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Richard Maxted, a member of Quin Heritage Group captured this image of Quin Friary in recent weeks.

Tracing Quin’s fascinating history and heritage

A BIRD’S eye view on the past is what a dedicated group of Quin residents are hoping to share, after a year spent delving into the fascinating heritage and history of the area. 

With the restrictions of lockdown putting a new focus on everything local, many communities have had the opportunity to find out more about their immediate environs. A thriving village with many non-native residents, Quin also boasts an abundance of features of historical interest.

These stretch back into the Bronze Age and the Knocknafearbreaga Alignment of standing stones close to Clooney. They also include Magh Adhair, the inauguration site of the Dalcassian O’Briens and, of course, the magnificent Franciscan friary, dating to the 1400s. 

As lockdown began to ease last year, Quin Heritage Group was born. Almost 12 months later, a committee of four have gathered a wealth of images, videos, articles and surveys which they have made available through a state-of-the-art website.

Yvonne Gallagher, Siobhán O’Sullivan, Michael Houlihan and Richard Maxted came together with a wide skillset and a shared interest in the heritage of Quin. 

“We got great support from Congella McGuire, the Heritage Officer, and her team, as well as Séamus Murrihy,” Yvonne said.

“We thought there was great potential here in Quin for a heritage group and we were delighted to get a grant to carry out an audit of all of the items of interest in the area.

“After that, I got in touch with Michael and Siobhán who are historians. We knew Quin was steeped in history, but what we found out was amazing. I didn’t go to National School here, so I probably didn’t get the chance to learn about the local history. We’ve been on a huge learning curve.”

After the audit, the group rolled up their sleeves producing a video on the history of Quin and recoding video interviews with the area’s older generations.

All of these have been shared thanks to Yvonne’s interest in technology. As well as her interest in learning about the rich history of Quin, she brought decades of IT experience to the Heritage Group.

“I worked for 20 to 30 years in IT and then took some time out and learned how to build a website,” she said.

The site (Quinheritage.ie) is now a showcase for the vast array of features of interest and a way of sharing research, photos and studies with a wide community. “I’m really enjoying it,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun so far and we really want to build on what we’ve been doing.”

A native of Kerry, Michael was the man commissioned to audit the archaeology and history of Quin.

“I had taken a course of Reading the Local Landscape with Zena Hoctor and that was marvellous,” he said.

“I used a lot of what I learned to look at the physical landscape of the area and identify the sites of interest. I live in Quin, but I was only really aware of how rich in heritage the area is once I had collated all of the research.”

To Michael, the famous Quin Abbey is at the heart of the area’s attractions.
“The friary really is central,” he said. “It has an enormous and rich history. It’s the cake in the middle of the party. It’s actually built on a castle which was built by Thomas de Clare.

“The bastions and curtain walls are still visible. The MacNamaras sponsored the building of the Franciscan friary and it lasted until the Reformation.

“In fact, a monk called Thomas Hogan was there until the late 19th century. Richie, who came on board with his drone equipment, has captured incredible imagery of the building and Siobhán wrote the original history in the 1990s.”

Siobhán has been bringing History alive as a teacher at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Tulla. She recalls publishing the first Quin Abbey history in around 1998.

“I had mountains of handwritten notes and then typed them on my brother’s laptop, he had one because he was working in Dell,” she recalled.

“I was so immersed in the history, I used to come out of the room crying and my late father would ask me what was wrong. It was the fact that the history was so moving.”

Another moving incident in mid-19th century is the inequality among those who lived in Quin.

“During the Famine, and right at the very worst of it in 1847, a landlord in the area actually held a ball which was attended by the other landlords in the locality,” Siobhán said. “That was going on while the ordinary people of Quin were crying out in anguish. It was really inhumane.”

Siobhán is also working on a book on her late grandmother. “That’s going to be historical fiction,” she explained. “That’s because there are parts of her story that we don’t know. I’m really enjoying being immersed in writing that.”

As well as being passionate about History and English, Siobhán has also looked after the hugely popular Cairde programme.

That scheme invites older citizens to lend their wisdom and knowledge to school pupils.

“I’ve always though it’s so important to capture stories from our older citizens who have learned so much in their lifetimes,” she said.

“I have some video interviews, that I did with my iPhone, on the website and I’m lining up some more. This really brings history alive. You can read about history in a text book, but there’s nothing like hearing from someone who has lived it. People also enjoy sharing their wisdom and insights and being recognised for them.”

As well as historical knowledge and IT skills, Quin Heritage Group also boasts a member with a great eye for a photo.

Richard Maxted has lived in the village for 22 years and has enjoyed learning about history through his passion for photography.

“I’m the out and about man, the photography guy in the group,” he said. “I’ve found out about so many things from going out talking to farmers. There’s network of caves in the area that’s fascinating. There’s so much in this area.”

Taking photos and videos of the stunning location is a labour of love for Richard.

“Every minute, I’m taking photos and I’ve always been really interested in photography,” he said.

“Last year, I bought my first drone and crashed it one day one of using it! I got another one and the footage it can capture is incredible. In the past, this kind of stuff could only be done from a helicopter. The MacNamaras themselves would never have seen the areas from this perspective.”

Given the amount of material gathered by Quin Heritage Group, it is hard to believe they have only been working together for a year.

“We have a broad range of skills and we really bounce off yachter other,” Richard said. “We’ve brought different interests and views and really got stuck in.”

Siobhán agreed that the last 12 months have been very enjoyable. “It’s a lovely group and being involved is very sociable,” she said. “We’re like-minded and we want to leave this information for future generations. I’m retiring in a couple of years and want to put my skills to good use. We’re also really hoping of more people to come forward with any old documents or photos. We’d love more people to join us.”

Given the wealth of archaeological features in Quin, the group has no shortage of future plans.

Among these is a shared goal of developing interpretative facilities for the friary. For now, the wheels have been put in motion and there are hopes that an app or even a visitor centre could be on the horizon.

“At the moment, we’re looking at creating a script on the history of the friary and the archaeological features like the cloister and the graves,” Michael explained. “Richard will record it and ti will run to six or seven minutes.”

There’s also the Norman tower house Dangean Uí Bhighín, which dates to the mid 15th century.

“It’s quite close to the old national school and it’s MacNamara territory,” Michael said.

“It’s been empty since Cromwellian times its in a terrible, and quite dangerous condition at the moment. It’s in the heart of a forest and we’re looking into ideas for what we could do on it.”

The enthusiasm of the heritage group is infectious and they are keen to recruit new members.

“What we’re doing is really worthwhile,” Yvonne said. “Everyone is so nice and we’d love to get more people involved. You don’t need to know about history, you can learn that you go along.”

The group can be contacted by email to quinheritagegroup@gmail.com or through the Contact Us form on the website. 

Quin Heritage Group have also paid tribute to the support of The Heritage Council and Quin Tidy towns.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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