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A look back on 2018 – As 2018 is now at a close, it’s time to reflect on what was a very busy year and it will be forever marked as a turning point for the Heritage Centre.

In January I was researching a drowning that occurred off the coast of Achill in 1847 when 19 men from Keel lost their lives in a horrific storm. Word of my research soon spread through Achill and I received a telephone call from the Achill Historical & Archaeological Society inquiring if I would be interested in giving a talk to the society’s members, without hesitation I of course agreed. This stepped up my research efforts and the talk soon grew from ‘The Drowning’ to ‘Achill 1830-1850’ incorporating the famine in Achill, the drownings and the evictions and all that took place in those twenty years.

Also in January I received an email from Mary Bridget Burns in Boston wanting to reach out and strengthen the ties between Achill’s heritage and the Achill diaspora. Mary is originally from Cleveland, her Great Grandmother was Bridget English from Dooagh born in 1891 and immigrated to the U.S in 1914. This connection was to become another major milestone for the Centre which I will talk more about later.

The night for the talk quickly came round and it was so well received that I was invited by many other groups & societies to give the same talk throughout the year at events & festivals in Achill as well as around the county.

The Centre too had a very busy year which saw the addition of a new coffee shop ‘Siopa Caife’ and a larger gift shop. The coffee shop was a welcomed addition and a big hit from the very first day with more expansion planned for the 2019 season. The historical walking tours were also well attended throughout the year to the point I was providing tours daily, which meant, instead of taking larger groups once a week, I was taking smaller groups every day.

Achill was a busy place in 2018, which seen even more tourists visiting than in previous years. All the visitors to the Centre were keen to learn more about Achill’s heritage. I met some great people from all around the world and whom I still connect with today, in every walk of life, from a history student in Japan to a tour guide in New York. It was early in the summer that the question was asked by Mary Bridget Burns, my new found cousin and contact in Boston College, “Would I be interested in going to the U.S. with the Centre?” the seed was now planted and plans began.

After confirming the travel dates, Mary began setting up meetings with people and organisations interested in developing a connection with the Achill Heritage Centre in Boston & Cleveland. Myself & Tom Moran left Achill for Boston on the 18th November. Following some very productive meetings in Boston we had the privilege of enjoying our first Thanksgiving dinner with Mary and her family, the following day we headed for Cleveland with a short overnight stay with family in New York.

We arrived in Cleveland on the morning of the 25th of November and headed straight to the radio station building of ‘AM1420 The Answer’ where we had our first meeting and interview on the Gerry Quinn Irish Radio show. Following many more meetings, discussions & talks that week about the Centre’s future we were sad to be leaving Cleveland but happy in the knowing that we will be returning in 2019.

The trip to America changed everything. What began with a dream and realization of opening a Heritage Centre in Achill in 2016 to preserve and promote our heritage locally was now hosting on an international stage. Within weeks of opening the doors 2 years ago, I knew I opened something bigger than I could ever have imagined because the parish of Achill is not local, it is global and the Achill people whether at home or away have a deep sense of pride for their heritage.

So the plans for the future of the Centre are bright and strong. Our 2019 trip to the United States is already being planned with a visit to Boston, Cleveland & Chicago, be sure to follow us online for future updates.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for a happy & healthy 2019… Go mbeirimíd beo ar an am seo arís.

Vincent English
Achill Heritage Centre

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