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Teagasc REPS Heritage Training Course for Farmers

Roscommon farmers remember their heritage at a Farming and Archaeology event, jointly organised for Heritage Week by Teagasc Roscommon and Cruachan Aí Heritage Centre in Tulsk.

Over 200 archaeological sites, in a four square mile area around Tulsk, Co Roscommon, were used by the first farmers to settle and live their lives in a practical, spiritual and ceremonial way. Last week, farmers visited the great mound of Rathcroghan, palace and sacred burial place for the Kings and Queens of Connaught, including the infamous Warrior Queen Maeve. Nearby is a fallen standing stone, made of red sandstone and measuring 2.9 metres in length, which is said to mark the place of her burial. The Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúailnge) starts and ends at Rathcroghan. The ‘white horned’ bull of Connacht (Fionn Bheannach) and the Brown bull of Cooley or Ulster (Donn Cúailnge) are said to have fought their final, bloody and fatal battle on Rathnadarva, a large ringfort to the west of the main mound.

At the event, a few brave individuals ventured into Oweynagat or Cave of the Cats, entrance to the ‘Celtic’ otherworld. Samhain or 31 October is the ancient Irish New Year when ghastly monsters emerge from Oweynagat to devastate the surrounding countryside -a time for bonfires, feasting, honouring the dead and disguising the children to protect them. These Irish traditions are the root of all modern Hallowe’en festivities.

Some of the one hundred participants were attending a REPS 4 Course, organised by Kieran Kenny, Teagasc adviser in County Roscommon. They attended indoor information sessions in Cruachan Aí Heritage Centre. These farmers all have an archaeological site on their own farm. Kieran stressed the important role of farmers in the preservation of monuments which date back over 8,000 years ‘Farmers and landowners play a vital role in protecting and preserving our heritage. Most of Ireland’s 120,000 archaeological monuments are located on farms. The aim of this REPS Archaeological Course was to help farmers continue to preserve the historic landscape for the benefit of future generations’.

This event is an example of the new REPS 4 training courses, which are very different from previous training courses. Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist explains that farmers who have previously completed a Twenty Hour REPS Course may now attend a New Five Hour Course with a specific focus as their REPS 4 requirement. REPS farmers will be paid €100 on satisfactory completion of a Five Hour Module and can avail of payment for up to two training courses. A course will normally cover two topics. Examples are: Traditional Orchards; Watercourses; Crops for Wildlife; Field Boundaries; Clover; Extensive grassland; Wildlife Habitats; Clover; Soil and Nutrient Management; Field Margins; Rare Breeds; and Heritage Buildings. Over 31,000 farmers participating in REPS 4 must attend a training course.