Spaceman makes second landing at ‘magical’ Limerick site

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

Dr Frank Prendergast, archaeoastronomer, Dr Vincent Casey, senior lecturer in Physics at UL, Frank Ryan from the Shannonside Astronomy Club, Paul Ryan from Share, Learn, Inspire; and artist, Bobby Ryan pictured with astronaut Al Worden, third left. Picture: Keith Wiseman
He IS one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon, and Al Worden, the command module pilot on board the Apollo 15 decided that Limerick’s Lough Gur was a place worth visiting twice.

He IS one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon, and Al Worden, the command module pilot on board the Apollo 15 decided that Limerick’s Lough Gur was a place worth visiting twice.

The lunar adventurer was encouraged to visit Limerick by local Lough Gur man and space enthusiast Paul Ryan through his Share, Learn and Inspire work.

The programme aims to help children to learn more about space and science. Luckily for Lough Gur Development, Mr Ryan worked to ensure that Mr Worden visited the ancient, great site last year.

Mr Worden was so greatly impressed by his visit that he agreed to become a patron of the Lough Gur Development organisation.

On Monday the astronaut landed in Shannon Airport at 10.15am for a second visit to the site.

After a brief meeting with the Shannon Airport group, Mr Worden made his way to Lough Gur Heritage Centre with Mr Ryan to meet the students of Mainister national school.

The students were the lucky winners of 25 tickets to witness a presentation from the spaceman. Throughout the presentation the students heard all about the steps involved in becoming an astronaut - the intense training process and the insight into what life was like on board the Apollo 15 spacecraft.

After the presentation Mr Worden took time to answer questions from the students before presenting a signed official NASA profile image to the school principal.

“Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that science and engineering jobs that you will do may not have been invented yet – you are our future explorers,” Mr Worden told students.

“When I visited Lough Gur last year my only thought was how do I get back here again,” Mr Worden noted.

“I am greatly interested in Lough Gur as I believe that the evidence left by our ancestors can show us where we are going to in our future, they greatly understood the night sky and through the monuments reflected its greatness.”

There was no time to linger as Mr Worden was whisked away to the Great Grange Stone Circle at 12.30pm to officially launch the Lough Gur Summer Solstice Festival 2015.

One of the key events this year will be a choral performance by Music Generation within the circle at 10am on June 21 to mark the recent archaeoacoustic studies within the sacred space. The work carried out by Limerick Council Conservation Officer Tom Cassidy and Mikeal Fernstrom from the University of Limerick suggests that the Grange Stone Circle was built as an amphitheatre in which to perform music.

Visitors who stand in one particular known spot will hear their song echo back at them in an eerie prehistoric way.

To show this phenomena Mr Worden was treated to a Music Generation rendition of Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison. This was absolutely the appropriate tune to mark the official launch of the 2015 Lough Gur Summer Solstice Festival. Mr Worden then made a quick diversion to Ballyneety Golf Club to accept honorary membership from the captain and management team while also enjoying lunch in the Vines Restaurant.

Back in the Lough Gur Heritage Centre a group gathered and waited patiently to meet with Mr Worden on his return to officially launch the Lough Gur Dark Sky Park initiative.

As 2015 is the International Year of Light, Lough Gur along with the Shannon Side Astronomy Club are working towards gaining Dark Sky Park Status for the area.

This status would, in short, protect the dark skies within the immediate area from further light pollution. This in turn improves quality of life for people living in Lough Gur and the environment that surrounds it.

“Ensuring that our night skies are preserved will protect our wildlife, landscape and environment while also sustaining quality of life for the residence of Lough Gur,” said Kate Harrold, manager, Lough Gur Heritage Centre.

The day did not end at 4pm for Mr Worden as he was later to return to the restored and deconsecrated Church of Ireland in Bruff for the first official meeting of the Lough Gur Development patrons.

Just six people were invited to represent the organisation based on their professional merits.

Along with Mr Worden the additional patrons now include senior archaeologist Dr Rose Cleary from UCC, local historian and archaeologist Michael Quinlan, international rugby referee and local man George Clancy, world acclaimed singer Dr Noirín Ni Riain along with actor and comedian of high repute, Jon Kenny.

“When I first moved to Lough Gur I knew at that time it was place of great significance,” said Jon.

“Any time when I am there I feel a great sense of place and inspiration. The people and community of Lough Gur are committed to positively developing all that it has to offer and I am honoured to be invited as a patron of the organisation. I will do all that I can to help Lough Gur,” he added.