Killeshandra Tidy Town Heritage Group have won national recognition based on their work re-imagining the 1911 Census

Local town gets to know their neighbours... from 1911

Thomas Lyons

The efforts of a Killeshandra community group were acknowledged at a national level when they scooped a top award in the 2020 Heritage Week awards.

Individuals, families and community groups across Ireland who preserve, protect and promote Ireland’s built, natural and cultural heritage are recognised in the National Heritage Awards.

The 2020 Heritage Week events were shaped by the restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19. A total of 770 heritage groups and enthusiasts developed projects on year’s theme of 'Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage' that respected those restrictions.

Comprising online talks and exhibitions, videos, podcasts, slideshow presentations, blogs, websites, social media accounts, as well as small, restricted social gatherings, more than 850 projects were submitted.

Killeshandra won the 'Heritage on Your Doorstep' award. This project saw the Killeshandra Census of 1911 researched and used to sketch the town as it appeared at that time. The Killeshandra Tidy Town Heritage Group produced sketches, old photos and census records detailing the houses, shops, and public buildings and people who lived in the town.

The result is a valuable resource for learning about the town’s cultural and built heritage and for genealogy research for visitors.

Thérèse Teevan was one of The Killeshandra Tidy Town Heritage Group who worked on the project that sought to “bring people closer to the lives of the people captured on the 1911 census”.

Thérèse said the 2020 project contrasted greatly with previous undertakings: “This year it was quite different, normally we host a big event in Heritage Week, but this year we had to think about things a little differently,” she explained.

The Killeshandra project utilised the national archives website to build up a picture of the town from over a century ago: “The census gives you a lot of information about what the buildings looked like. Whether they were thatched, how many windows they had, how many stories they were.

“I did research on the census and built up a picture of names that have gone from Killeshandra. Some big shops that are no longer here. We were able to do a socially distanced community get together when the lockdown was lifted. We got older people to tell us of the different buildings that have changed and the younger people took down the notes,” Thérèse said of the project.

“A lot of changes have happened in the last 50 years. The older people drew pictures in the minds of everyone who listened about what the town used to look like. There were many old photographs that added to that picture.”

The project adds to a lot of heritage work already completed by The Killeshandra Tidy Town Heritage Group: “It's an ongoing thing. We hope at some point to have a heritage centre in Killeshandra where all the data we have compiled can be accessioned by visitors looking for genealogical information,” Thérèse concluded.

Killeshandra was not the only Cavan project acknowledged at this year’s awards. Each county also has a winner and the 2020 Cavan victor was the Cavan's Historic Graveyard Network who undertook a project 'Meet The Caretakers'.

Three Caretakers of Historic Graveyards created a fascinating virtual tour of historic graveyards in the county. The three short videos introduced the viewer to the people who look after, protect, research and promote their local historic graveyards in the county, and in doing so undertake invaluable work.

The award ceremony hosted by the Heritage Council took place virtually and was presented by RTÉ broadcaster, Anne Cassin.