Garryowen in Limerick city has seen its fair share of bleak times over the years.

A large public housing development built in the 1950s in the shadow of St John's Cathedral, it has suffered from disadvantage, social and economic decline and crime over the decades.

But despite hard times, it has always had one big advantage - the strength of its community and the families who live there.

And in recent months, the simplest of cultural and artistic interventions managed to have a profound impact on this long-established but steadfast community.

Located at its heart is the St John’s Brass and Reed band. Established 155 years ago in a small terraced house across the road from the cathedral, it has trained and educated generations of amateurs to become accomplished musicians and entertain thousands of citizens of the city.

A street mural depicting two stalwart members of that band has been painted on the gable end of the band’s building, and it has transformed the neighbourhood.

It is a huge dramatic painting, seen from afar, accurately depicting Kevin Greaney, and Jim McCormack, who were long-standing members of the band from their youth to adulthood, and who also played a huge part in training newcomers.

Kevin has sadly passed away, and Jim is recovering from serious illness, but both families are so proud they have been honoured in this way in their own locality.

Jennifer McPhilemy, daughter of Jim McCormack, said there had been a really good reaction to the mural from people across the city, and it is a great tribute to the band and the achievements of the men.

Paul Greaney, son of Kevin, said it was a big boost to the neighbourhood in these very difficult times of Covid-19, and a great honour to the men and their families.

The mural is part of a public art project led by Draw Out Limerick, a community development company which is involved in showing how urban and public art can have a major impact, particularly in economically marginalised areas.

Catherine O'Halloran of Draw Out Limerick, and Tony McCarthy of the St John's Brass and Reed band

Director Catherine O’Halloran said they have found that the murals really connect with people, particularly when they draw on the history and heritage of a neighbourhood, giving the community a focal point for local pride.

A street painting in old Garryowen, drawing on the history of the locality and honouring two of its well-known citizens - who would have thought urban art could and has had such an effect?

History and community also played a big part in another unusual story I covered back in June.

At the Cistercian Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, monastic life continued uninterrupted during the Covid crisis, as it had done for 142 years since its foundation in 1878.

The seven monks who live there continued with their daily ritual of early morning prayer, hymns, farming and baking their monastic bread.

But it also saw the completion of their very own 'Cistercian College Camino' or path of prayer, which was started by the TY students, and which meandered for several kilometres through the wooded grounds of the Abbey.

The students had hauled 60 tonnes of sand, gravel, stone and logs through the difficult terrain to get the work done as part of their TY year.

But Covid almost scuppered the entire project interrupting the work before it was completed.

Fr Aodhan McDunphy, aged in his 90s and a monk for 65 years, was determined to complete the work the boys had started, along with TY co-ordinator Paddy Smith who had initiated the project with the class.

Fr Aodhan said while they finished it, it was very much the boys' project and has been a godsend to the people of the locality during the pandemic, who can now visit its tranquil grounds - a gift from the TY class back to the monastery and the community.

Teacher Paddy Smith said the project brought the boys out into what he described as God's own classroom in the great outdoors, where they did brilliant work, and they have now left a lasting legacy for the monks and the community.

The students themselves were both transfixed and transformed by the project - creating what they said was their own bit of paradise.

They spoke about how they hope to return there in future years and remember their friends and the work they did building this enduring path entitled ‘An Cosan Caol’.

Again history and community entwined - where a new chapter of history will have an enduring impact on a community.

On another day in June, the world’s largest aircraft landed at the country’s oldest airport.

The Antonov AN-225 landed at Shannon carrying the biggest single consignment of PPE, which was badly needed by health authorities and hospitals and nursing homes across the country.

The Antonov is a massive structure - the sheer sight of her landing on the longest runway in the country was almost breathtaking.

But her arrival at Shannon was just about the only highlight in what has been a grim year for the Mid West airport, now 73 years old and established just after the second world war.

Throughout its history, Shannon has prided itself on being innovative and an airport of firsts, which others across the world have followed.

It established the world's first duty free. It also established the first US pre-clearance facilities in Ireland for customs and immigration. It started the Shannon Free Zone, in which over 7,00 people are employed, and its business and industrial footprint is responsible for the employment of more than 40,000 others.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has has had a devastating impact on its operations, which saw its passenger traffic cut by almost 90% since last March.

It got a brief respite for two weeks as visitors returned to air travel up to Christmas, but it has returned almost to being a ghost airport, as Covid continues to cut its cruel path of destruction through the aviation sector.

Ryanair has just announced it plans to return operations to Shannon by April and has targeted carrying over 400,000 passengers for the remainder of the year.

We can only hope this long established airport with its proud and innovative history which is so vital to the economic future of the region, can continue to make history in this most difficult of times.