Heritage jewel rediscovered in Ballina

Enjoying the Jackie Clarke Collection Victorian Garden open day, in association with National Heritage Week, were Anne Marie Forbes (JCC community liaison officer), Dr Fidelma Mullan (National Heritage Council board member), Alex Hens (who designed the garden), and JCC director Sinead McCoole. Photo: Henry Wills.

Enjoying the Jackie Clarke Collection Victorian Garden open day, in association with National Heritage Week, were Anne Marie Forbes (JCC community liaison officer), Dr Fidelma Mullan (National Heritage Council board member), Alex Hens (who designed the garden), and JCC director Sinead McCoole. Photo: Henry Wills.

A rich jewel of Ireland’s heritage was unveiled for the first time to the public in Ballina to mark the conclusion of National Heritage Week on Sunday, August 26 last.

Mayo County Council hosted an open day in the heritage garden adjoining the Provincial Bank building in Ballina on Sunday afternoon. The listed building, designed in the 1880s by the renowned Thomas Manly Deane, is about to become home to the Jackie Clarke Collection – a vast and priceless collection of historical Irish material that was compiled by the late Ballina politician, Jackie Clarke.

The adjoining walled Victorian garden has also been refurbished as part of the collection's development by the council with the support of Fáilte Ireland and National Spatial Strategy Gateway and Hubs ERDF Grants 2002-2020.

When the completed facility opens later this year the garden will be accessible to all as a new urban oasis in the heart of Ballina.

Designed by Axel Hens of Mitchell+Associates and constructed by Kilcross Construction, Co Sligo, with R&R Nurseries, Foxford, Co Mayo, the beautiful garden is intended as a quiet place of reflection where visitors can contemplate Jackie Clarke’s collection as well as exploring Ireland’s rich botanical and agricultural history.

Speaking at the open day Mayor Willie Nolan said that the opening of the Clarke Collection in December will put Ballina on the map as a landmark destination.

“The onus is now on us all here in the Ballina community to take ownership of this wonderful facility in an effective way so that we can continue Jackie's great legacy into the future.”

Cllr Cyril Burke, Cathaoirleach, Mayo County Council, paid tribute to everyone involved in the creation of the garden which he described as a major asset that would complement the collection when it is opened.

Eva Dearie, Fáilte Ireland client services manager in north Mayo, remarked: “A visitor centre of this standard and quality will attract people of Irish descent and with an interest in Irish history and we would hope that they will stay on for a few additional days to tour other parts of north Mayo.”

County manager Peter Hynes said he hoped the Jackie Clarke Collection and garden would be a source of great joy to people into the future and will help to continue to enhance Ballina’s reputation as not only a national but an international attraction. He thanked the Collection’s director Sinead McCoole and her team, Failte Ireland, and the Heritage Council.

Cllr Peter Clarke, son of Jackie Clarke, said his father’s priority had always been to attract business to Ballina and he charged the public to go out and do the same by promoting the town and the Jackie Clarke Collection as a top attraction.

Noting the other speakers’ praise for his family he singled out his mother Anne and said she deserved all the credit for her generous and courageous decision to hand the collection over the council in perpetuity for the people of Ireland.

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