BRITAIN AND MULLINGAR; HISTORIC LINKS
1: For 121 years,Mullingar was a British military garrison town. The British War Office leased the site for the barracks from the Landlords of Mullingar. The first British Army Regiment to be stationed here were the Gordon Highlanders in 1819. The last Regiment here was the Sussex Regiment in January 1922.
2 : Winston Churchill visited Mullingar as a small child. In 1878,when he was 4,his grandfather,the Duke of Marlborough,was Viceroy of Ireland. For a couple of months he lived at Knockdrin Castle. Winston’s father,Randolph Churchill,was Secretary to the Viceroy. He brought his wife and son over to Ireland with him. So,for a few months in the autumn and winter of 1878,the future British Prime Minister lived in Westmeath just outside Mullingar!
3: Another British Prime Minister to visit Mullingar was Clement Attlee. The Labour Premier visited the Cathedral while on holiday in Ireland in the summer of 1948. He met workmen putting the final touches to the Boris Anrep mosaic depicting St Patrick.Mr Attlee was apparently very impressed by the Cathedral.
4: In 1895,the future King George V ,Grandfather of the present Queen, passed through Mullingar on the Royal Train while on a visit to Ireland. An Address of Welcome was read out and local dignitaries were presented to him at the Railway Station.
5: From 1801 to 1918,Mullingar was represented in the British Parliament. Among those you used the House of Commons as a platform in which to raise issues of concern to Mullingar were Hugh Morgan Tuite-first elected in 1826 as a supporter of emancipation for Catholics; Montagu Chapman,a great uncle of Lawrence of Arabia; James Tuite-noted Antiquarian and Larry Ginnell-known as “the Member for Ireland”. In the historic General Election of 1918,Alice Ginnell was election agent for Sinn Fein-the first female Election Agent in Britain or Ireland.
6: A number of British literary figures visited Mullingar in the 19th and 20th centuries. William Wordsworth and Walter Scott were brought on picnics to Lough Owel by the Irish novelist,Maria Edgeworth in the 1820s,while visiting her. A century later the novelist Evelyn Waugh ( author of Brideshead Revisited) visited Mullingar while staying in Westmeath as the guest of Edward and Christina Pakenham of Tullynally Castle.Another visitor,in the 1940s was the British poet Sir John Betjeman. He wrote poems in praise of Lough Ennell and Belvedere.
7: The Leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales,Cardinal Basil Hume paid a visit to the Cathedral while he was in Ireland in September 1986
8: Over the years a number of British Chain Stores have operated in Mullingar. These have included ; Liptons,Woolworths,Marks and Spencer and Tesco The earliest of these stores was Liptons,which was located on Oliver Plunkett Street (formerly Greville Street) from the early 1900s until the 1980s. Woolworths was a much loved part of the Mullingar shopping experience (on Oliver Plunkett St ) from 1953 until 1984.
9 :From the founding of Mullingar in the 1180s until the Reformation,the Parish of Mullingar was linked to an Augustinian Priory on the Welsh/English Border called Llanthony. This priory was founded in the eleventh century by the Norman De Lacy family,who subsequently became Lords of Meath following the Anglo Norman conquest of Ireland in the 1170s. The ruling Norman Baron in Mullingar,William Petit,entered an agreement under which the tithes of the Parish of Mullingar were improprieted to Llanthony Priory in the Black Valley,Monmouthshire. The Prior of Llanthony was actually the Parish Priest of Mullingar. He appointed a rector to administer the Parish This arrangement lasted from the founding of Mullingar Parish around 1205 until the Reformation in the 1530s led to the disssolution of Llanthony Priory.
10: Welsh people were among the early Anglo-Norman settlers in the Midlands. Some of these Welshmen obtained land just north west of Mullingar in an area that still carries their name-Walshestown,the town of the Welshmen.
11: The first grant of a fair to the town of Mullingar was given by King John of England in 1207. Later grants for the holding of fairs were made by monarchs such as Henry the Third and Elizabeth the First. As far as is known,however,no serving British monarch ever visited the town-the nearest any one of them got to here was King John,who was in Rathwire in 1210.Edward Bruce,the brother of King Robert Bruce of Scotland,who was crowned King of Ireland in 1216 with the support of some Irish Chiefs,spent Christmas of 1315 in Ballymore about 20 km south west of Mullingar.
12: Belvedere House has a number of historic connections with Britain. Robert Rochford-the so called “wicked earl of Belvedere”,who had Belvedere built as a hunting lodge around 1740,was a godson of the British King,George the Second. Charles Brinsley Marley,owner of Belvedere from 1850 to 1912,donated his immensely valuable and significant art collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Brinsley Marley also gave a very generous donation to Fitzwilliam College to set up the gallery. He was a brother in law of one of the premier British aristocrats-the Duke of Rutland,and agreat uncle of the noted Society beauty of the 1920s and 1930s,Lady Diana Cooper..
Belvedere was inherited by a cousin of Brinsley Marley,Charles Howard Bury. He was born in London and educated in Britain. He served in the British Army for many years and was a member of the House of Commons from 1922 to 1931.Howard Bury was a noted explorer and made world headlines in 1921 when he led the first Reconnaisance of Mount Everest. During the Second World War,he served as a Commissioner of the British Red Cross.
The last private owner of Belveder was Rex Beaumont from Yorkshire. Born in 1914,Rex was an actor. Before the War ,he worked at Stratford on Avon and in London . During the War he served with the R A F. After the war he was involved with the Red Cross helping Holocaust survivors at Bergen Belsen. It was through the Red Cross that he met Charles Howard Bury and he came to live with him at Belvedere . Rex was a flamboyant and colourful character and was very generous to local charities and helped fund schools and churches. After the death of Howard Bury in 1963,Rex inherited Belveder and he continued to live there until failing health and financial problems forced him to leave in 1980. He was able to return to the house shortly before hus death in 1988.
Rex Beaumont was just one of thousands of British people who have made their home in Mullingar over the centuries. Likewise,thousands of people from Mullingar have made new lives for themselves across Britain . The ties which bind Mullingar and Britain run deep and are varied. This article has just touched on some of them
I would like to dedicate this blog to the memory of my father,Roy Ilingworth ( 1921-2005), who was born in London,raised there and in Cavan,and first came to Mullingar as a member of the Irish Army in 1941. He liked this town and stayed on when his army service ended in 1946-an Englishman in Mullingar.