Oldcastle prepares to celebrate Laurence Gilson

WEEKEND OF CELEBRATION TO HONOUR LAURENCE GILSON IN OLDCASTLE
 
May Bank Holiday weekend will see the town of Oldcastle and surrounding areas celebrating and commemorating the generosity of an Oldcastle man, Laurence Gilson, who died in 1810.   Gilson bequeathed a considerable sum of money to found a school in his native town which he instructed would be free of charge and would be open to Catholic and Protestant pupils alike. A permanent tribute to Gilson is to be unveiled on Sunday May 1st, in the form of a bronze statue, which has been commissioned by the Gilson Trust from sculptor Ann Meldon Hugh. 
 
Along with this lasting memorial, there will be a  weekend of events to commemorate Gilson’s generosity and to celebrate the history of the Gilson Endowed School.    Events start on Friday 29 April with an ecumenical service in St. Bride’s Church, in The Square, Oldcastle at 7pm.  At  8pm Myles Dungan of RTE will launch and introduce the weekend in the Gilson National School.  This will be followed by a talk on ‘Laurence Gilson & Endowed Schools’ by Christopher McCormack.  The evening will be rounded off with a concert by local schoolchildren.
 
On Saturday 30 April there will be a guided tour of the Loughcrew Cairns by Malachy Hand, a complementary shuttle bus will be available from the Gilson School at 2pm.  There will also be a historical tour of the town of Oldcastle by local tourism company Beyond the Blarney, which will start at 4pm from the Gilson School.  At 7pm there will be a commemorative Mass in St. Brigid’s Church, Church St, and at 8pm there will be a talk on ‘The Architecture of the Gilson School and other buildings in the area’ by Liam Tuite, followed by a talk on ‘Laurence Gilson’s family tree’ given by Joe Mooney.
 
Sunday May 1 will see something for everyone, the tours of the Loughcrew Cairns and the town of Oldcastle will be available at 2pm and 4pm respectively.  A vintage tractor run will take place afternoon and there will be a novelty football match in the Gilson Park at 2.30 pm . There will be family entertainment in the grounds of the Old School from 3.30 pm with music, face painting, bouncy castle and more. 
 
The main event of the weekend will be at 5pm on Sunday evening when the statue will be unveiled by the Bishop of Meath, Dr. Michael Smith and the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, Dr. Richard Clarke.  This joint unveiling will most fittingly commemorate Laurence Gilson’s wish that Catholic and Protestant children be admitted equally to the school.
 
The weekend of celebration and commemoration will end with light refreshments, music and dancing and plenty of chance to relive past memories!  As part of the weekend of celebration, the organising committee would especially like to hear from any past pupils of the Gilson Endowed School who would like to share their memories of their time at the school and if anyone has any photographs or memorabilia that they would be prepared to lend for an exhibition on the school’s history for that weekend, the committee would be very grateful.  These will of course be kept and returned safely.  For more information you can email the committee at laurencegilsoncommemoration@gmail.com, or contact Sue Russell on 087 293 4672 or Tracey Holsgrove on 086 194 6429

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