Conference: Heritage as an Engine of Economic Growth in Mid-Sized Towns: The Review


As I said earlier, I went to a conference under my blog name not knowing what to expect. I expected many archaeologists or heritage-like people to be there. Yeah there were a few conservation officers here and there but I was surrounded by a lot of architects, town planners, council workers, those kind of folk. What did I expect from a conference being held in Wood Quay Civic offices? Anyway it was intimidating sitting in a room full of professional strangers wearing a badge about being a blogger, but hey, it’s what I signed up for.

The official title of the conference was ‘Heritage as an engine of economic growth in mid-sized towns’ and was organised by The Heritage Council, pretty nice people from what I’ve seen of them. The main points from people in general were around using heritage as a means to making money. The main problem I personally had with the idea was the ‘goal’ of making money. I think it’s a good goal, and needed practically, but heritage is primarily about heritage. It’s there to inspire, to fascinate, to question, to love. For me, this conference wouldn’t have been considered a few years ago because only now do people now feel the need to justify heritage in terms of money. People mentioned that it wasn’t all about money which was nice though. The 2nd speaker spoke particularly on how heritage can give a sense of place and identity, build community, foster learning, can train people and then stimulate the economy.

The speaker list is below with the title of the talk from each one. The interesting points to note were number 4, who talked about an old workhouse being converted into a shopping centre and how they tried to retain the original feel of the place while people went shopping, with apartments above. For me, it didn’t work. Maybe it can’t work, maybe it can, but this particular project was compromised too much. Number 6 was the ‘typical’ talk where the town of Cashel wanted to ‘buy in’ to the Rock of Cashel and it’s 250,000 visitors every year. They wanted tourists to go to other sites in the area, and to spend money in Cashel and link the two together. The main proposal was to offer a connecting way through the private land between the town and the rock.

I ended being inspired and happy that I live in Maynooth, which has a lot of heritage, though so much more of it could be on show. Practically it seems the Heritage Council will support people and their projects, but there wasn’t exactly a unified plan upon leaving.

If you wish to find out more on the other talks, drop me a post. Otherwise I’ll leave you with this final point. Many people in the room were bemoaning the state of Ireland with it’s bad development and planning…but wasn’t I in a room FULL of planners and council workers?

A big thank you to the Heritage Council for organising the conference


1.David Geddes, Principal Associate, Colliers International
Why every town should make the most of its historic environments

2.Craig Bullock, Environmental Economist and Research Fellow, School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Policy, UCD
The economic benefits of protecting built heritage – evidence from Northern Ireland

3.Louise Harrington, Heritage Consultant and Part-Time Lecturer, School of Planning, UCC
Four towns in the southwest and their different scenarios

4.Cormac O’Sullivan, Senior Architect/Planner, Bluett & O’Donohue Architects
Conservation and development in historic towns: the contribution of, and impact upon, sites of heritage significance, the McDonagh Junction Development, Kilkenny

5.Orla Murphy, Architect and Lecturer, School of Architecture, UCD

6.Clare Lee, Executive Planner, South Tipperary County Council
Destination Cashel, Planning and Tourism in Cashel, Co. Tipperary

7.Aileen Aherne, Manager, Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group
Youghal’s journey in using heritage as a driver for economicgrowth

Panel Discussion
Theme: How do we get heritage to help the economy of a town?


Silken Thomas in Dublin

Whilst walking in inner city Dublin, I past St. Mary’s Abbey. It’s really not that impressive! It’s important, however as this is the place Silken Thomas (known affectionately by one Tour Guide at Maynooth Castle as ‘The Silkster’), threw down his Sword of State and declared rebellion against Henry VIII.

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So I’ll be going to this conference  next week. Funny thing is though, I think I’m going under the name of this blog!

I was wondering which direction I should go with my blog. If I go to conferences like this, a part of me wishes to spruce up the blog, get a domain, write reviews, etc.

A part of me goes against this however. I remember I set this blog up last year not for anybody else, not for approval, but because I had a genuine interest in the heritage around me that I wished to express. I’m not an academic, I don’t have access to anything but a local library! That’s a part of what this blog is about though. It’s having a background knowledge in things, an interest and the enjoyment and challenge of being able to explain and show the wonderful things that surround this wonderful place that is Maynooth. At least in my mind anyway. I mightn’t have the best reference system in the world, but that’s OK.

The blog is me explaining to me (and you!), in the easiest most interesting way possible, just exactly what we have going on around us.

Silken Thomas

Thomas FitzGerald, better known as Silken Thomas was the 10th Earl of Kildare and is one of the more famous characters of Maynooth castle. He was the son of Garret Óg, and ruled during the famous downfall of the castle.

Born in 1513, not much is known of his youth but he did spend a few years in English courts so he would have been well versed in the culture at the time. Before his father Garret Óg left for England in 1534, being summoned by Henry VIII about his ruling in Ireland, he nominated his son Silken Thomas as his successor. This surprised a few people, as Silken Thomas was very young at the time. Also, the previous summer, he led a campaign against the O’Reilly’s under the title ‘Lord Offaly’, but was unsuccessful. Successor he was however, and it is said that his father warned him not to come to England, as he feared the worst for his family. Probably under his father’s advice, Silken Thomas marched to Dublin, with 1,000 men and threw down the sword of state, declaring rebellion against England. It is here that Silken Thomas may have gotten his name as the 140 horsemen that came with him had headpieces ‘gorgeously embroidered with silk’.

His father passed away whilst in prison in England, and Silken Thomas was officially the leader of the Kildare Dynasty. Henry VIII sent Sir William Skeffington over with 2,300 men to effectively put an end to any rebellion. Silken Thomas laid siege to Dublin twice that year but was unable to take the city. Skeffington landed and pursued Silken Thomas, who wished to avoid a pitched battle at all costs. Even though Silken Thomas fortified castles, and burned surrouding districts, he lost the initiative and his forces were slowly weakening- down to a few hundred by winter 1534. Not only that but two of his uncles defected to Skeffington’s side, and key leaders in his army died of sickness. By spring the following year, the English army was in Kildare. In March the English surrounded Maynooth castle with 1,000 men. A ten day siege began which ended on 23 March. Although the castle was attacked with artillery for a number of days, it was through treachery, with the bribery of Christopher Paris the captain of the guard which led to the fall of the castle. Most of the 100 men in the castle were executed, including Christopher Paris (who bargained for money but not his life), in what is now known as the ‘Pardon of Maynooth’. The castle became a home for Lord Deputy’s for years to come. What was left of the Kildare army now fled west to Lea castle, another Kildare castle, and then to the Bog of Allen. With few men left, and the Enlgish forces surrounding him, Silken Thomas surrendered on 24 August 1535 to Lord Leonard Grey, who had replaced Skeffington as commander. He surrendered on guarantee of his life which was given by Grey, but not by King Henry. He was eventually executed at Tyburn on 3rd February 1537 with his 5 Uncles (including the two who defected!). His Uncles were hung, drawn and quartered, while Thomas was hung and beheaded. So ended the Kildare Dynasty for a few years, until the return of Gerald Fitzgerald in 1552.


References: Thomas FitzGerald by Mary Ann Lyons (dictionary of Irish Biography)