“Rural people and our ways of life are becoming invisible.” So says Olive Power, who is extremely concerned by the fact that two wind energy companies, Galetech and Bord na Móna Powergen, plan to erect 37 turbines in total on lands at Bracklyn, Lisclogher, and Ballivor.
Olive, who has strong familial links to Bracklyn estate, is worried the bog, its culture and its heritage will be destroyed with the construction of such wind farms.
“I was a Kenny before I got married and my family, all of my ancestors, were in service for 200 years” said Olive.
“My grandfather and great grandfather worked for the Fetherstonhaughs of Bracklyn.
“There is so much history attached to the Bracklyn estate that I cannot believe they are even dreaming of putting wind farms there – it would be much better being preserved and used as a heritage site.”
The general manager of Helium Arts, a charity whose mission is to empower children living with illness through creativity, Olive also has an extensive background in genealogy, and has helped many a family from the US trace their roots back to the area.
She also did a thesis in UCC focusing on the Fetherstonhaughs of Bracklyn.
“For instance, not many people will know that it was Fetherstonhaugh who was the first man to put a railway on a bog, which is stated in The Lewis Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, in 1837.
“He was also progressive in other ways – he built cottages for the workers on the estate.
“Fetherstonhaugh built a set of houses in the middle of the bog, called The Burrow.
“There are still a lot of families living locally in Delvin that can trace their roots to The Burrow, including the Kennys, as well as the Cruises and the Morans.
“The Burrow was a rural community in every sense of the word.
“My great grandfather Michael Kenny was a bog ranger in 1901. It was his job to stock the estate with pheasant, grouse, and partridge for hunting.
“His cottage, ‘Grouse Lodge’ was built opposite The Burrow.
“There was great heritage to that bog right up until the mid-1970s, when Bracklyn was turned into a stud farm.
“I feel our heritage is slowly eroding, like the bog itself,” said Olive.
“So much about rural Ireland is changing, our way of life is being dismissed and eradicated.”
“There is a graveyard behind The Burrow, where the mausoleum of Howard Fetherstonhaugh, held in much lesser esteem than his father before him for evicting his tenants, is located.
“Howard was assassinated 1868 by an unknown assassin, or assassins, at Knocksheban Hill. There are great tales of how the Franciscans in Multyfarnham had previously approached Howard, asking him not to evict his tenants.
“Of course, following his death, there was a lengthy investigation, which led to six arrests, but nobody was convicted of his death.
“All of that history belongs to the area, and really, you could designate Ballyhealy, Bracklyn and Ballivor a bog heritage site.
“People of The Burrow fought in the Boer War. William Kenny went to fight in the Boer War, and before leaving planted two sycamore trees and said they’d be grown by the time he got back. Of course he never came back. The next generation fought in World War I. Many families emigrated to America, including members of our own, and I still get American visitors wishing to trace their ancestors.
“One family, 13 of them in total, came from Dublin every day for three days to the Camánn Inn in Delvin, hoping to meet someone who would know where their family originated from.
“They wanted to find the old school house where Brinsley McNamara taught. We were able to take them to the site of the old church, which was located where the hall is now. The stone wall is still there and we have a plaque there.
“They were fascinated to see it all, and it was fascinating to see how important it was for them to come home and find their ancestors, where they lived, went to school…
“Moreover, Delvin had one of the last workhouses in Ireland. It was built in 1848-1850, seven years after the start of the famine. In 1911, 103 people were residing in Delvin Workhouse, and in 1923 it was burnt to the ground by the Black and Tans.
“We have the castle, and so much history. What they should be doing is building a heritage centre here instead of windfarms.
“If those things go up, not only will it affect the wildlife, the flora and fauna, not to mention the noise of them in a rural area, but the whole heritage of that area will be lost. It would be an awful shame.
“There are so many things about the bog, things we are still learning, such as the phosphorus gases that leave the bog and create lights over the bog at night.
“I would love to hear what the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage has to say about these plans for the turbines.”
Olive says no one is against renewable energy, but feels Ireland should take the approach the Danes are taking.
“Denmark aims to be self-sufficient by developing offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea and North Sea. They will import any additional electricity needs from Norway, which uses hydropower, Sweden, which uses nuclear power, and Germany, which uses solar power. They will then store up the extra energy to guarantee supply on less windy and cloudy days.
“To think that this is what they call progress. This is ‘progress’ versus our heritage.”