Seamus Cullinane, Athenry, 1933 – 2002

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The recent sad passing of Séamus Cullinane has led, in the weeks since, to many chats and memories about his time in Athenry and his great work in education and community development.

Séamus was the driving force behind a series of projects undertaken in Athenry from the mid-seventies and through the 1980s and while there were many people who worked extremely hard for the community during that time, it is acknowledged that Seamus Cullinane provided the leadership and motivation that ensured that so much was achieved.

Many of those involved at the time remarked to me that “we did it as much because Séamus Cullinane asked as for the community”. Such was the respect and admiration in which he was held.

Community Chairman

Seamus was one of the prime movers behind the founding of Athenry Community Council and

became its first Chairman in 1977. On the agenda of the first meeting was a proposal to purchase the Town Hall and despite having no money the deal was completed shortly afterwards and as a result Athenry had its first community-owned property. This gave the new Community Council a timely boost and it went from strength to strength over the following years.

Secret of success

Fundraising to pay for the hall was pursued with the same determination. Based on Seamus’s maxim that “People give to people and not to causes” a large number local people involved. There was a Monster Sale of Work held one Sunday at the Mart when the Committee took the opportunity to charge £1 per car for parking to match goers in the Back lawn. Neither team was from the Parish and l’m told that reaction to the charge was “mixed” to put it mildly!

The enthusiasm of Seamus Cullinane and his Committee seemed to be infectious as all fundraising schemes attempted seemed to meet with remarkable success. Bingo was started and the profit on the first night was £261, an amazing sum for the late 1970s. An equally successful Silver Circle Draw with contributors paying £1 per week was started. A progressive 25 card night was so successful, that there was a shortage of tables and more were made, locally Community of course.

Harvesting funds

The development of the new Parish Grounds at Raheen was the next project undertaken. The building of the clubhouse and pitches was funded by planting potatoes and rearing cattle. The potatoes were sown in a field in Raheen owned by the Murphy family of the Arch Bar. Local farmers ploughed, tilled and sowed the potatoes and at the time for harvesting, the late Canon Gibbons PP asked for volunteers at 11.30 Mass one Sunday and 120 pickers turned up, including a number of nuns from the convent.

Agricultural levy

Money was also raised through a novel scheme of cattle-rearing. With the generous co-operation of the Mart, the Community Council through the late Tony Murphy, bought a large number of cattle in springtime distributed throughout the parish amongst farmers for fattening. The following August they were sold at the mart and Seamus Cullinane, who was on holiday in Cork, came back to be present for the sale. These fundraising schemes involved a lot of hard work, but caught the imagination of the community and were successful as a result.

Never content to rest on their laurels, Seamus and the committee bought a field at Knockaunglas part of which is now the site for the Boys school. This was a far-sighted plan giving the Community Council a valuable property for future development. lt was part-funded by the King of Athenry contest where four local people Bridle Finn; Cyril McNamara, Gerry Melia and John-Joe Brady raised £16,000 toward the cost.

Community Leader

That was a “Golden Age” for community development in Athenry, when a hard-working, totally committed council led by a man with great vision and leadership combined to create something very special and something we will all benefit from in the years to come. Our best tribute to them all is to continue the good work they started in whatever way we can.

On behalf of all Community Council Members and present, I would like to extend our sincere sympathy to Anne and the Cullinane family and our deep appreciation for Seamus’s great contribution to Athenry.

Peter Feeney is the Chairman of Athenry Community Council, a local Farmer, a political Activist and a tireless Worker for the Athenry Community.

See also -‘Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice’ awarded to Mr. Seamus Cullinane by Fr Tony King

And – Making the World a Better Place -Seamus Cullinane by Fr  John Flannery

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About this record

Written by Peter Feeney

Published here 28 Jul 2023 and originally published Winter 2002

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