Unique heritage of brick-making in Pollagh celebrated in new book

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ger.scully@tullamoretribune.ie

THE fascinating history of brick-making in Pollagh has been documented in a new publication penned by local author, Caitriona Devery.

“The story of Brickmaking in Pollagh’” is the brainchild of the area’s Heritage Group who have painstakingly collected written documents from a wide variety of sources together with written and recorded interviews with those who worked in the industry.

The publication was launched on Sunday afternoon by the Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, Cllr Peter Ormond who lauded the heritage group for not alone having the vision to recognise the importance of the past but to document it.

“Unlike many industrial processes the brickfields are hard to see in the landscape now and but for the production of this book the story of what happened here around 100 years ago could become faded and the details,” said Cllr Ormond.

Master of Ceremonies, Eamonn Dunican, speaking at the outset of proceedings in the packed community centre, said the book was a fitting testament to the people who toiled in the brickfields to mark their immense contribution to the community.

“We here in Pollagh have a unique heritage with the canal, the bogs and the brick making and we are starting to wake up to this and be proud of it and have in recognised,” stressed Mr Dunican.

The GAA stalwart asked: “How many communities can say that their homes, their school and church were built not alone by local hands but that the very basic raw material, the bricks contained in its walls were hand-made in local brickyards by Pollagh men and women?”

Susan Rountree, a Conservation Architect and expert in brick making, who collaborated with the author, said the publication was “really important” and congratulated all members of Pollagh Heritage Group.

Author Caitriona Devery said the publication was really “a team effort” and she extended thanks to all those who had assisted in particular Ms Rountree, architect Fergal MacCabe, geologist John Feehan and Offaly Heritage Officer, Amanda Pedlow.

She revealed that the publication had appeared a bit later than expected but suggested it “would make a wonderful Christmas stocking filler.”

A poem written by Ferbane native Tom Murtagh, on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Pollagh church recounting the area’s associations with brick making, was read to the appreciative audience by Niamh Delaney.

Formally launching the publication, Cllr Peter Ormond stressed the council had been “pleased to be involved in the professional documentation of such an extraordinary part of Offaly’s past.”

Before concluding proceedings, the M.C. quoted from a Tribune article published in 1949 on brickmaking in the area: “Let us salute those true sons of our native soil, the families of traditional craftsmen of Pollagh, Macken and Falsk who were ever the backbone of our society. Hats off to them and long may their industrious race survive and take pride in the work of their hands.”

“The story of Brickmaking in Pollagh’”, priced at €15, is available locally and from Offaly History Centre, Tullamore.

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