IFA President, John Bryan, from Inistioge, County Kilkenny, was in the picturesque and renowned mountain village of Upperchurch for the second time last week when Mr Con Ryan of Glown, Upperchurch, Rural Recreation Officer for County Tipperary, formally launched the beautiful and highly informative book, ”Tipperary and Waterford - A Walking Guide” by former Thurles Development Officer, Mr John Gerard O’ Dwyer of Thurles in a packed Kinane’s hostelry on a night of music, song and traditional Upperchurch /Drombane hospitality and conviviality.
Mr Bryan said it was a great to see such a large crowd and the community spirit that’s there and, no matter who he talked to, the one thing he is always told about Upperchurch is the great effort put into making it work. “One thing is very clear - There is a community spirit that wants to see the walkway work and want to see it as part of the community”. As President of the IFA, he had travelled the country and the one thing that gave him pleasure was to see community spirit and communities working together. “Ireland is certainly going through a tough time at the moment and, probably, one of the greatest strengths we have is our community spirit, the willingness of people to get involved in voluntary organisations and put an effort in and what can be achieved. And, certainly, John Gerard’s book will highlight that”.
Mr Bryan said there is a huge untapped resource in tourism “When we speak to people in the UK, Germany, France, they can get the sun holidays. But, we have such resources in heritage, history, nature and the walkways that can’t be found anywhere else. But, unfortunately, we don’t tell enough people about it. And, probably, there is not enough effort put into encouraging farm tourists to come in here.” But when we have groups in the walkways there is a huge opportunity here, and I think tourism is an area that we have to put more resources into. The hospitality, such as in Kinanes’ pub that welcomes everyone in, is something we need to show more and more in Ireland. “We need to showcase that”, he said.
“Agriculture is multifaceted but the reality is farming is about living in your community and surviving in your community and the relationship between farmers and the wider community is very important at every level. We see ourselves on a daily basis as working, producing foods, creating employment and that’s very important. Certainly, you should never lose sight of the importance of agriculture or food production and then, as farmers, we should never lose sight of the greater community and having a relationship with other people. At the moment, with the economy under pressure and pressure across Europe, value for money has to be looked at every day and where, for a very small spend, what can be achieved in an area like this. There is nothing more relaxing or better for people than walking in the countryside ”I want to compliment John Gerard for writing this book that can be used out there to promote Ireland and show the best of what we’re about. I wish to congratulate the whole community here for the effort that’s in it”.
Mr Con Ryan, who launched the book, said that John Gerard O’ Dwyer had been a great friend of their area for many years and had helped and encouraged them.
John Gerard and his wife Carmel, had helped to promote the walking product in Tipperary and Waterford. “So many people pass through to Cork and Kerry but we have the walks, the history and tradition here. Shining through every page of this book is John G’s love of the countryside, his experience as a walker and skill as a writer. Walking is for every body and last year we had 700 people on a walk led by Mrs Maureen Armstrong who is eighty seven years old, and we also had a six years old child on the walk”. He called for a round of applause for brave Maureen.
Mr Ryan also lauded the role of the landowners.” You‘d have no walks without landowners and we have had tremendous co-operation from the landowners all over the county. Over 100 people are in the Walks Scheme”. Connie referred to a comment of champion athlete, John Treacy, who had stated, he said that for every euro spent on walking you’d save three on health. Mr Ryan said there were some excellent walks in Coillte land. He was delighted that the Munster Recreation Officer of Coillte for Munster, Mary O’ Brien, was with them that night. He also welcomed former ICMSA President, Jackie Cahill, and acknowledged the help of North and South Tipperary, County Councils, Shannon Development, Failte Ireland, Coillte and the National Trails Office. He also welcomed former South Tipp Leader Chief Executive, John Devane.
John Gerard O’ Dwyer is a tour operator who has walked the mountains and moorlands of Tipperary and Waterford for many years. He believes that our major mountains are being eroded by the number of walkers visiting them every year. “But that doesn’t mean that hillwalkers have to stay away from the mountains – instead John argues “It’s best to spread out and try the other equally rewarding walks that are on offer.”
His comprehensive guide to walks in Tipperary and Waterford includes walks in the Slieve Felim Hills, a patchwork of small fields, woodlands, serene villages and moorland tops where a strong sense of localism still flourishes. Walks to suit all tastes and ability feature in this easy-to-use, practical format, from the rugged Comeragh coums to the peaks of the Galtees, from the myth-laden hills of Slievenamon and the Devil’s Bit to field systems and ancient pathways in Upperchurch and Kilcommon. Each walk description has directions, the degree of difficulty, estimated time and maps.
But this is more than just a walks guide. Each route is a journey with a story about a landscape littered with historic artefacts. A booley on a hillside tells how the uplands contributed to human survival and a working farmstead demonstrates the continuation of this. The walk descriptions also contain much of interest for environmentalists, historians and all who wish to better understand the age-old and complex interaction between humans and hills.
John G. O ‘Dwyer is a tour operator and also teaches tourism to further education students. A keen hillwalker and rock-climber, he is a founder member of Mid-Tipp Hillwalkers and has almost twenty-five years’ experience of leading hillwalking and mountain climbing groups in Ireland, the UK, Europe and Africa
The Master of Ceremonies for the night was local County Councillor, Mr Billy Clancy, and other speakers included Mr Michael Greene, Chairman of Upperchurch/ Drombane Development Association, and, John Gerard O’ Dwyer himself. Presentations were made to Carmel Needham, John Gerard O’ Dwyer’s wife, and to hillwalker, Mrs Maureen Armstrong (87) from Gortahoola who will walk in the Dublin City Womens Mini- Marathon for the Irish Cancer Society on June 4th and who was accompanied by her daughter, Martina.
The attendance included South Tipperary Dail Deputy, Tom Hayes, and his sister, Sheila, who was on the first Mid Tipp Hillwalkers Walk over 20 years ago, and South Tipperary County Councillors, John Crosse and Michael Fitzgerald. Also there were Willie Joe Dwyer and Eleanor Dwyer, parents of Rowena Dwyer, Chief economist of the IFA. Paula Elmore, John’s Book Editor and a representative of Collins Press, and Isobel Cambie, Rural Development Manager for South Tipp Leader Partnership.
Sean Crowley, Rural Development Manager for North Tipp Leader Partnership, and IFA personalities, Philip Kinnane(North Tipp Chairman) and Billy Maher, Moyne. Well known Artist, Pat Baird, was accompanied by her charming niece, Ms Camilla Roche –Kelly who came a long way to Tipperary all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa. Also there were former Tipperary Miss Macra, Margaret Devane -Ryan and Michael Ryan, former Chairman of Tipperary Leader and also met Tipp GAA personalities, of Thurles Sarsfields, Seamus O Dugain, former Tipp Senior Hurling goalkeeper and Liam O Donnchu agus a bhean ceile.
Met too, Willie Gleeson of Moher who said some 170 people attended the recent Upperchurch/ Drombane Macra na Feirme reunion in Upperchurch. Met also Therese Butler, Martina Kerrane, Maura Moloney, Joan Lysaght, Thurles, Tom and Pat Russell, Borrisoleigh, John Gleeson, Nenagh, and Aoife O’ Dwyer, John Gerard’s daughter. Also met Pakie Purcell, the intrepid climber, and Margaret Quinlan from Foynes, a native of the parish and Jim Kennedy, Templederry. Of course, we met ever welcoming Niamh Kinane, the Bean A Ti.
Pictured at the official launch of John Gerard O’Dwyer book, “ Tipperary and Waterford-A Walking Guide” in Kinane’s Pub, Upperchurch, recently, were(l to r): Carmel Needham, Aoife O’Dwyer and John G O’Dwyer, Author. Photo: Brid Ryan