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(Posted 11 a.m., Aug. 9)
Navan residents welcome special guests to their little burgh
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Forty-one visitors from Navan, Ireland pose for a group picture outside St. Mary's Anglican Church in Navan, Ontario. Fred Sherwin/Photo


The town of Navan, Ontario welcomed 41 special guests from the town of Navan, Ireland on Thursday during the first day of a four day visit.

The 42 guests posed for a group picture outside St. Mary/s Anglican Church at noon and then went inside for a short tour before sitting down to lunch with some of Navan's oldest residents.

The visitors all hail from Navan, County Meath, pop. 28,600, about 50 km northwest of Dublin. The same place where Navan, Ontario founder Michael O'Meara hailed from.

O'Meara was forced to leave Ireland in the aftermath of the Irish famine in the 1860s. He eventually settled in present day Navan where he was appointed postmaster and named the town after his birthplace.

Navan2Navan co-organizer Patrick Pyrle says the tour was conceived on the 16th of March, 2011, over a few pints of beer at the Lantern Public House on Watergate Street in Navan.

"We're here, number one, to walk in the footsteps of Michael O'Meara. Number two, to pay tribute to the people of Canada fro opening their arms and accepting the Irish immigrants during the time of the famine. Number three, to pay tribute to the Irish workers who helped build the Rideau Canal. And number four, to thank Canadians for welcoming our young people who can't find work in Ireland and have had to leave their home to find work here," said Pyrle.

The tour actually had its genesis six years ago when Pyrle came across the Navan Fair website while surfing the Internet. He sent an e-mail to former Cumberland Ward councillor Rob Jellett who passed him on to former Navan Fair office administrator Margaret MacNeill.

Their initial correspondence included an invitation to Navan, Ireland for the town's annual Shamrock Festival which celebrate the connection between the shamrock, St. Patrick, the River Boyne and the Hill of Tara.

MacNeill took them up on their invitation and traveled to Navan with a couple of Navan-area friends Betty Neilands-Wall and Larry O'Neill. The group was treated like royalty in Navan. The were brought to the Festival parade by barge and had their own float.

Since 2006, two other groups have visited Ireland and brought back similar stories of being treated like family. It's not surprising then that a number of the Navan, Ireland visitors are staying with local residents.

The group will attend the Navan Fair opening ceremonies tonight and will have their own float in the parade on Saturday.

To learn more about the tour visit the navan2navan.com.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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