Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Balitore Quaker Village

I have been meaning to blog about a little town in Co. Kildare which is an hours drive from Dublin. I had to go there two weeks ago as a college trip to do a cultural mapping of the town. As part of my course for Strategic management we had to pick a town within an hours drive from Dublin, go to that town, meet the locals, find out the culture of the town and make suggestions on how to better the town.

We got to Balitore in the early hours of the morning. It was very quiet and not many around well it was an early Saturday morning. :p It was Avril, Stephen and I who got to the town first and giving none of our classmates were here yet we went to explore abit.

This is the library which was closed being a Saturday. The librarian opened it for a few of my classmates earlier which I missed. The library has alot of Balintore history and has a military museum in it. I would of loved to seen it as I am big fan of military history.

This is the Meeting House, where the last of the few Quakers meet once a week for a ceremony and downstairs the Giese Youth Drama do rehearsals and do plays. It is an interesting contrast. Later on when we spoke to the Drama group, we ask them how do their feel about the Quakers meeting upstairs, they said it doesn't bother them. They leave us alone, we leave them alone.

As you can see Balitore does look like a traditional town and you got the modern convience store yet it keeps the old charm.

This landscape plays an important tale of the town. There was a multi dominated Quaker boarding school in Balitore which was ran by Cardinal Cullen and ran from 1726 to 1930. What is left of the boarding school is an a cobbled arch which highlights how important the Quaker religion was in the town. While I was taken pictures of this cobbled arch I felt a sense of loneliness and sadness maybe because there was nobody around.

What really struck me about Balitore was the run down buildings which were left there.. Later on in the day, Avril and I spoke to two old ladies. One of them was Theresa who is 94 and was well with it. Her friend Ann Marie was also present, they both lived in the town a long time. I asked Ann Marie was their any opportunity to restore the abandoned buildings and she said there is no interest. I got a sense of emptiness in the town and it felt like a ghost town. Many other people we interviewed said Balitore has somewhat a bad image and some drivers don't like driving though the town, there is also some elements of teenage vandalism due to nothing to do. I asked Ann Marie about this and she said the town is fine it does have a abit of vandalism but wouldn't go further into discussion. That was interesting. We got alot of history of Ann Marie and Theresa. Ann Marie use to run the mill which is stunning. The mill ran from 1840 by Cornal Donal who wasn’t a Quaker and was let to Edward Morrin. The mill closed in 1960s and was ran by Paddy Mille. Ann Marie’s family re-opened the mill at 1971 and closed it down four years ago. The mill made flour. It was a spectacular site as we got a good look at it at the end of the day. Theresa was very kind to allow Avril and I come into her house to interview them. Her house was a small cottage with antiques and it was very cosy. We were grateful for their time.

Ann Marie said this abandoned building use to be the town chemist.

Ann Marie spoke of this pub which was very traditional. I unfortunely never got a chance to go into the pub but she said it was very old fashioned and was well worth going in. Balitore has a nice traditional Irish music pub scene.

This seems to be a creche, I think it is called the Market House.

This is the Shaker store and sells traditional wooden furniture. Sadly it is closing down and is gone out of business.

Me taking a snap of the side window. You can see some furniture.

More images of the history of the town

This pub being O'Connor pub is very important in the town. The O'Connor family own a cinema which is not in use anymore. I will go more into that later. :)

When we arrived in Balitore we met Loais who greeeted us. She is a local and was very nice. She runs the Geise Youth Drama and was telling us of a project she will be doing wth the youth, she works alot with teenagers. She allowed us to use the creche as a meeting room and for interviewing. We came to the creche to chillax during the day. That is Kim, Avirl and Stephen my collage mates, we were organising our day and notes for interviewing.

I took some pictures of these advertisments to get a sense of the community activities which happen in the town.

First stop, meeting Terry one of the few Quakers left. He greeted us kindly. Terry gave us a brief history on quakernism in Ireland. Quakers came to Ireland in 1685 from the US. He also explained about the Quaker religion saying that it is a friendship circle, there is no leadership, no hierarchy eveyone is equal. The quaker religion seems very interesting that God is in everyone, they meet in the meeting house and have a silent gathering every week. They are passive, neutral and unlike christionanity they don’t swear oaths, dress plain and simple, they don’t celebrate an important occasion, everyday is important and they are honest people.
You can read more informarion on Quakernism in Ireland. - http://www.quakers-in-ireland.ie/

Sorry for the picture being blurry, I did feel abit awkward taking the photo while Terry was talking. That is him on the right corner and my classmates observe.

This was a a very interesting part of the day. We were talking to the Geise Youth Drama and that is Avril coordinating the talk. As you can see we also recorded the meeting. We asked them was their much to do for teenagers in Balitore and the answer was no. The only thing is the drama group and many of the teenagers aren't from Balitore. The youth seemed very ambitious and have attended many drama festivials and workshops. They said they would love to see a youth cafe in the town centre and they believe it is going to happen. They seem very into music and would like to see gigs and band performances in the youth cafe. Giving there were into drama and they talked abit about stage make up and costume making, I was going to tell them about cosplay but felt odd doing so. I know I have to get cosplay out into the open but I just kinda felt it wasn't appropiate yet. It was fantastic seeing the teenagers being so will powered and passionate about drama. Loais was saying it really gives them somwething to do and hope for. That is why I feel hobbies are so important, they could actually have an impact on your career and they do give you something to live for.

After we spoke to the Geise Youth Drama, one of the girls who helps Loais with the drama group took a few of us to the old town cinema. This really fascinated me and was my favourite part of the day. It was a small shed from the outside but in the inside..

It was a big cinema theatre. That was an eye opener. I love the way it is very retro.

This was the town cinema and it stopped running in 1953. I was fascinated by this cinema as it was retro and had such protental for the town. The O’Connor family who ran the main pubs in the town own the cinema and use to run screenings there but have no interest at all nowadays to re-open to the public. The cinema is only used for certain festivals and well known worldwide actor Gabriel Bynne has a connection to Balitore as he is from there. Ann was saying Gabrial has done some film workshops with the youth in the town. We were discussing afterwards how the cinema can be a great use to the town like a film club, the youth drama could do plays there, have balls and it cold make the town distingtive and give character for tourists but the owners have no interest so sadly there is nothing that can be done.

Towards the end of the day we had a look at the Quaker burials ground which Terry spoke of earlier. The burial was a bit out of the town. It was abit of adventure going to the burial ground.

Finally our last stop being the mill. It was raining when we got there so I didn't get many photos but it was really nice and well kept. I snuck behind the back and looked through the window, it was empty and creepy clean.

I had to say going to Balitore that was quite an experience. We didn't get to meet many locals but the people we spoke to were interesting. People were happy to give us information. Before Balitore I didn't know about the Quaker religion and I learned alot of new things. I thought it was interesting to see a traditional village as living in Dublin everything is very modern. As I said my favourite part of the day was the retro cinema. The town has so much protental and it would be interesting to see if the teenagers get their youth cafe and see if thing change. What we discovered was there is a big divide in age groups and ways of thinking. The older generation are conservative and are happy to sit at home and watch TV, they don't want change, the younger generation give out there is nothing to do and many are ambtions. The older ones are wating for the younger ones to make change.

The next step is to do a cultural map of the town as I am one of the designers I have to plan out the map and then we show each another our ideas, the next time we are back in college. It should be fun and I will try and show some images of the map. :)


  1. This was quite an interesting trip and I even learned a new word - 'creche' :D

    You see the potential, but like many rural towns, it seems it has all but vanished. We see the same thing here with lovely farm towns, but most of the youth have 'escaped' to the city for more adventure or opportunities.

    We almost purchased a olde church that was turned into a home, but after the recent earthquakes, it has some major cracks.

  2. Awh you don't use the word "creche" in America? :p It means playschool.

    Yeah that must be the same for alot of rural towns, many of the youth in Balitore 'escaped' to the bigger towns and that is why nothing has been done. The older generation are not bothered. It was interesting. I am currently now designing the map and getting things ready for Eirtakon. :)

    That is a pity about the church, hopefully one day it will be restored.