50 Heritage Apart from the importance of nature in defining a place, Bridger points out that heritage narratives that provide a version of a community’s history, form what he calls a “constitutive rhetoric” (1996: 353). Heritage narratives feature strongly among the residents of Stradbally. The big house, Stradbally Hall, plays a central role in the locality in terms of its historic legacy as the main landowner in the town. Locals are very much aware of the imprint of the Cosby family on the build environment and on the local economy. Much of the housing stock in the town was previously owned by the family, and it has been the family’s entrepreneurship that has delivered a successful, world renowned festival to the town annually since 2004. Thomas Cosby himself is extremely knowledgeable and proud of his family’s heritage and lineage, and when visited as part of Townscape, he offered an in-depth account of Stradbally Hall’s history through reference to maps, portraits and artefacts. The house retains the title of ‘Abbey’ (even though it is referred to as Stradbally Hall) because the site of the old Abbey of St. Frances lies on the North East side of the Main Street, formerly part of the original estate. Although the estate dates to the eighteenth century, the current residence dates from the mid-nineteenth century. It retains original architecture and furnishings and a virtual treasure trove of paintings, portraits, eclectic and contemporary artefacts including a taxidermy collection dating to the eighteenth century. Thomas Cosby, the proprietor, recalled how he would “get lost for hours up here” in the first-floor picture gallery, a warm and ambient space located at the top of a grand hand-carved mahogany staircase. His ongoing conservation project demonstrates a strong commitment to maintenance of the house, and to securing the services of the best craftspeople to repair and restore. This commitment is appreciated locally: They have a really nice house up there. You know there is an air in some big houses that you are not to touch anything or whatever. You never get that up there. Thomas is bringing it back bit by bit- lots of stuff was sold that was there originally. It is a slow process, cash heavy. The annual steam rally closely associated with Stradbally Hall and which predates the Electric Picnic Festival, is another source of pride in the locality: The Steam rally is a big thing. People come back from holidays, from England and from everywhere for the weekend. It’s part of the core of Stradbally. It grew from a small event organised by retired steam engine workers, and is now the biggest one in Ireland. The Irish Steam Preservation Society’s main base is in Stradbally. I go to the Steam Rally every year. The Sunday night is sort of the big night of the steam rally…it’s all about steam engines and classic cars and that. They are all out on the lawn of the estate working. It’s an industrious town. Everybody seems to be into steam engines, I have no idea why. Steam engines, classic tractors of all things. It’s like a drug! The built environment more generally is frequently commented upon. Participants, while satisfied that some of Stradbally’s heritage buildings have been repurposed, have not forgotten their original function: That’s the Art House now. It was a courthouse years ago, where they used to hold the courts. And that piece of yard there, that was where they kept the prisoners. And you know the toilets in there? Well they were the cells. And you know that old expression “he was sent down”. Well they were actually sent down because the courts were usually up and the cells were down below. So that’s where the expression comes from “they were sent down.