By Marian Harnett

PROLOGUE: The darkest hour only has sixty minutes.  Morris Mandel

SHOUT OUT FOR WORK MATES: I was contacted by a Johnny Heffernan who used to work in Mungret College possibly in the fifties and he’s looking to get in touch with Dan and John Sheehan from Kilmanahan /Brosna.  If anyone can help him reunite with his mates will you contact him on 086 8811567.

NEW C.D ON SALE:  Natasha Sheehy, daughter of Vincent and Noreen, The Hill who is based in Boston is featured on a CD playing the button accordion with a group of musicians who play the bodhran, fiddle and guitar.    It’s called ‘Ship in the Clouds’ and is on sale in Sheehys on the Killarney Rd and in Pat Buckleys, Templeglantine.

ASH WEDNESDAY: One of the most significant days in the Christian calendar is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. This year due the Coronavirus restrictions it will not be possible for people to gather for Mass in church on Ash Wednesday. Here in Abbeyfeale parish and in our neighbouring parishes of Athea, Templegalntine, Tournafulla -Mountcollins we plan to distribute a Lenten Pack which will include unblessed ashes, a prayer card for Ash Wednesday and a Trocaire Box. Parishioners will be able to collect these Lenten packs from their local churches on the afternoon of Sunday, February 14. On Ash Wednesday ashes will be blessed at Mass and the blessing will extend to the ashes collected from the church the previous Sunday. In the current climate for the safety of all parishioners, no ashes will be distributed at any of the churches in our pastoral unit.

GREENWAY PIONEERS OPPOSE PROPOSED NAME CHANGE:  The Great Southern Trail Ltd. (GST) voluntary group was formed about thirty years ago after Shannon Development had abandoned their visionary project designed to create Ireland’s first Greenway along 85km of the former Limerick to Tralee railway. Shannon Development bestowed the name ‘Great Southern Trail’ on the project to reflect the railway heritage. They engaged John Grimshaw of Bristol to survey the route and prepare a comprehensive study. John’s report was visionary and is available on  However, trenchant opposition from an anti-Greenway cohort of adjoining landowners was a major factor in Shannon Development’s surprise decision to abandon the project. Our fledgling organisation was shocked by this abandonment and we decided to take over the reins of the project. We spent the 1990‘s garnering local support and organising meetings and regular walks along the route. We used the Students Summer Jobs Scheme to clear the bushes / briars and to surfaced short sections.  In the dawn of the new Millennium we negotiated a licence from CIÉ and opened the 4km from Newcastle West to Ardagh in 2004. Subsequently we gradually lengthened the route. The Department of Rural Affairs, Limerick County Council and the local Leader group became our partners. By 2010 we had a through route of 38 km from Rathkeale, via Newcastle West, to Abbeyfeale. All this was achieved with an outlay of about two million euro.  By 2012 Limerick Council had surfaced an additional 2 km westwards from Abbeyfeale to the North Kerry Border. Unfortunately, a reincarnation of the 1990‘s opposition manifested itself on the Kerry side of the border and prevented any walks or works to take place thereby stymieing commencement of the extension to Listowel until 2020.  In 2015 we ceased managing the Greenway as the 40km route was simply too long for volunteers to maintain. Our licence from CIÉ was transferred to Limerick City and County Council (LCCC). Meanwhile, Kerry County Council (KCC) purchased the railway from the Border to Fenit.
We continue to be interested in the Greenway and we welcome most of the initiatives by the local authorities. We particularly appreciate the work carried out by LCCC in making the Barnagh Tunnel more easily accessible and their positivity in restoration of railway buildings at Barnagh, Ardagh and Rathkeale.  Therefore, it is with great regret that we have to disagree with LCCC’s current plan to rebrand the Greenway as the “Limerick Greenway” just as the long awaited extension to Listowel and North Kerry is coming to fruition.They had already changed the original Great Southern Trail name a few years ago to “Great Southern Greenway Limerick”. This involved new signage being erected with associated costs. We expressed our reservations to the change at that time but to no avail. If “Limerick Greenway” branding proceeds it will be followed by “Kerry Greenway” and the cost will not only be monetary but will also be likely to confuse visitors and perhaps deter those who want to experience a lengthy cycle or a marathon walk.  The length of the Greenway should be an attraction to visitors in its own right and two names are likely to cause confusion. We have visited numerous Greenways throughout Europe but never encountered one with two names. (One of us did however explore the Two Tunnels Greenway in England!)  Furthermore, bland names are not very common from our experiences throughout Europe. The first rural Greenways visited in England were the Camel Trail and the Tarka Trail. We also organised visits by several groups of our supporters to Greenways in Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Austria, and Germany where we visited the Schinderhannes Radweg (which is named after a highway man). A Google Maps search will instantly locate all four of the English and German aforementioned routes.  Of course we cannot forget the very successful Great Western Greenway in Mayo. It’s name, derived from ours, recalls the era of railway heritage and assures the users that the route is off road, has easy gradients and most likely some beautiful stonework in bridges and old railway buildings.  There was a great fraternal bond among the railway personnel employed along the Limerick to Tralee railway. It was a line which had its own character and the subject of three books: two of which were published by the GST. With sales of over two thousand books and multiples of that figure viewing our YouTube videos of the railway we are confident that the grá for the railway era continues.
We suggest “Great Southern Trail Greenway” as the English language title since it recalls the origin of Ireland’s first Greenway and its primarily rural hinterland rich in flora and fauna. We propose as the title in Irish “Slí Luimneach-Ciarraí” which covers both Counties.  We hope that our elected public representatives in both counties will make appropriate representations in this regard.

Liam O Mahony, Cathaoirleach, GST Ltd.Denis McAuliffe, Vice Chair.  Pádraig Condúin, Treasurer.  Mike Mac Domhnaill, Records Secretary. Michael Guerin, Convenor, North Kerry.  Jim McNamara, Director.Tim O’Leary, Director.