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Kildare Library and Arts Services
Athy Heritage Centre-Museum
to the
Launch of
The Annals of Ballitore
John MacKenna
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
at 8pm
Athy Heritage Centre and Museum
Front cover with border Bright.JPG  
 Front Cover Image– reproduction from original book of illustrations drawn by Mary Leadbeater’s brother (Betsy Shackleton’s father), Abraham around 1768/9 when Mary was ten years old, and lay ill.
This modern edition of ‘The Annals of Ballitore’ by Mary Leadbeater (1758-1826) is a compilation of the original two editions of the ‘Annals’ published in 1862 with the  addition of a description of the village of Ballitore in 1766, from the manuscript, never before published. The little-known recollection of ‘Ballitore & Its Inhabitants Seventy Years Ago,’ by Betsy Shackelton (1783-1843), Mary Leadbeater’s niece, has been included together with the full list of over 1800 pupils enrolled through the 110 years (1726-1836) of the famous school at Ballitore.  
We are introduced, through watchful village eyes, to the great events of the wars with America and France, off-set by the banality and humdrum of everyday existence:- of bone-setters and shoe-maker surgeons; blacksmiths masquerading as dentists; death by small pox, measles, a broken leg, by internal combustion: the farrier-surgeon who did his best work when his hand was steadied by whiskey; the butcher who was unfortunate to the utmost of his ability. It is a world of travelling ministers and emerging middle classes, great houses, nobility and gentry; of poverty, scarcity and hardship. A world made interesting by ‘news’ brought by mail coaches, messengers and all manner of visitors, high and low to the village of Ballitore. It is a world of love and romance, of Faith and hope but also a hard reactive world of crime and punishment: of cruelty, imprisonment and death; of civil strife and the day-by-day unfolding of the Rebellion of 1798; of intrigue, military excesses, rebellion and reaction. Who will forget the image of a country where people were afraid to eat bacon for fear of the swine snuffling the blood of the unburied corpses; where friends, neighbours and acquaintances were lost to the whim of the military, the rebellion and bloody revenge? The sad, agonising last moments of Dr. Johnson, young Richard Yeates and Owen Finn sacrificed to the passions of the moment. But who likewise will forget the harrowing description of the accidental death of Mary Leadbeater’s youngest daughter, Jane?
The accounts are poignant, moving, humorous, charming and sad, sometimes intensely so. For it is a living memory of a village, a mixed community, torn apart by a revolution thrust upon it; a community already existing in hard, difficult times. What remains obvious above all in both writers accounts, is their devotion to their faith and principles, their detestation of violence, and their love of family, friends and neighbours: of their home and last resting place – the picturesque village of Ballitore, Co. Kildare.
Mary Leadbeater, writing around 1824, from her introduction to her Annals -
WHY do we not better remember that truth which we know so well, that we are not sensible of the value of our blessings till we lose them? In sickness the comfort of health is painfully recollected, though apparently in little esteem when possessed. When death has deprived us of our tender parents, affectionate friends, or engaging children, – sensible that we are cut off from every hope of again enjoying their society, how is every endearing circumstance of the past revived, and every omission on our part towards them
roused to anguish! When a state of disturbance pervades a nation, when the horrors of war have been felt or threatened, how do we cast a retrospective view to the days of tranquillity, when we sat as it were under our own vines and fig–trees, and none made us afraid – astonished that any are willing to relinquish the sweets of peace. The situation of outward alarm and the prospect of unsettlement ought to loosen the mind from those terrene things in which it was wont to delight.
It has not had that effect upon me. My heart swells with tender recollections of the past, and though prompt to enjoy the present, feels a regret at the memory of what I have lost, mixed with a pensive satisfaction that I have enjoyed those quiet pleasures. My native village was never so dear to me; and though the vernal time of childhood and the glowing sensations of youth are past, the autumn of life is not destitute of its tranquil enjoyments.
This season of the year I am partial to; I admire the rich and varied prospects of the autumnal season, the employments by which it is enlivened, and the awakened remembrance of the year nearly gone. Thus, in the autumn of  life, I feel my early sensations revived in the children and youth of our family, and I am led to look back, and, with the partiality which I feel to Ballitore, desire to retrace for their amusement and for my own those scenes, indifferent to other eyes, which have passed before mine not unnoticed. My abilities are limited; my sphere is limited also to the “sweet spot of the world” where my days have been spent, and where I desire to end them.


Kildare Library and Arts Services in association with Athy Heritage Centre-Museum would like to cordially invite you to the launch of The Annals of Ballitore, in the National Library on 26 March at 3.40 at the end of a one day seminar by GENLOC on 'Publishing Irish Local History'  and to its launch by John MacKenna in Athy Heritage Centre at 8 pm on Tuesday 31 March.

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