by jdurney on November 27, 2013

Leinster Leader 31 January 1987

Community Hall badly needed

Residents of Ballitore are seeking to have a community hall provided in the village, while at the same time preserving one of the most important old buildings, in a locality steeped in history. The proposal, which the Griese Valley Community Council submitted to the Co. Council late last year, concerns the restoration of the one-time home of writer, Mary Leadbeater, and the use of adjoining land (currently wasteland on which is located a derelict building) to provide extensive community facilities.
As a locality which has attracted considerable interest from an historical viewpoint, Ballitore is sadly still suffering from a major problem where derelict buildings are concerned. The Leadbeater house, however, is one which the Community Council is definitely determined to preserve and put to suitable purpose. Mary Leadbeater, one of the best known Irish writers of the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, was born in Ballitore in 1758, a member of the renowned Shackleton family. She was married to William Leadbeater in 1791 and remained in the locality until her death at the age of 68.
Many of her writings concerned life in the area at that time, especially among the poorer people, with whom she was extremely popular. One of the most exciting features of Mary Leadbeater’s work is the diary which she kept from the age of eleven, right up until a week before her death. Few towns or villages in Ireland have had an entire period of history recounted on a daily basis in the way that the Leadbeater diary describes the Ballitore of that time.
Her friends
Mary Leadbeater also had some interesting friends, including the writer Edmund Burke, with whom she kept up correspondence for a considerable length of time. Burke in fact expressed his admiration for her work, in the course of his own writings. In 1986, some of Mary Leadbeater’s literary reflections, Extracts from the Annals of Ballitore, were reprinted. In view of the enormous amount of interest shown by historical and literary experts, local people feel that the house where the writer produced all of her work should certainly not be permitted to simply fall down. As local history enthusiast, Bill Kelly, commented, “If Mary Leadbeater were alive today, there is nothing she would like to do so much as the house being put to good use for the benefit of the local people.”
The house at present would appear to be in extremely bad condition, which is why the Community Council members are keen that something should be done as quickly as possible. The windows have long gone and the house currently has only “false” windows and a front door made of painted wallboard. The roof is also in a bad state of disrepair and there was local anger when a chimney pot was actually removed. Rafters and beams have also been taken out of the house, according to Community Council member, Mrs. Lily O’Mara. She also referred to the completely derelict old R.I.C. barracks, which is situated beside the Leadbeater house (its demolition is included in the proposal from the Community Council to the Co. Council). “We have been trying for a ‘Tidy Towns’ award for years, but derelict buildings make it very difficult,” commented Mrs. O’Mara.
The Griese Valley Community Council is chaired by Mr. Brendan Gaynor and its P.R.O. is Mrs. Margaret Timmons, who explained that the local body was hoping for some response from Kildare Co. Council, following the submission of the plan. “We would very much like to have a meeting with Council officials as we feel this project is extremely important to the area,” she remarked.
The plan submitted by the Community Council outlines fully the very clear development concept which its members have in mind for the Leadbeater house and adjoining land. All requirements are carefully itemized, including the complete rewiring and plumbing of the house (which is late sixteenth or early seventeenth century) and the provision of new bathroom facilities. There are specifications even for the gutters and down-pipes and the plan also proposes the placing of a brass plate at the front of the house. At present, there is nothing to indicate that it was once the residence of a well known writer.
It is proposed that the interior of the house be authentically restored, to include suitable furnishings and fittings. The first floor rooms (in one of which Mrs. Leadbeater is said to have done all her writing) would be used to provide library, reading and writing facilities, while the ground floor would contain the Community Council’s meeting place, as well as a kitchen and catering area. In proposing the demolition of the former R.I.C. building, the Community Council points out that this would greatly increase the amount of space available at the rear of the Leadbeater home.
On this land, the members propose the construction of a portal framed building for community use – containing a main hall, games room, dressing rooms and toilet facilities, covering a total area of £4,500 sq. feet. Using the stone from the demolished barrack building, the plan suggests facing the new building with this local stone, to blend in with the Leadbeater house, while its height should not exceed that of the existing building, either.  The remaining land would be used to provide some sporting facilities (for basketball and tennis) and a children’s play area, along with some landscaping.
The plan certainly seems comprehensive and, should the Community Council get permission to go ahead, there is little doubt that the entire area would be transformed and the level of tourist attraction increased. The total cost, as estimated by the Community Council, would be £93,800 and the proposal would be to take the work in five stages, starting with the much-needed reconstruction of the Leadbeater home. Naturally, the local group would be prepared to do its own share of fundraising and the plan also suggests the possibility of using an AnCo work scheme to get part of the work carried out.
It is easy to understand why the Community Council members are so keen to have their plan adopted and supported by the Co. Council. If nothing is done, the result will not merely be that the locality remains without proper community facilities for meeting, sport and recreation. It will also mean that a fascinating piece of history is simply allowed to collapse.


The Leinster Leader 31 January 1987 reported on the need of a community hall in Ballitore while at the same time preserving one of the village’s oldest buildings

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