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Volunteers’ Week Stories

Multigenerational Volunteering at Inniskillings Museum
Tony, Wendy, Ashton and Tyler Keely and Chiara Barnett/Gordon and Ida Robinson

The success of the Inniskillings Museum is largely underpinned by our incredible volunteers.  The strength of our volunteer force is a reflection of community interest in the preservation of Enniskillen’s unique military heritage: the only town in Britain and Ireland to confer its name on two regiments.  Our volunteers are local people, who hail from Upper to Lower Lough Erne, taking on a multitude of essential roles to keep the Museum vibrant and accessible to all.

The Keely family
The Keely family

The Keely family started their journey with the Inniskillings Museum in February 2023, inspired by their passion for local history.  While most members of the family are English-born, Tony, the patriarch of the family, was born between the bridges.  Over the years, the family travelled back and forth to Enniskillen to connect with Tony’s heritage, and eventually settled in County Fermanagh in 2005.

As a young boy, Tony remembers the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Gravesend, Kent.

“I was aware of the connection between the town, Enniskillen, and the regiment, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  I thought they were brilliant.  A Welshman, Taffy Jenkins, heard I wanted to learn how to play rugby.  He invited me to the Barracks and taught me all I needed to know- how to run, pass, kick, fall- the fundamentals of the sport.  He even presented me with my first rugby ball: an Eclipse.  I was over the moon. That experience has stuck with me all these years”.

Upon returning to Northern Ireland, the family were keen to discover more about the regiment and the people who served in and with them.  After attending our Volunteer Recruitment Day and exploring the various roles available to them, the men immediately signed up as volunteers; Wendy and Chiara joined them later on.

Volunteers Week purple starTony is a familiar face in our Museum’s shop, the Quartermaster’s Store, where his warm demeanour makes every visitor feel welcome.  He leaves a lasting impression on all who interact with him, turning casual tourists into avid regimental history enthusiasts.  Working as front of house is one of Tony’s favourite parts of volunteering, coupled with collection work.

Ash and Tyler, father and son duo, can often be found maintaining our vintage vehicle collection.  Their attention to the care of the vehicles ensures that they not only survive but thrive as fully functional machines.  They are invested in maintaining the Museum’s high presentation standards, no matter the magnitude of the job.  Last Spring, they devoted their time to repainting the doors along the stable block.  Their efforts not only improved the appearance of the Inniskillings Museum but the entire Enniskillen Castle site- just in time for the Royal Visit in May!

As a trio, under staff supervision, they have devoted themselves to the audit of our extensive collection, involving meticulous inspections of the Museum’s galleries and storage facilities.  The Keelys are not the only family to immerse themselves in this huge task – the wonderful couple Gordon and Ida Robinson look forward to coming to “work” every week, recording  and accounting for thousands of objects.

Wendy Keely, ‘The Boss’, has devoted multiple days a week to cataloguing our photographic collection.  Through her hard work, many people have been identified in the photographs, providing key insights into the lives of those who shaped our regimental legacy.  Wendy’s commitment to the project is vital for better understanding our Museum’s archives, which will in turn enhance public access.

Chiara, the newest addition to our team, has kindly offered her expertise in photography to capture key engagement events and facilitate online public outreach through images of our collection and galleries.  This ensures that all interested parties can reach the Museum, whether or not they can visit in person.

The voluntary contributions of families like the Keelys and Robinsons are not only commendable but crucial to the vitality of museums across the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Their passion for preserving our cultural heritage serves as a beacon of inspiration, proving that even in the face of limited resources, creativity and dedication can yield remarkable results.

At its core, the Inniskillings Museum is a vibrant community hub where volunteers gather and make long lasting friendships.  We pride ourselves on facilitating meaningful experiences for our volunteers within the organisation, empowering them to use their voices and participate in museum operations.  Through their selfless commitment to the Museum, they enrich lives in the community, fostering a deeper appreciation for County Fermanagh’s history and culture.

As we celebrate Volunteers Week, we would like to thank all our volunteers for their invaluable contributions to the Inniskillings Museum.  They are the driving force behind our mission to educate, inspire, and connect our community with the history of the Inniskilling Regiments.

Inniskillings Museum logoThe Inniskillings Museum is registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (NIC 100653).

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