Neighbours, friends and two members of the Oblate Order swapped stories handed down from their fathers, grandfathers and their Oblate congregation at a storytelling event held in Glencree Centre as part of Heritage Week on Saturday 25th August. In the early years of the Reformatory which started in 1859, time was told in the Glencree Valley by the ringing of the bells at St Kevin’s Church of ease. Little is known about the hundreds of boys and young men who lived in Glencree and what happened to them afterwards. Dan Gill was recorded as being there at seventeen years of age, from research done by his grandnephew, we know that he joined the British Army and was killed at Flanders in 1914.

Stories of the struggle for self- sufficiency, the harshness of the winters and the centrality of St Kevin’s to the farming life of the Glencree valley led to many stories being told.  St Kevin’s generated its own electricity, vegetables, meat and an inspection journal reported that it took four fires lit day and night to keep the place warm in 1865.

A walk to the Oblate church built by the boys culminated in the lighting of candles to remember all who lived and died there. The names of all the boys and the Oblate brothers were read from the 1911 census (185), a moving prayer was said by a member of the Oblate congregation and a final song was sung by Glencree’s Val Kiernan. In a day when Pope Francis visited Ireland, it was fitting that such an event took place at Glencree Centre where our work is focused on peace and reconciliation.

Barbara Walshe