On a mission to bring local history to people in Ballincollig

SANDRA QUINN finds out about a project underway in Ballincollig aimed at bringing knowledge about one of Ireland’s historical gems to more people
On a mission to bring local history to people in Ballincollig

The Gunpowder Mills at the Regional Park in Ballincollig.

A CRUMBLED wall, an old ruin, or even just a pile of rocks — armed with the right information at the right time, these could provide a window to the past, a story from the very fabric of our local history.

The Regional Park in Ballincollig, like many areas around Cork city and county, is steeped in historic details, but many people are not aware of them.

When you wander around the picturesque and beautifully maintained park, taking advantage of the looped walks, playing pitches, skate park, picnic area and woodland trails, what many people don’t realise is that the park was once home to the 19th century Ballincollig Royal Gunpowder Mills.

This historic gem is the biggest archaeological site in Ireland and was the second largest gunpowder mill across both Britain and Ireland.

The past year has brought with it many things and one of those was a definite appreciation for the beauty of our local areas, as we were confined to within 5km of our homes.

The Gunpowder Mills App which is underway.
The Gunpowder Mills App which is underway.

David Haskett has lived in Ballincollig for the past 12 years, and during lockdowns, he was in the Regional Park almost daily.

While soaking up the beauty of the park, he often wondered what the old walls once were and he started to look into the history of the park and the gunpowder mills.

He was amazed by what he found and it started him out on a mission to bring the history of his local area into the modern era, accessible to all through a pretty impressive app.

David said that before the lockdown, they would have always gone to the same areas of the park with their two boys, but when restrictions came in, they started to explore the park at a deeper level.

“We started to go off the track a bit and found lots of different buildings. I had known there was history associated with the park, but I didn’t realise how much,” he said.

At the time, David’s 10-year-old son was also really into Pokeman Go and it gave David the idea of somehow bringing the history of the park to life through an interactive app, somewhat like the premise of the popular Pokeman game.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if, using your phone, you could point it at one of these buildings and find out all about what it once was, what it was used for and see it rebuilt in 3D.”

While many people would assume that the walls are remnants of the buildings, David explained that many of the original buildings were actually wooden and are long gone, but the stone walls remaining were actually blast walls.

The Gunpowder Mills App which is underway.
The Gunpowder Mills App which is underway.

The idea became David’s lockdown project and he started to research the history of the park and everything in it.

“There was a lot of history there, but it was kind of buried.

“The visitor centre, literally at the front of the park, closed 20 years ago.” He pulled together a committee, with people from all walks of life and some from as far away as New York, to work on what was quickly becoming a very real project for the community.

The voluntary committee is made up of: David Haskett, Reka Ferencz (Project Manager), Rod MacDonnell, Frank Donaldson, Dermot Lucy and Margaret Long (Content Team), Aisling Murphy, Ciara Regan and Sammy Levin on the Design Team, James Sadlier, McCoy Zhu, Kevin McGarry and Garry McKee on the Engineering Team, Shilpa Prasad (QA Testing), Nuria Pallarois (architect), Aoife Brophy (legal counsel) and Darren Lane (photographer).

David said that everyone played their part and brought their skills to the table to make this project a success, but that particular thanks must go to the woman who pulled everything together.

“The life blood of the project is Reka, our Project Manager, she’s been dedicated to the project for the past six months and is keeping all of us aligned in our priorities and tasks.”

The app will give people the opportunity to look at what remains in the park, see how the buildings used to look, read about what they were used for, and learn all about the history of the mills.

“We wanted to marry the rich history of the park with technology and put the history in the hands of the people walking around,” David said.

Cork County Council has also rowed in behind the project and provided funding for the brambles around the buildings to be cleared and signage for the buildings.

The app will give people a full experience of the park providing 3D images, history, trivia, floor plans and the story behind each area of the park.

The committee hopes to release the free app in April this year, in time for the Easter holidays.

Visit www.powdermills.ie for updates as the project progresses.

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