Laois – a county steeped in history and heritage
Laois has, in the past, been labelled as a county with very little to interest a visitor – a county you drive through but rarely stop. Happily this situation is fast changing and more and more people are becoming aware of the attractions of the county and of its rich past and heritage.
It is no longer a hidden county thanks to much wonderful work being done within the county and the wonderful achievements of people from the county especially in the fields of business and in sport. It was once known as poor and proud which was a misnomer because the people felt they had little to be proud of.
Laois Heritage Society has been preaching the importance of the county’s unique history and heritage for many decades. It has been fortunate to have had some great dedicated and knowledgable people at its helm and among its membership. People like Dr. Liam O Banain, Liam Miller, Matilda Cooney, Frank Meehan, George Cunningham and many others have kept the heritage flag flying over the years.
Now our Society can look back at many notable achievements both as a group and the individuals involved. The acquiring of a grants of nearly two million euro to help conserve the Rock of Dunamaise was achieved by the persistence of the Society to have the importance of the Rock acknowledged as a national treasure.
Although there are some lovely museums of diverse interest within the county Laois certainly suffers from not having a County Museum of its own.
It amuses me to think of all the hot air that is expended by the people of influence about Laois lacking an identity. The Rock is a vital part of our identity and so too would a County Museum, telling the marvellous history of the county, so entangled with, and influentail to, national events and displaying a rare wealth of archaeological finds now housed in the National Museum and other places.
Also it would project the famous personalities of the past who emerged from the county, the O’Moores, James Fintan Lalor and his brother Peter, Bartholomew Mosse, the aviator, Col. James Fitzmaurice et al.
Development goes on apace. Heritage is sometimes compromised in this building frenzy. Little is put aside to promote the county identity given it by its history and heritage. How short-sighted all this is.
The Society pushed for the appointment of a County Heritage Officer for many years and through its efforts finally achieved its sim. This was a major step forward for heritage interests in the county and the creation of the Laois Heritage Forum was a major step forward.
Among the main objectives of the Society is to find a premanent home for itself. Luckily many individuals and bodies arre aware of the important work done by the Society’s members and have been generous in facilitating the holding of meetings, talks and other events. High on the list is Portlaoise Vocational School which, thanks to the Principal, Michael parsons, a Vice-President of the Society, never lets us down. In recent times the Heritage Hotel has proved that its interest in heritage is not merely a promotional tool as they facilitate us with rooms for meetings and talks on a complimentary basis. But more than ever the Society needs accommodation to effectively run its affairs to maximum effect. We need an office, whci our members could arrange to staff. We also need space for our library of books, which may be for the members and visitors use or for sale.