How cultural aspects have shaped our attitude to natural heritage in Killeshandra.

inter drumlin wetland

“The threads of Irish relationships with nature weave back through a turmoil of change, trial and deprivation quite unknown in our sister island. There, a cultural continuity produced a people and parliament notoriously protective of a scenic countryside well furnished with wildlife. In Ireland, the long identification of an ‘interest’ in nature with an alien 

Ascendancy – the Protestant parson with a butterfly net – robbed natural history of respect as a hobby, still less as a meaningful science.” 

 From Michael Viney   “Nature or Nuisance? Ireland’s relationship with the natural world” published by the heritage council 2010 ( see appendix) 

As a seriously disadvantaged area in the twentieth century, the study of natural history was undertaken by only a few, in the Killeshandra area. Locally the well known naturalists of the last century were Lord Killbracken of Killygar. Mr. Farris of Farnseer and the Cole family of Cloverhill; all land owning Church of Ireland families. 

 In the late 1980s the TV soap Glenroe had a birdwatcher who was of course a protestant gentry type. 

The problem with regarding the study of natural history as Alien permeated the corridors of power and has infuriated groups such as the Irish Wildlife Trust who have long recognised the problem. 

Since Killeshandra is in a border region the contrast seen in the flow of resources and money from the Westminster system to biodiversity projects north of the border is striking. 

“In Ireland, the divide has strong roots in the colonial experience, and the fears of small farmers, in particular, of vulnerability to outside forces. Theirs is the marginal land of greater biodiversity, most inviting to conservation experiment and control. If it is not outside scientists and Brussels bureaucrats that want to interfere, it is the busy bodies of the urban middle class” 

From Michael Viney   “Nature or Nuisance? Ireland’s relationship with the natural world” published by the heritage council 2010 ( see appendix) 



The Evangelical protestant community of the border were driven by two forces as regards land use. The need to survive on small family farms and the pioneering spirit, all given moral justification by the Bible “to have dominion over the earth”. This could co-exist with the drive to build the nation in the early years of the Republic and the era of industrialisation of bogs, forestry, farming and the hydroelectric schemes on the rivers. 

Wildlife can be easily seen by local politicians as a luxury hobby for the well off and a hindrance to development and the creation of jobs. 

The truth is that the natural environment has a huge influence on our health especially the less well off. Lack of exercise, obesity and mental health are increasing worries for our children. Many researchers have shown how time outdoors in the natural world can be linked to reduction in attention deficit syndrome. Play in the natural world has been shown to stimulate creativity and inventiveness needed in many fields such as science and engineering. 

The natural world is also a financial asset in the tourism industry, important in Killeshandra, with the main market being Britain and Europe our poor attitudes to the environment are noticed by visitors.   

Peace building  

The project wishes to encourage “ownership” of the local wildlife. 

 Seamus Heaney writing about his own childhood says 

 “We talked about mankeepers and mosscheepers, – creatures uncatalogued by any naturalist, but none the less real for that”  

By encouraging the use of local words from both the Irish and Ulster Scots the project starts to remove the alien tag from natural history. 

Michael Viney writes; 

“The rich awareness of nature in the Gaelic world is sealed into the Irish language and has been largely lost with it. Victorian botanists were amazed at the number of specific native plant names offered by ‘the unlettered peasantry’ of the countryside” 

The project would encourage the collection of names from old people and since many have been lost it would be good to invent some of our own local names to help children personally identify with their local landscape and heritage. 


“Last child in the woods” By Richard Louv. 

A Countryside for Health and Well-Being: 

The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of 

Green Exercise 

Jules Pretty1, Murray Griffin1, Jo Peacock1, Rachel Hine1, Martin Sellens1 and 

Nigel South2 

1Department of Biological Sciences and 2Department of Health and Human Sciences, 

University of Essex, Colchester 


About bluedamseldiscovery

.Take time to look , listen, even scent what is on the wind.
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