WORK is underway in Lisdoonvarna on creating a historical exhibition in the ballroom of the Spa Wells. The aim is to show how the town developed from the discovery of the different wells in the mid-1700s right up to modern times. Lisdoonvarna Historical Society is behind the project and will be using photographs, prints and arterfacts to try and bring history to life.
Pat Dowling is chairman of the group and he said, “It’s a work in progress at the moment. We got a small grant from Leader so we decided we will put up 20 roll-up banners, put on some of the high-resolution photographs. There are some super photographs, both in the National Library and some of the ones we have ourselves. We’re going to have some display trays and a bit of memorabilia in general from the Spa Wells and the town as well.”
The group already has a fair bit of work done and Pat is hopeful that the opening date might not be too far off. “We would certainly hope that we would have it next year but we would be optimistic we could have it as soon as the autumn.”
Quite an amount of historical material has been assembled already, he says.
“We have a fair bit of stuff. A lot of it is digital and the plan would be to have a display with some artefacts. It’ll be fairly big, with the 20 banners and eight displays and a whole load of stuff that we’ve kind of rejuvenated from the old pump room and the bath house. We’re going to put those on display as well. The idea is that your visitor will go in, have a look at the museum and display and then go and taste the water. It’ll be like a visitor experience, that’s the plan.”
Pat added, “We have heaps of photographs, we have some quirky stuff and we have acquired some old books to do with Lisdoonvarna. We’re optimistic that it’ll be good.”
He feels that getting the display going will spark greater interest in Lisdoonvarna’s past, while he says there are some people involved with a great knowledge of the area. “Our focus is to get the display up and running and, hopefully, it’ll get an interest going in the town and its history. An awful lot of people have already come on board.
“John Hehir is a former school principal; he has done a thesis on Lisdoonvarna and he is like an encyclopaedia, he knows absolutely everything there is to know. We have Eoin and Kit Kerins as well. Of all the knowledgeable people, I’m probably the weakest! I’m trying to pull it all together but they’re the brains of the operation,” Pat said.
He feels the display could be left in place almost all year round. “We hope to have it up on display permanently in the ballroom. The ballroom is not in use, except for the very occasional party or wedding, but not that often. Obviously, in September, it has to come down so that’s why we’ve gone for the roll-up banner.
“We’re hoping it’ll kickstart a rejuvenation of the place. The actual pump room is in very good condition. Anyone who goes in there is very impressed with it and the stories are amazing.”
Some expert assistance has been received on the hospitality side of things. “We’ve had Francis Brennan down to have a look at it too. He has kind of jumped in and Lisdoonvarna Fáilte are going to set up a Victorian-style tea room. That’ll complement it,” Pat pointed out.
Anyone who has any items of historical interest is asked to get in touch. “We’d be thrilled if they had anything, photographs that we could copy or anything they are willing to share.”
By Owen Ryan