Fethard 'native' Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber opens museum celebrating Tipperary's bloodstock industry

Anne O'Grady

Reporter:

Anne O'Grady

Fethard 'native' Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber opens museum celebrating Tipperary's bloodstock industry

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Minister Paul Kehoe cutting the tape at the Fethard Horse Country Experience

A €1.6m investment, which offers visitors the opportunity to discover the rich culture and heritage of the Fethard area was officially opened last night by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Minister with responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe.

Lord Lloyd Webber, a 'native' of the area spoke of his great affection for his adopted home and how he had been enchanted with the area over twenty five years ago when he had attended a wedding in the local Church.

The Fethard Horse Country Experience museum, which is housed at The Tholsel on Main Street, will, it is maintained, position the town as a key destination in Ireland's Ancient East.

The interactive exhibition brings to life the local history and evolution of Ireland’s world-class bloodstock industry. The museum is a community-led project, working in conjunction with the Fethard Business and Tourism Group, to create a tourist attraction that will drive an increase in visitor numbers to the town. 

Fethard is well known for its links with thoroughbred horse racing, with nearby Coolmore Stud producing some of the finest horses in the world. Amongst the museum’s many exhibits will be the skeleton of the legendary Coolmore sire Sadler’s Wells, one of the most successful stallions of all time, ranking as Great Britain and Ireland’s leading sire a record 14 times. 

The high-spec museum was developed by Event Communications, the designers responsible for The Titanic Belfast, EPIC at the CHQ building and The Guinness Storehouse.  

The project is supported by Failte Ireland, and received €198k in funding in one of the largest grants made available in the ‘New Ideas in Ancient Spaces’ Capital Grants Scheme for attractions within the Ireland’s Ancient East initiative. In addition to Failte Ireland, the project received funding from Tipperary County Council, Leader Programme, the Magnier family and private donors. The trustees of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation awarded a one off grant towards the employment of a Museum Curator to manage the contents of the Fethard Horse Country Experience and the venue as a visitor attraction to ensure the continued celebration of Fethard’s heritage, helping future generations to understand its history.

Jimmy O’Sullivan, Chairman, Fethard Business and Tourism Group said  “We are absolutely delighted to officially open the Fethard Horse Country Experience here today. The museum is the culmination of a number of years of hard work from both the local community and our supporters and funders, for which we are extremely grateful. Fethard is the most important medieval small walled town in Ireland and this state-of-the-art visitor attraction enhances Fethard’s wonderful tapestry, making it an unmissable stop on Ireland’s Ancient East.”

Lord Lloyd Webber said the museum "is an extremely welcome addition to Fethard. The town hall has been lovingly restored and it is the perfect canvas to showcase Fethard’s rich history.  Through Kiltinan Castle Stud, my wife and I feel a close affinity to the horse culture which is an intrinsic part of this area and we hope that the museum will play a key role in attracting more people to this beautiful and historically-rich part of Ireland.” 

Minister Kehoe said the new museum will be a fantastic addition to Fethard and should attract significant numbers of visitors to the Tipperary town. Fethard’s unique equine history will be brought to life in the newly restored Tholsel building and I am sure it will have a very broad appeal, given the huge interest in the bloodstock industry. I would like to warmly congratulate Fethard Business and Tourism Group who have championed this project from the start and have now made it a reality for the benefit of locals, businesses and visitors in Fethard and the wider region.”          

 

Jenny De Saulles, Head of Ireland’s Ancient East, Failte Ireland stated that “Fáilte Ireland is delighted to have provided funding of almost €200k to the Fethard Horse Country Experience, through our New Ideas in Ancient Spaces capital grants scheme for attractions within Ireland’s Ancient East. Fethard and the Fethard Horse Country Experience have a great story to tell and the funding will make sure this story is told to visitors to Ireland’s Ancient East in a unique and compelling way.  With the funding transforming the Tholsel building into a state-of-the-art visitor centre, it will provide a platform to promote Fethard as a significant visitor destination focussing on Medieval Fethard, its long and continued tradition with the horse, and its place in the centre of Ireland’s horse country.” 

The Fethard Horse Country Experience is open Wednesday to Sunday inclusive from 10:00am to 16:00pm. A special introductory entry cost of €5.00 will run until August 31st 2017, and thereafter entry will cost €7.50, with group and senior citizen discounts available and entry for children under the age of 6 free. For further information on the Fethard Horse Country Experience, please visit http://fhcexperience.ie/