THE community of St Mary’s Park in Dunmanway has given their estate, and their community, a whole new lease of life.
For the past few months, they’ve been busy painting a mural on an unsightly wall, personally funding a play area for their children and undertaking planting and painting schemes.
Sheila Deane grew up in St Mary’s where she is now raising her three children Debbie 8, Clodagh 5, and Sadie 3, and explains how it all started.
‘There was a green area along the side of my house and I thought it would make a safe place for the children to play. So I got a lovely tree house constructed with two swings on one side and a nest swing on the other. It’s on a grassy area and very safe.
‘After that my neighbours came on board. Debbie Long added a trampoline and Raymond Vilcina added a second one. Sharon Lovekins added goal posts and a seesaw.
‘It’s amazing living in this community. They say it takes a village to rear a child and it’s like our own little village living here. No matter what hour, day or night, there is always help and support at hand – I wouldn’t live anywhere else.’
This month saw the culmination of all their efforts after they painted a mural on a wall in the middle of the estate. Much fun was had by all as they celebrated the completion of what has now become a focal point of the surrounding green area. Plans are now afoot to make the wall a central location for all their future community celebrations.
Local residents are delighted with the new artwork which has served to tighten their resolve to enhance their area.
Funding for the mural project was provided by Cork County Council (Enhancement Estates Budget) and West Cork Development Partnership (Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme) budget.
Kathryn Kingston is the development worker with the West Cork Development partnership who forwarded the mural project and she really enjoyed the experience of working with the local community at St Mary’s.
‘Working in community development on the St Mary’s Park project was a joy witnessing teamwork at its best. Together the community had a shared goal and commitment to bring the project to completion.
‘When painting the mural, everyone was included and welcome to help, though there wasn’t an expectation that everyone would physically roll up their sleeves to paint. Other roles were equally important in the team including those who made the tea, sandwiches and cakes, and those who provided daily encouragement and admiration.'
Sheila Kelleher, a community artist developed the creative concept and spearheaded the transformation of the ugly pebble dash wall into a thing of beauty.
‘If it wasn’t for the local community I would still be here painting,’ she said. ‘We had a lot of chats about it and in the end we decided not to opt for a brightly coloured design and instead to enhance the tones of the surrounding area.
‘So we decided on different shades of grey, and I made giant stencils to draw silhouettes of the deer. Some residents came over every day to help block in the sky and mountains. Willie Lovekins, Margaret O’Sullivan and Patrick Roche gave me amazing support, as did lots of other residents. I cannot imagine how I would have gotten it finished without their help,’ she said.
Mary Ryan is chairperson of the local residents committee, and for many years has been working tirelessly along with Linda Hurley, treasurer and Margaret O’Sullivan, secretary to keep the area litter free and plant flowers and shrubs in the estate.
‘There is a great sense of community pride here,’ said Mary. ‘Over the years I periodically knocked on doors asking for contributions towards petrol for the lawnmower and odds and ends like that, and the residents have all been so generous and supportive. Not everybody has time to lend their physical efforts but everybody has a great sense of pride of place and their generosity includes plant donations as well as money, and everybody gets the benefit of living in a pretty area. Thomas Mc Sweeney built a fabulous stone wall and planted lots of flowers and I’d like to thank him for all his work. I’d like to remember Joe Higgins, RIP, who was chairperson of Dunmanway Community Council. He was always so supportive of our community efforts in St Mary’s, and we are determined to keep his vision moving ahead,’ she said
Linda added: ‘It’s like living at the Chelsea Flower Show we have so much beauty on our doorstep now!’