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Aaron Carroll and Aisling Finn, of the Cratloe Community Council Heritage Group, who are launching www.cratloe.ie, a site where the public can explore the built, geographical, social and cultural heritage of the parish. The website is funded by the heritage council and is free for all to use. Photograph by John Kelly

Cratloe heritage has a new home

UP to 150 places and items of interest in Cratloe have been provided on a new online heritage hub, which has attracted huge local interest as well as international attention from exiles.
Most famous for Cratloe Woods and the Cratloe oak trees, the area has a wealth of built and natural heritage which is dispersed through the townlands of Cratloe and includes wells, churches, graveyards, state houses, historical markings and plaques as well as being full of folklore and piseog tales.
Locals and people living abroad can now click on Cratloe.ie and discover all the heritage in this district.
Before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cratloe Community Council drafted a plan, which prompted the formation of a new heritage group.
A few people including Aisling Finn decided to post photographs of the culture and heritage in the locality on social media.
After last Christmas, council members felt people were very isolated because they had to remain within five kilometres and all the conversation at the time centred around limiting the virus.
In an effort to bring the community together, members of the heritage group started posting videos of local landmarks and heritage at various locations such as from the Woodcross Pub down to the well and from the Gullet to Gallows Hill.
While Aisling recalled this was done for a bit of fun, it generated huge momentum. Information was obtained from numerous local sources, Clare County Council and Duchas.
“What started out as a small bud in the parish has really blossomed,” she told The Champion.
“We were contacted by people who lived in the United States of America who lived in Cratloe previously or had relatives living here. Seeing things in the area meant a lot to them.
“The reaction we got has been phenomenal. That was our main goal – to get people talking about something, apart from Covid-19.
“I learned so much from the project and all the participants enjoyed being part of this experience,” she added.
“It has given people a greater sense of pride in their area. I believe it is something that could be replicated in other parishes. Even local people said they learned new things about the locality.”
Originally from Limerick, Aisling has been living in Cratloe for almost ten years with her husband and children ranging in age from four to ten.
The group applied to the National Heritage Council for funding to complete an audit of all the heritage in the locality.
By the time the grant of almost €12,000 was paid, the project had grown even bigger to include a digital platform to map out all the culture, history and heritage in the area in one easy accessible website that evolved into Cratloe.ie.
“Someone had a book in this house, another person had a book in another house, but there was no centralisation of local information,” she explained.
“Because there was no single platform, a lot of information was being lost as generations moved on. The culture of story telling is dying out. Some family members move away out of the locality.
“Covid-19 brought a lot of people on to the internet who hadn’t used it before,” Aisling observed.
“We have marked out a five and ten kilometre walk. The new website covers geographical heritage, such as the animal and wildlife, built heritage, like houses, structures, bridges, historical heritage and folklore.
“My children aren’t from Cratloe, but I wanted them to have a real sense of belonging to the area. Cratloe is so rich in heritage, this project is something we are updating on an ongoing basis,” she said.
Some of the stories from elderly members of the parish have been recorded and posted online, which really brings local history to life.
Local photographer, Paul Lehane provided some beautiful photographs for the website.
The project has sparked several ideas such as taking more videos of places at five and ten-year intervals.
Cratloe National School teacher, Aaron Carroll, who hails from Portdrine, said the project has also created nostalgia and memories of growing up such as waiting to be collected for hurling matches at the L3102 road sign opposite the Woodcross pub.
He describes the project as their version of Cuimhneamh an Chláir, the Clare Oral History and Folklore Group.
“When heritage is gone, it is gone forever, that is what we wanted to capture in the parish before it goes. When I went around with Aisling doing a tour of the parish, I was remembering stuff from my younger days.
“Pat Considine, a brother of former Clare selector, Tony, died recently. He was a self-educated man and a local wit. He knew every nook and cranny in Cratloe, and all the stories from the War of Independence.
“There is an old saying – when an old man or woman dies a library burns. The recordings have resulted in more people coming forward with other stories or additional information. “A lot of the stories are like gold dust. There was a lot of information on castles and gentry houses in the area. However, it is great to come across a garden gate from a house that is no longer there and learn the story behind it.
“There were four ambushes in Cratloe. There is no memorial in Cratloe of Nan Hogan, who was a leading member of Cumann na mBan that died on hunger strike. People are interested in providing a memorial, but for 50 years she wasn’t really talked about.”
Aaron recalls when a person gave a talk about Nan Hogan for his students in Cratloe National School, and another historian spoke about two local fatalities from Word War One, you “could hear a pin drop in the room”.
Cratloe.ie includes a huge volume of information on locations such as Ballymorris Cross, which was the site of one of four IRA ambush engagements within Cratloe Parish during the War of Independence.Very little is known and documented of the ambush.
‘Baile Muiris’ townland is named after Morris, a Dane, who settled here by the River Shannon after Viking invasions.
Birdie Coffee is one of Cratloe’s last remaining traditional thatched cottages and is a familiar landmark on the Limerick to Ennis road. ‘Birdie’ (Mary) lived here until her death in early 2000s.
Cratloe Woods House was reputedly started in 1730 and extended considerably by the mid-19th century. Set in its own grounds, it is an impressive example of the Irish long house, which existed since medieval times.
Resided in by members of the O’Brien family in 1783, it was then called Cratloe Hall. In more recent years the Stafford O’Briens moved to Cratloe Woods. Many parishioners worked on the Estate known as ‘Major’ O Brien’s.
Until 1990, Robert Guy O’Brien lived there. Robert’s cousins, the Brickendens, moved to Cratloe Woods House from Wicklow. The house was once open to the public during the summer.

by Dan Danaher

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