President opens George Eogan Heritage & Community Centre

Tue 5th Jul, 2016 | 15:00
location: Nobber, Co. Meath

Speech at the opening of the George Eogan Cultural and Heritage Centre

Nobber, Co Meath, 5 July 2016

Tá áthas orm a bheith anseo sa bhaile stairiúil seo, An Obair, d’oscailt oifigúil agus páirc a glacadh i searmanas ainmnithe an Ionad Chultúrtha agus ainm George Eogan a ceiliúradh trí ainmnuí.

[I am delighted to be here today in the historic village of Nobber to celebrate with you the opening and naming ceremony of the new Cultural and Heritage Centre and its naming as the George Eogan Centre.]

May I thank Andy Reilly chairperson of the Heritage Committee and his colleagues Olive Primrose, Colm Monaghan and Richard Clarke for their kind invitation to join you here to celebrate this landmark day for heritage and all of you for the wonderfully warm welcome you have afforded me.

It gives me great pleasure to witness those occasions in which communities have come together to restore, preserve and indeed re-imagine and give new life to significant buildings and spaces which have such power to connect them with a common past. Such projects of historical preservation are important and valuable communal experiences, recognising, as they do, that places such as this beautiful old church provide unique portals into a shared and complex past, all the richer for its complexity.

All areas will have their own treasures – their old castles or schoolhouses or courthouses or, indeed, churches such as this one, important resources that allow us to understand the history that shapes our community and helps us to take a real pride in playing our part in the ongoing evolution of that community.

I greatly commend, therefore, the St. John’s Old Cemetery Restoration Group, who came together voluntarily in 2004 with the initial objective of cleaning up the old cemetery and conserving its walls and pathway. 

During the course of that work, came the exciting discovery of artefacts from the early Bronze Age to the late medieval period.  It is important that we and any future heritage enthusiasts know that this great find came about through the generous community spirit of the residents of Nobber. As they came together for that cleaning, with an initial objective of preserving their historic cemetery, by doing so they uncovered a new treasure and resource.

I am also deeply grateful to all those involved with the Restoration Group for recognising the responsibility of not only conserving and protecting these valuable artefacts but also in presentation of them, to do so in a meaningful way i.e.  in the context of the rich archaeological, historical and cultural heritage of the area.

The restoration of St. John’s church where we are gathered today has not only enabled this important building to occupy, once more, an important place in the life of this village. It has also allowed for the appropriate display of these beautiful artefacts in a manner which respects and reinforces their profound connection to the rich heritage of Nobber village.

It is, of course, through the dedicated work of archaeologists, that we garner so much of our comprehension about that which has gone before. We cannot rely solely on written accounts of the past if we are to aspire towards a fuller understanding of the chapters of human history which preceded our own.  The ordinary, the mundane, that may be considered unimportant or unworthy of official record is part of our inherited past. Yet it is the stuff of everyday which so often creates compelling and rich social patterns that allow us a profound insight into the past and an understanding as to how it has shaped and influenced the present.

It is greatly fitting, therefore, that this important new facility is to be named after the distinguished archaeologist Professor George Eogan; a man who Nobber is very proud to claim as ‘one of its own’.

George Eoghan’s achievements are numerous. He has been Professor of Archaeology in University College Dublin and has served on a number of national and international councils and committees.  He is a former Meath Person of the Year and served for a period as a member of Seanad Éireann. His academic accolades include being awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Irish Academy and, among his many other honours, was the conferral of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature by the University of Dublin (Trinity College).

George has also played a major role in the enhancement of our knowledge of the rich heritage of County Meath. Perhaps best known are his epic excavations of the prehistoric passage tomb complex at Knowth in Brú na Bóinne that were carried out over a 50 year period – certainly the longest running excavation ever to be undertaken in this country. We look forward to reading the next instalment of the Knowth story which I believe is due to be published shortly.

While those achievements are, indeed, very impressive; equally impressive is the inspiration and generous guidance which George has contributed to the community’s endeavours here in Nobber. It is by public acclaim that the new Heritage Centre has been named in his honour, and that is a great and moving tribute of which George can be very proud.

Indeed, the entire community of Nobber can be very proud as you celebrate, today the culmination of twelve years of committed and dedicated work which has provided an authentic link between contemporary Nobber and its rich heritage.

Projects such as this one cannot be brought to fruition without much community effort and willing and active participation by all its members. This new Cultural and Heritage Centre is a clear statement, by the people of Nobber, of the value they place on the buildings and spaces and objects which silently speak of our heritage and which hold such a wealth of information on the background and circumstances which have shaped our history.

This has been a true project in applied citizenship; one which will stand as a great legacy by today’s community of Nobber to generations of Irish people to come. Today we celebrate a wonderful recovery of heritage and history.

In conclusion, may I thank you all once again for the generous welcome you have given me today. It is indeed uplifting to see so many people here today and to realise how much this new centre means to the entire community of Nobber.

Is mian liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh libh ar fad, agus sibh a mholadh as bhur gcuid oibre athchóirithe a chur i gcrích, agus as bhur bhfís a chintigh go mbeadh Eaglais Naomh Eoin ann do mhuintir Na hOibre sna mblianta amach romhainn.

[I congratulate and commend you all on the successful completion of this valuable restorative work, and the great vision which has ensured the ongoing relevance of St John’s Church as it begins a new chapter of its life in Nobber village.]

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.