Roger Harty: Thank You

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THE sages say that perhaps the most powerful feelings that we can endow ourselves with is that of gratitude, and the easiest way to express that feeling is to say a simple yet sincere ‘Thank You’.

Last week I wrote an article about the importance of tradition and culture in our lives, but it is extremely important to note that tradition and culture wouldn’t exist to the extent that it does had someone not had the awareness and taken the time to record it.

That, in a nutshell, is my reason for saying ‘Thank You’ to these very same people.

Why do people write history? The simple answer is that they want people to remember things they are in danger of forgetting. They also want them to remember in a particular way, to shape their understanding of the present.

To this effect I want to take two examples of this type of recording of history, one of a local nature and one of a more international nature.

They say a prophet is never fully appreciated at home so the first tribute I want to make is to a local priest in Kerry, Fr Pat Ahern. He was the founder of Siamsa Tire the National Folk Theatre of Ireland.

Pat Ahern prepared a plan to foster the development of Irish folk culture in 1972 and in the ensuing years he proceeded to implement it.

With the formation of Siamsa Tíre Teo in 1974, Pat Ahern was appointed Artistic Director, a position he held until his retirement in 1998.

A vital element of Pat Ahern’s plan was the fostering of traditional Irish folk culture in a series of Tithe Siamsa or Folk Academies located in strategic, tradition-rich parts of rural Ireland.

The first of these was built in Finuge in North Kerry in 1974 and the second the following year in Carraig in the Chorcha Dhuibhne Gaeltacht.

Here, training in music, dance, song and movement continues was delivered to selected students over a period of three years, free of charge.

On a more international scale I had the great pleasure about two years ago of visiting the Irish College in Louvain Belgium (about 30 mins train ride from Brussels!).

The University of Louvain in Louvain (Leuven) was founded 1425 (oldest university in the Low Countries).

During the Penal times, Irish priests had to be educated on the Continent.

There were three Irish Colleges at Louvain:

• The Franciscan Irish College (St. Anthony’s College) was founded 1607 (not 1609).

• The Irish Pastoral College was founded 1626.

• The Dominican Irish College was founded 1659.

Due to the persecution of the Irish people especially around this time of our history we lost many of our historical records from theft and general destruction of our monasteries which were until then a great source of security for our treasured relics.

However due to the vigilant foresight of some very special individuals some of these precious artefacts were preserved for safekeeping by the Irish College in Louvain.

Perhaps the most famous or these is ‘Annals of the four Masters’ which is and was a huge source of resource and reference for our historians.

Again, thank you to these very precious ‘Keepers of our Culture’.

• Next week I am going to write about –  The real beauty of Icons

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