Odhran (9) and Evan (7) O'Reilly play at war in the award-winning WW1 Trench Experience at the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff.

Family fun with an educational twist at Cavan County Museum

Just before the children went back to school (hurrah!), I set about righting a wrong. To my shame, I had never visited the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff, despite several invitations and threatening to do so on many occasions.

I took the family on a trip to the museum to survey its many wonders, artefacts and exhibitions spanning 5,000 years of history from the county, country and internationally.

There were a few groans and heavy sighs in the car when I said where we were going. I had promised them a day trip and a museum didn't quite elicit the excited squeals Tayto Park might have done.

The drive home was much more animated – with plenty of chatter about the many interesting things they had observed and, of course, endless questions. A positive result!

There was something for everyone – mammy and the children – a girl and four boys (aged seven to 14 years) across expansive grounds and three floors of exhibits in a beautiful Georgian building formerly owned by the St Clare's order of nuns.

The highlights, of course, were the award-winning World War I trench experience, the largest trench replica in Ireland and the UK and the facade of the GPO as part of the 1916 Easter Rising exhibition.

While the seven and nine year olds scurried around the trenches playing snipers (it makes a freshing change from Fortnite), the older children had some of their school history lessons leap to life and marvelled at the display. It was the same too for the 1916 exhibition – most children had some level of knowledge on this period of history having engaged in many school projects as part of the centenary celebrations in 2016.

They all loved the GAA exhibit – whether it was giggling at some of the football boots from the 50s or staring in awe at Ulster and All-Ireland medals and daring to dream.

With three soccer players in the group – the Lipton Cup was a big draw, even more so when the boys were informed by curate Savina Donohoe of its value today at around €300,000! The Cup was sponsored by Liptons of Clones and won, only once, in 1914 by an Enniskillen club. In the years that followed, with the outbreak of WWI and the Easter Rising, the cup went missing but resurfaced some years ago during the Taste of Cavan festival when it was entrusted to the Cavan County Museum.

The youngest of the group – a seven year old boy – was captivated by a model famine ship, commissioned by the museum earlier this year and built by a German man Werner Geyer who now lives in Lisburn.

It is a stunning piece featuring intricate detail and must have taken hundreds, if not thousands of man hours and patients to produce.

Mammy was delighted to learn that it also contained a time capsule, which includes a page from The Anglo-Celt newspaper during Covid!

The halls and rooms on two floors upstairs also held many wonders from Medieval times to the Irish Famine and a Folklife Gallery and, in terms of more local flavour, the Farnham and Percy French galleries.

Again the various military memorabilia (particularly guns and weapons) from different eras were a big hit with the boys.

And to burn off some more energy before the trip home, there is a wonderful playground outside and the Nun's Walk around the grounds. If it's a nice day, you could bring a picnic; if not, the museum boasts and charming coffee shop, not to mention a museum shop and large exhibition space.

Coronavirus restrictions have put the skids on some of the museum's events but something special is being planned for Culture Night (within guidelines). Watch this space.

The Cavan County Museum's revised opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm. It's closed on Sundays and Mondays. A family entry is most reasonable at just €14 – plenty of value for money and something to interest everyone.

We will certainly be back!

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