BALLINEEN Post Office, once the hub of the community, might have closed its doors for the last time in September, 2018 — but the communities of twin villages, Ballineen and Enniskeane, situated on the banks of the River Bandon, are doing some regenerating and rejuvenating of their own.
Part of the ‘regeneration’ project entailed the design of a picture postcard garden as a submission for the Bloom Garden Festival.
The postcard garden, based on the 1900s garden of renowned playwright and former director of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, Lennox Robinson, who lived at Ballymoney House for two decades, has been chosen to represent County Cork in the summer-time Bloom garden festival, which opens in Phoenix Park tomorrow.
“Bloom sent out a request to villages and towns all over the country to put forward designs for a postcard garden to feature at the Bloom Garden Festival this year,” says Gráinne Bagnall, who lives in Ballymoney House and who is involved in the regeneration project.
“We got working on the theme of what we believed Ballymoney House garden might have looked like in the early 1900s. It was all hands on deck!”
It was a labour of love for the people of Ballineen/Enniskeane.
“I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to stay in Ballymoney House when I was on holidays three years ago,” says Gráinne, from County Meath.
“I loved it so much, I decided to stay! I fell in love with the house, and its rich history. Developing the house, restoring it has been amazing,” adds Gráinne, who was named as Social Entrepreneur Ireland, for her work in STEAM Education in primary schools and in 2018 graduated from UCC with a post-grad in Project Management.
The postcard garden design is based around the sort of garden that Lennox Robinson, a former pupil of Bandon Grammar School, who died in 1958, was believed to have had at Ballymoney House between 1902 and 1921.
The community groups of Ballineen/Enniskeane put in a mammoth joint effort to re-create ‘A Sense of Place’ His Heartland, Lennox Robinson Garden, which is their entry for Bloom 2019.
“Since the post office closed, the traffic just passes through the villages,” says Gráinne, who is involved in three local community organisations, The Local Heritage Group, Tidy Towns and the Ballineen Enniskeane Development Association, known as BEDA, that began collaboration in January on a ‘regeneration’ project.
“The closure of the Post Office affected people living in the village going out and about, meeting each other for a chat while doing a bit of shopping,” adds Gráinne, whose mother was a post-mistress in County Meath.
“Rural life can be very isolating; if the little local pub closes, nobody would meet up,” she said.
The Memorial Postcard Garden project gave the two villages and the people of Ballindeen/Enniskeane momentum to put their neck of the woods on the map.
The groups came up with a design for a 3X2 metre wild-flower garden featuring a wooden sculpture of Robinson carved by sculptor, Seamus O’Sullivan, using wood from the nearby Manch forest. The garden design also features a spectacular painted back-drop of a local stone bridge by architect Deirdre White.
“Travellers on the road were passing through the villages,” says Gráinne, reminded of the time Ballineen, like many other rural Irish villages, mourned the closure of its Post Office, which was a traditional meeting place for local people.
“We wanted more people to stop off when going through our villages,” says Gráinne.
“This garden project has given us all a renewed sense of togetherness; a real sense of belonging. People just rallied to work together.
“There were a total of 280 applications for the postcard section for Bloom and out of those our garden was chosen to represent the County Cork region.”
So, is the perfectly formed postcard garden stopping the traffic?
“The locals are absolutely delighted with their success,” she says.
“The teams of enthusiastic gardeners have done Trojan work in planting flowers and setting a country scene in the lush wild meadow of Ballymoney House.”
The villages were delighted to pay a tribute to one of their own, renowned playwright and dramatist, Lennox Robinson, who as well as Ballymoney House, had homes in Kinsale and Douglas.
“Yes, we are delighted to honour the Cork man and unsung hero of Irish playwriting, Lennox Robinson,” says Gráinne.
“We are proud to highlight his connection to our villages and wish to ensure that he is remembered for his significant contribution to rural theatre and amateur acting.
“We are thrilled that the local branch of Bandon Co-op in Enniskeane has come on board to sponsor this venture.”
Gráinne must be proud that the garden of Ballymoney House, where she lives with her partner Herbert, is showcased in all its glory.
“It is just fabulous,” she says.
Another show-stopper is planned at the historic location.
“The twin villages of Ballineen/ Enniskeane are delighted to see the continuation of their 2018 community project extend to 2019,” says Gráinne.
“What started as a well-attended pageant walk to the Old Ballymoney Cemetery as part of the summer festival 2018, has grown legs and morphed into a play,, which will be staged by local amateur actors under the careful guidance of theatre director Nora Scannell.”
Ballymoney House is the perfect venue for the picturesque postcard garden and for the staging of Lennox Robinson’s three-act comedy.
“Entering the Bloom picture postcard garden competition, commemorating Lennox Robinson, was a great way to promote our community play this year,” says Gráinne.
, is being staged at Ballymoney House on Thursday, June 27 th and Friday, June 28.
Lennox Robinson lived there at the Rectory at the time of writing the play. A final performance is being staged on Sunday evening June 30, as a highlight to this year’s BEDA Festival at the BEDA Hall in Ballineen, West Cork.
“I’m playing Mrs Geoghegan,” says Gráinne, delighted at the prospect.
“Herbert is playing Donough. The play is a brilliant comedy.
“We’ve been rehearsing for three months.
“Twelve local actresses got involved. Staging the play in Ballymoney House is a fitting tribute to Lennox Robinson.”
The cast are staying ‘in character’ at the Bloom Garden Festival.
“Some of the cast are going to be dressed in costume at Bloom!” says Gráinne.
No doubt the postcard garden project, a magnificent showpiece, will take centre stage at Bloom, in Phoenix Park this week, from tomorrow until Monday, June 3.
“The community groups of villages enrich rural life and promote the quality of life of young and old,” says Gráinne.
She is quite at home in picturesque Ballymoney House in Ballineen.
“I’m a country girl at heart,” she says.
The locals in Ballineen/Enniskeane welcomed Grainne with open arms.
“I am a blow-in!” says Gráinne.
Now she’s one of their own.
Bloom Garden Festival runs from May 30 to June 3, from 9am to 6pm at the Phoenix Park, Dublin.