Waterford News

Community spirit alive and well on the banks of the Blackwater

St Michaels HallBallyduff Upper, nestled on the Waterford / Cork border, has always had a strong sense of community and kinship. However, now more than ever, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has the village embraced its community and created a strong support network for its inhabitants.

St. Michael’s Hall has long been the centre point for community classes, fundraisers, music and drama groups, mother & toddler groups senior citizens groups and Butterflies Playschool and most evenings the hall is buzzing with activity and life.

However, the current crisis has impacted severely and has left many villagers without use of the hall’s facilities and also without the services of the Carnegie Library, the sports hall and the community playing field.

According to Agnes O’ Donoghue, Administrator, the loss of St. Michael’s Hall has left many without a social outlet. “Before Coronavirus, these amenities were in use practically every day and every evening. The hall was full of groups of all ages, interacting, learning, having fun and just being together. However, when the virus hit, we were very conscious of the safety and health of our users and of course, following Government guidelines shut all facilities, which left a big gap.”

“We realised it was necessary for the community to support those who were cocooning, vulnerable or isolated. The Community COVID-19 Volunteer Group was set up and put a community text alert in place. Anybody who was worried about a neighbour or relative could get in touch and we could arrange shopping or prescription pick-ups, or even just call by to make sure they were safe and well. It’s testament to the wonderful Ballyduff community spirit that we were inundated with offers of voluntary help.”

“Many of our tutors who rent the hall set up virtual yoga, pilates and fitness classes so their clients could continue to exercise and keep healthy and limber, while they were indoors.”

“It has been tough, and many people are feeling a little deflated and alone, but it has really emphasised the strong community spirit in Ballyduff and it will make us an even more close-knit community.”

While St. Michaels Hall, the Carnegie Library and playing facilities are looking forward to opening when allowed under the phased government strategy, work is ongoing to ensure all safety measures are adhered to, to keep the community safe.

Agnes said, “We are very mindful of the changes that need to be made before we can open the doors again. That will mean operating a little differently in the future. We have taken plenty of precautions and are following all HSE guidelines.”

“Hand sanitiser stations will be at the entrance and exits, we have removed many chairs from the hall so the two-metre social distance is adhered to, we have set up space for one-to-one meetings with plenty of space available so everyone keeps apart. These changes are crucial to ensure that our community can get back to the Hall in time, safe in the knowledge that it is our intention to keep them safe.”

St. Michael’s Hall has always been at the heart of Ballyduff Upper, and even in these trying times is making plans to return to the hub of the community. Many charities and organisations depend on the Hall for fundraising events and upon reopening, St. Michael’s Hall intends to reschedule these worthy events and no doubt, Ballyduff’s spirit of community will be at the forefront in supporting these events.


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