivan, Main Street, who won gold and bronze medals respectively at the recent Community Games Co. Art finals. This was the first time medals ever came to Fethard in Art. This event was sponsored in the area by Fethard Credit Union.
Fethard Judo Club took further honours at the Charles Hegarty Memorial competition in Dublin last week. Valerie Colville was captain of the ladies team who won the senior event and coveted perpetual cup and Valerie was also silver medalist in the u-56kg category.
Kenneth O'Donnell won gold in the u-55kg event and also had the added distinc-, tion of being selected to represent Ireland at the forthcoming Youth Olympics in Portugal.
Fethard Open Coursing
Fundraising and ticket sales will be discussed by officers and members of the Fethard Open Coursing Club when they meet this weekend.
The meeting will be held at the Tirry Centre on Friday, June 6th at 8.30 pm and all members are requested to attend this very important session when club financing will be the main topic.
Killusty Pony Show- I.P.S.
Saturday, 5th July, 1997
In-hand, Broodmare, Show Pony, Ridden Hunter Pony, Novice and Open Ridden Hunter Pony, Novice and Open Working Hunter Pony, Connemara and Welsh Champions, Side-Saddle, Fancy Dress, Pet Pony & Pet Dog Show Schedules from: Betsy O'Connor, Knockelly, Fethard 052 31130. Entries close finally on 27 June. No entries on field. RDS-McDonald's Equitation League Qualifier may be entered on the field -