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July 24, 2007

Contentious Sheriff's Sale in the Market Square - Jan. 1882

Kildare Observer 14/1/1882 p. 3.


 On Saturday morning at 11 o’clock, the cattle and horses of a number of tenants on the estate of Sir Erasmus Borrowes, D.L., were put up for sale in the Market-square, Kildare. The cattle and horses were seized under writs for rent. The tenants were Mary Lee, Thomas Lee, James Clinch, and James Rourke, due respectively the sums of ₤90, ₤80 1s. 10d.; ₤33 0s. 4d.; and ₤23 7s. 7d. A large number of police and infantry were drafted into the town, the latter being located in the Courthouse. All were under the civil command of Colonel the Hon. W. Forbes. The cattle were disposed of by Mr. H. A. Lee, sub-sheriff. A ring was formed in the Market-square, and into this the animals were driven by a number of bailiffs, who were escorted into the town, with cattle and horses by a detachment of cavalry. Prior to the sale taking place a goat was exhibited at the end of the town, and on his forehead was the line “Sir E. Buckshot.” No disturbance of any sort took place. At the commencement of the sale an altercation took place between Mr. Stephen Cleary and the police as to his right to enter the ring where the bidders were. In his capacity as a bidder he went forward and was told to stand back by one of the policemen; this he refused to do. Colonel Forbes called upon Sergeant Martin to put him back, and a young sub-constable received the same instructions. He then told the police that if they laid their hands on him he would summon them for assault. The altercation here ended, and he entered the ring. The Property Defence Association was represented by a Mr. White. The first lot of cattle put up was that of Mrs. Lee, and consisted of sixteen head; and the second lot was that of Thomas Lee. On an average, it was considered by judges present that the animals in both lots were worth ₤11 each. The bidding for them generally commenced at ₤1, and increased by farthings, &c. The cattle were all bought in by Mr. Anthony Hackett at prices varying from ₤5 to ₤7 10s. The next lot consisted of three horses, the property of Mr. Rourke. Mr. Cleary bought in two-one at ₤5 10s. and one at ₤10, and the third horse went to the representative of the Property Defence association, who offered the animal back at ₤8, the price paid. Mr. Rourke offered ₤1. The fourth lot, that of Mr. Clinch, comprised three cows and a bull. Mr. Clinch bought them in at ₤35 for the three cows and a ₤15 for the bull. The sub-sheriff received the full amount of the levy and costs. By noon the streets were clear and the town had assumed its normal condition.

Posted by mariocorrigan at 10:39 PM

July 12, 2007

KILDARE BARRACKS by Mark McLoughlin; Local History Lecture 2005

Kildare Barracks

Wednesday 7th September 2005


Mark McLoughlin

The other important event at the turn of the century was the decision to construct an artillery barracks at Kildare which would remain open for almost 100 years until it closed in 1998.

Royal Artillery
The decision to construct an artillery barracks at Kildare in 1900 was one of the most important events in the development of the town. The site of the barracks was on a farm called Broadhook Farm. It was the site of the Lock Hospital which was built in 1868 on lands leased from the Duke of Leinster and remained open for approximately 20 years. However the road it was built on is still called Hospital Street today.

The 1901 Census records the barracks as the Lock Hospital consisting of four camp hutments with 65 carpenters and joiners, Irish and English involved in the construction of the barracks. Living in the canteen were 26 English plasterers and painters. The foreman was a Thomas Ryan from Kildare and a Thomas McLoughlin from Kildare operated a public house on site.

The Leinster Leader recorded a social night in January 1901:-
“On Saturday night last the Irish foremen and timekeepers employed at the military barracks in course of erection in Kildare, entertained their English friends in the same employment. A number of guests were invited, and when supper was served at twelve o’clock about fifty sat to table. The health of the strangers was proposed and Mr. Oram foreman, responded in suitable terms. Dancing commenced after supper, the music being supplied by the employes [sic]. Songs were also rendered by Mr. Oram, Mr. White, Mrs. O’Brien, Mrs. Studley, Miss Dollard, Miss Farrelly, and Mr. McLoughlin. Proceedings were kept up until the small hours, when the party separated well pleased with their night’s pleasure. Messrs Behan, Hickey, and Murphy, who organised the entertainment, are to be congratulated on the success of their efforts.”

The barracks was occupied some time in 1901 and the first units stationed in the barracks were the 31st and 33rd Brigades, Royal Field Artillery – which consisted of five batteries of artillery.

The opening of the barracks provided a period of prosperity for Kildare because by the time of the census of 1911, the population had increased to 2,639 persons which included the 808 men stationed in the Barracks.

The onset of the First World War of course brought great excitement to the town – Military leave was cancelled and military intelligence took over Kildare Railway Station.  Kildare Barracks was virtually emptied as the men in Kildare (15th Brigade RFA) were part of the Fifth Division which went to France in August 1914.

The Kildare Observer of 22 August 1914 reported

"A couple of large detachments of the Royal Field Artillery left Kildare Barracks early on Sunday and Monday mornings. They on each occasion being played out of the town by the band of the Kildare Volunteers, which rendered such tunes as "Come back to Erin", etc. Though it was 2 o'clock on Sunday morning, never the less a large crowd of Kildare Townspeople assembled to cheer them off and this was repeated on Monday morning at 7 o'clock. Such warm demonstrations must have helped to bring gladness to the hearts of those men who were going forth to defend our nation's right, and also to their wives and relatives from whose presence they have been called for an indefinite period."

They left a great store of uniforms behind them which were used for a new unit being established in the barracks. Many of these men, no doubt were killed in the next few years in France and other battlefields around the world. There were, of course, also locals killed in the war. Harry Greene, a teacher in Kildare National School applied for a commission on 13 May 1915 and was commissioned into the Royal Munster Fusiliers. He was killed on 29th April 1918 by a sniper after leading a company of Royal Irish Rifles in taking over a german machine gun post.

There is a letter published in the North Cheshire Herald at Christmans 1915 written by some men of the 3rd Cheshire Yeomanry who were stationed in Kildare at the time. They wrote “We spent our Christmas at a little village called Kildare, where the houses are just like stables. You talk about being among the pigs, we are amongst them..”.

Following the war of Independence and signing of the treaty, the British made plans to vacate the barracks in April 1922. However on 10th February 1922 Lieutenant John Wogan Browne, a member of a well known family from Naas at the time, went to the Hibernian Bank to collect the regimental pay. At the corner of Infirmary Road a car pulled up and one of the occupants grabbed the bag which contained £135. Wogan-Browne attempted to recover the bag and was shot in the head. The car was driven by a Tom Graham from Kildare who hired the car out to three men who held him at gunpoint. Three men, who were all local, were arrested for the murder but were released a few months later. All passes for traders to the Barracks were cancelled and on the night of the funeral there was some trouble by British soldiers in the town.

A dance was held in the Barracks at the end of March 1922. While the soldiers danced, someone stole the safe from the canteen which was later found opened in the field behind the barracks. The furniture from the Officers’ Mess and Officers’ Married Quarters was sent north while the rest of the equipment was given to the new state. The families of all soldiers left the barracks on 15th April 1922 when it was handed over to the National Army.

Civic Guards
In February 1922 Michael Collins had established a committee to examine a replacement force for the RIC and within a month had decided on the establishment of the Civic Guard. Following the withdrawal of the British army, the barracks was selected as the site for the training of the new Civic Police and 800 men were sent to the new Civic Police headquarters on 25th April 1922. where the new recruits engaged in drill instruction and route marches to Newbridge and Monasterevin. Within a week of arriving the civic police were attacked by anti-treaty forces and soldiers were put on the gate to protect the barracks.  There were simmering tensions in the barracks when the new recruits arrived as they found themselves being instructed by former RIC men. These experienced policemen were appointed over former republicans and tensions came to a head on 15 May 1922 when a former Cork IRA man, Thomas Daly presented an ultimatum to the Commissioner of the Civic Police demanding the expulsion of five named former RIC men. Commissioner Staines ordered a full parade of the barracks and when he ordered the signatories to step forward, a shouting match ensued and the parade was abandoned. The next day, Newbridge Barracks was handed over to the Civic Guard and while the commissioner was there, the mutineers raided the armory and seized rifles, revolvers and ammunition. Meanwhile, Staines had called for soldiers who had just taken over the Curragh from the British to assist the Civic Guard. They arrived in Kildare but were prevented by armed civic guards from entering the barracks and a stand off ensued. The situation was so serious that Michael Collins came to Kildare and agreed to set up an inquiry provided that Staines and other senior Civic police be allowed back to Kildare.

However, when Staines arrived at the gates, he was refused entry and when two former RIC men, Sergeant Patrick McAvinia and Superintendant John Byrne arrived at the gates, the mutineers drew weapons and Byrne was narrowly missed by a shot. The two ex RIC men fled while being chased by a mob and fled to the Railway Arms where they tried to make a phone call. A crowd gathered outside and threatened to burn the place down. They escaped out the back door and hid in the Carmelite house before escaping back to Dublin the next day.

Tensions did not completely finish as on 17th June, days before the start of the Civil War Daly again met a force of anti-treaty men from Dublin who went with him to the barracks, tied up the guards on duty and commandeered the rifles and ammunition from the armoury with some of the Civic Guards joined them and went back to Dublin to the Four Courts.

The overall impact of these events were that the new police force was reconstituted as an unarmed police force which aimed to have closer links to the wider community and much less like a colonial police force in the way the RIC was perceived.

Artillery Corps
In March 1925. the Garda Siochana moved out and the Artillery Corps which was formed in 1923 moved from Dublin to Kildare. On 20th March 1925, the Artillery Corps arrived at Kildare railway station and the two batteries consisting of eight guns in total were each linked and harnessed to six horses and travelled to the barracks with outriders on the lead horses. Artillery requires specialist knowledge and accordingly, the new army gathered together men with previous experience of artillery and horsemanship to create the new unit.  Thus you had men like Sgt Major Downey who had seen active service during the war at Vimy Ridge, Bertie Thompson, formerly of the Royal Canadian Artillery and my own grandfather James McLoughlin of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Kildare initially had one battery consisting of 5 Officers, 18 NCOs and 93 gunners (116 in total).

Like the British army, the Irish army battery included 1 farrier, 2 shoeing smiths, 2 saddlers, 5 signallers, 2 Trumpeters, 3 cooks, 2 clerks, 4 sergeants, 40 gunners and 29 drivers. Each battery had 4 18 pounder guns. The smiths and farriers would have been busy as two batteries of artillery required a regulation 125 horses.
The Artillery Corps was renowned for its strict discipline which was far stricter than other army units – with the highest standard of training, drill and dress.

The Artillery Corps carried out their first shoot in the Glen of Imaal in September 1925 with the men having to haul the guns over Table Top mountain. At the time with the formation of new batteries, each battery was assigned to a particular Battalion of the army. So, the 1st Battery was assigned to the 4th Battalion in Cork and when they held their exercises in Kilworth, the battery had to organize a special train to transport all the horses and equipment. This would take from 4 am to 8 am that evening to get the battery to Cork whereas the 2nd Battery only had to travel to the Glen of Imaal although this would in itself be an endurance as all movement was by horse. During the 1920s and 1930s, the entire artillery corps was based in Kildare so a number of Officers were sent to America and to England for Artillery training which they in turn passed on to others on their return to Kildare.

The replacement of the hutted artillery lines with a proper barracks commenced in 1938 when Sisk were given the contract to construct a new barracks and the artillery corps transferred temporarily to Plunkett Barracks in the Curragh. This was the first purpose built barracks built by the Irish State.  The barracks was named Magee Barracks after Gunner James Magee who bravely handled a six pounder gun at the battle of Ballinamuck in September 1798.

The biggest change for the Artillery Corps in Kildare was the changeover to a mechanized artillery corps. In March 1939, most of the horses were sold at public auction in Dublin and the remainder given to other units in the army.

With the reorganisation the army in the 1990s, the days of Kildare Barracks were finally numbered and it closed in 1998.  Yet again the business community and people of Kildare wanted to know what would become of the barracks. After a number of years as a home for Kosovan refugees and asylum seekers from around the world, the barracks will shortly make way for the needs of an expanding town.

Posted by mariocorrigan at 11:00 PM

July 06, 2007


Paper delivered By Guy Williams as the 2007 Hayden Lecture, to Cill Dara  Historical Society, Kildare Town’s local History Group, on Wednesday  4th  July 2007.
It has been said that the key to the present is to be found in the past, if we but choose to look.
On the flip side, HEGEL chose to differ. “What experience and history teach is this – that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
One of our own – GEORGE BERNARD SHAW – developed HEGEL'S theme in his 'Revolutionist's Handbook' and again in 'Heartbreak House'.
In the course of this talk I hope to show that both theories contain degrees of validity.
So, what exactly is the Curragh of Kildare?
Well, it's 4,870 acres of limestone plain, covered by grey-brown PODZOLIC soil, draining to Pollardstown Fen. 'Podzolic' is defined in the Oxford Dictionary simply as “a soil with minerals leached from its surface layers into a lower stratum.” Nothing very special about that, really.
I prefer to concentrate on how the Curragh was created. Particularly the legend of 5th century priestess St BRIGID asking the local king for a patch of land on which to build her monastery, in return for relieving him of his asses' ears that had been the bane of his life.
The king played it cute, telling St Brigid that she could have as much land as her cloak would cover. Brigid quickly gave her response. Summoning three of her acolytes she instructed each of them to grab a corner of her garment and head off northwards, eastwards and westwards.
This they did, until each was brought to a halt, all for different reasons. The first was crossed in her tracks by a hare. The second was confronted by a red-haired woman and the third by a blacksmith brandishing a red hot horseshoe.
Well, Brigid hadn't done badly, had she? 4,870 acres of the finest limestone land, Podzolic to boot.
As to how the Curragh got the name 'the short grass' – over-stocking was held to be the cause.
However, GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS, writing in the 12th century, saw it rather differently. “There are also here the most delightful plains, which are called the pasturage of St Brigid, into which no one dares to enter a plough and of which it is estimated as a miracle that although the cattle of the whole province may have clipped the grass close to the ground in the evening it will appear the next morning as high as ever, and it has been said of these pastures: 'As much as the herds crop during the long day, so much does the cold dew restore during the short night'.” 
John O'Donovan, in his study of the antiquities of County Kildare, carried out in 1837, found no reference in ancient lore to the Curragh as a plain. Its creation was attributed to St Brigid and the story of her cloak. Content to leave well alone, O'Donovan concluded: “If tradition could be relied on it would prove that it was first formed in a common by the saintess.”
The saintess had long gone down beside St Patrick, appropriately in DOWNPATRICK, when her Dublin successors obtained free grazing rights on the Curragh. These were the Augustinian Canons of St Thomas of Dublin, the first 'outsiders' to enjoy such rights.
The Augustinian Canons of St Thomas weren't allowed much time to enjoy unfettered access to the Curragh. In 1207 the Curragh of Kildare became royal property, initially through the marriage of Aoife, daughter of Dermot, king of Leinster, to Strongbow. Dermot might have summoned Strongbow from Wales to sort out local grievances. But Strongbow acted for the English crown.
This would seem to be the first instance whereby the English crown gained title to the Curragh of Kildare. At all events, in 1299 Edward I of England enacted a Statute forbidding the feeding of swine on the Curragh. Clearly the pigs were damaging a sward described as “forming a more beautiful lawn than the hand of art ever made. Nothing can exceed the extreme softness and elasticity of the turf, which is of a verdure that charms the eye, and is still further set off by the gentle inequality of the surface.”
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Crown issued grants of pasture commonage to landowners adjacent to the Curragh. Grantees included Robert Bathe, John Lye of Rathbride, Patrick Sarsfield, Sir Nicholas White, Robert Nangle, Edward Medlicott and Garrett Weasley. As late as 1866 the solicitor representing the heirs of these grantees claimed to the Curragh Commission he could “give evidence of rents paid under these patents, some to the present day. Some were purchased by the Duke of Leinster, and in that way some were extinguished.”
So, we have the SHEEP FARMERS established on the Curragh, paying their dues to the Crown of England.
However, they were soon to share the amenity. In 1599 the Earl of Essex, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, encamped 27 ensigns of foot and 300 horse, declaring: “A better place for deploying of AN ARMY I never beheld.”
In 1641 James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, billeted his army round the Curragh. Two years later Lord Castlehaven took Tully Castle, encamped on the Curragh, “whence I summoned all the castles thereabouts, and had them yielded.”
In 1687 Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, encamped his army at the Curragh. That same year we find the first reference to a CURRAGH RANGER, appointed by the Crown, paid £20 a year, along with his livery. He was charged with protecting the grazing rights and game, as well as preventing encroachments.
Two years later the army of James II – 4,400 strong – trained on the Curragh. And the following year the same army rested up on the Curragh following its defeat at the Battle of the BOYNE.
The time had come for a third party to enter the stage that is the Curragh of Kildare – the RACING MEN.   
While racing may indeed have taken place on the Curragh of Kildare since prehistoric times, it was in 1696 that the first KING'S PLATES – 2 worth £100 each – were run on the Curragh. Two years later travel writer JOHN DUNTON recorded his impressions. “We soon came to the Curragh so much noised here. It is a very large plain covered in most places with heath; it is said to be five and twenty miles round. This is the NEWMARKET of  Ireland, where the horse races are run, and also hunting matches are made, there being a great supply of hares, and more game for hawking, all of which are carefully preserved. . . on this noble plain.”
If the Curragh of Kildare stood comparison with Newmarket in 1698, it is reasonable to assume that it had existed as a major racing centre well before 1696 when those King's Plates were presented.
But the SHEEP FARMERS and the RACING MEN were not to have the Curragh to themselves. In 1709 occurred the first record of ARMY manoeuvres on the Curragh, under Lord Cutts. This development was welcomed by local farmers, who found a ready market for horse fodder, hay and oats. For the time being, anyway, those ARMY summer manoeuvres could be ignored by the RACING MEN. After all, they never lasted for very long and left no permanent mark on the landscape.
The Curragh continued to develop as the racing centre of Ireland, with the great and the good beginning to build their RACING LODGES round the periphery of the Curragh. The earliest known engraving of a horse race on the Curragh dates from 1752.
THE COFFEE HOUSE in Kildare was marked on John Roque's 1757 map, though not completed until 1759. Measuring 40 feet by forty feet, it stood 3 storeys high and was built by subscriptions from the racing fraternity. It was one of Kildare's finer buildings.
Lord Chief Baron EDWARD WILLES visited Kildare in 1760, providing this account. “A very pretty town by means of the gentlemen belonging to the Kildare Hunt. Their number sixty-one, and most of the gentlemen have built for themselves little pretty lodges in the town for the convenience of hunting. I came to the Curragh of Kildare, which is the NEW MARKET of Ireland, and I am afraid as much money betted there as at New Market. 'Tis a plain belonging to the king, of about fifteen miles in circumference. I never saw a finer turf; the sports say the sod exceeds that of New Market.”
Agriculturalist ARTHUR YOUNG added his praise in 1777, describing the Curragh as “a plain sheep walk of above 4,000 English acres, forming a more beautiful lawn than the hand of art ever made.”
At the same time the first reference occurs to a STAND HOUSE on the Curragh. While we know a lot about the COFFEE HOUSE – even if no pictorial record survives – we know nothing of the origins or construction of the original STAND HOUSE.
The MILITARY returned to the Curragh in some force in 1783, when the IRISH VOLUNTEERS raised and held a REVIEW on the Curragh – the Dublin soldiery were transported by the Grand Canal, opened three years earlier. 50,000 spectators were said to have witnessed the Review.
The TURF CLUB was founded in 1790, thereby pre-dating the ENGLISH JOCKEY CLUB. The first Irish Racing Calendar was also published in 1790.
In 1796 six canons were dispatched from Dublin, to assist the High Sheriff in “prostrating the numerous cabins that had been illegally built on the common.”

This might be said to mark the first occasion on which the MILITARY and the SHEEP FARMERS came into direct conflict, for it seems reasonable to assume that the illegal cabins had been put up to house shepherds tending their flocks.
Two years later there was a much more dramatic confrontation – if that's the right word to describe what became known as the 'Gibbet Rath Massacre'.
In 1804 the MILITARY returned once more, this time in vast numbers. Between 13,000 and 16,000 troops were stationed on the Curragh “in light marching order and ready to move at short notice.” Their presence was not so much due to unrest in Ireland as to the Napoleonic Wars. The Battle of Trafalgar took place the following year.
In 1807 the MILITARY changed tack apropos a permanent presence on the Curragh. Water had always been a problem – three Draw wells were sufficient for the indigenous populace, but quite inadequate for thousands of troops and their horses. Instead, the MILITARY opted to build a barracks in what was to become NEWBRIDGE, while still adjacent to the Curragh for exercises. At that time the Curragh of Kildare was under the control of the commissioner of His Majesty's WOODS AND FORESTS AND LAND REVENUES.
Alive to the danger the TURF CLUB used its social influence to get the newly-crowned GEORGE IV to visit the Curragh in the course of his 1821 Royal Visit. Denis Bowes Daly of ATHGARVAN LODGE, many times leading owner, Turf Club Senior Steward and a personal friend of His Majesty, secured the King's consent.
By this time the STAND HOUSE was in a parlous state. It mirrored the economic recession in Ireland in the aftermath of WATERLOO, which brought the Napoleonic Wars to a close.
In his book HORSES, LORDS & RACING MEN – brought out to mark the Turf Club's bi-centenary in 1990 – Fergus D'Arcy commented on the composition of the Committee that was formed to renovate the STAND HOUSE in a hurry. The Duke of Leinster, principal landowner in Kildare, was not a member of the Turf Club. Maurice Prendergast was Senior Steward and Robert Brown Curragh Ranger. In D'Arcy's words: “the composition of the Committee acknowledged the fact that while the Turf Club was the organising body of racing, its actual jurisdiction on the Curragh was one of CUSTOM, not law or right.”
Despite the dreadful weather and the King's unfortunate attack of the 'nimblewherries' the Royal Visit to the Curragh was judged a success. His Majesty presented the Royal Whip, which is still run for to the present day.
ROBERT BROWNE, in his role as Curragh Ranger, had more than the royal visit on his plate. Local landowners – notably the lords Sligo, Cremorne and Rossmore – demanded he take action to protect their rights against “vast numbers of persons, perfect strangers, who have fed and pastured large flocks of sheep and cattle on said Curragh without any right to do so. . . to so great an extent as to render the Curragh almost useless. All three were prominent members of the Turf Club and had horses in training. So they were complaining not just as farmers but as racing men as well.

ROBERT BROWNE got little solace from Dublin Castle, reminded that the Curragh Ranger's duty was to the Crown, not to private persons.
The TURF CLUB decided to take measures into their own hands to protect the racecourses and training grounds by enclosing them. EDWARD RUTHVEN, MP – although a Turf Club member himself – became alarmed at the civil unrest that enclosure could provoke. He persuaded the Kildare Grand Jury to create a new office – CONSERVATOR OF THE CURRAGH. Graydon Medlicott, whose family had been in Kildare since the 16th century, was appointed, his salary to be paid by a tax levied on local landowners. The necessary legislation was based on Acts of 1791 and 1796 safeguarding the rights of commonage on the Curragh.
The Commissioner of WOODS & FORESTS wasn't on for this. He applied successfully to the King's Bench to have the office of Conservator abolished in 1836.
And so it rumbled on. In 1841 Robert Browne, Curragh Ranger, wrote to Charles Gore, one of the Commissioners of WOODS & FORESTS. “There is no document or record in the office of the Turf Club or elsewhere by which it can be ascertained when the Stand House on the Curragh was built. There is no lease or instrument in existence from the Crown to the proprietors of the Stand House.”
In plain language the RACING MEN had got themselves ensconced on Crown lands – and nobody could say how.
Another threat to the Curragh of Kildare appeared in 1843 – the IRON HORSE. Railways actually spread out far faster across Ireland than they were doing in Britain in the 1840s and the Great Southern & Western Railway Company sensed profit in laying a line from Dublin to Tipperary. The most direct – and therefore least expensive – route lay across the Curragh of Kildare. The proposed route would effectively bisect the Curragh plain. In doing so it would also bisect the Royal racecourse.
The RANGER and the TURF CLUB were aghast. This railroad proposal threatened the very existence of the Curragh. Intensive political lobbying ensured that the new menace was rerouted, behind the Stand House, away from the existing racecourses and embanked to obscure the track from view. However, it did result in creating what we know today as the LITTLE CURRAGH, or Curragh Beag.
Negotiating on behalf of the Turf Club, the Marquess of Waterford played an absolute blinder. Indeed, he got the GS&WR to fund the construction of a whole new Stand House, in addition to endowing what is still known as the Railway Stakes. The new Stand House was completed by 1853.
Oh, there were other headaches, as D'Arcy records. “A major problem had developed, with local farmers collecting and drawing huge heaps of manure, causing offensive sights and smells, starving the grass and damaging the surface by skimming. By that stage about 20,000 sheep were grazing the Curragh. One hundred years later less than half that number was said to constitute overgrazing.”
However, the incursion of the railway and the actions of the sheep farmers were nothing to what happened next. . .

The MILITARY returned to the Curragh. And how! The Ranger and the Turf Club found themselves powerless to safeguard the Curragh for racing and training in the face of this threat. What was worse, the authorities – the Crown – totally failed to define the legal jurisdiction of both parties – the MILITARY and the RACING MEN.
The demands of the Crimean War necessitated increasing the strength of the Army. Lieutenant-Colonel H.W. Lugard, Royal Engineers, was ordered to construct a permanent camp to accommodate 10,000 men. Water was sourced at 54 feet. Two thousand were employed in the camp's construction. A postmark – 'The Curragh Camp' – dated August 1855 proved that the new camp had been commissioned.
Curiously, the Army had no plans of former military occupations of the Curragh. Nevertheless, before being transferred to Hong Kong, Lugard had completed the construction of a military town, including hospitals, library, churches, courthouse and recreational facilities on the Curragh's Long Hill. Lugard died in Hong Kong on 30 November 1857, while making the necessary preparations and arrangements as Commanding Engineer for the attack on Canton.
Lord Waterford successfully resisted the claims of the War Office to have the old Stand House put at the disposal of the Royal Engineers. Unfortunately, his premature death in 1859 was to deprive the Turf Club of its most influential protector.
When the Curragh Camp had been completed it was understood that it would be used intensively for drill from April to September and otherwise maintained by a skeleton staff.

However, as Con Costello was to write: “As the strategy of waging war evolved so did the tactics, and the expanse of the plain accommodated the innovations of the tacticians. From the mass movement of man and horse to the employment of mechanism, armoured vehicles and the mass expansion of trench warfare the short grass was constantly fought over, for the next 65 years.”
It was not until 1859 that a Memorandum was drawn up, finalizing legal arrangements to transfer part of the Curragh lands from the Crown to the War Department, whereby the latter confirmed “Her majesty's right to about 4,000 acres in the County of Kildare and subject to such rights of pasturage and common if any as are now legally exercisable thereon.” However, this did not pass into law.
Two years later Queen Victoria conferred royal status on the new Curragh Camp when Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, was posted there. Unfortunately, it didn't work out too well for either the Prince or his Mama. The Prince was deflowered by an actress smuggled in for that purpose, contracting venereal disease that rendered him unfit for marriage. Prince Albert, his father, caught a fatal chill while reprimanding his errant son. Mama never forgave Edward for precipitating her husband's death.
But that was an internal affair, of no particular interest – other than prurient – to the Turf Club. They faced another threat – to the very continuation of racing on the Curragh.

Caretaker Patrick Fahey told the Commissioners of Woods & Forests that “Gun carriages cut the Curragh Turf like a ploughshare.” On the third day of the 1861 September Meeting General sir George Brown “commanded a battery of Armstrong guns to be planted on the course and the cavalry to charge over it and thereby reduced it to the condition of a ploughed field.”

The General's antics held up racing for an hour and the newspaper reporter could scarcely believe this “outrage to the wishes of the leading turf men of our country. We should have thought that the drilling and harassing of the troops for the last month would have entitled them to a holiday during the three days set apart for racing.”

The Office of Woods & Forests remained adamant that compensation was the responsibility of the War Department.
Not content with disrupting racing, General Sir George Brown returned to the offensive in 1862 when he proposed to remove all the gorse from the Curragh. Every other interested party rose up in arms. The trainers were terrified that the remaining roots and stumps would injure their horses. The sheep men claimed the gorse essential for sheltering their sheep. The Kildare Hunt protested at the obliteration of their fox coverts.

Ranger Browne successfully lobbied Whitehall to thwart the General, who proposed to employ military labour in his quest to eliminate all furze from the Curragh. Fortunately, Ranger Browne carried the day.
In 1863 the Turf Club and the War Department went head-to-head. Walsh's Hill gallops had been reduced to a regular swamp. The Flat Rath had been severely damaged by trenching. The Jockey Hall gallops – once the best on the Curragh – had been rendered almost useless due to Ball Firing. Robert Hunter, Keeper of the Match Book for the Turf Club, reported: “From an experience of upwards of forty years I never saw the Curragh in anything like the condition it is now in and the training grounds, Queen's Plate and other Courses are in many places unfit to be worked and raced upon.”
Attack, they say, can be the best means of defence. Cornewall Lewis, Secretary for War, put it up to the Turf Club to inform him as to “what is the nature and rights of the Turf Club on the Curragh.” He did so in the knowledge that the War Department had still not agreed any form of lease with the Office of Woods & Forests.
In 1864 the Office of Woods & Forests offered the Army a lease. The Army declined, seeking instead 'guardianship' of the Curragh.
Ranger Brown inevitably became embroiled in what was now open warfare. He complained to the Office of Woods & Forests that “The Stewards of the Turf Club appear to wish to convert the permissive privileges enjoyed by them into a right and to exercise this right independently of the Crown and its officers which they have no right whatever to assume.
Luckily, the Office of Woods & Forests adopted a conciliatory stance informing the Ranger “The Turf Club must, for the sake of the interests they represent, keep the courses (other than the Royal course) in proper order.”
The controversy got to the House of Commons in 1865. Sir Robert Peel contended that the Curragh was Crown property. Colonel Dunne, MP for Queen's County, disagreed. “The Crown has no rights whatever over the Curragh and the move was an atrocious invasion of public property. Whereas Aldershot had been purchased at great cost, the Curragh has been usurped. It belongs to the Irish people.”
Lord Dunkellin supported the honourable member for Queen's County. He said that it had been known for many years that the Government had faulty title and thus no right to transfer the Curragh to the War department. “The Curragh,” he declared, “is a place of national renown and ought not to be cut up and destroyed. The bargain which the Government in about to make is not only illegal, but would be most obnoxious to the whole country.”
Lord Naas's views earned him a leader in the Leinster Express. Clearly the Military occupation was intended to oust every other interest. The loss of so much grazing was unacceptable. Racing had already suffered. The country could not consent to two such usurpations. Even the office of Curragh Ranger was in danger of being abolished.
The government established the Curragh Commission of Enquiry. It sat in 1866. Major Edmund Mansfield, a member of that commission, later told Lord Walter Fitzgerald, “When the Crimean War broke out in 1854, the military authorities established a camp of instruction on the Curragh without asking the permission of anyone, the idea being that it was only a temporary arrangement.”
On pasturage and commonage, the commission concluded that since St Brigid's time “the dwellers round the Curragh claim and enjoy the rights of pasture which St Brigid and the angels won for them.”
Lord Strathnairn, GOC Curragh Camp, did not miss his opportunity, telling the Commission: “the military and the sheep-owners benefit and accommodate each other, and the poor people of the district (those with rights on the Curragh) believe that the Curragh is their own still, and St Brigid's will is not undone.”
Over the 8 days that the Commission sat no fewer than 23 solicitors and or agents represented the interested parties. The Turf Club's representative scored a badly-needed hit when he successfully showed that through permission given to the Club House in Kildare, the Stewards of the Turf Club could exercise rights over the gallops and courses. He backed up this claim by producing leases to the Marquess of Waterford and the Marquess of Conyngham for the Turf Club and to the Baron de Robeck for the Kildare Hunt.
The upshot was the 'Act to make better provision for the Management and Use of the Curragh of Kildare' in 1868. The Act confirmed the status of the Curragh Ranger – by now the Marquess of Drogheda. He was to care, manage and preserve the plain, appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, not by the Secretary for War.
Moreover, the Curragh was divided into three designated areas – Brown Lands, Blue Lands and Green Lands. The BROWN Lands covered the site of the Curragh Camp (575 acres); the BLUE Lands defined the rifle grounds at 463 acres, while the GREEN Lands formed the residue. The military were henceforth to be confined to the Brown and Blue Lands. However, in times of emergency the Green Lands were to become available to the military for reviews, drills and recreation BY WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE LORD LIEUTENANT.
Lord Strathnairn voiced his displeasure at the racing fraternity having what he described as “a direct line to the highest level of the Irish government.”
He was even more unhappy when the Lord Lieutenant – the Duke of Abercorn – aired his views. “What is required is that a portion of the Curragh should be set apart wholly and entirely for the purpose of racing: that the care of that portion of the Curragh should, without prejudice to the rights of pasture, be given up entirely to the Turf Club.”
Abercorn felt that the Turf Club should have similar control over that portion of the Curragh to that enjoyed by the Jockey Club over Newmarket Heath. “The granting of this boon to the Turf Club would only be a fair equivalent for the very serious interference with their gallops and exercise grounds which has taken place in consequence of the constant presence of a large military force on the Curragh.”
Better still – on 27 May 1869 a text was signed on behalf of the Crown and the Turf Club conferring a lease to the Turf Club giving the right to race and train horses over the Green Lands – the western section of the Curragh, bounded on the south by the Dublin-Limerick road, for a rent of £5 a year, subject to rights of common and rights of way.
The army might have lost that battle, but they hadn't lost the war. In 1871 they commenced a major reconstruction programme throughout the Curragh Camp, whereby the old wooden and mineral felt roofs were replaced by brick and slate.
Thirty years later – in 1901 – the Curragh camp was designated Divisional HQ, as it was to remain until 1922. That same year the Army made one last bid for outright victory. In July the War Office proposed to acquire the whole of the grazing rights on the Curragh, with a view to their extinction, only to be reminded that the Turf Club had statutory rights there. The Army was further advised that, although the Turf Club's rights were revocable by the Crown, such revocation was unlikely “unless racing on the Curragh comes to an end from other causes.” Otherwise, the Turf Club's 99-year lease, concluded with the Crown in 1882, would have to run its course.
Still the Army persisted and it was not until 1905 that they abandoned their attempts, realising that the Turf Club had successfully lobbied Lord Dudley, the Lord Lieutenant.
Ironically, the final military damage on the Curragh was caused by the War of Independence.
Two years later, as a consequence of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the lands of the Curragh passed from the Crown to the Minister for Finance and subsequently to the Minister for Defence, administered by his Department's property management branch under the Curragh of Kildare Acts.
On 16 May 1922 the Curragh Camp was formally handed over to the Irish Free State Army. One witness was the future Sister Veronica Treacy, then aged 10. Many, many years later Sister Veronica recalled a snatch of conversation overheard outside a Newbridge pub as the British marched away. “That's the end of them, thank God. Now we can fight away in peace among ourselves!” 

George Wolfe TD, the last holder of the historic post of Curragh ranger appointed by the British Crown, died in 1941. The post was then held until 1961 by the chairman of the Office of Public Works, by appointment of the Minister for Finance.
In 1961 the Curragh of Kildare Act abolished the office of Curragh Ranger, at the same time reapportioning the Brown, Blue and Green Lands. The Brown Lands shrank to 77 acres, while the Blue Lands expanded to 815 acres and the Green Lands diminished marginally from 3,382 acres to 3,284 acres. In preparation for the staging of the inaugural Irish Hospitals' Sweepstakes Irish Derby in 1962 the Act empowered the enclosure of the entire racecourse area and the extermination of all grazing rights therein.
Con Costello published his 'A Most Delightful Station' in 1996, recording the history of the Curragh Camp from its creation in 1855 until its handover in 1922. He concluded on an optimistic note. “The classification of the entire Curragh of Kildare as a National monument in 1995, and the proposal to designate as a National Heritage Area, must surely herald a more concerned approach to the use of the celebrated sward. With the good will of the sheep-owners, the horse owners and the military, combined with the interest of the County Council, local residents and the public at large, it is to be hoped that the official confirmation of the scientific and archaeological importance of the plain will ensure that what remains of St Brigid's open pastureland will be respected and its uniqueness safeguarded for generations yet to come.”
Con lived just long enough to contribute an important essay to 'Kildare History & Society', published in 2006. In his piece – John O'Donovan's Curragh – Con quoted from the Department for Defence's report of 2005. Acknowledging the 4,870 acres therein, it declared: “taking the cultural and natural facets of the Curragh together, it is very possibly the only landscape of its kind in the world. . . the area of the Curragh Lands has been used by the military for many hundred years. Various eras of military involvement in the area have resulted in damage to the lands vis-a-vis its status as an open plain, but much of this damage, i.e. Trench fortifications, pillboxes, ranges, etc., is now part and parcel of the plains as they exist today. The Board would be concerned with ensuring that no needless or wilful damage would be caused by any military activity in the future.”
And so say all of us.
Thank you all for your patience and courtesy.
Clancy, Padraig – Kildare – History & Society, Geography Publications, 2006
Costello, Con – Kildare – Saints, Soldiers & Horses, Leinster Leader, 1991
Costello, Con – A Most Delightful Station, Collins Press, 1996
Costello, Con – Kildare – History & Society, Geography Publications, 2006
D'Arcy, Fergus  - Horses, Lords and Racing Men, The Turf Club, 1991
The Curragh – A Lifetime of Memories – Curragh Local History Group, 1997
The Curragh Revisited – Curragh Local History Group, 2002

[I posted this on the EHistory website also but as it has a special significance to Kildare Town I felt it should also be on the Grey Abbey site. Great to see yet another packed house at the Cill Dara Historical Society Meeting; a very enjoyable evening]

Posted by mariocorrigan at 02:33 PM