THE year was 1971 and Offaly were to capture their first ever All-Ireland football title with Walsh Island’s Willie Bryan lifting the elusive Sam Maguire cup.
Edenderry town (with a population of 3,500) was ticking over nicely and moving with the times and the industrial revolution. The Show Factory was at capacity production with 500 employees. Group Textiles were flying and so too was Mangan’s Coach Works, Killane Engineering, the O’Brien Group with steady traditional employment also provided by Bord Na Mona and ESB.
1971 was also the year that a concert was organised to raise funds to send local people on a trip to Lourdes. The concert, while featuring all the local talent was spearheaded by a five year Boy Wonder, a singing sensation from Kilcullen named Michael Landers.
Riding high in the charts with a number entitled, “If I Could Be a Sailor Man” he became the youngest recording artist in the world making his first record before making his First Communion. He was managed by a young Edenderry man Kevin Farrell, who, fortunately for the Lourdes Committee was involved in the organising of the concert.
Sean Norman, still making music around the globe was also on the bill with great artists like the late Kevin Nolan, Ben Nolan, Mickey Hynes, George B Kane, Joey Ryan and many, many more.
The above Edenderry industries with the exception of BNM and ESB are long since gone, but the Lourdes Committee are still going, and having battled to keep afloat through very lean times one their founding members recalled this week how they have managed to send almost 600 people to the Holy Shrine since their inception.
The fare to Lourdes back then was forty-three pounds sterling and resulting from the concert the committee were able to send three people. Founding member, Margaret Tierney who is still at the helm recalled how there was 15 pounds left over from the concert money after paying the fares and they gave the people who were travelling five pounds each spending money.
Other fundraising events were to follow such as Bazaars, Fashion Shows, the Christmas Raffle that still runs, cycle rallies and Allen Players under Edenderry born priest Fr Tommy O’Reilly also performed to raise funds. A localised ‘This Is Your Life’ programme on the late and legendary Fr John McWey was organised and presented by Fr McEvoy and this too was a huge success.
Another former curate Fr Kevin O’Neill was in the process of organising the first trip but when he was transferred his replacement Fr PJ McEvoy became involved and worked tirelessly with the committee for twelve years before being transferred from Edenderry in 1984.
Early members along with Margaret Tierney included Maureen Malone, Mary Gleeson and Patsy Bryan all now deceased. Nurse Maura Fanning soon came on board and since then has missed out on just two trips through a tragic bereavement and sudden illness. While still only teenagers Geraldine Gormley (now Farrell) and Eilish O’Grady joined and still help out.
One of the chief fundraisers over the decades is Monica Phelan who has travelled the length and breath of the country in all weathers visiting pubs, clubs and stores and is still going strong.
Margaret Tierney has been the real driving force behind the committee since day one and despite being seriously injured in a road traffic accident some years ago she is still the driving force. But Margaret’s modestly after four decades of dedication only allows her to shower praise on everyone else.
“Where does one start. There are so many people to thank,” explained Margaret.
She said that the fundraisers and the helpers who travel with the pilgrims each year are the real people who make it all possible. She talked of the youth helpers, the Entertainers Commemorative Committee, the late Mickey Seery for his transport arrangements, a service still continued today by the Seery family. She spoke of all the fundraising events and Dr Brady’s assistance with cycle rallies.
She extended a special word of thanks to the former Edenderry Shoe Factory social club who sent dozens of pilgrims to Lourdes and were never found wanting when called on for any fundraising event.
“But without the support of the people of Edenderry, Rhode and Carbury we would never have lasted. The people out there have been so responsive over so many years. They are a shining example to the whole country”, she said.
The committee will celebrate their 40th anniversary with a Mass at St Mary’s Church on Sunday next at 12 noon.
In the afternoon they will be joining forces with Edenderry Entertainers Commemorative Committee who stage ‘live’ music sessions at the Oak Wood Inn.
Both shows are free but the Lourdes Committee will hold a voluntary collection and anyone wishing to contribute to acknowledge forty years of service to the community can contribute.