ASH2020 Chairman’s letter for Ashbourne News April Issue
When I addressed the Civic Reception on the evening of Founders Day (March 4), the immensity of the challenge which now faces us was only beginning to pervade our consciousness. Although the clouds were already on the horizon the realisation of the scale of the challenge that we face had only begun to occupy our thoughts. March 4 already seems like a memory from a different era. Though doubtless in time, memory will mute the salience of the Covid-19 threat, and Founder’s Day 2020 will stand out as a memorable event, that time is in the future; for now all that exercises our minds is the threat and how we will protect those we are responsible for, including ourselves. For most of us, this is the challenge of our lifetime, at least so far. How well we face the challenge will depend in no small way on how well we function as a Community. Indeed, community groups have a special role to play, not least in helping relieve the tedium of siege existence, cabin fever and ennui.
And I confess that sometimes I am troubled by a sombre thought, that this may be a dry run. Every few years we’re likely to see challenges like this, challenges that cannot be tackled at the local, national or even regional level. I’m thinking of issues like economic trauma following such global challenges as this, climate change and its cousin global warming, mass migration forced by climate change, war and economic collapse. The existing model by which we handle our affairs, based on National or even Regional interests doesn’t deal well with these problems, and one of the strong reminders of Plague 2020 is that borders are social constructions. These have historically served their purpose well but may be at the same time a hindrance in terms of survival as a species in generations to come.
Why is this relevant? What has this got to do with Ashbourne in 2020? Here’s my point: We don’t yet know the shape of the structures and institutions that will emerge to face these problems, but my intuition tells me that they will be built on a foundation of strong Communities, who alone can present the collective mindset that will deliver solutions that see beyond the short-term. Ash2020 is about celebrating the achievements of the last 200 years; it is also about renewing and fortifying our Communities for the future, and as the year unfolds it is uncanny how events appear to be driving that imperative home. When I spoke on Founder’s Day of ‘The Spirit of Ash2020’, I was speaking of the teamwork and collaboration between the ASH2020 and the MCC teams that gave us such a successful Founder’s Day. This collective consciousness that emanates from and is sustained by strong Communities and trusting relationships will be repeatedly called on in the months and years to come.
Normally one first reviews the past and moves on to hypothesising on the Future. If today I have departed from that norm, it is because ‘Today’s Future’ very much eclipses all other considerations, like there’s nothing else happening in the World. But the past is also important and so often points the best way forward via the informed consciousness of ‘lessons Learned’. Though at this juncture we don’t know when life will return to normal, I want to pay tribute now to the Chroniclers of our Town’s past. Ashbourne Historical Society (AHS) has two major events scheduled for April: 1) the launch of the Book telling the story of Ashbourne (on April 27) and 2) the opening of the Exhibition on the same subject in the Toradh Gallery, which is scheduled to run until end June. I understand both these very worthwhile projects are on schedule, the exhibition is ready, the book is at the printers, but we cannot at this stage predict with certainty whether or when the events will take place. Be that as it may, let me say a few words about the Ashbourne Historical Society; they are a model Community Group, which has a unique positive influence on our Town, way beyond their size. In recent years they have given us the Heritage Trail, the Battle of Ashbourne Information Board, PJ Moran’s fine presentation on the same battle, many talks around the Decade of Centenaries, a major exhibition in the Spring and Summer of 2016, events for Heritage Week every year including exhibitions of the work of Thomas Ryan, our illustrious exponent of the fine arts for many years now. The forthcoming book is just the icing on the cake, though a work of scholarship for all that. I understand from AHS Chairman Walter Meleady that over fifty residents of Ashbourne and its environs contributed to its creation.
Perhaps the greatest debt we owe them is that they were largely responsible for insinuating ASH2020 into the public consciousness, starting in early 2017, through to the point where the present Board and Structures were established in May 2018. Last September we joined with AHS to welcome the Great-great granddaughter of our Town’s Founder, Frederick Bourne, back to her roots. In the run-up to Founder’s Day we jointly and at short notice assembled The Peoples of Ashbourne group, (members representing the ‘Four Waves’ of settlement in the Town going back to the Nineteenth Century) who added such a dash of colour to Founder’s Day. At the Civic Reception that evening, I probed Walter as to what their secret sauce was? Walter was succinct – “We have lots of disruptive individuals in our membership, but we have no divisive ones. We fight like the proverbial cats and dogs until what approximates to a consensus emerges, then we all put our collective shoulder to the wheel. We’re friends with sometimes strongly different views, but we’re friends first and last. We’re a Team, it’s as simple as that”.
If it’s as simple as that, it works very well. And we’re all the beneficiaries of it. And by the time the book launches many of us will have run out of something to read. So, well-timed, AHS.
Chairman – Ash2020 Board