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Introduction to our local heritage

  When Ms. Doris said we were going to be doing a big project on Our Local Heritage, my first reaction was to say, “Great! Less work!” But when we actually started brainstorming and investigating, I found that exploring our local heritage was great fun and a LOT of work! I came to the school in September 2001 and I never really knew much about the town. I didn’t even know the names of some of the streets! So this project really helped and I know it really helped my classmates to appreciate their local heritage much more as well. For this eye-opener, we wish to thank the Irish Independent. Without the challenge of this project, we would never have realised the significance of the town of Portlaw, Co. Waterford.

First of all, we wrote everything up on the blackboard, for example, what we knew already and what we wanted to do or needed to do. We debated the reason why there is no tourist office or tourist brochure in Portlaw. We felt sorry for any tourist trying to find out about our heritage. Then we decided to stop talking and to do the best thing: we took to the streets that very afternoon. We continued to walk around Portlaw for several days. We spoke to amazing people such as Johnny Crotty, Maurice Long, Jim Timmons, Philomena Walsh, Kenny Bowers and many others. In the evenings, we interviewed our grandparents and relations about our town. Local historian, Willie Power, lent us a big box of information and all the wisdom in his head! We were especially inspired by his old photos, which we displayed all around the school for several months.

            Johnny Crotty, who is very fit, brought us on a long walk to Kilbunny Church. That was one of the highlights.   

            The fact of actually going around the town and asking people who have been living in the town for years questions was great fun instead of going to the computer or books the whole time. We all wrote down what we knew on our walks and exchanged information back in the classroom. Using computers and books is fine some of the time but it’s great to ask real people. What we were trying to do is show people that just because we are a small town doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of history because we do! There are ghost stories, songs, sayings and a lot of facts to make it interesting.   

            Heritage means the things people have inherited and we in Portlaw have inherited so much. We are taking in so much knowledge, our brains are expanding as well. We all wish we were able to keep it neatly listed in our heads. The pupils of Portlaw National School wish we could cram everything we found out into this project. It feels like we are trying to count all the stars in the sky as we try to unearth all the heritage of Portlaw. Our heritage is not just in the school, it stretches along the streets, forgotten, waiting to be resurrected.

            One day, during a brainstorming session, we decided that we would weave our walks into this project. We got the big idea to design a trail of Portlaw. The people following the trail can follow in our footsteps. They can find out about our town the way we did, by looking at the buildings and hearing the stories they have to tell. Better still, we would upload our trail onto our website www.portlawns.com and then our tourist could follow the story of our heritage virtually from his or her desktop.

            We launched our trail on June 7th and invited Willie Power and Johnny Crotty back to see how we did. They helped us to fact check all our facts and they were impressed. You can check it out if you like. We made it for tourists and for future generations. Maybe they will write about us in years to come.

            We hope you enjoy reading about how we found out about our heritage. We also included the trails we made. There’s a walking one and a driving one.


Our timeline of Portlaw’s history with our historians in the background.



The aim of this project was to do something worthwhile to highlight our local heritage to the world. We don’t want the significance of our town to fade into oblivion. We think we have succeeded. Read on and you will see what we did to open the door to Portlaw, Co. Waterford’s heritage.



H  is for heritage town…we want Portlaw to            be one

E   is for everyone who worked on this project

R  is for Rockett’s Castle built by the 

I is for industries like Portlaw Bakery

T is for Tannery that was once a Cotton Mill

A is for Alms House on Williams Street

G is for Grotto built for Mary our Mother

E is for educating ourselves about Our Local      

By Una Howley

Clay image.jpg (76567 bytes)

Our village in clay. As we all modelled our village of Portlaw, we imagined what it was like for the Malcomsons to plan it in the first place.



The Letter

As we began to wrap up our project, we sent this letter to a few people involved with heritage. Read it to uncover how we were progressing in our quest to show the significance of Portlaw’s heritage.


Portlaw N.S.,
Co. Waterford.

  To whom it may concern:

We, the students of Portlaw National School, are working on the Irish Independent Heritage Project. We have interviewed local people, researched available books, surfed the Internet and hit the streets for weeks trying to uncover our local heritage. We wondered how to piece our project together and then it clicked. We thought we could do a virtual trail of the town so that people can virtually walk around our town from their desktop. So here we are working on our project, putting our heart and soul into finding out about our heritage and the same question keeps arising:


We know the Heritage Council published a book called The Heritage Conservation Plan for Portlaw County Waterford. We know it was launched at Woodlock in 2003.

We know that Portlaw was one of the only purpose-built towns in Ireland in the 19th Century. The Industrial Revolution came to our town even though it passed over most of the rest of Ireland. We believe that no one died of starvation during the famine in Portlaw because the town was so wealthy due to the operation of the cotton mill. We have lots of buildings designed by the architect J.S. Mulvany. We also have all the history that is attached to Lord Waterford’s estate at Curraghmore. We even have a fulacht fiadh in the area.


Would you be able to answer our question for us, please? Also, would you be able to tell us if any new developments have occurred that will help to preserve our model village and other attractions for future generations?

Yours sincerely,
Ms. Doris’ Fourth and Fifth Classes, Portlaw N.S.


From some of the replies we got, we learnt that the designation of Heritage Town is becoming a thing of the past. We got lots of advice and learnt that it is important to keep the stories of our town alive.

We hope to use some of the advice to develop our Portlaw National School website further. 


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