Damien Breslin (centre) with his Olympic Gold Medal at the launch of the 2019 Birr Year Review with members Paul Barber, Jimmy Shortt, John Molloy and Fred Boulton. Pic: Rose Mannion.
Documenting the many facets of life in Birr, the much loved and long running Birr Review was officially launched on Friday last.
Welcoming everyone to the event, Tony Hogan, MC, was delighted that “so many people turned out for the annual launch”, held in a festive Dooly's Hotel on Friday evening.
Acknowledging the unavoidable absence of its editor, Richard Kennedy, Tony described him as the man in essence “responsible for this fantastic production” before remarking on the huge amount of local organisations and groups in the Birr area, who contributed to the 2019 Birr Review.
The magazine has grown from approximately 130 pages in 2001 under the then stewardship of Michael Donegan and Martin McCarthy to 196 pages in the 2019 edition and this was a great feat, Tony was delighted to mention, before welcoming Ken Enright, President of Birr Lions Club, to the podium.
Ken enthused that Birr Lions Club was delighted to be associated with the Birr Review. “On a personal note, I am privileged to have served in a small way on the Birr Review committee. It was a privilege to see the extraordinary work the committee does. What they have achieved here tonight is fantastic. The quality of the production and the sleekness of the magazine, somewhat ironically belies the amount of effort put into it over the last six months or so. And more recently, in the last eight weeks with help from Janine Wilson, Elizabeth Fogarty, Richard and Karen. Many great articles were written and some lovely photos sent in. I would like to especially thank all the people who put the magazine together because a lot of their work is unseen.” The Lions Club president continued that the magazine had always sold very well, and a major source of funds was its advertisements. “On behalf of the Lions Club, I want to thank the businesses of the town, who contribute so generously every year when they place their adverts.” He also noted the magazine's price of just €10, which represented “great value” and has remained the same since the magazine's first publication. “These funds are then distributed to the various good causes around the Birr area,” he added. Concluding, Ken acknowledged the work of the Review's editor, Richard, who he described as “the driving force behind the magazine. And, I am sure that everyone from Birr and with Birr connections will enjoy the magazine.”
In Richard's absence, Brian Kennedy, spoke on behalf of the Birr Review 2019 committee. “It's my great pleasure to deputise on behalf of our editor, Richard, who's unavoidably absent”.
“When we look back almost 19 years, to 2001, who would have thought we would still be here, almost two decades later and that the Birr Review would be waited for by so many people through the world?
“This magazine is not just for the people of Birr but for the greater diaspora and I know that some people have come here this evening to get a copy to send a relative in Australia, New Zealand, America and England. And, it's greatly treasured by our emigrants.”
“Down through the years, it has become a record of whathas happened in Birr. Not just in the particular year that has its number on the front cover but it is a huge repository of Birr history because for twenty years, we have interviewed people, who were in their 80s and 90s; and you look back along the years, we have over one hundred yeares of history captured in the volumes. And, I know that many people go back to them as reference points and indeed I do so myself.”
According to Brian, the magazine's popularity was down to the help given by Birr Lions Club. “We are deeply appreciative to Ken and the members for the advertising and without them we would not be able to put a magazine together. Because of the work they do, it allows the group to concentrate on getting the articles in and making the magazine a success.”
Brian then paid tribute to his colleagues on the Birr Review committee; John Molloy, Anne O'Callaghan, Joe Keane, Denis Sheils, Tony Hogan, Paul Barber, Garech Dooley, Ken Enright, Mick Coughlan, Fred Boulton, Janine Wilson and Brian Hogan.
Continuing, Brian said when readers go through the 2019 magazine, they would be impressed with it as you always were. “And, hopefully, it will be a best seller because all of its profits go to charity and goes back into our local community,” he explained.
Brian then went through the various articles, interviews and accounts contained in the 2019 reviewing including a variety of human interest stories such as the touching stories from locals, Laura Sheils and Trudy Feenane, historical accounts from journalist Deirdre Verney and fantastic articles on retired nurse, Mary Breen, local business man Adrian Haines, Rachael Boyd's account of Cheltheham, John Molloy's account of DE Williams, Tom Cleary's contribution along with heart warming interviews with Mary McLoughlin and Eugene King and the wonderful contributions by Tony and Margaret Hogan and also the Review's former editor, Michael Donegan.
“On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank all of the members particularly Janine Wilson, who has put so much work into this over the last number of years and Elizabeth Fogarty, who did so much of the proof reading. To Karen, without her, we wouldn't have a magazine. We have all the articles, files and photos but it's Karen, who puts the magazine together for us. I would like to pay tribute to her genius in that field. So thank you all very much.”
Brian then thanked the magazine's many contributors, without whom there would be no magazine. “People have always been willing to contribute and it's a very rare occasion that we have ever asked anyone to contribute an article and it hasn't come in. We would like to thank our advertisers, who have shown such wonderful support for the magazine over the years.
“It is a great record of Birr life. You have a record of school life, parish life, weddings; sadly, of our parishioners and people of the town who have passed away over the last 12 months and will be remembered, noting in particularly our stalwart member, Tony McLoughlin, who for so many years was such a staunch member of the group; and then all the local groups and organisations in the town.”
Looking forward to 2020, Brian firstly noted the forthcoming 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Parsons family in Birr, to be celebrated in July and the arrival of the Methodist community to Emmet Street two hundred years ago and the 40th anniversary of the opening of St Brendan's Community School, Birr, which will be marked in January next. “On behalf of our group, I would like to extend seasons greetings to everyone and to declare the Birr Review launched,” he added.