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County Galway - Gort Heritage Centre

Gort Heritage Centre   The Gort Heritage Centre is located on Church Street just off Gort’s historic square. A treasure trove of information, it was set up with the assistance of EU Regional Funding administered by Bord Fáilte, Galway County Council, Gort Heritage, and much local community support for which Gort is rightly famed. Gort was the home of Guaire of the giving hand.

Guaire was the 7th century King of Connacht who is famed for his generosity and hospitality. It is from him that the town of Gort gets its name Gort Inse Guaire –the (tilled) field on the island of Guaire. Gort has a tradition of welcome through the centuries which continues to this day.

What’s so wonderful/different about Gort?

It is a place of huge historic and archaeological interest. Deirdre O’Neill of Gort Heritage Centre advises anyone remotely interested in either, to arm themselves with an Ordnance Survey Discovery Series map (no 52) to see for yourself the number of places of historical and archaeological interest within a stone’s throw of the town of Gort. There are holy wells (the site of patterns and stations especially on feast days of St Colman to whom many are dedicated - ), bulaun stones (dating from pre-Christian times when they were used for the ritual mixing of herbs and spices: in later times they were used for grinding corn), fulachta fiadh (ancient cooking places, where heated stones were put into water to cook the food), castles, megalithic tombs, cillíns (children’s burial grounds), monastic settlements , round towers and ancient graveyards. Kilmacduagh with its unparalleled monastic settlement and round tower is only a couple of miles from Gort. The one hundred foot high round tower which leans two feet out of the perpendicular is older than its counterpart in Pisa. It is the tallest and the best-preserved of its kind in Ireland.


The Heritage Centre is fittingly located in a magnificent stone building, which at various times housed the old Roman Catholic chapel, Gort National School and the Town Hall. The upper floor of the building is still used as a theatre for productions by the local drama group. Over the years there have been productions of pantomimes, light opera, drama, musicals and plays performed in this building. A lot of present-day visitors to the Gort Heritage Centre are people who left the area some time ago and who come in to reminisce and recall times gone by in the old town hall, when they enjoyed a show or danced or played cards or pool in the building.

The present building was completed in 1847 and has many interesting features. It is built of cut stone, with Tudor mouldings on the windows and pinnacles on the gables.

Inside Gort Heritage Centre visitors, both local and tourists will find a fine exhibition depicting the history of the area. The exhibition consists of models, an audio visual display and panels depicting the story of Gort from the 7th century. It tells the story of the people of Gort from the earliest settlers who left their megalithic monuments; visitors learn the full story of Saint Colman, and how he came to be founder of the monastic settlement at Kilmacduagh. Some people will probably have heard of King Guaire of Dún Guaire castle in Kinvara. That was one of his residences, the other was in Gort. He was known for his generosity as Guaire of the giving hand, the 7th century King of Connacht. His descendants the O’Heynes, the O’Cahills and the O’Shaughnessys, are still to be met in Gort today. The history is told of the O’Shaughnessy clan who were chieftains of the area until they lost their lands in the Williamite wars. The story then moves to the emergence of a new Gort under the Prendergast/Smyth/Vereker family and the how the Lords of Gort were created. Visitors can see how the town was planned and laid out by the Paine brothers under the auspices of Lord Gort and the visitor will learn about the effects of the famine in Gort, the famine burial place.


Gort has always extended a welcome to the stranger and the present day town is no exception. Bernadette Prendergast (indeed a Gort name itself) did an award-winning programme recently called “The Boys from Brazil” about the welcome afforded to the Brazilians who have come to Gort to work in the past few years.


But back to Gort Heritage Centre, which acts as a taster for the many fine places of interest in the locality. Visit the centre and then plan your itinerary. You can start with a walking tour of the town itself. You can pick up a leaflet produced by the centre which will guide you round some of the places of interest in the town itself. We also have available other publications which will make your visit Gort and Galway county more informed. These are the newly published Galway East Ecclesiastical Trail and Galway County Culture Trail.

Further information can be obtained from Deirdre O’Neill
Gort Heritage Centre, Church Street, Gort
Tel: 091 630237
Mobile: 087 6505285
Email: gortheritage@extn.galwaycoco.ie

Open five days a week, 9am -5pm, Thursday –Monday. Closed Tuesday & Wednesday and for lunch 1-2pm


Links

Gort - The town of Gort, County Galway
Kilmacduagh - A monastic settlement famed for it's round tower and history
County Galway towns - other towns of County Galway

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Kilmacduagh
Burren