Williamstown Heritage Society was founded in the year 2000 with the aims of increasing awareness in our rich heritage and in raising the profile of this heritage. Since our foundation, we have had many successes and achievements to our name and we have made a significant contribution in the community.
Our flagship project and the centrepiece of our achievements has been Templetogher Mill and Heritage Area. We organised the purchase of the mill and adjacent lands from the previous owners and thanks to the very generous response from our parishioners, from those in our neighbouring communities and from our people living away, the mill is now in the ownership of the community. Since its purchase, much development has taken place, both on the mill itself and on its environs. The building was first conserved, following which the mill wheel was beautifully reconstructed and is now turning once more. The kiln across the road has been restored while on the ground floor of the same building, a traditional forge has been developed. The land adjacent to the mill has been landscaped, with native trees having been planted, gravel paths having been laid and a picnic table and a bridge over the mill stream having been put in place. The current phase of the mill restoration, that of restoring the inner workings of the mill is well underway at present. All of these major developments would not have been possible without generous grant assistance from agencies such as Galway County Council, The Heritage Council based in Kilkenny and Galway Rural Development based in Athenry. In addition to this, the assistance received from various Fás Schemes and Rural Social Schemes has been invaluable.
We have a number of other achievements to our name also. Each year, we organise a number of activities to coincide with National Heritage Week which falls in late August/early September. Among these are Heritage and Harvest Days, Open Days at the Mill, local Heritage Trails around the parish, Heritage Bus Trips to places of particular interest and talks at which guest speakers deal with various heritage topics. We have produced a Development Plan for Templetogher and this impressive document is a very valuable resource. We have organised the production and positioning of two beautiful Heritage Maps of the parish, one of which is located at the square in Williamstown and the second one at Templetogher. We have organised the purchase and placing of six attractive heritage signposts indicating where Templetogher Heritage Area and our other three cemeteries are located. We have hosted major meetings and seminars attended by people from all over the country. Our members have participated in a number of exhibitions, seminars and meetings in various locations. We have promoted several Student Summer Schemes through which much valuable work was done, including the collecting of data from our cemeteries and the streamlining of our Parish Records. We have collected information on local history from some of our senior parishioners. Among the recent projects undertaken by the society are a biodiversity project in the Templetogher area, through which additional native trees have been planted and bird feeders and nesting boxes have been put in position and a local placenames project, through which the old names, mainly in Irish, of localities, byroads and individual fields in our various townlands are being tracked down and recorded.
Our efforts over the years have not gone unnoticed by others. In two separate years, we won first prize in the Tuam Electoral Area when the Annual County Heritage Awards were being presented by Galway County Council and this double recognition is a source of great pride to all of us in the society. All of the achievements mentioned above could not have come about without the commitment and dedication of our hard-working members or the widespread support received from the community at large and we look forward with confidence to a continuation of the same dedication from our members and the same support from our community well into the future.
Chairman and PRO Leo Finnegan