A new exhibition held in conjunction with National Heritage Week has opened in Ardee Library this week, celebrating the life of Ardonian Joseph Dolan.
The exhibition began on Saturday last and runs until Tuesday August 29th, with National Heritage Week now in full swing across the country. Put together by Louth County Council, Louth County Archives Service and the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society, it shines a light on Dolan, who was a local businessman and community activist.
Partly responsible for the building of St Brigid’s Hospital and bringing Ardee Chair Factory to the town, Dolan was the most revered of locals and remains remembered to this day. Upon his death, the Dundalk Democrat reported, “Ardee is mourning for the death of its most beloved citizen. All Louth mourns with Ardee the loss of one of its most valued sons.”
Born in Ardee on January 5th in 1872, Dolan was one of ten children to Thomas Dolan and Annie Seagrave. His grandparents ran a business on Bridge Street and latterly on Castle Street. Joseph’s father Thomas would later take over the running of the business – a grocery, bar, hardware and seeds business.
Joseph went onto study at Clongowes Wood College and the Old Royal University, before returning to Ardee aged 30 to take over the running of the family business after his father’s death. He remained in the town and became a well known community activist until his death in 1930, aged 58.
An early supporter of The Gaelic League, Dolan had befriends Douglas Hyde while at college in Dublin. The Ardee man was an early secretary of the Ardee branch An Claidheamh Soluis. Dolan was also a colleague of Padraig Pearse, acting as a member of the Board of Governers at St Enda’s School in Rathfarmnham, a school Pearse had established in 1908.
Dolan was the first president of the County Louth Archaelogical Society and he was involved in political affairs locally and nationally. For a short time he was a member of Louth County Council and also served on the Ardee Town Commissioners.
The exhibition showcases fascinating correspondence received by Dolan from a host of prominent figures in the political world around the time of the Easter Rising. Letters from Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera are among those on display.
Outside of his political and business interests, Dolan was involved with – amongst others – the Ardee Cycling Club, St Vincent de Paul, Ardee Catholic Young Men’s Society , Ardee Amateur Dramatic Society and the Ardee Brass and Reed Band, to whom he donated their first set of instruments in 1904.
The ‘Joseph Dolan: A Distinguished Ardonian’ exhibition remains opens to the public until Tuesday, August 29th. Entry is free. The exhibition is open during regular library opening times: 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm (Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays) and 10am-1pm, 2pm-8pm (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Ardee Library is closed on Mondays.
Our man with the camera Adrian Crawley went along to the exhibition on Tuesday to get a taste of what was on offer.