Dean Gillespie Community Hero March 2018
Dean Gillespie grew up in the Crossroads and has lived there all his life until he moved to Kilross three years ago with his partner Imelda and their two children Luci aged 9 and George aged 5. He has always had a strong affinity with his local area and his family are well known in the Crossroads area. As a child he attended Dromore NS and St Columba’s College, Stranorlar before completing a toolmaking apprenticeship in Sligo. He then worked for nine years in Kirchhoff in Letterkenny before moving to Australia and New Zealand for one and a half years before moving a bit closer to home and working on the oil rigs in the North Sea for a further two and a half years. In 2003 he moved home and started his engineering business in Carrickshandrum in a cow byre on the family farm and through time he developed his workshop where he continues to work from. After opening his business he won the Donegal Business of the year for Innovation for creating smoking shelters and butt bins in the run in to the smoking ban in 2004. A true entrepreneur, Dean also started a business manufacturing portable stables and ran it in conjunction with his engineering business for a number of years until the recession hit and the market changed, at which time he stopped the manufacturing stables but continued with the engineering. It was at this time that he saw a gap in the market and he set up Gillespie Polytunnels and today he runs both the engineering and the polytunnel business together from Carrickshandrum where he employees three people and exports to Sweden and Denmark every year. The company ethos is very much to support local and to this end he sources all their raw materials from within Donegal.
Parents Council Drumore National School
Dean’s first endeavour into community work came through his children when he was asked to get involved in the Parents Council for Dromore NS in 2013. As many will know Parents Councils in all schools are busy these days trying to support the great work that their schools do with reducing budgets. The committee are involved in general fundraising for school facilities and supporting efforts that enhance safety for the children. One of the big pieces of work that the Parents Council was involved in was the Dromore Centenary Celebrations in 2015 comprising of a weekend of events for both past and present pupils and indeed the whole community. Dean is currently the vice treasurer of the Parents Council and attends regular meetings which take place regularly to address current school needs and identify how the council can support the school throughout the year.
Butt Drama Circle
Having always had an interest in drama Dean completed an acting workshop in the Balor Arts Centre and through this the participants put on a play at the end entitled “Mother Knows Best” for the Drama Circle. From this point on he was hooked and he became involved in the annual Panto where he played Friar Tuck for “Robin Hood Babes in the Woods”, and then the following year was stage manager for Cinderella before continuing in the 2017 panto as Barnaby in “Puss in Boots”. These panto’s are the main fundraiser for the Drama Circle and the Balor and are always a much anticipated event in the local calendar year. He is also a member of the Butt Drama Circle committee for the past two years and added to his acting repertoire with a part in “Robin B’stard and the Water Thieves” which received great acclaim and will run for a second time this May. Certainly a date to mark on the calendar. He was stage manager for the recent Secondary Schools Drama Festival and will be in that role for the upcoming show on the 13th to the 15th March called “No Romance” as well as helping with the upcoming Primary Schools Drama Festival.
During the extensive flooding that affected many parts of Donegal two years ago, the Balor was badly damaged and a lot of props and costumes were lost work continues to try and renew them again. As they say in the business “the show must go on” and this was never more true than the day the Balor flooded. Dean was involved in pumping out the water from the building which throughout that day into the evening when he was himself a cast member of Robin Hood Babes in the Wood. In order to keep the show on the road Dean was up and down to the flooding basement in between his scenes and even met with local firemen in the flooding basement during the show, dressed a Friar Tuck. Certainly not something you’re likely to meet on a regular basis but something that was very necessary at the time.
Finn Valley Gardening Club
Dean has also been involved with fellow members Madelene Doherty, Seamus Culhane and previous community hero Phyllis Reynolds in the Finn Valley Gardening Club and the group meet monthly and their work is evident in the beautiful flower boxes placed around town each year. He helps out with the group and has been host of the Annual Garden Produce Judging day over the last two years at his display polytunnels in Carrickshandrum where he sponsors the prizes for the winners. Last year he also demonstrated juicing on the day for those interested in juicing vegetables grown from their own gardens at the event, which drew huge interest. This is a popular event among gardening enthusiasts and is held in the summertime. The group also take trips to various gardens around Donegal and to the Bloom Festival in Dublin for all the members.
Crossroads Community Christmas Lights & Christmas Market
After a casual conversation about the lack of something in the locality for children at Christmas, the idea came about to bring a Santa and Christmas display to the Crossroads. It was agreed that it would be nice to have something in the village where parents wouldn’t have to be travelling to other areas and also to create good memories for children in their own local community. With this in mind Dean went to all the local businesses who contributed with some funds to get the first Christmas display up and running in 2015 which was a great success and brought the spirit of Christmas to the village. For the 2nd year Dean set it up a committee and eventually set it up as a not for profit organisation so that they could apply for funding to develop the event. Dean used his drama connections and experience of both dramas he’d been involved with to fundraise for the second year’s event. In true Dean fashion he decided he would produce a play in the Crossroads Hall, which hadn’t seen the like in 30 years. He got a cast together, but had no director so, not to be discouraged, he started without one. His optimism was rewarded when he ended up with two directors, after starting with none, when both Kathleen Browne and Paddy McMenamin (from Conal Gallen Fame) gave their time free and came on board to direct the play. The 2nd year they got support from the Aurivo
Creamery and were able to set up in their yard, providing a safer location for the event. They created a grotto for Santa and each child received a present and
parents were able to take their own photos as mementoes. He used his business connections and set up a Facebook page and got posters done to advertise the event without having a penny to pay for them at the time. He also got programmes printed and invited local businesses to take out advertisements to help with the funds. The play sold out for three nights (and raised funds for the Christmas lights) before it even started and he was very thankful to Bradleys Shop who sold tickets and all involved, including committee members and those who sat in the local hall selling tickets. The committee built the set with materials obtained from Maxi McCreary on a promise and they also set about dismantling an old caravan and used the parts from it in the play as the Widows Paradise and was set in a caravan. There was a lot of work, time and effort that went into producing the play both on and off stage and with only two of the cast having limited experience on a stage and no-one with production experience and the remainder of the cast having never stepped on a stage it was to say the least an amazing endeavour. Dean wishes to acknowledge the Butt Drama Circle who gave them every support in terms of advice, props and lighting etc.
For their first year Dean and the group had to ask for money from the community to buy the initial lights and the plan was that when they got up and running on the second year they would give people something for their money rather than asking for money. They did this by putting on the play and providing free refreshments for all during the interval and a free programme. Such was the success of the play that they were able to purchase new lights to extend the Christmas lights as well as build Santa’s Grotto for the children to visit Santa.
In 2017 they developed a Christmas market as part of the Christmas event and all stalls were based on a not for profit model where children and community groups sold their wares. The schools all took part in the market. This was the first Christmas Market in Crossroads and anyone who sold at it were given their stall free and any money raised went to the groups that had the stalls there. It added to the event and provided something for all in attendance. They also built and erected a Christmas Crib in the village which became a great focal point for all the community and was situated at the bridge.
As part of the fundraising effort a variety concert was held for the event and this involved the local schools and local artists which had a full house, such is the buy in from the community. The event has certainly highlighted the strong community spirit in the Crossroads.
Last year the Christmas lights were switched on by a member of the community whose names are all raffled and the winner gets to switch on the lights with main man, Santa and it brings a sense of occasion to the event as the winner is eagerly anticipated in the weeks running up to the switch on. The thinking behind this was, that rather than bringing in someone famous to do the switch on they would make someone from their own locality famous by being the person who would switch on the lights.
None of the above would have happened without the efforts of the committee and those who helped on the night and the buy in from the local people who came along an supported the event, both by buying tickets and coming along on the night to support. Dean has been overwhelmed by the generosity of people in the community who regularly offered support and money to help with the expenses.
In most cases it takes someone willing to run with an idea and their enthusiasm will garner support from others to get it over the line. However like anything that works, that “someone”, will usually have an innovative approach with a bit of risk taking thrown in for good measure and an entrepreneurial streak. It’s probably fair to say that Dean Gillespie has all of the above characteristics and he’s not afraid to use them. While others might advise caution, Dean just tears on and gets the job done. But as the saying goes, you have to crack and egg to make an omelette and it’s just a guess but I’d say Dean has cracked quite a few at this point. Continued success to Dean and all involved both in his local community of Crossroads and in the committees and groups he is involved with.