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17 Aug 2022

Popular Offaly publication celebrates its twentieth edition with 'bright, colourful' packed publication

The launch of the 2020 Birr Review received some 'virtual' treatment when this year's publication was unveiled online this year.

Richard Kennedy, Editor, welcomed everyone to the online launch on Friday last as the publication celebrated its twentieth year.

Taking people back through the years, a video showed what the magazine looked like over the last two decades before Tony Hogan, Birr Review member, welcomed everyone to the 'virtual' event.

“We are utterly delighted that the 2020 edition of the Birr Review has been published,” he enthused adding that the magazine has gone from “strength to strength” since its first publication in 2000.

Tony then thanked the continued support of the local clubs and societies, who provide their reports for the publication and also the advertisers, who continue to come on board each year to “help produce this fantastic review”. “We are in great hands, thanks to Richard, the editor and also to Ken for his work during the year,” he continued.

Editor welcomes everyone to launch

Richard then returned to the screen, remarking that he had to say that the “vast amount of credit in getting this magazine out in what was a difficult year, and every year for the past twenty years, must rest with the members of the Birr Review”. These include Michael Donegan, Paul Barber, Brian Kennedy, Tony Hogan, Janine Wilson, Denis Sheils, John Molloy, Ann O'Callaghan Rowan, Brian Hogan, Ken Enright, Garech Doorley, Elizabeth Fogarty, Joe Keane, Karen O'Grady, Michael Coghlan, Fred Boulton, Rita Frawley and Trudy Feenane.

Noting the “enthusiasm and dedication of the Birr Review members over the last twenty years, Richard continued that the publication had achieved “ a status of being an established institution in our town”. “Our members are an inspiration, a small group who consistently year after year, achieve something close to perfection. In a couple of moments, one of our founding members, Michael Donegan, will launch the 2020 magazine.”

“Since the beginning of this magazine, it has had a strong and valued relationship with Birr Lions Club. They give us valuable support each year by taking on the onerous task of marketing and printing the Birr Review. We in our turn help the Lions Club and support them by donating to them the entire proceeds of the magazine each year. It is a prefect example of how two separate organisations can work together in co-operation and for our part, twenty years of Birr Review magazine is proof enough to us of this.”

Birr Lions Club extends huge thank you

Ken Enright, President of Birr Lions Club, then spoke about the importance of the Birr Review to the Birr Lions club. “The Birr Review magazine is the single most important source of funding for Birr Lions Club. All the works that the Lions Club does, all its support for local causes, charities, events, and voluntary organisations, is underpinned by the fact that we have been able to rely on year on year, for the last twenty years on the funds raised by this superbly produced and immensely popular publication.”

“On behalf of the Lions Club, I want to pay special tribute to the Birr Review committee and their enormous dedication. Even this enormously difficult year, when the Birr Review members haven't even been able to sit down together in the same room, they have produced a book worthy of the Birr Year's 20th year tradition of excellence.”

“Every year, the president of Birr Lions Club expresses their gratitude to the business people of Birr, who pay for advertising in the magazine. Never before has that gratitude been more warmly felt. Even in this most extraordinary of years, when businesses have been sharply hit by the pandemic, the business community of Birr have contributed very generously to the book. I would ask the readers in their turn to make a special effort to support their local businesses this year and beyond. I hope our readers enjoy the magazine whether they are living in Birr or elsewhere.”

Birr Review 2020 launched

Michael Donegan, one of the founding members of Birr Review, then had the honour of launching the 2020 publication. He explained how the Birr Review project was hatched in the mind of Martin McCarthy, twenty years ago.

In the introduction to the first issue, Michael wrote the “very word review on the cover of this magazine should mean exactly what it says, to view again, to look back over, to revisit the past. It is a kind of taking stock of who we are and what others have been doing”.

“When I opened this year's edition, and looked down through the table of contents, it is gratifying to see that ambition has been honoured as it has been with every issue of the past twenty years. The year's end and the run up to Christmas would simply not be the same without it.”

“In Richard Kennedy as editor, the Review has been in very safe hands. In this difficult year, he has succeeded in putting together a book which matches and surpasses anything which has come before.”

“It is bright, colourful, beautifully laid out, and packed with interesting articles, on subjects historical and modern from ancient Adomnan to trail biking in the Slieve Blooms, to teaching philosophy in Tallahassee, to flying PPE across the world, to tracking the whirlwind world of a sports journalist. It is all there and lots more beside.”

He continued: “ From me, the most enduring and poignant section of the book is always the obituaries, which details the passing of so many loved ones during the year. It is a great tribute to the committee that this act of respect and reverence is honoured so fittingly in each publication.”

“Another consistent and popular ingredient of the publication is the inclusion of the group pictures of primary schools in the parish. These photos feature the new entrants and the confirmation classes each year. Old school photos have proved extremely popular in the review over the years and readers love to see the faces of old school pals they sat beside many years ago. Memories are evoked and people are fascinated to recall the events and life journeys associated with the faces of their childhood friends.”

Mentioning the subject of photographs, Michael noted there were so “many bright and colourful photos, dotted on every page”. “Paul Barber's cover picture is worth a thousand words. It is a powerful and concise and shocking account of what has happened to us all this year. We know what it is like to be these people at this moment. Each masked and slightly tilted face seems to carry the burden of our own thoughts. We look through the slightly out of focus texture of the picture as if into an uneasy dream.”

“The packages, the umbrella, the bale of briquettes, they carry and the footsteps frozen by the shuttered camera lens remind us that life in its ordinariness must go on, even in this time of plague. This picture is surely worthy of a photographic reward. So, it is a great privilege to have been part of this twenty year journey of the Birr Year Review. It is a credit to all the unpaid volunteers, who make it possible each year. I have no doubt that you will find lots of things to interest and entertain you among its pages and with that I formally and virtually launch the Birr Review 2020.”

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