As Heritage Week 2023 culminated on Sunday last, Pauline Grenham, a member of the Connaught Street and Environs Traders and Residents Group, reflected upon a myriad of events which were hosted to celebrate the history and traditions of one of Athlone’s most important routes.
“Connaught Street, a vital vein of Athlone’s western side, elegantly arcs from O’Connell Street to Magazine Road. Beyond its curve lie a network of lanes connecting neighbouring areas. For centuries, this historic street has been the heart of several local estates.
“Its architecture, including structures dating back 100-200 years or more, exudes a rich heritage. To many Athlonians, Connaught Street holds cherished memories and significance.
“In celebration of this storied past, we embarked on our Heritage Week journey on August 12. Our street exhibition unveiled vintage photographs, literary excerpts from renowned poets, novelists, and playwrights linked to our street’s legacy. Empty storefronts showcased local artistry, while information boards on derelict units narrated the numerous tales of Connaught Street.
“The week bore witness to the Athlone literary theatre trail, with contributions from Gearóid O’Brien and Chrissie Killian transporting us through characters from John Broderick’s novels, Des Egan’s poetry, John Killeen’s book and beyond, all narrated atop a traditional horse and cart.
“Liam Kildea illuminated us with a presentation on the Uí Máine kingdom, weaving together the geology of Connaught with ancient myths, history, and their relevance to our beloved street and the broader region.
“Our ‘Save Our Street’ evening at the Shamrock Lodge Hotel fostered community dialogue. The Connaught Street Community Group laid out their vision for the street’s future. This interactive forum, graced by several councillors from Westmeath, Roscommon, and Minister Peter Burke of Longford-Westmeath, resolved to pause building sales until a robust urban renewal strategy is in place.
“The week continued with Gearóid O’Brien’s captivating walking tour, which resonated with both history buffs and casual visitors.
“August 20 marked the conclusion of Heritage Week with an ambience laden street party. Lowe and Co’s market displayed a medley of crafts from pottery to weaving. Free treats, the wonderful Pipe Bank marching band, talented children sean nós dancers, Athlone GAA club members and more, graced both Connaught and O’Connell Street.
“As we basked in the festivities, we said farewell to Connaught Street’s inaugural Heritage Week celebration and remain dedicated towards furthering a positive vision for the future of Connaught Street and its environs,” Pauline enthused.