Roundstone Twinning with Noyelles sous Lens

1st March 2003

The idea of a possible twinning with another town happened at the end of the summer 02 at Eldon's Hotel when Ann Conneely, Martin J. Conneely and myself met with Bernard Slawek, who is the deputy Mayor from Noyelles sous Lens, Bernard was so keen to have Roundstone as a Twin, we liked the idea, particular when he informed us that Jimmy O'Toole had already been there with a group from Clifden. So with this in mind, we brought the idea to the committee of the Roundstone Development Council and a sub committee was formed, With Nicholas Griffin, Richard de Stacpoole, Thomas King, Robin and Theresa Pryce, Breeze Broome, Martin O'Malley and Martin J. Conneely.

Two weeks later the phones buzzed and the exchange of correspondence was passed back and forth from Roundstone to Noyelles sous Lens.

Next, the Mayor of Noyelles invited us for the 26th February as their guests and to formally create the twinning. The Roundstone Delegation consisted of Nicholas Griffin, Richard de Stacpoole, Thomas King and Robin Price.

After arriving at Charleroi (Brussels) Airport 2pm local time, we were met by three members of the Noyelles delegation, a two hour drive to Noyelles, greeted by a huge banner across the entrance of the town "Welcome Roundstone to Noyelles" then straight to the Mayors Office which is the home of the County Council (which is rather like a County Council building), where we met some more members of the municipality and the Lord Mayor himself M.Herve Janiszewski for a short meeting to discuss the structure for the twinning and the exchange of ideas between the two communities for the year 2003 / 2004. Then a dinner with the full delegation to greet us formally, Nicholas Griffin (President) responded on our behalf to the Mayor's speech in French

Thursday 27th picked up from the Hotel at 10am for a complete guided tour of Noyelles, to kick off with all their sporting facilities, indoor and outdoor, from football, shooting, tennis, basketball gym's, judo, Karate and facilities for the skate boards, with a population of 7'ooo our eyes were really being opened up as to all the efforts that the municipality were creating for the young people for all ages, from as young as three years old, and not just sport, everything relating to the art's as well. Noyelles being a mining town, we were then taken into the old part of the town where there is a small museum relating to the mining times, with a section where all the archives are kept of past and present inhabitants, going back years. Then a trip into LENS (Lenz) (Three miles from Noyelles) for a rather lengthy lunch.

Next stop was an incineration plant, and to show us their recycling efforts which was of particular interest to us, and I might add very impressive.

Then at 5.30pm an opening of a new creche for babies from the ages of three months to 2years. 6.30 pm another Champagne reception hosted by Monsieur Gilles Morchipont who is president of a company called ADJIN and is responsible for twinning's which is a non profit making company. With another short speech from Nicholas and then finally, on to another formal dinner.

Friday 28th 7am picked up from the hotel with our three guides from the Mayors office and brought to the station to catch a fast train to Paris (TVG) which only took one hour and a half to the Gare de Nord, caught the metro to Pigalle, Moulin Rouge, Mon Martre, Sacre Coeur, The Eiffel Tower, Champ de lysee and the L'arc de Triumph.

Our guides then decided that it was lunch time, so we were shown into what we thought was show room for Citroen cars, in fact it was also a wonderful restaurant as part of a restaurant chain called "Hippo", after the relaxing lunch, moved onto Notre Dame and then back to Le Gare de Nord and returned to Noyelles, still no time to chill out on our own for a bit, we were immediately swept to the private home of Gilles Morchipont for a wine tasting and dinner, the dinner was known as "Raclette"(Swiss origin) melted cheese, with potatoes, salads and various cold meats, quite delicious.

Saturday 1st March 10am picked up again from the Hotel and brought to the Mayoralty, but first we were asked from yesterdays reception, if we could just call in to a bar belonging to a chap called Patrick who presented Nicholas with their rugby shirt, to my horror a large glass of beer was plonked in front us, it had to be drunk, anyway to the "Maire" greeted by a youth band, with all the dignitaries in their finery, I might just add at this stage that this particular day was also the start of every thing Irish relating to Roundstone / Connemara, we were then marched up the stairs to their Ballroom, we were then placed on a long large table with the Mayor, Nicholas on his right and myself on his left with Thomas and Robin and all the other officers.

The mayor then addressed the assembly, thanked us for being there and welcomed us then came the turn for Nicholas to respond on our behalf in French.

"Monsieur Le Maire, Messieurs, Mesdames,
We are delighted to be here today to represent Roundstone in this historic twinning of our two towns. We are very happy to be involved with this project and I would like to thank the mayor and his team for their hospitality and organisation to date. There are many differences between our two towns. Roundstone is a small fishing village in the region of Connemara in the West of Ireland. Noyelles sous lens is a mining town in the industrialised area of the northeast of France. But here lies the opportunity to develop a greater understanding of our respective cultures and history and therefore bring us closer together.

We are very much impressed by all the unselfish work and voluntary effort made by all your community towards the young and old with regard to education, sporting activities, cultural events etc, something that has been missing in Ireland for the last few years. We hope that we can develop a long lasting friendship between us both.
Thank you.

Then came the signing, followed by the French national anthem followed by Amhrann na Bhiann. It was certainly a proud feeling as we stood to attention not so far away from where thousands of Irishmen had lost their lives in World War 1. A special moment and one to remember.

Duly done a lot of handshaking, photo Calls, and the local television also recorded the whole event, more excellent music from the youth band and then on to another reception.

4.30 pm Starting to be tired (weaken) a bit we were then swept off to the "Complex Sportive Leo Lagrange"(Four Miles away) where each one of us had to present prizes to the under eighteen winners of various Tennis Matches.Back to the Hotel for yet another dinner.

Sunday 2nd March 10am a site seeing trip to Vimy (Vemy Ridge), which is a special area of ground that has been given to Canada to commemorate all Canadians that were killed in the 1st world war. The actual front line trenches still remain and the ground is uneven and pockmarked from the thousands of shells and mines that had exploded. Then on to Arras, which is a beautiful old town, which somehow retains its charm despite being almost, destroyed completely in the two world wars. There we visited a museum dedicated to the history of those wars with many photographs of the people and soldiers who had to endure them. A light snack with Gilles in his home.

We were to be guests at a Socialist fund raising event for 250 persons commencing 1pm, with aperitifs, where we were formally introduced to the Member of Parliament for that region. Then on to Lunch, more speeches, and music and dancing, shaken but not stirred eventually to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

Monday morning 7am the return to Charleroi Airport. The four of us i.e. Nicholas Griffin, Richard de Stacpoole, Thomas King and Robin Price went out to Brussels / France at our own expense (delegation paid their own tickets), and well worth it for the experience alone, we saw another culture and all the work and effort that is done for the future generation, and what was most impressive is that all the sports facilities were actually managed by the young themselves, naturally with the help of an adult. We in Roundstone have almost the same goal to create this sort of environment, but of course we are a much smaller community, funding is always a problem, but we must keep trying.

Noyelles sous Lens and its community I feel in time will give us not only a cultural exchange but also possible idea's to implement a structure relating to the young for the future in Roundstone.

Richard de Stacpoole