Muintir Na Tíre was founded by Canon John Hayes in 1937, who was parish priest of Bansha, Co. Tipperary. The three main aims of Muintir Na Tire were: first, the spirit of self-help, second, the cultivation of community spirit and third, the basic unit for parish life. The other basic principle of Cannon Hayes` ideals for Muintir Na Tire was that it should be based on neighbourliness, and all sections of society were equal.
As these virtues were active in the parish of Kilbrin, they appealed to the people, and so a guild of Muintir Na Tire was founded in Kilbrin in 1947. At an inaugural meeting, held in Ballygraddy school the late Fr. Donal Ryan was elected chairman. Pádraig O’Riain was elected first secretary and the late James Neenan was elected treasurer.
It must be borne in mind that, at that time in rural areas, there was no convenient supply of water, no electricity, or other modem conveniences that we are used to today. This included the school. When we endure a power cut, or water shortage, this gives people an idea what it was like to be without these facilities. Therefore, one of the first projects to be tackled was rural electrification, the area had to be canvassed, because at the time it was new technology. In spite of this canvas there were some people who refused to take electricity. When the acceptance rate reached a certain level the E.S.B. Engineers did a survey in conjunction with Banteer, which was surveyed at the same time. Eventually, after much striving especially by Fr. Donie Ryan, the power was switched on in 1951.
The next major project which was tackled by the guild was the building of the Dr. Croke Memorial Hall. In spite of opposition from various quarters, it was proved conclusively, that Dr. Croke was born at Dromin, Castlecor in the parish of Kilbrin. Having got over this hurdle, the work of construction on the hall proceeded. Here again Fr. Donie Ryan proved his mettle and ingenuity and talent for getting things done. The fruit of the work, which was largely voluntary, can be seen to this day. The hall was opened in October, 1952, by Muintir Na Tire’s illustrious founder, Canon John Hayes. Celebrations continued for some time. Dr. Croke hall proceeded to be a major centre for dancing over a wide area. When its popularity was at its height, it got a major set back. A major dance was planned and the band had been booked. Unfortunately, due to an oversight, the night chosen was also the opening night of a mission. As was the custom at the time, it was unheard of to have a dance during a mission. The band had to be cancelled, at the last minute, and people travelled long distances to be disappointed on arrival. Some patrons never again wanted to hear of Kilbrin. As a consequence the hall never again prospered during that period.
During this period of time, a major effort was also made to get the Council to tar the roads as most roads were only stone roads. It was a major advance to get this work done. Having achieved improvements on the roads, a bus service was introduced. The route of the bus was from Dromcollogher to Cork, via Kilbrin. (On a side note, the conductor on the bus was Donal Broderick, who played for Limerick in the Munster final in Thurles in 1956, and he it was who marked Christy Ring, who scored 3 goals and a point in the last five minutes of the game). Another useful service was introduced in the form of a delivery lorry, which brought goods from the Railway Station to the local businesses.
In the Marion Year of 1954, a grotto was erected at Dromin, Castlecor, at the cross which was one time called Whittle's Cross. Voluntary labour played a major part in this achievement.
Rural week which was the annual gathering for Muintir Na Tire, was always very well attended by the Kilbrin guild. Over the years the late John Corkery and Pádraig O’Riain were the delegates to rural week. Pádraig was a much sought speaker at these gatherings and his contribution was often the highlight of the week. Fireside chats, as they were known, were an outlet for public debate. Kilbrin was fortunate in having such outstanding speakers and their attendance was much sought after. The fire-side chats in Kilbrin were often memorable.
On the 30th January, 1957, Canon John Hayes, the National President of Muintir Na Tire died in a Tipperary nursing home. Many tributes have been paid in other places to this unique Irish man who was far ahead of his time. Many thought at the time that it would be the end of the movement.
In 1959 the guild reached a financial crisis due to the inactivity of the guild during the previous year and a debt on the grotto. A silver circle was proposed and explained by Fr. Morrissey, successor to Canon Hayes, as a way of raising funds. This proved to be a great success with the support from the parish and outside the parish.
In 1960, it was decided to investigate the installation of a water supply in the Ballyheen district, as there was a nearby source. After a long drawn out struggle, the scheme was completed in the late 1970’s. The contractor for the scheme was the late Mark Stokes, who died in 1992.
Several successful carnivals were run in conjunction with the G.A.A. in Kilbrin. The carnival was once a major highlight of the year’s activities, but in more recent times they have slipped gradually into obscurity, not just in Kilbrin, but throughout the country.
After so many years of outstanding activity, it is sad to report that the guild lapsed into relative obscurity, but for a faithful few, who tried to keep the ideas and names of Muintir Na Tire alive. Over the whole period of its activity, as an example of their steadfastness, there were just five Chairmen, namely the afore mentioned Fr. Donie Ryan, Mr. John Corkery, Mr. Thomas O’Reilly, Mr. John O’Connell, all now sadly deceased, and Mr. John O’Riordan who is still hail and hearty. Two men were to fill the position of secretary during most of this period, i.e. Mr. Padraig O’Riain and Mr. Jimmy O’Connell, a true reflection of their dedication to the guild. Mr. Geoff O’Donoghue also served as secretary for a brief period, getting little opportunity make his mark on a position held so ably by his predecessors. As an example of Jimmy’s efficiency, his records of meetings are still to be seen, and we are grateful to him for much of the material mentioned in this article. The Community Council is affilliated to Muintir Na Tire to this day, Jimmy continued his interest, still being a member of the guild as it is.
In 1974, the present Community Council was established by Fr. Kelleher. Many of the aspirations are embodied in the present council. It is hoped that the people of the parish will draw inspiration from what is gone before, as we raise ourselves up on the achievement of others. Long may it continue!
James Neenan and Jimmy O’Connell
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