Autumn Run: 10th September 2023

For longer than one can remember, when it comes to the annual autumn run hosted by Sean McEvoy, we have yet to traverse ground not visited heretofore. 

One must wonder how it is that County Laoise has so much to offer the day tripper.  Well, this year, Sean surpassed himself by planning a trip with remarkable contrasts, the theme of calmness and appreciation of our forefathers, took us all by surprise.

Having foregathered at the Maldron Hotel and at the appointed hour, Sean delivered his drivers’ briefing and circulated his route information and instructions. 

It was an anti clockwise affair heading due south for Abbeyleix.  The noon sunshine coupled with a warm breeze created through physical movement made our first leg really pleasant. 

Autumn Run: Sunday 10th September 2023

The familiar brown tourist signposts in the village pointed us to our first stop, Heyward Gardens.  For those of us, a minority who had visited before this was a bonus; to the newcomers to the gardens it was truly a surprise.

The entrancing eighteenth-century landscape at Heywood Gardens, near Ballinakill, County Laois, consists of gardens, lakes, woodland and some exciting architectural features.  The park is set into a sweeping hillside. The vista to the south-east takes in seven counties.

The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the formal gardens, which are the centrepiece of the property.  It is likely that renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll landscaped them.

The gardens are composed of elements linked by a terrace that originally ran along the front of the house. (Sadly, the house is no more.)  One of the site’s most unusual features is a sunken garden containing an elongated pool, at whose centre stands a grand fountain.  A sense of calmness and appreciation was to the fore,

It was at this spot the woven baskets and food containers were out with our group enjoying their picnic lunch in the company of each other.  Added banana cake and Victorian sponge cake was freely shared by the bakers to an appreciative audience.

We admired the goldfish swimming merrily in the pool delighted with the odd crumb cast into the clear water.  It must be the grand centre piece fountain protects the fish from the hungry pelican ready for a fresh catch.

The Heywood experience starts beside the Gate Lodge. Information panels and signage will guide you around the magical Lutyens gardens and the surrounding romantic landscape.  Highly recommended for a return visit; do tell your friends.

A very pleasant afternoon drive in scenic countryside, free of traffic and gradient free brought us all on a country lane where we assembled,  Out of general interest to us, there are a number of high quality community and privately-run museums and heritage centres in County Laois, each with its own particular strengths in interpreting the cultural heritage of the county. 

The one we visited was created by William Wallace way back in time.  His son Richard and daughter in law Vivienne caught the hording bug and between them they have amassed an array of hand tools, machinery and artefacts of bygone days that is truly amazing.

We soon parked up our fleet of Edwardian vehicles in the farm yard to capacity with the overflow along the lane.  With the Ford flag hoisted by flagman James Stinson, we were graciously received by the Wallace family and friends with no time wasted but to visit and get enthralled with the offerings.

Richard handed each of us with a prenumbered competition sheet inviting us to search, find and describe 10 individual items in stock.  A half hour of enjoyment pursuing the items concentrated the minds of the enthusiasts.  Richard collected the entry forms.  Results to be announced later.

Vivienne laid on sandwiches, cakes and goodies with teas and coffee for all.  We mingled in the farm yard and spoke of nothing else other than the museum pieces.  We wondered which one of us would have received the top mark on the quiz. 

President Paul Murphy addressed our members and guests. 

Benny O’Gorman

He welcomed Sean O’Gorman our newest member to his first outing.  Sean is pictured astride two Model T Ford Touring cars that at one time, many years ago, were in the ownership of his father, the late Benny O’Gorman.  One could not but take in calmness and appreciation of our forefathers,

He thanked Sean McEvoy for his organising skills in delivering once again an outing of interest and enjoyment. 

He signalled out his appreciation to William Wallace for his tenacity in continuing with his passion and allowing others at large join in on his fascination of vintage items and objects.  It was truly wonderful that his skill and knowledge has passed from father to son and Vivienne.

Richard responded, thanked us for our kindness and interest in the museum and bid us a return welcome at any time. 

Richard announced the winner of the quiz achieved 7 ½ marks out of 10.  He hailed Sandra Coote and presented her with her winnings, a basket of fresh fruits.

So as to express our appreciation to the Wallace family and as a keepsake or memento of our visit to Clonbrock Heritage Museum, President Paul Murphy presented Vivienne Wallace with a hand turned bowl, created especially for the occasion my one of our wood turning members.

The final word was for Sean McEvoy.  He recounted his friendship with the Wallace family extending beyond 47 years and shared the passion for collecting articles of interest used by our forefathers. 

As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention” meaning when the need for something becomes essential, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it.  We had at first hand at Clonbrock Heritage Museum the experience and opportunity of delving into work practice and procedures, akin to the Model T Ford in its hay day.

We made our way, under strict instructions to avoid Windy Gap and keep to the N80 road, to Stradbally.  The way took us to Athy on perfect roads with really good scenery and colourful landscape of forty shades of green; sufficient to say we arrived back at base safe and sound. 

What was remarkable in so far as weather was concerned, a heavy storm and downpour was forecast; true, the heavens opened but not upon us.  Whilst in Heywood Gardens and at Clonbrock Heritage Museum we experienced lovely sunshine and blue skies. 

At the loading up stage, in preparation of our respective journeys home, we managed to exchange pleasantries one with another, express our satisfaction and pleasure with the day which proved to be educational and enjoyable. 

Top marks with grateful thanks to Sean McEvoy.  We will eagerly return again.

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