Less than a week after claiming back the Dr. Kerlin Cup, John Mitchel’s Claudy will continue their 125th anniversary celebrations tomorrow evening when GAA President Liam O’Neill officially re-opens the fully restored Cumber House.
Forty years after the club first secured the Grade II Listed Building, and with the help of around £850,000 worth of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Ilex and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the landmark building has been restored to its former Victorian splendor using all traditional methods and materials.
John Mitchel’s Club Chairman, Tom O’Kane, described the restoration as “a huge achievement” and paid tribute to everyone who had played a part in ensuring the future of one of Claudy’s most iconic buildings.
“I would like to thank all those who played a part in this major project, including Ilex, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, McGirr Architects and all other contractors as well as all those from the club and community who dedicated many hours to making this such a huge achievement,” explained Mr. O’Kane.
Echoing those sentiments, George McKeever a long time trustee of the club, said the redevelopment of the house and its grounds ensured Cumber House would be available for the club and wider Claudy community for years to come.
“I am particularly proud that we have been able to secure the future of this fine building for years to come,” said Mr. McKeever. “The generous and essential funding package from Ilex, Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Environment Agency has turned a dream into a reality. This dream began almost 40 years ago when the club first took possession of Cumber House. It is a truly fine building of huge local historical and architectural significance, and will remain a vital part of the club’s future and Claudy Community as a whole for many years to come.”
Around £150,000 of the funding was awarded to John Mitchel’s from Ilex through the Department for Social Development’s City of Culture Capital Fund, something Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland says highlights the Department’s commitment to rural projects
“This substantial refurbishment is a great boost for the people of John Mitchel’s GAC and Claudy village,” said Mr. McCausland. “This facility will ensure the preservation of this Listed Building and provide additional services for a range of arts and cultural activities.
“Through the Department’s investment in projects such as this we are encouraging rural communities to thrive and be proud of where they live. This highly valued facility will be a great asset for the people of Claudy village and the surrounding area.”
Ilex’s Cultural Broker Caoimhín Corrigan added: “This funding has not only brought an historic building back to life, but will provide a positive contribution in 2013 and for many years to come. The refurbishment makes Cumber House a multi-purpose venue and now means that John Mitchel’s can host all sorts of events and exhibitions, making it a key resource, not only for the GAA but for the wider Claudy area.”
The house was orginally built in the 1830s and nestles within its own private grounds that the club, in conjuction with Derry City Council, has turned into a network of country and riverside walks for the local community to enjoy. These sit alongside a state of the art adventure playground for children, and several flood-lit sports pitches, including a 3G pitch used by all local sporting clubs.
The official opening will be conducted by Mr. O’Neill at 7.00pm tomorrow evening alongside a series of events designed to mark the occasion.
Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) added his congratulations to the team behind the project.
“HLF was delighted to support the restoration of this fine Grade B1 Listed Building. The hard work of the project team has resulted in this fantastic resource for the local community and for visitors to the wider estate. On behalf of HLF, I congratulate everyone involved for their tremendous effort to save another significant part of our local heritage, and ensuring that it remains at the heart of the community for generations to come.”
Environment Minister, Mr. Alex Attwood, said the work would allow John Mitchel’s and the wider community to fully realise the potential of the building.
“I was delighted that Northern Ireland Environment Agency was able to provide around £125,000 of assistance towards the repair of this important Listed Building which makes such a major contribution to the heritage of the Claudy area,” said Mr. Attwood.
“The building now has a sustainable future and the work is a great compliment to the efforts of the local GAA club to make the most of its potential.
“We owe it to future generations to ensure that listed buildings like this, of which there are approximately 8,500 in Northern Ireland, are well protected and maintained.”