Shrule’s Millennium Labyrinth

Little pebbles make large ripples.

When Father Michael Crosby spoke from a pulpit in Shrule last March regarding an article he read in some magazine or other about labyrinths the congregation could not have envisaged the way his homily would change the face of Shrule forever. He was impressed with the article and, while he shared the gist of it with his flock, he had another trick up his sleeve.

He called a meeting in Shrule Community Centre on the following Monday night with a view to laying a labyrinth in the grounds of Shrule Church. “If you’re interested show up in the hall tomorrow night and we’ll take it from there.” As straightforward an invitation as you could get.

It worked and resulted in a very well attended meeting. I suspect even he was slightly taken aback by the enthusiasm towards his project.

One clear message emerged. Michael Crosby was a fan of the “modh direach” and he not one for tilting his hat to bureaucracy or red tape. If you want something done then go and do it yourself was his dictum.

Work commenced on Saturday March 20th and five months later the goal has been achieved.

They now want the world to know that the only stone labyrinth in Ireland is to be found in Shrule. There are other labyrinths but Shrule is the only one set in stone. The local community is proud of this fact and so well they should.

It’s a marvellous piece of craftwork and a credit to the people who gave freely of their time and labour. Even to the untrained eye one cannot but marvel at the intricate piece of workmanship.

It’s as detailed a piece of stonework as you are likely to see in this country.

I suggest you to take a little time out from your journey when next you travel through Shrule and see for yourself. You’ll be impressed and while you’re at it you might even walk the labyrinth.

Let me tell you a little about this new and famous landmark located in Shrule.

A medieval design it is an 11 circuit labyrinth. The path is made of stone quarried in Lacken on the north Mayo coastline. And yeah, Michael Crosby went to Lacken along the workers to load the stone. The other stone used is limestone, which is native to this area. The sandstone path is 16 inches wide (40cm if you favour metric.) The inward-walking path is 300 yards.

You enter the labyrinth on a black slab of Kilkenny limestone, which was located from the ruins of the old Dalgan House. The centre is a single stone of 5ft diameter and is surrounded by six petals.

Tradition has it that these petals symbolise mineral, vegetable, animal human angelic and divine, and the six stages of planetary evolution.

Two steel capsules are buried in a tomb located beside the labyrinth, One contains the names of all the pupils attending the local school and the other is a listing of all the parishioners in Shrule.

One will be opened after 50 years and the other after a century. I can’t wait for the second opening.

Last Saturday evening the labyrinth was officially opened. Master of ceremonies was Denny Greaney. Bishop of Galway James McLoughlin blessed the work. He too was a tad puzzled when Father Crosby first shared with him his intentions for the Millennium in Shrule but the finished plot impressed him greatly.

John Maughan, Millennium Officer for Mayo, cut the tape declaring the labyrinth in Shrule officially open.

Then a lovely moment followed when James Payne and Stephanie Bailey, two pupils from the local National School took the first steps on the path. Three local girls, Helena Lohan, Sabrina Bailey and Assumpta Bohan who were members of the victorious Mayo All-Ireland Ladies football team accompanied them on their maiden saunter.

Also on the first stroll was local man Dick Murphy who worked on the project and making up the group was Bishop McLoughlin and John Maughan. John Maughan proved a popular choice and his easygoing banter with the crowd made for a lovely occasion.

He hinted that Shrule might be getting a few bob from the Millennium Committee. If that cheque arrives he might even be declared a Freeman of Shrule. Local representatives Michael Burke and

Jim Mannion also attended this function but neither trod the path to the inner circle.

Must have been all that canvassing that has turned them against walking.

This was a very special evening for Shrule and in particular for Michael Crosby. He cranked a local community into action. This latest venture, along with the ongoing voluntary work in the graveyard, means Shrule is showing itself as a community who make things happen for themselves.

One thing is definite.

Father Michael Crosby is good man to get things done and is imbued with fine leadership qualities. Neither can he disguise the fact that any undertaking of his will operate under an umbrella of fun and laughter and a smidgen of panic.

Mention this wonderful undertaking and he shuns all credit. Instead he starts rhyming off names like Mickey Sheridan, Dick Murphy, Tom Reilly, and Ger Noone and, if you listen long enough, he’ll cite every worker who laid a pebble on this magnificent paving.

It’s a marvellous feat for any community and Shrule has set the standard for the Millennium.

Forget all this nonsense about parties to welcome in the new Millennium. Instead check out the labyrinth in Shrule. Long after the hype is over the Millennium Labyrinth in Shrule will stand as a testament to what can be done when people with a bit of pride in their own place take up the gauntlet.

And, after all is said and done, this is what the Millennium should be about. Not about vested interests. Father Michael Crosby has his finger firmly on the pulse. He knows his flock and what makes them tick.

A column by local journalist Willie McHugh courtesy of The Mayo News

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