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Anthony hands out history freely


askeaton-castle-1DRIVE in the road from Limerick city to Askeaton and one of the first things that strikes you are the many historical ruins and landmarks that are dotted throughout the town.

And if you have any fascination at all with the tales behind tall towers and crumbling walls then you’re likely to end up spending quite a bit of your visit to Askeaton with Anthony Sheehy, a former butcher who, in retirement has taken the role of historical tour guide on himself. And he does it for free.

“I must be the only fool in Ireland,” he says.

Volunteer historian Anthony can talk for Ireland about every nook and cranny of Askeaton’s past and he does it in a way that keeps his audience enthralled.

No mere reciter of dry facts and dates, Anthony has a head full of tales about the personalities, the food and drink people enjoyed, how the harvest was saved, why a farmer might have to pay the lords of the castle a tax for moving belongings from one side of the woods to the other.

A full tour of the attractions of Askeaton with this professor of local knowledge will take about two and half hours and anyone who has had the pleasure would be willing to spend even longer.

“Askeaton is like the Bermuda Triangle but the only thing you get lost in here is history,” says Anthony.

A visitor could spend forever listening to tales of the local Hellfire Club, where high-born young rakes beggared families and indulged in other pleasures with ladies of the oldest profession.

Or what life looked like if you were a Monk in the Franciscan Friary in the 14th Century. Anthony’s stories bring the passages, the churches, the banqueting tables to life in full colour.

Anthony was one of the people directly responsible for getting the 800 year old castle opened to the public again, writing to the powers that be and within months, he had the keys to the previously locked castle in his hand.

“It’s only open at weekends at present because the Office of Public Works are doing stabilisation works on it,” he explained. And yes, there is a tourist office but while staff there have weekends off, the dedicated historian is not allowing any opportunity to put  the town’s rich heritage before visitors  and he mans it himself, also on a voluntary basis, most weekends.

“Tourism is a seven-day thing – we can’t afford to miss weekends,” he says.

He even gave a tour of the Friary to 40 people on Christmas Morning in 2014

Apart from devoting himself to uncloaking history, Anthony is involved with a number of local organisations, including the Civic Trust and the community council.

“I don’t charge for the tours. I enjoy doing it. Sometimes people give me tips if they’ve enjoyed it but the tours are free”.

And while he hasn’t taken his self-taught trade off a focus on the past no-one can say he never thinks of the future.

And his latest achievement is also tourist related.

“There are motor homes coming here day in day out and we had no facilities for them. All over the continent, they have designated stations for camper vans, where people can cleanly empty chemical toilet boxes and fill up on water to run showers, wash dishes and flush the loo.

” I set about getting one for Askeaton – we have one now and it’s the only one in Ireland” he said.




Bernie English
Bernie Englishhttp://www.limerickpost.ie
Bernie English has been working as a journalist in national and local media for more than thirty years. She worked as a staff journalist with the Irish Press and Evening Press before moving to Clare. She has worked as a freelance for all of the national newspaper titles and a staff journalist in Limerick, helping to launch the Limerick edition of The Evening Echo. Bernie was involved in the launch of The Clare People where she was responsible for business and industry news.
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