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  • Writer's picturePippa Hackett

Laois Offaly heritage travels to Africa

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

I am travelling to Tanzania and Kenya as part of the Government’s 2023 St Patrick's Day programme. This is the most extensive international programme ever, to promote Ireland and Irish interests globally.

I was delighted to meet Dolores Dempsey who showed me some examples of her Mountmellick Embroidery last year.

I am delighted to bring gifts with me which represent some of the rich heritage of Laois and Offaly. These include the work of Laois based makers including the work of Dolores Dempsey who champions the heritage of Mountmellick embroidery.


Originally inspired by the flora and fauna of the Owenass River, it is the only Laois entry on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Thanks to the work of Mountmellick Embroidery Museum and Development Association and craftspeople like Dolores is very much a living heritage craft. I believe it is practiced all over the world.

Vale van der Merwe with the vase

I am bringing a vase made by potter, Vale van der Merwe, who is based in Barrowhouse, Laois. I feel there is a contemporary celtic mood to Vale’s work which I love and, I’m sure, will be appreciated by its new owners.

Tina Claffey, photographer, with her book 'Portal'

The vital life of our bogs and wetlands is artfully captured by photographer Tina Claffey and Tina's book 'Portal'. I believe Tina's work powerfully communicates the importance yet fragility of our bogs' biodiversity.


And not to forget our built heritage, I am proud to bring Rachel McKenna's fascinating read on 'Traditional Architecture in Offaly – history, materials and furniture 1800 to present day'.


Man standing indoors facing camera and smiling. He stands at a workbench and is holding 2 slate, circular tea light holders
Mauricio Martino at the Heartworks Studio, Tullamore

Last but not least, I am packing two beautiful slate tea light holders crafted by Mauricio Martino and part of the lovely collection available from Heartworks in Tullamore.


The trip itinerary is a busy mix of agriculture, enterprise and foreign affairs engagements.


I received a kind invitation to visit Sr. Mary Killeen, in Nairobi. I understand her project, which works with street children, has strong Laois links. I am looking forward to visiting and learning more and I’ll keep you posted.


Wishing all a very happy St Patrick's Day celebration.



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