Callan is basking in the accolades it received on Friday from Heather Humphreys, Minister for Community and Rural Development.
After months of lockdown and social distancing there was a festive atmosphere as people celebrated the three flagship projects that have transformed the town.
The rejuvenation of the Fair Green, the Moat Field, and the historic Abbey Meadow has uplifted spirits..
Delighted locals turned out early for the official opening of the Fair Green Regeneration Project.
The project is the work of dedicated men and women who had laboured for months to upgrade and revamp a prized cultural amenity.
A football pitch was in an advanced stage of development, with bulldozers having levelled the surface and added sand.
Callan United Football Club had the entire community behind it in its commitment to keeping sport alive.
Tidy Towns folk were busy too, keeping the green in tip top shape in preparation for the creation of a Garden of Remembrance.
Three new benches were installed, along with a proclamation stone, and the Tricolour flew proudly with tehe aid of a light breeze.
Flowers would soon be planted and the planned garden will open later this year.
A local historian jested that the minister may well have been the most high profile visitor to the venue since Oliver Cromwell’s ill-fated arrival back in 1650.
It was here that Cromwell lined up his artillery and bombard the town after the Boys in Green refused to surrender.
The sound of cannon was replaced by the chirping of birds, the sound of walkers and sporadic good humoured banter.
The Moat Field was resplendente with its newwalkway and the much-loved hill upon which once stood a 12th century Norman Castle.
Located north of the King’s River and west of Upper Bridge Street, the Moat played host to the great Callan carnivals of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The walkway had returned the Moat to its glory days. Again, locals were strolling or running around its perimeter.
The picnicking that had been a common feature of the Moat up to the mid-1960s but had died out when the field succumbed to weeds and the presence of livestock.
A revival was sparked by the provision of benches and tables.
Panels installed along the walkway highlighting the Moat’s history and its abundant flora and fauna further added to its appeal.
The minister praised the Callan groups that had, in conjunction with Kilkenny County Council and other agencies, made the Moat Field Heritage Trail such a resounding success.
She preaised Patrick Lydon of Camphill who had worked tirelessly for decades to make the Moat a centrepiece of local heritage and recreation. She referred to his vision and tenacity in pursuing his dream.
That the walkway is wheelchair accessible was all the more poignant because Patrick was recently diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. All applauded the value of Patrick’s life-enhancing work with Camphill.
The final opening was at the Abbey Meadow Walking Trail, a true beauty spot that has enchanted many a visitor.
The gentling rolling meadow contains the majestic ruin of an old Augustinian Abbey built in about 1467.
The abbey served the town well until King Henry VIII closed it down in 1540.
It opened again but was ransacked and destroyed by Cromwell’s troops in 1650 a few hours after they’d turned the Fair Green into an artillery range.
Cromwell chased the friars out of Callan, allegedly catching and killing three of them later near Mullinvat.
The oblong surviving remnant of the abbey, with its conspicuous bell tower presents an imposing sight.
About halfway between the church ruin and the King’s River is the abbey well, which served locals in the days before houses had running water.
It also provided the inspiration for Callan’s exiled Fenian poet/journalist John Locke who wrote of its crystal clear water and holy bubbles.
Having a walking trail around the abbey meadow adds hugely to its attraction as a heritage asset.
Work has included the installation of limestone steps in the north east corner of the field, a tasteful overhaul of the handrails and decking on the pedestrian bridge, landscaping along the riverbank and the provision of new seating.
Information panels have also been erected for the benefit of visitors.