A 100 strong delegation from the local community and broadcasters, musicians, historians, archaeologists, conservationists and academics attended the first one day symposium Lough Neagh Connections with guest speaker, television broadcaster, Joe Mahon.
The event was organised by Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership to officially launch the Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership programme and explore knowledge sharing and collaboration.
The event took place at the Marina Centre on the shores of Lough Neagh at Ballyronan and delegates discussed past lough shore connections, rekindled old relationships and indeed built new ones which will be further developed among the groups represented moving forward while enjoying samples of Lough Neagh Eel – the local delicacy which connects many of the communities around the lough shore.
Lough Neagh Partnership’s Heritage Lottery funded programme which has received a £2.49 million grant, is working in collaboration with all the lough shore councils, government departments, environmental organisations, universities and the community sector.
Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership is focused on creating and developing connections, working together and sharing knowledge and resources, as was the story of the lough shore communities of old.
The Landscape Partnership will have a particular focus on engaging stakeholders through projects that will benefit the natural, built and cultural heritage of the lough.
The symposium began with Horslips lead and scriptwriter, Ardboe man, Barry Devlin, in conversation with Liam Campbell, of Lough Neagh Partnership. Barry began by talking about the influence of the lough landscape on his work, especially in the writing of the BBC hit drama series My Mother and Other Strangers and how, though living now in Dublin, he has never really left his place of birth and it is still the main influence on his work.
Dr Colm Donnelly from Queen’s University and Dr Paul Logue from the Department for Communities, both archaeologists, who are leading on much of the exploration and conservation of the archaeology around the lough, endorsed the importance of community engagement and the wealth of local knowledge that exists in the community of the stories, myths and legends, and how full of hidden heritage Lough Neagh and its surrounds are.
Derrytresk woman, Alish Hanna, daughter of the late great traditional singer, Geordie Hanna, shared some of his legacy in connecting his songs to local folk and work.
Rosemary Mulholland, head of conservation and heritage at Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, reviewed the development of Oxford Island since the 1950s as both a site of high conservation value and a wider tourism amenity and especially considered places including Turmoyra Farm which holds a tangible history that can be used to promote the development of many lost skills and create sustainable employment.
Dr Liam Campbell, built and cultural heritage officer, Lough Neagh Partnership, hailed the first symposium a success, and said: “There was so much to discuss, consider and talk about and, led by Roddy Hegarty of Federation of Ulster Local Studies, everyone gathered was given the opportunity to tell their story of the Lough Neagh landscape.
“At the end of the symposium it was certainly evident that there is a wealth and breadth of stories and we have much work to do in collecting this treasure trove of knowledge and information about this gem that is Lough Neagh and we are committed to ensuring that the invaluable archive is developed and maintained.”
Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership has commenced delivery of 27 integrated Heritage Lottery Fund landscape programme projects which aim to protect the built, cultural and natural heritage of the lough.