ROSCREA has produced some extraordinarily talented people in modern times and the 32nd annual People of the Year Awards last week added a new list of recipients to the hallowed roll-call of those nominated over the last three decades.
The very well attended Awards ceremony in Racket Hall last Wednesday night was a very proud moment in the lives of the recipients and for their families, who came out in large numbers to attend the evening, with main sponsors Bernie’s SuperValu and associate sponsors Roscrea Heritage Society, Roscrea Credit Union and Rocktop Consulting.
When one looks back over the long list of previous recipients, it stirs up a swell of pride in community and place and reminds us that hard work and good deeds are happening all year round and all around us – often carried out by people with little concern for reward or recognition.
However, nobody has their finger more on the pulse of Roscrea’s community than George and Carmel Cunningham, who through their Roscrea People Foundation have acknowledged so much effort and devotion to community causes that otherwise might have slipped by unnoticed.
George and Carmel carefully select the recipients every year and the criteria to earn an Award is not always predictable, which makes the list of recipients every year very interesting, by merit of the vast range of activities that are acknowledged and all happening in a small rural town.
Every year citations are also included for people who may have been acknowledged by the Roscrea People before, but whose good work continues and is deserving of being further highlighted as an exemplar of how the success of the community is often driven by the hard work of individuals.
This year’s Roscrea Citizen of the Year was John ‘Barney’ Loughnane for so many community tasks which he performed “with no fuss” throughout the year and Barney, who is known by everyone in Roscrea as a softly spoken gentleman, was very moved to receive his reward.
Barney has overcome many personal challenges, but his love for his community sees him out in all weather working on maintaining the beautiful flowers and shrubs that enhance the town’s streets. In the past he has worked on the farm in Monaincha once owned by George Fasenfeld, the now deceased founder of the Antigen company, as well as in the Roscrea Bacon Factory and as security in the Roscrea Centre shopping mall.
Barney has also fundraised for Ais Eirí and volunteers much of his time to Roscrea Tidy Towns and he works for free in the Abbey Hall’s charity bookshop and with the Roscrea Hurling teams – a sport he is deeply passionate about and played for many years with great success.
John Curry from Sheehane received the Roscrea Neighbour of the Year. John, who describes himself as a “blow-in from Clare,” met his beloved wife, who passed away after a battle with cancer in 2017, in the Pathe Hotel in 1979.
During his years in Roscrea he ran a small fruit and vegetables shop on Main Street, started a haulage company and has worked in security in many Roscrea establishments. He has lived in Sheehane for 35 years and is part of the bedrock of that small community.
Andrew Walsh, who has become so well known for his work with Chernobyl Lifeline, Roscrea Youth Club and the dramatic societies received a well deserved award this year. Originally from the tiny townland of Ballytoran near Shinrone, Andrew and his wife Mary are very well known for their transport business and Andrew is one of the most loved performers to ever tread the boards with Roscrea Operatic and Musical Societies.
Colaiste Phobal’s All-Ireland Junior Camogie Champions were also honoured this year, after their titanic win against Athenry last February and European and Irish Champion Dart Player, Shane O’Hara also received an award – proving again this year that Roscrea produces some of the country’s best sports stars.
Receiving a citation this year was Dom Laurence Walsh, osco, who aged almost 90 has recently published a new book, Slí na Manach. George Cunningham said that Dom Laurence’s monastic life has been exemplary and described him as a “faithful monk at all times.”
2018 was also a hugely successful year for the Anne Callanan Senior 8 Hand Ceili Dancers, who received an award in recognition of their success at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Drogheda in August last. The dancers won the coveted senior Ceili title and danced with the cast of Riverdance in the Gaiety Theatre last July during a 12-hour danceathon.
The Lions Club of Roscrea also received a citation this year for providing 50 years of service to the community. Over the last year the group created the Business and Services Directory for Roscrea, as well as several charitable projects, including a third world food appeal and Christmas food appeal.
Over Christmas just gone the Lions Club delivered 100 food hampers to people in the Roscrea community and during the year ran the Rosemary Project, which to date has helped 25 local families create special family memories.
This year’s Awards ceremony also featured a very informative talk by George Cunningham on recent research into Roscrea people of the past and an update on historical projects undertaken over the last year.
A large donation of books was also made, adding to the over 67,000 books the Roscrea People group have already donated since 1987 to Dr Aisling Butler Memorial Library in the Sacred Heart Primary School and to schools, institutions and various causes locally, regionally and nationally.