Ballinora Heritage Trail – 13 – THE GROTTO

13 – THE GROTTO

Timmy Dineen, the last man to shoe a horse in the forge, was returning from Garretstown seaside this particular Sunday, and he happened to say to his wife as he looked at the platform, where dancing prevailed by the riverside, on those long warm summer evenings of long ago.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if a grotto to the mother of God was put there “

Enthusiastic encouragement was given, a simple idea was born, and look at the beauty of it today. What began in the summer of 1959 was blessed and opened by Rev Fr. Cronin in October 1960. But long before it had been a platform for open air dancing, it had been the dwelling place of Timmy Dineen’s grandfather (1858-1918). He lived in a timber house, or maybe it might have been more of a hut than a house, who knows. Today, many people from the parish and beyond come to this holy patch of ground to pray and admire the flowers and shrubs and small low hedges. Tees line the river bank, and mountain ash provide a backdrop of calm and prayerful solitude, Hydrangeas, Montbresias, Trumpet Lilies, Hypericums, Potentillas, Roses of every colour and scent fill the air with innocent delight, as the seasons blend from one to another. Who maintains all this on a daily basis year after year? None other than Timmy Dineen’s two sons. Gerard and Tom. The cross, the forge, the grotto, one could assert belongs to them. The big hope now is, that the next generation will light the candles, as the evening shadows fall, and all those who come to kneel and pray to the Mother of God will see the wonder of creation all around them, and they will give thanks and feel good as they go about their daily lives.

From around 1850 to the 1960s Curraheen was a hive of commercial activity. We can think of famine times at one level, an Ireland almost broken in spirit, the arrival of the Fenian Movement, the Land League, evictions, the first World War, the revolution of 1916, the formation of an Ireland free, the civil war, the republic with 26 counties, the first signs of a new Ireland propelled by government borrowing, that started the real industrialisation of our country. Ireland away out there in the western shores of Europe was about to take its place amongst the Nations of the world. The 1960s had arrived.

But the little part of Ireland, down at the lower end of our parish – from a heritage point of view – captures the age of the horse, the plough, the grinding mill wheel, the parish pump with the bucket swinging, the country shop with the timber counter, the big sweet jars, the primus and methylated spirits, paraffin oil in gallons, meal for the hens and chickens and coupons for rationing during the second world war.