Dublin Gazette Reporter Rose Barrett talks to dedicated TT volunteer, Terry O’Reilly
Across the county and indeed, nationwide, Tidy Towns groups have been the backbone of communities, coastal and inland. When outdoor spaces became vital during repeated lockdowns, it’s the Tidy Towns who voluntarily kept towns and beaches litter free (complementing the work of local authorities).
Balbriggan is approximately 34km from the city centre, and is renowned for its beautiful coastline. It’s a town that has grown quickly in the past three decades, and now over 21,000 residents.
Terry Reilly, originally from Skerries has been a volunteer with Balbriggan TT for the past 10 years, and took on the role of Chair about three years.
“I moved to Balbriggan with my wife Fiona in 2000 and I love the place. Balbriggan has a very young population, and it continues to grow.
According to Terry, there are 50 active core volunteers in the group, and nine on the committee.
“At least eight to ten volunteers meet every Saturday, litter picking on Main Street and on the beach. We do the whole town basically; we have a little hut on the beach, where we store our tools, etc.
“We also have a gardening group which was established last year, during Covid. This group, a subsidiary of the TTs, meet about three to four times a week. These volunteers are responsible for planting, watering, weeding and nurturing, dead heading, etc. They do tremendous work!
“We would have planted some flower beds throughout the village, and sowed three flower beds at the Railway Station. They’re looking wonderful, with more beds at Quay Street Park. It’s notable that of the three beds there, two are wild flower beds and the third is a herb garden, all edible plants!
Tidy Towns changing role
“TT work has changed over the years, it’s no longer just about updating seasonal flower features like hanging baskets and summer bedding plots. And it’s not just about the annual SuperValu National Tidy Towns competition.
“Now, our focus is on biodiversity and sustainability; we are currently in the process of developing a biodiversity plan for Balbriggan,” said Terry.
The national tidy towns competition resumed this year. However, owing to the pandemic, adjudicators won’t be visiting the areas to review in person.
“Results will be dependent on the reports sent in,” said Terry. “With photographs, videos and online links to projects/works completed for judging.
“We really missed it last year, but it’s not all about the competition. Most volunteers really want to improve their locality and to contribute to their local community.
“The beach is a wonderful amenity in Balbriggan but has become particularly popular since the onset of Covid, when open sea swimming is now an all-year round past time.”
Social aspect of TT work
“Members would have missed the social element of TT work too,” noted Terry. “Many went out as individuals, adopted an area and kept it litter free. The dedication of TT members is impressive!
“It was a great avenue for me to get to know people when I was a newcomer to the area, and I wanted ot make a contribution to my adopted community.
“Many of our ladies do several hours a couple of times a week, and we love connecting with the community. We work with local schools, the scouts, Men’s Shed, with the Chamber of Commerce with support from Fingal County Council.”
Terry further noted the local Tidy Towns group in Balbriggan gets great support on social media from members of the community who appreciate their work.
“Volunteers change but we’re happy to have eight, nine or ten people every week for the weekly clean ups, not necessarily the same faces every week.
“A big project we undertook since Covid was painting at the harbour, thanks to funding from Fingal County Council. Old containers needed a spruce up with painting.
“Lizzie Noone was project manager and oversaw rusty containers transformed with painted streetscapes, mermaid and drawings of aquatic life. It’s really enhanced the area – there are so many people who contributed to the harbour make-over, we are indebted to them all.”
Balbriggan TTs is sponsored by the Moriarty Group (SuperValu and the Bracken Court Hotel) and again, Terry stated the local groups is very much indebted to them both.
“It wasn’t a TT project but worthy of note, is the Lighthouse Art Group who painted some derelict buildings with quirky animal artwork, lovely finish.”
Terry acknowledged past and present members of TTs who’ve done so much in Balbriggan. Special mention he felt should go to Alex McCullough who is probably the town’s longest serving TT volunteer.
“He is a marvellous community man and has probably served the TTs for 30 years or longer.
“There is greater awareness of home and nature realised following Covid lockdowns – one of the few positive by-products of the pandemic.
“But we’re always happy to have new volunteers, get in touch via email [email protected] or through our FB page,” concluded Terry.
PHOTO – Planting apple trees with Bremore Educate Together Secondary School.