On 13 May 1999 a group of almost fifty Kosovar Albanians arrived in Baltinglass. They had been flown from a makeshift refugee camp in Macedonia by the Irish government as part of a major international humanitarian relief exercise. They had reached Macedonia having fled their homes during the war in Kosova.

In Baltinglass they were housed in Rathcoran House (the former St. Joseph’s Convent). Very few of them had basic English but very soon they began interacting with the community. As programme refugees they were entitled to work and many of the younger adults found jobs in the area, while the children attended school.

At that time none of the Kosovars knew of a remote connection between Baltinglass and Skënderbeu, the great hero of the Albanian people. Sir Mathew de Renzi, born in Cologne about 1577, came to Ireland in the seventeenth century. He claimed descent from Skënderbeu. One of Sir Mathew’s descendants, Annesley Derinzy, came to Baltinglass in the eighteenth century. He owned Whitehall House, Parkmore House, and the lands in between them. While the Derinzys are no longer in Baltinglass, they may well have descendants in the area who are unaware of their distant Albanian heritage.

The last of the Derinzy surname in Baltinglass was Annesley’s granddaughter Emily, who occupied Parkmore House, just across the way from Rathcoran House, the Kosovars’ first home in Baltinglass. Today some Kosovars live in Whitehall Park, an estate built on the Derinzys’ land.

In 2000 most of the refugees returned home but fifteen of them stayed in Baltinglass. The following year they were granted leave to remain in Ireland indefinitely. Most of them have since become Irish citizens. Some of those who returned to Kosova subsequently came back to Baltinglass. Through marriage and birth the small Albanian speaking community here has grown to over 40. Today’s Baltinglass Kosovars come from such places as Fushë Kosovë, Kaqanik, Lupq, Papaz, Perlepnica and Zhegra. On 17 February 2008 many of their Irish friends and neighbours joined them in celebrating the declaration of Kosova’s independence.

Në Shqip