Scania legend wins 2017 European Prize for Cultural Heritage
28 SEPTEMBER 2017
The founder of Scania´s Irish distributor Westward Scania, Jim Callery, has been honoured with Europe’s most prestigious prize in the cultural heritage field, the EU´s Europa Nostra Awards, for the saving of Strokestown Park & the Strokestown Park Archive.
Altogether there were 202 applicants in various categories and Mr Callery came top in the category of “Dedicated Service to Heritage”.
Jim Callery was appointed Irish distributor for Scania trucks in 1976. It was quite a coup for the Roscommon man, who secured it through resourceful audacity.
He had heard that two senior Scania executives were in Ireland and managed to track them down to a hotel in Ballsbridge in Dublin. He left Roscommon at the crack of dawn and made the hotel lobby by 7am. He waylaid the startled Swedes and convinced them to visit Roscommon before their return flight. The rest is Irish industrial history.
“I dug the hole myself”
Callery bought the Strokestown Park estate next to the Westward Scania premises in 1979. “Financially it’s been a bit of a disaster,” he once says. “The constant cost of repairs, refurbishment and upkeep are a nightmare. That said, I dug the hole myself.”
The Strokestown Park was opened to the public in 1987 and the Irish National Famine Museum was opened in 1994. The Scania distributor since opened pleasure gardens, fruit and vegetable gardens and a woodland walk. Even more famous is the world renowned Irish Famine Museum opened in 1994 and located in the original Stable Yards of Strokestown Park House. The museum tells the story about the Great Famine of 1845-1852, which resulted in approximately one million Irish deaths caused by starvation and a further population decline of approximately one million due to emigration.
The restoration and establishments by Jim Callery has been the largest act of private philanthropy for cultural heritage in the history of modern Ireland. The Strokestown estate next to Westward Scania is now a flourishing hive of activity which provides education, employment and enjoyment for the surrounding region. It´s still owned by Westward Scania, but now run by the Irish Heritage Trust.
The jury motivation
“Through his small business, Mr. Callery has saved a vital historic country estate for Ireland and has created an important museum and archive dealing with this pivotal moment in the country’s history. He has ensured an expert restoration of the house, opened it to the Irish public and preserved the legacy of this important memorial,” the EU jury states.
“We as a family are exceedingly proud of this highly prestigious European Award. We have for over 3 decades watched our father toil and battle to save Strokestown Park & it’s now world renowned Famine Archive,” says Jim Callery´s daughter Caroilin.
The winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2017 will be celebrated at an event co-hosted by EU Commissioner Navracsics and Maestro Plácido Domingo on 15 May at St. Michael’s Church in Turku. The European Heritage Awards Ceremony will be attended by 1,200 people, including heritage professionals, volunteers and supporters from all over Europe as well as top-level representatives from EU institutions, the host country and other Member States.
You can vote online http://vote.europanostra.org/ for Jim Callery in “the Public Choice Award.” Voters have the chance to win a trip for two to Finland and be a special guest at the Awards Ceremony.