Outstanding in his field

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A LOCAL farmer’s dedication to carrying on the tradition of sheep farming and sheepdog training has been recognised by the government, which has included the tradition in the recently launched National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Donie Anderson, who farms sheep in the hills of Glenasmole in Bohernabreena, is a familiar sight at community events, where his trusty sheepdog Jess expertly herds geese, hens and sheep to the delight of the crowds.

Donie and Jess 1

Donie Anderson overlooking Tallaght from Bohernabreena with his sheepdog Jess

Having grown up in a farming family, Donie learned how to train sheepdogs using methods that were passed down over generations, and last month, his work as a sheep farmer and sheepdog trainer was one of 30 customs, practices and traditions that were added to the inventory.

Donie told The Echo: “It’s a way of life, it’s not just about the farming. We know the mountains and hills.”

Describing the response that 11-year-old Jess, one of Donie’s four sheepdogs, gets at community events and sheepdog trials, Donie said: “It’s always very favourable, everybody seems to like it.

“It’s about the respect that the geese and the sheep have for the dog, and that the dog has for me, and that I have for all of them . . . it all comes down to understanding each other.”

He added: “A lot of people are happy to recognise that the sheep are being grazed on the hills over generations.”

Donie is looking ahead to the Bohernabreena Sheepdog Trials, which will take place on Sunday, September 1, behind St Anne’s Church, from 9am to 5pm, and members of the public are welcome to attend the free event.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, launched the inventory on July 18, to recognise key elements of Ireland’s living cultural heritage, after accepting expressions of interest from people and groups for inclusion in the inventory.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Madigan said: “It is wonderful to see such a variety of customs and traditions from all over the country being acknowledged here today.

“Each of these threads in the cultural tapestry of our lives makes us richer as individuals and as a country.

“None of this would be possible without the work of committed volunteers all around the country, whose involvement in their communities’ cultural practices and heritage traditions have sustained them over the generations.

“I am delighted to honour those customs, practices and traditions through official State recognition on the National Inventory.”

Donie added that he is also involved with The PURE Mile, an environmental initiative of the PURE (Protecting Uplands and Rural Environments) Project, which carries out clean-ups in the Dublin Wicklow Uplands and removes material and litter that has been illegally dumped in the mountains.

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