After six weeks of intensive study, the Holy Cross Abbey Guides were finally launched during Heritage Week. Over three afternoons about 100 visitors to Holycross were given guided tours to enhance their experience in and understanding of the Abbey.
12 or so guides were stationed at key points in and around the Abbey, each giving a brief talk. The expectation is that over the winter these intrepid volunteer guides will build up their knowledge so that by next spring they will each be able to lead a complete tour. A regular service will then be started, with no more than two or three guides needing to be on duty at any one time.
At a brief reception, the programme was launched by Father Celsus Tierney, who has been a core member of the new Holycross Community Network since it started in 2011, and he was glad to hand over some of the task of greeting and guiding visitors, which has fallen largely on him. Chairman John Bourke thanked all those who have contributed to the programme, especially the course tutors. Jimmy Duggan has concentrated on a thousand years of the fascinating history of the Abbey and wider Holycross community (with a fair sprinkling of local legend thrown in). John G. O’Dwyer focused on the complexities of the tourism industry, advising on how to market the guiding service, maximise the benefits and business opportunities for Holycross and develop the potential in Mid-Tipp for improved tourist services. Carmel Needham gave invaluable advice to some nervous trainees about voice projection, group management, effective communication and personal confidence, filmed everyone giving a two minute presentation and gave each some sound advice and confidence-boosting feedback.
The Chairman gave special thanks to Paddy Barry, Sean Crowley from North Tipperary Leader Partnership and Michael Begley of South Tipperary Development Company (Leader), who funded the training course and shared the costs between the two halves of the county in a valuable example of cross-border cooperation. Without Leader’s generous support, this programme would not have been possible. We hope that this initiative will draw more people into the area, keep them locally for a few extra hours and give new business to accommodation providers, food outlets, shops and other tourism-based businesses.
There are plans for regular guides’ meetings over the winter as preparation continues. More details will be available later about when tours will be happening.