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09/07/2024 - Contracts signed for Glenties Historic Towns Initiative

Members of the Brian Friel Trust, St. Connell’s Museum, Dedalus Architecture and building contractors at the signing of the Glenties Historic Towns Initiative outside Glenties Courthouse.  Pictured (from left to right): Front row - Aidan Campbell, Denis Conway, Glyn Hughes, Duncan McLaren. Middle row - Bradas O’Donnell, Seamus Neely & Mary Friel Bateman. Back row - Dermot Molloy, John Molloy & Michael Gallagher. 

Following the announcement earlier this year that the town of Glenties will benefit from €350,000 in funding under the Heritage Council’s Historic Towns Initiative, the signing of the contracts for conservation works to historic and cultural buildings in the town took place in The Highlands Hotel.  The funding award will be augmented with €150,000 in funding from Donegal County Council as well as in-kind contributions by property owners.  The Glenties Historic Towns partnership team include the Conservation Office and Heritage Office of Donegal County Council, the Brian Friel Trust, Dedalus Architecture and local property owners. 


“The signing of the contracts is an important step in commissioning the proposed conservation works” explained Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer.  “The documentation sets out the scope of works to be undertaken.  Structures that will benefit from conservation works under the scheme include The Laurels that is playwright Brian Friel’s mother’s home and the setting for his play ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’; the mid-nineteenth century Glenties Courthouse that has been leased to the Brian Friel Trust in order to establish the Brian Friel Centre; the community-run St. Connell’s Museum and the steel-arched gateway that forms part of the curtilage of St. Connell’s Church.  The project also involves the design of public realm along the Main Street in Glenties.  The conservation works will employ best conservation practice and will demonstrate the cost-benefit of conserving our historic buildings and keeping them in use or bringing them back into use.  The focus of the Historic Towns Initiative on the heritage character of Glenties and its streetscape will help to accentuate some aspects of the town’s rich built heritage that often gets overlooked in our towns and villages.  The funding provided by The Heritage Council and the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage will make a significant contribution to protecting, enhancing and promoting the built heritage of Glenties.”


“The proposed work has been prioritised based on the conservation report on The Laurels and the feasibility study and architectural conservation report on Glenties Courthouse” said Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer, Donegal County Council.  “The conservation works planned under the Historic Towns Initiative include structural repairs to historic buildings, roof and chimney repairs, lime pointing and rendering, repair of cast-iron rainwater goods, the repair and reinstatement of timber sash windows and doors, vegetation management, installation of a French drain, repair of a boundary wall and a painting scheme for historic buildings.  We will work closely with the Brian Friel Trust and the conservation works will be carried out using best conservation practice and traditional materials under the supervision of a Grade I conservation architect.  There will also be a public realm design commission that will be based on Brian Friel’s literary and real life links with Glenties, something that several local groups and businesses are promoting already.”


“The conservation and re-use of The Laurels and Glenties Courthouse are central to our plans for the establishment of a Brian Friel Centre in Glenties” said Orlaith McBride, Chairperson of the Brian Friel Trust.  “The long-term ambition of the Brian Friel Trust is to celebrate Brian Friel’s rich cultural legacy and his affinity with Glenties.  The conservation works envisaged under the Historic Towns Initiative is an important first step to authentically restoring The Laurels to its 1930s interior when Brian Friel used to visit the house where his aunts lived and to advancing our plans to create a vibrant, dynamic and creative visitor attraction in the Brian Friel Centre at Glenties Courthouse.  Thirteen of Brian Friel’s plays are set in the fictional town of Ballybeg, widely regarded to be based on Glenties.  The significance of The Laurels, which the Trust acquired in 2016, together with Friel’s decision to make Glenties his final resting place all make this project distinctive in the context of Glenties.”


The Glenties Historic Towns Initiative is local authority and local community-led and has heritage considerations at its heart.  Works to the historic and cultural buildings will be starting this month and will be completed by the end of October.