History of the Tidy Towns Competition


The national Tidy Town initiative was launched by Bord Fáilte, the Irish Tourist Board (now Fáilte Ireland), in 1958 as part of the ‘Tostal’, a nationwide festival celebrating all things Irish. A step-up from the original National Spring Clean Campaign which ran between 1953 and 1957, Tidy Towns Rapidly developed its own identity and has gone on to become Ireland’s most well know and popular local environmental initiative.
Right from the start, the primary focus of Tidy Towns was to encourage communities to improve their local environment and make their area a better place to live, work and visit. The competition aspect was an important element in developing friendly rivalry that would help boost standards across the board, and the winner of the first competition held in 1958 was Glenties, Co Donegal. However, the emphasis was always on participating rather than winning as the very act of taking part brought benefits to the community. And with a focus n the long-term results rather than quick returns, Tidy Towns was soon seen as a unique and far-sighted initiative.
Although just 52 towns entered in the first year, Tidy Towns rapidly increased in popularity with an average of 700 entrants per year. Its success also spawned many other initiatives at national, county and local level, which further boosted its reputation and impact. It is impossible to accurately estimate the number of people who have had some involvement in Tidy Towns, but its safe to say it has run into the hundreds of thousands, and its influence on the transformation of Ireland’s landscape is undeniable.
Following the restructuring of Bord Fáilte in 1995, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government assumed responsibility for Tidy Towns and now organises the initiative with the support of national sponsor SuperValu and a number of other agencies. Its success continues, and while it has moved with the times, it still retains the same core principle of its founders-“make your pace a better place.”
Ballincollig is a town steeped in heritage which has been well documented down through the years. One group in Ballincollig that has done tremendous work in preserving and increasing peoples awareness of the local history has been Ballincollig Heritage Association. Below is a brief outline of Ballincollig’s history and if you wish to get a more in-depth account check out the Ballincollig Heritage Association website
Ballincollig (Baile an Chollaig) translates from the Irish as “Coll’s town” after Robert Coll, an Anglo-Norman knight who owned the land in the fifteenth century. Originally historians interpreted it as “Town of the Boar” and indeed the boar has become the symbol of Ballincollig.
Ballincollig lies six miles west of Cork city and has developed rapidly in the past twenty years from a small village to a bustling town, doubling its population to nearly 20,000 inhabitants. The area has been inhabited since Neolithic times (3000 BC) and has a wealth of historical monuments from every period, the oldest existing structure being the ruins of Ballincollig Castle (1468).
Ballincollig village came into being when a gunpowder works was set up on the banks of the River Lee in 1794. The village population grew rapidly as the gunpowder works expanded and an artillery barracks was established. The original village lay on the south side of the main road and was just over 300 metres long, beginning at Castle Park and ending at Station Road.
At the height of its success in the 1850s, the gunpowder works employed over 500 people but once the factory closed in 1903, the village shrank and it became a satellite to Cork city. The village expanded east and westwards in the 1960s and ‘70s with the construction of a number of housing estates and the population rose once again causing more schools to be built.
Latterly the development of the former barracks land has opened up the whole of the north side of the main street and has led to a vibrant, modern shopping centre. The creation of a regional park on the former gunpowder works land has provided a riverside recreational amenity the community can be proud of.
There are a number of historical sites within Ballincollig, eleven of which enjoy protected status.
In 2006, a circular structure, first observed from aerial photography, was excavated just off the Link Road prior to the building of a new fire department headquarters. The site, which had two protective ditches, was dated to 625 AD. An underground passage was discovered on the exterior, possibly belonging to an earlier ring fort.
Standing Stone
In a field off the Clash Road stands a Gallan, a standing stone, the simplest of megalithic monuments. Standing Stones generally date back to the early Bronze Age (2200-1100BC) and are believed to mark burial sites, territorial boundaries, or routeways.
Ballincollig Castle
Ballincollig Castle sits on a limestone rock facing the Maglin valley. Situated on private land, it is seen to its best advantage from the new Ballincollig bypass. Built in the late fifteenth century by the Barrett family, it consists of a slender central keep, with a curtain wall and two defensive towers.
Lime Kilns
Limestone was burnt in kilns to produce the mortar used in the construction of the buildings in the area. It was also used as fertiliser and for making a lime wash to apply to the outside of houses. There are the remains of four limekilns in the area. The limekiln at Maglin, lying on private land, is a protected structure.
Gunpowder Mills (Now Ballincollig Regional Park)
Ballincollig Regional Park is a place of outstanding natural beauty lying on the south bank of the River Lee. Once the site of a large gunpowder works (1794-1903), known as the Ballincollig Royal Gunpowder Mills, it was developed into a regional park in the 1990s by Cork County Council.
Gunpowder manufacturing was first established here by Charles Henry Leslie in 1794. In 1805 the gunpowder mills were sold to the British Board of Ordnance when Napoleon’s control of France posed a grave threat to Britain, becoming the second largest in Great Britain and Ireland. The mills came into private hands again in the 1830s when the Liverpool merchant family of Tobin acquired the site and Ballincollig grew rapidly with the mills the largest employer in the area. Gunpowder production ceased in 1903 with the invention of more modern synthetic chemical explosives.
The white round tower at the entrance to the park was once a watch house for the gunpowder mills where workers would be searched on entry. The ruins of many other buildings associated with gunpowder manufacture are still scattered throughout the park and include a charcoal mill, a sawmill, a large circular coal store, two magazines and an impressive boiler house for drying the powder. The park is Ireland’s largest industrial archaeological site.
A View of the reconstructed Gunpowder Mills in Ballincollig
Oriel House
An early nineteenth century Georgian building, originally built as three houses for the administrating officers at the gunpowder mills. Later the home of Sir Thomas Tobin, it acquired the name Oriel Court after the Oriel window he added to the east wing of the house to bring brightness and light into the upper room where his wife used to paint. It has now been enlarged into a modern hotel.
Inniscarra Bridge
This was rebuilt in 1805 when the gunpowder mills came under the ownership of the British Board of Ordnance in order to improve access to the mills complex from the old Killarney Road. The bridge has 24 arches, twelve to carry the normal stream and the remainder on the powder mills side to take the flood waters.
Built by Charles Leslie in 1795 in order to produce a head of water so as to harness the water power needed to drive the various gunpowder mills more efficiently. Water was taken from the river above the weir through the sluice gates and after flowing through the canal system and servicing the mills was returned to the river at a lower point.
Cavalry Barracks
Built in 1810 for the British army as part of the expansion of the gunpowder mills. The East Gate led directly to the gunpowder incorporating mills and the somewhat modifed structure is still in use. It also leads to a military graveyard built in 1810, now maintained by the OPW.
The Barracks Square is the oldest part of the complex and was laid out in 1811. The Officers’ Mess (now a medical centre) and the Stables were built between 1875-1922. The Old Carriage Store was built at a later stage in around 1890.
The barracks closed in 1998.
Church of St Mary and St John
Ballincollig is a union of the ancient parishes of Corbally, Inishkenny, Kilnaglory and Carrigrohane. The parish was first known as Ballincollig in 1817.
Kilnaglory (Cill na Gluaire) had a church in 1326 but by 1628 this was in ruins. The graveyard is still used by local families.
The first catholic chapel in Ballincollig was built in 1808 on the site of the community hall on Station Road and remained in use until the establishment of a new parish church in 1866. The chapel then became a national school before being integrated into the community hall complex.
The new parish church of St Mary and St John was built on land donated by Thomas Wyse. It was designed in Neo-Gothic style by George Goldie. The stained glass windows came from Newcastle and the chancel window was donated by workers from the gunpowder mills.
For More info visit:
Ballincollig Heritage Association A site on the history of Ballincollig
Ballincollig Blog A regularly updated Ballincollig Blog