The National Enterprise Town Awards: Kells

We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at Kells in Co Meath.

Kells, or Ceanannas Mór, meaning Great Fort, is a town steeped in history and was known to be a royal residence before St. Colmcille established a religious settlement in 550. This is considered by many historians to be one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland.

Kells is a sizeable town in County Meath, with a population of 6,135 according to the 2016 census, and is situated 40 miles from Dublin, making it a popular town to live in among Dublin commuters.

Those who follow the history of the Catholic Church have likely heard of Kells because it became the center of a part of the church reformation in Ireland. The Synod of Kells in 1152 was maybe the most significant event in the history of Irish Christianity between St. Patrick’s mission and the Reformation, changing the church from its monastic structure in Ireland to one based on the stricter diocesan structure preferred by Rome.

During the Great Famine, the population of Kells dropped by almost40% with both the workhouse and the hospital overflowing.

Kells today

Kells represents 5,000 years of heritage, set in lush green landscape and has moved into the modern era with a strong community spirit of collaboration and cooperation between agencies, groups, businesses and neighbourhood groups.

The town population grew massively during the Celtic Tiger years when Ireland experienced an economic boom in the early 2000s. There was a 22% increase in total population between 1996 and 2002.

As a town, it is very ambitious with everything it turns its energy to, not only celebrating the past with a newly opened centre for tourism and arts, but with two world class festivals of literature and the arts. Disused buildings such as the sawmills have now become centres for the arts celebrating unique ties to the past.

The Kells Tech hub fosters new businesses and technology to the area through an impressive portfolio of supports alongside an ever-growing modern business park. This year the town also witnessed a rebirth of retail.

The towns presentation has been vastly improved through work with the Walled Town Network of Ireland with many buildings benefiting from new facades and paintworks. St. Colmcilles House reopened recently after a few years of closure, along with the reopening of the courthouse as the new tourism and arts hub.

The most critical piece however is the fact that this progress is community led, through volunteerism, collaboration and vision for the town.

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is the most decorated illuminated manuscript to survive from the early medieval period in Europe. Most scholars agree that it was created by Columban monks on the remote island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland in the monastery founded by St. Columba (or Colum Cille) in the 560’s. It is not known exactly when the book was transferred to Kells.

Written by Stephen Larkin

Published: 29 August, 2019