A group of 29 students from 20 different countries were guests of the Mayo Lions Clubs during the past week; Westport Lions brought them on a tour of west Mayo with a stop off at Murrisk to see the Famine Memorial and a short climb of Irelands Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick. Sean O'Malley of the Westport Lions Club acted as host and gave them a history of the region and answered any queries they had.
Castlebar Lions Club then met them at the Mayo Peace Park on Wednesday 7th July and were also met by the Chairman of the Peace Park Mr. Michael Feeney M.B.E who welcomed them and gave a short talk on the background of the Park and the reason for its being established. He also made reference to the fact that the Castlebar Lions Club were one of the first supporters of the Peace Park with a substantial donation when it was dearly needed at the start.
The Mayor of Castlebar Mr Ger Deere welcomed them to Castlebar and wished them a pleasant stay in Mayo. The President of the Castlebar Lions Club Mr. Enda McDonagh also spoke and assured them that Castlebar Lions Club were very happy to have them as guests in the County Town.
A short ceremony then took place when PRO of the Peace Park Mr. Ernie Sweeney pointed out to the visitors that most of the names of the men mentioned on the wall of the Peace Park were approximately the same age as they were: average 17 years of age. He invited Skander Mankai from Tunisia and Rhayssa De Oliveria from Spain to join the President of Castlebar Lions Club to lay a wreath each, one in memory of all the young people from the countries they represented who died in different wars, one in memory of all the young men who died in the first world war and the President of the Lions Club in memory of deceased members of the Lions Clubs.
This visit is part of the International Lions Youth Exchange Programme where their local Lions Clubs sponsor students to visit different countries where there is a branch of the Lions Clubs who then act as hosts during their visit, this is a three weeks visit with various Lions Clubs all over Ireland hosting them during their stay and showing them the various places of interest in their area.
The young students both boys and girls came from Alaska, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Poland, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, Slovalvia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The group then travelled to Ballina via Pontoon to join in the Salmon festivities and take part in the Heritage Day, where they were met by Mr. Desie McAndrew of the Ballina Lions Club who hosted them to lunch in Jordan's Restaurant. He gave them a tour of the famous Moy river where they saw many fishermen catching salmon and to see the salmon jumping out of the water as they made their way over the ridge pool falls. The party were then guided around the various stalls in the open where they were invited to try their hand at making butter in the old traditional style with a hand churn, to visit the wood turner, the blacksmith and a host of other skills, which were on display. The display of Irish dancing on the market square was one of the highlights to them and it was a pleasure to see their feet keeping time with the music.
Then it was back to Turlough via Foxford to visit the Museum of Country Life where the were amazed to view at close range the famous Cross of Cong. Lion Eamonn Horkan of Castlebar Lions Club gave them a guided tour of the Museum and explained the use of the various items on display and answered their most interesting inquiries. They had previously seen the turf being saved in the bog near Pontoon and being used in the fire at the turf cutters display at Heritage Day in Ballina, they were then able to see in the museum the video of the bog being cut in the traditional way. Also on video the tinsmith at his trade and many more items of interest to them. The girls were particularly interested in the clothes and dresses worn by the people of property in previous times and in particular the knitted dresses, the boys liked the Aran sweaters and had seen some in Galway.
Then it was time for their evening meal hosted by Castlebar & Westport Lions Clubs at the Bay Leaf Restaurant at Horkan's Garden Centre in Turlough. Ivan Carroll proprietor looked after the party in his usual style and the staff were most helpful, despite us arriving a little late, compliments all round for a lovely meal. Then it was good by to Mayo as the party made their way back to Galway to be looked after by Galway Lions Clubs.