Drenched in history, Swinford has a rich cultural heritage dating back to 1769 and beyond, and this was celebrated in style on the June bank holiday weekend, 2019. In 2019, in a year-long celebration of its history as a bustling market town in the heart of East Mayo, the people of Swinford are throwing open their arms and inviting anyone with a connection to the town and county to visit and participate in Swinford 250 and More.
The Swinford 250 and More History, Heritage, Folklore & Tradition Festival was an opportunity for Swinford town, its people and surrounding communities to showcase everything positive Swinford has to offer. The purpose of the festival was to reconnect with their past and to collect an archive for the benefit of the town, its people, future generations, the Mayo community abroad and the wider Irish Diaspora. The organised events attracted a wide interest from every corner of the world, and over one hundred members of the diaspora returned from abroad and many former residents of the Swinford area, living elsewhere in Ireland, also returned to the town for this very special weekend.
Here is a recap of the weekend with some links to follow for your interest.
This Bank Holiday Festival launch took place in the Cultural Centre on Friday the 31st May. Everyone was welcome. This also saw the launch of the Swinford History & Heritage Guide. The Swinford 250 committee, in association with members of Swinford Historical Society, compiled this guide to Swinford town and surrounding areas, which provides a brief outline of Swinford’s historical points and places of interest for people to visit.
The booklet is now available in the Swinford 250 shop and a number of other locations in Swinford.
This exhibition was held in Swinford 250 & More office in Market Street, Swinford over the weekend. “Looking Back Through The Lens” was a photographic display of Swinford’s past events, through the decades. The photographs were from the Duffy family archive, who for three generations, were the photographers in the town.
This evening welcomed home all visitors to the town for this special weekend and provided returning diaspora and visitors with a night of music, stories and fun.
The Story of Our Town” School’s History Competition was open to fourth, fifth and sixth class pupils of primary schools located in the district of Swinford. The competition aimed to encourage pupils to delve into the rich historical archive of the last 250 years of their native town. The competition was a huge success with a number of successful projects being awarded prizes.
Barnacogue NS Winners: Lucy Gallagher, Sarah Henry, Maríosa Gallagher, Katie Gormley & Róisín Gormley.
Midfield winners: Rhona Brennan Katie Mullaney Marvel Brennan Niall Kennedy Liam Cunney
Meelick winners: Aoibheann O Rourke Alice Roughneen Lesley Lavin Aoife Mulroy
Kinaffe winner: Robert Reid
Each school was presented with a €250 cheque, to spend as they wish.
This Mass celebrated everyone past and present from Swinford and the surrounding areas and was available live around the world through its web link. The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Martin Jennings and music was provide by Francie Campbell McNicholas.
A preview of film footage and interviews collected over the past three years from every corner of the world was screened and gave a unique insight into the social and historical story of a community and its culture in Mayo during the 40s, 50s and 60s. Breege Rowley’s “All Our Yesterdays” gave the viewer a look back into what life was like and what “community” meant to each family at this time, via the visual recording of many elderly characters and through access to their personal photographs and cine film archives. The night saw a full house pack the room with a lot of laughter and nostalgia.
“The American Wake” was an emigration custom that seems to be unique to Ireland. It was most common in the south and west of the country although it had different names. To the Irish speakers of Mayo it was known as “the feast of departure”. If a family could raise only enough money for one passage, the ticket would be bought in the name of the eldest son or daughter. When that son or daughter arrived in America and got a job, money would be sent back to Ireland to help the family pay the rent and eventually to buy another passage for a younger brother or sister.
Swinford 250’s American Wake was an upbeat and fun event. It was more of a farewell to our returned visitors and to tie up the weekend with great local traditional music, and Ceol Agus Craic! The night was celebrated with stories, songs, music and a wee dram of the hard stuff and was a night, which showcased Swinford’s incredible musical talent. There was a live video link available and people from all over the world joined in with the celebrations. This link is still available to view:
This was a family day, which everyone enjoyed by getting out and getting active. This lovely run was well organised with a great showcase of homemade baking by the parents of the school. Josephine from local business Sheer Fitness conducted an online warm-up in the days preceding the event and Michelle Malone from The Health Hub took to the stage to lead everyone in the warm up before the run.
As part of this community event a defibrillator was unveiled in remembrance of Rosaleen Groarke. This defibrillator was sponsored by Closer to the Heart Project and money raised through local contribution and sponsorships. It was a poignant occasion for the Groarke and Tunney families and indeed the whole community. Thanks to all the sponsors and partners who supported events.
Everyone is looking forward to next year’s event same time, same place!