Rich heritage of Askeaton celebrated in new visitor guide

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Launching Askeaton: The Medieval Town, A visitors Guide were Cllr Kevin Sheahan, author Gerard Curtin, Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht and Tom Madigan, chairman, West Limerick Resources. Picture: Dermot Lynch
PRINCE William, the future King of Britain, has a direct historical link with Askeaton, according to Cllr Kevin Sheahan, chairman of Askeaton Civic Trust.

PRINCE William, the future King of Britain, has a direct historical link with Askeaton, according to Cllr Kevin Sheahan, chairman of Askeaton Civic Trust.

Speaking at the launch of a new visitor’s guide to the town, Cllr Sheahan said that research had shown that the late Princess Diana Spencer was a descendant of Eleanor, Countess of Desmond, whose seat of power was in the Desmond Castle in Askeaton.

He based his assertion on research by bestselling biographer, Anne Chambers, who explains in her book, Eleanor, Countess of Desmond that in 1599, Eleanor’s third daughter, Katherine, married Maurice Roche, Viscount Fermoy. The late Princess Diana, she writes, was a descendant of this union.

Cllr Sheahan’s comments came in the aftermath of a speech by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, who described the Countess Eleanor as “probably the most powerful woman politician ever in this country”, a woman who had led a colourful life, surviving the Elizabethan Wars and reduced, at one stage, to begging on the streets of Dublin.

Referring to his earlier career as a history teacher, Minister Deenihan said he was always fascinated by Askeaton and always very interested in what he called the Desmond State which had its principal headquarters in Askeaton Castle. “That was why it had such a huge banqueting hall there. They brought their friends and sometimes their enemies there,” the Minister said. The story of the Desmond State, he continued, was a fascinating one, which would make a fantastic film.”

And he recommended that people would read Anne Chambers book.

The Minister launched the new guidebook Askeaton: The Medieval Town and praised it as a guide of very high quality.

“Accurate information is very important and people are very discerning visitors now,” he said.

He also cited Askeaton’s links with the Fransciscans as being important.

“You have an immense history here in Askeaton,” he said and the important thing now was “to tell people about it.” He added that he was working to reactivate the Heritage Town brand, towns like Askeaton with very very unique and special attractions.

Gerard Curtin, the author of the guide, and a member of Sliabh Luachra Historical Society, said Askeaton has a fantastic and unique medieval heritage. “It should be promoted at home and abroad,” he said. Every community, he added, now had to promote itself. “No one else will do it for us. People will come, money will be spent and communities will gain.”

Tom Madigan, chairman of West Limerick Resources which helped fund the guide, praised it as a fine publication.

“I hope it brings loads of people into Askeaton. It isn’t just one day that visitors will spend here, you could spend several days.”

WLR, he added, was working on promoting tourism and linking up the different towns.

Introducing the launch, Cllr Kevin Sheahan said volunteerism was strong and well in Asekaton and he thanked the members of the Askeaton Civic Trust for their work. The launch of the booklet, he said, was a very special occasion for the Civic Trust, now established for 20 years, and for the people in Askeaton who are “particularly interested in our heritage”.

Praising Gerard Curtin for his vision in conceiving of the idea of a guide, Cllr Sheahan said it was badly needed and was very, very informative.