BUSY YEAR FOR KAVANAGH CENTRE
Art Agnew has taken on the mantle of Patrick Kavanagh. The former English teacher who was Principal of the St Louis school in Carrickmacross until 2005 is one of a team of volunteers behind the Kavanagh Centre in the former Catholic chapel in Inniskeen. It was officially opened by President Robinson in June 1994. Twenty years later President Higgins visited the building for the Kavanagh weekend in September 2014. He said the poet brought the Ireland of his and our times, with both its beauty and its savagery, into our consciousness. Now Art is hoping some of the initiatives they have taken as a committee will bring tangible results to boost this area of South Monaghan.
An annual poetry award for secondary school students in the border area first presented in 1984 is to be expanded and will now be open to secondary school students throughout the island of Ireland. It is being sponsored by Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board. Noel Monahan will be one of the adjudicators. Art explained that in the past, if a student or school from Dublin or Waterford had submitted an entry, then it would have to be sent back, albeit very reluctantly. Now they are hoping they will receive entries from throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Towards the end of last year, the Patrick Kavanagh Centre team were among the first to show an interest when ‘Billy Brennan’s Barn’ at Drumnanaliv near Inniskeen that featured in one of Kavanagh’s poems was put up for sale through a local auctioneer. The barn was used for unofficial dances in the 1930s and 1940s. The poem ‘Inniskeen Road: July evening’ is well-known among generations of Leaving Certificate students as it featured in the Irish curriculum since the early 1970s. Art is very hopeful that some form of state funding can be obtained to preserve this building. But one of his main concerns is the future of the visitor centre.
Talking to him and administrator Rosaleen Kearney in the small office at the centre, it is clear that 2015 will be an important year for their plans. First, they are hoping to reconfigure the layout of the building in order to display its contents in a more exciting way for visitors. But it will be necessary to make this old church dating to 1820 watertight. A conservation expert has just completed a survey of the building. He has found that the existing physical environment is not suitable at present in order to house the material in the exhibition. So capital investment is needed to make the display secure and safe. The accommodation for staff and visitors also needs to be improved, according to the report.
In the past the centre received support from the International Fund for Ireland and is hoping that other sources of support can now be found. The committee would like to see the material they have stored made available in a library for postgraduate students in particular. They are hoping to establish a lecture space and audiovisual area. If their plans succeed, they hope it will give a boost to tourism in South Monaghan.
For the past two years with the support of Carol Lambe of Monaghan County Council, an Inniskeen Road, July Evening festival has taken place, with visitors encouraged to tour the sites associated with Kavanagh on High Nellie bicycles. So thanks to Art Agnew, Rosaleen Kearney and an active committee, a lot is being done to keep the memory of Kavanagh alive.