Patrick Brady, a native of Donegal town who has lived in Barnesmore for 37 years, is known to all and sundry as one of the town’s leading optometrists. What’s probably less well known is his commitment to community work, specifically with regard to the Barnesmore Community Centre. He’s the current chairperson of the committee there and spoke to the Donegal Democrat in advance of next month’s AGM about the centre, what’s been happening there and what future direction it might take.
Patrick is now 60 years old. He met his wife Barbara Mongan when she was working at the opticians. The couple have three children who, he says, “have all flown the nest” and two grandchildren.
Although he still works at the opticians four days a week, he sold the business in 2005.
“That freed up a bit of time for me. I had always wanted to do something on a voluntary basis, to give something back. So, it was with that in mind that I went along to the Barnesmore Community Centre AGM back in 2006. I was the treasurer from 2007 onwards until last April when I was elected chairperson.
“We’re delighted that the centre is busy every weekday and most evenings, providing activities for people of all ages. Still, we’d love to see more people getting involved. There are lots of possibilities out there that we could be looking at things like book clubs, cookery and healthy eating classes, and crafts. It’s really up to whatever people would like to do and are prepared to do.
“Fresh thinking and new ideas never go astray. We just need to hear them. After all, we’re not mind readers.”
Mini-Monties and more
“One of the most successful programmes run at the centre is the Montessori. You could say that they are our anchor tenant. It’s run by Suzanne Costello, ably assisted by Maureen Kelly and Claire McGlynn, who is in charge of the Mini-Monties. That’s a new project that started this year for 2-3 year olds and is going very well. Here is a symbiotic relationship between the committee, the centre and the Montessori, especially in terms of the structure - ie, the building and grounds - and development. We’re currently looking at ways to develop a play area and a garden for the children, so that they can spend more time outdoors.
“During holiday times, we try to use the facility to provide activities for other age groups. For example, last summer we held the Spartans Summer Camp, which is run by Georgina Casey, Carmel Boyle, Ryan O’Donnell and Shane Patton. There are lots of arts activities provided in indoors and sports etc. outdoors for children and young people aged 6-14. The Spartan Summer Camp proved so popular that we ended up running a second session.
“We also have a large number of older people living in the area and we hold a Cards Night every Monday for them. These are organised by Sean McAnaw and our committee. We get a great turnout, usually around 40 men and women, from all over, including Ballintra, Mountcharles, Drimarone and even in-through the Gap, from Ballybofey.
“The highlight of our card playing every year is our Grand Card Play Night on Good Friday. It’s one of our major fund-raising exercises of the year as well. We’ll be holding pre-sale for this on Saturday week, March 30 at SuperValu, Donegal town.
“We also have a computer suite that was put in a number of years ago and can be used by people of all ages. However, our ability to develop training and other initiatives with this has been limited because there is still very little internet access here. The only real option is satellite, which is very expensive. Since that time, the technology has moved on as well and there are a lot of very fine training programmes being offered elsewhere. It’s a bit disappointing that we haven’t been able to do more with it but that disappointment is offset by the success of other initiatives since.
“Dramafit is held on Friday nights for 6-12 year olds. There are usually about 30 kids taking part, facilitated by Sarah Gillespie.
“The centre hosted a play that was staged by Seimi Campbell and other young people in September and that was a great hit. It was a very funny play called ‘For Better or Worse’, based on Sam Cree’s ‘Wedding Fever’, and everyone loved it.
“The launch of the book on the History of Clogher was also held here in December and the hall was packed out for that too. These were both wonderful events and we’d like to see more of this kind of thing happening here.”
Patrick says the key to the centre’s future lies in the extent to which local people become involved in it.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have some fantastic people involved with the centre. In addition to those already mentioned, I would pay a special tribute, on behalf of the committee, to Carmel Boyle. Carmel, a former chairperson. She was the driving force behind the renovation of the old Barnesmore School in 2002 and 2003, which basically made the building into a community centre. This was made possible through funding from the EU Peace and Reconciliation Programme, Donegal County Council and local fundraising and Carmel did Trojan work.
“John Bradley is another one of our stalwarts. He’s an all-round handyman and has done quite a bit, with the help of architect Trevor Jones, on improving the premises and ensuring that everything meets with the regulatory standards for fire safety as well as health and safety.
“We’d also like to thank Noelle Carr, our administrator and caretaker at the centre. She’s extremely able and dedicated and does a terrific job keeping everything running smoothly.
“With the AGM coming up next month, we’d like to invite anyone who has any ideas for programmes or activities that could be provided here in the future, or anyone who would be willing to help out in any way. This is a community centre, which belongs to all the people of the locality, and it’s up to us to make it everything that we would like it to be.”