Award for Fort Camden man

Paul Brierley is July “Cork Person of the Month”

Paul Brierley’s work on restoring Camden Fort Meagher in Crosshaven and other tourist intitiatives, earned him the July Cork Person of the Month.

Paul said he was accepting the award on behalf of all the team on the project.

In mid 2009 following a lifetime of community involvement, Paul Brierley became chairman of Crosshaven Tourism. His initial agenda included the production of new brochures, a new website and this was quickly followed by a 3-5 year plan, the main aim of this plan was to open discussions with Cork County Council in relation to Camden Fort Meagher, an historic 45 acre fortress, 65% underground, with fortifications on this site dating back to 1550. It is internationally recognised as being one of the world’s finest remaining examples of a classical Coastal Artillery Fort.

In British Occupation until July 1938, the fort housed full time Irish Army Forces until the mid 1960’s and later became a training camp for reserve forces Slua Muri, FCA the AFS and Civil Defence. In 1989 the fort was handed over to Cork County Council with a view to developing its Tourism and Heritage potential. Despite best efforts the fort would remain closed to public access for over 21 years. The darkest hour, before the dawn, occurred in the early months of 2010 as the fort had fallen victim to gross theft and orchestrated stripping of metals just after caretaker, Mr. Paddy Woods, was relocated in December of the previous year.

In February 2010 a meeting with Cork County Council led to a significant breakthrough and on the 22nd of July 2010 a rolling tenancy agreement was signed between Cork County Council and the Community of Crosshaven. Initially set up as a working group and later as a structured Committee “Rescue Camden” was born. Tasked with kick starting the reversal of fortunes, after just six weeks, Volunteers, working day and night achieved the impossible and the fort opened to allow the public visit in September 10. Visitors enjoyed touring a contained area within the Fort and also two beautifully restored Billets, one a Reenactment history room and the other a Gallery housing a magnificent photographic exhibition of the Fort in its, then, sad condition.

Such was the success of the initial public opening that in the Winter of 2010 a new Committee was set up to work specifically on the project. Paul was elected Chairman of the new Committee charged with overseeing the restoration of the fort and quickly assembled a winning team. Excellent site staff consisting of a Site Manager, FAS CE workers, FAS apprentices and trainers together with a dedicated team of over 20 volunteers, have, over the last two years developed one of Cork’s most talked about visitor destinations.

Camden Fort Meagher re opened on 30th of June 2012, Saturday and Sunday’s from 12-5pm and will remain open until Sunday the 16th of September. Volunteers man 14 positions onsite, working from 11am until 6pm each weekend. Last year they warmly welcomed over 13,000 visitors, averaging over 1,000 per weekend. To date over 21,000 visitors have enjoyed the reversal of fortunes of this magnificent Fort and the project has featured on the RTE Series Dirty Old Town in 2011 & 2012, and also Nationwide in 2011.

Last year’s visitors enjoyed battle reenactments, brass bands, flute and guitar cafes, films, markets, DJ’s, traditional music and dancing, military vehicle displays, a café and much more.

This project has been a fantastic example and is a national template for partnership between the Local Authority, National training schemes and the local community. The project continues to go from strength to strength and employees now number 25. The team is underpinned by huge commitment and support from FAS, coupled with the fantastic financial and logistical support of Cork County Council.

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