IT IS maybe not a placename that appears on a lot of maps – especially now with the advent of the new road name and number postal system – but Killesher in the south of the county, roughly halfway between Enniskillen and the Cavan border, is a thriving little rural community where there’s more going on that might first meet the eye.
And at the heart of the community is the Killesher Community Development Association, whose secretary Desmond Reid – better known as director of reguatory services with Fermanagh District Council – speaks with pride about what it has achieved.
The group was formed 20 years ago this year, and Desmond summed up the past 20 years with a positive line, ‘I think we’ve been very successful with what we’ve done’.
Killesher parish has roughly 500 houses – and locals described the community as having always had close to a 50:50 religious make-up.
The boundaries of the modern Catholic and Church of Ireland parishes are virtually identical with those of the ancient parish, and now, there are two Church of Ireland churches: The parish church (St John’s) in Tullyhona and a chapel-of-ease in Druminiskill.
There are two Catholic churches: One known as Killesher (or the Crossroads) in Derrylester and one in Wheathill. There is also a Methodist church and a Gospel Hall.
While there used to be at least seven schools in the parish – there are now just two primary schools and a cross-community pre-school.
Killesher Community Development Association (KCDA) was established in March 1994 and the very first meetings took place in the two local primary schools.
“It was set up as the members from both sides of the local community felt the area was being left behind regarding to European funding, lack of social and physical services and infrastructure improvements,” explained Desmond.
“Due to the association being set up, £1.5m has been brought down into the area, most of it through the association.”
Projects carried out by the association have included: the restoration of the Killesher Old Graveyard; facilitating the Rural Housing Association in the development of much-needed social housing which helped ensure that people could continue to live within the local area; and the establishment of the community transport organisation known as Rural Lift for south-west Fermanagh.
But, the group cites its most significant achievement as the ‘Tully Mill project’.
This consisted of the restoration of a derelict 18th Century water-power cornmill into a licensed restaurant, the construction of Benaughlin Cottages self-catering tourist accommodation facilities and the creation of the Larganess Centre, a neutral community venue, all on the Tully Mill site, for the use of members of the local community and visitors from further afield.
The community is not without its problems, however, as Desmond explained.
“The issues starting off would be the lack of facilities, the threat to our schools due to a fall in the population.
“Though we probably have been very lucky in that schools in Killesher area have benefited from a fairly good increase in new housing and new families coming into the area – so that has enabled the schools to be sustained, and continue to be able to operate.
“What’s very important from a job creation element is the Marble Arch Caves, and Gortatole activity centre – we’ve had new infrastructure with a new doctor’s surgery and a new chemist in the area which are good positive vibes for the community.”
However the local shop closed down around three years ago and that undoubtedly was a big loss to local people.
“It was a hub of the community, with a post office, the groceries – the closest would be Letterbreen, but most people are going into Enniskillen anyway which is the main reason it closed, everyone goes into the town for their shopping.”
And he also described emigration as an ‘ongoing issue’.
“As in all areas, but again I would think – the great thing about, say, the Marble Arch Caves, there’s summer opportunities for the young people, it’s a great character building opportunity – and there are staff there, and in Gortatole and in the National Trust property at Florencecourt. So there are opportunities for some jobs in the local community, but emigration continues to be a problem.”
Most of these are issues beyond the control of the community association, whose work to date has been admirable.
“We would, I think, have been very successful with what we’ve done.
“We would hope that the community continues to thrive, we would hope to set up more youth orientated organisations. There’s very little for the youth in the area, so we’d hope they’d take the lead in the the running of those things.
“We have the infrastructure, we have the meeting place, we have good rapport, excellent support from all the community, so we’re looking ahead to the future.”