LUCKY teachers and pupils in a West Limerick national school were left licking their lips after eating home made brown bread and marmalade made in West Clare.
Children in Gerald Griffin National School, Loughill were thrilled to receive home made baking from Geraldine Moloney of Killofin House, Labasheeda, as part of the “Gift Cargo Boxes” that were exchanged by the renowned Ilen ship from communities on both sides of the Shannon Estuary.
Gift boxes included loose tea and sugar from Kildysart and grain, seaweed and lace from Kilrush town and a Gandelaw anchor from Clarecastle along with a variety of gifts from Labasheeda and horseshoes from Ballynanally.
Skippered by Gary McMahon, the Ilen sailed between Cappa, Foynes, Limerick City, Labasheeda, Ballynacally, Clarecastle, Glin and Kilrush. It is believed the Ilen is one of the only surviving ocean-going ship in Ireland from the age of sail.
Limerick City was also represented with hampers from Treaty City Beers, The Milk Thistle Café Mungret, and Kearney Bakery Ballyhahill. Other gifts included books from Askeaton and Foynes, dried reeds from Mungret and honey, onions and seaweed from Glin.
They were the first cargo boxes to trade inter community on the Shannon Estuary since the “Alzina” of Labasheeda ceased operations in the early 1950s.
It is 50 years since the last sailing vessel piled her trade on the estuary and 100 years since a barrel of distilled Limerick whiskey sailed downriver to a bonded stores in Kilrush.
The event was part of a Destination Development Programme led by West Limerick Resources CLG, and Clare Local Development Company through the LEADER programme.
The Shannon Estuary Way Destination Development programme is focused on putting communities at the heart of the SEW and the visitor experience.
A wealth of ideas are already emerging in the early weeks of the programme for community and story exchanges and local communities are actively engaging in developing ways to enhance the existing offering and develop new visitor experiences.
Over the next year, participants will learn ways in which their communities can share the rich heritage of the SEW with each other and with visitors.
The Labasheeda gift box included a pint glasses, Guinness and beer mats from Casey’s Bar, Visit Clare information, business cards from the new pottery studio and café Charm Bee and Beds of Silk Glamping, home made bread and marmalade and tourism brochures and a Armada pink sea wall plant.
Stephen McDonagh of Labasheeda Le Chéile said the gift boxes were very symbolic showing the trade along the Shannon Estuary.
“There is a lot of joined up thinking in village on both sides of the estuary to market tourism along the Shannon Estuary. This is the first of its kind and we want communities in Clare and Limerick to work together for the ultimate aim of promoting the Shannon Estuary.
“Everyone was very excited to see the Illen boat go up and down the Shannon to deliver gifts to people on both sides of the estuary. It has got people thinking about other ideas.
“Labasheeda Primary School are thinking about painting images of items of significance from the area on stones and sending them as gifts across the water to other communities.”
He recalled in the olden days people from Labasheeda often travelled across the estuary to Glin while Shannon Gaels also used to travel to play in Gaelic football matches in West Limerick.
Frank Power of Shannon Estuary Glamping recalled his mother’s family, the McNamara’s owned a hardware shop in Kildysart and his uncles used to travel on a pony and trap to collect goods from a boat for sale in the retail outlet.
With the help of his friend Liam Halpin, Mr Power made a replica chest of what was previously used to carry goods, engraved the front lid with McNamara’s Grocery Shop, and placed loose tea and sugar into brown bags into the chest, which was sent to Glin.
He said the seeds for the Shannon Estuary Way were sown when he made a presentation about the potential of this initiative to former Tourism Minister Michael Ring and a Fáilte Ireland representative at a meeting in 2016.
Minister Ring advised him to develop accommodation and tourist attractions on the Shannon Estuary Way, which has come to fruition over the last five years.
The Loughill gift box for Labasheeda comprised of a Loughill Christmas calendar, a new Loughill Wren Boys’ bib and an underage Gerald Griffin’s GAA club jersey, Athea black and white pudding.
Loughill Development chairman, Pat Noonan, believes the links with the Banner County may go back as far as the thirties when teams from West Clare crossed the estuary to play Gaelic football.
“It was great to get an opportunity to parcel up a gift box as a gesture of good will and friendliness towards our friends on the far side of the river.
“I look across at Labasheeda every day. This initiative with create opportunities for tourists and locals from West Limerick to visit West Clare.
“The Shannon Estuary Way is a great link off the Wild Atlantic Way.”
He recalled Clare people were very impressed with what is on offer on the Limerick side of the estuary when they participated in a Shannon Estuary Way tour a few years ago.
“It was great to meet the Clare people and hear their stories on this tour. Over the years, a group of musicians from Kildysart spend an afternoon in Foynes providing a brilliant afternoon of music, song and dance in August.”
He said it is vital that all tourism related businesses on both sides of the estuary work together to make the Shannon Estuary Way an attractive destination over the coming years by developing amenities and competitive tourism packages.
He proposed this initiative should be promoted through GAA clubs, schools and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann on both sides of the river.
Abhha Bhán Parish Park chairman, Declan Hallett, said the tremendous success of the award-winning children’s playground and amenity area in Loughill showed what can be achieved in local communities.
This is illustrated by the thousands of locals and visitors who continue to travel short and long distances to use the facility including one family who travelled up from Dingle to Loughill.
Mr Hallett said the Shannon Estuary Way is the ideal platform to develop tourism-related businesses on both sides of the estuary.
He has already seen an impact with increased public awareness of what is being provided in West Clare and West Limerick through social media.
Commenting on the Gift package from Labasheeda, he said it was very fitting to see a lovely sea wall Armada Pink plant replanted at the Loughill bridge wall near the parish park.
He is confident this exchange will be the start of many more goodwill initiatives between the two communities that are separated by the estuary.
Commenting on the launch, LEADER Development Officer with Clare Local Development Company, Agnes O’Shaughnessy added: “We are thrilled with the enthusiastic response from communities to this symbolic voyage. We’re looking forward to all that is yet to emerge as the communities of the Shannon Estuary take the lead in shaping the story of their destination and coming together to share it with visitors.”
The Shannon Estuary Way is a 207km destination route created and launched by Failte Ireland in 2019, to stimulate tourism and increase visitor dwell time in the local areas that surround the Shannon Estuary. The route includes communities in the Counties of Clare, Limerick and Kerry. Further information on joining this Shannon Estuary Way Destination Development programme is available from the Tourism Space at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can register to take part at online at https://www.thetourismspace.com/sew