The Island Of Ireland Peace Tower And The Mullingar Connection

The Island Of Ireland Peace Tower And The Mullingar Connection
The recent passing of former TD Paddy Harte in 2018 and the story behind  the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Flanders and it’s center piece the 100ft Irish Round Tower  has a amazing  connection with Mullingar.

Paddy Harte TD from Donegal and Northern Ireland Unionist politician Glen Barr wanted to build a memorial to all the Irish Catholic and Protestant from the Island of Ireland  who lost their lives in World War 1.

Both men envisaged the park as a memorial to the first World War and to the Troubles. They founded the Journey of Reconciliation Trust with that view in mind.

But there was one problem there was no funding for the project  and the  Fine  Gael government that Harte’s party belong to had offered a paltry sum of money that just didn’t cut it. However there  was a change in government in 1997 and Bertie Ahern was the new Taoiseach.
To Harte’s  surprise Bertie Ahern completely backed the project and made funding available to complete it.

In 1998 The organisation were due to buy the stone from a quarry in  Carlow when local  news & media outlets  reported the controversial demolition of a vacant  protected historical building that was used as the “Work House ” during the Great Famine . The section of building that was being demolished was called St Anne’s block and was used as the County Infirmary from 1936 to 1962 .It had lain vacant since 1987.

Upon hearing of the subsequent demolition and of  the good quality stone that was used in the construction of the work house they asked the Midland Health Board could they take the stone to construct the Irish round Tower. The Midland Health Board agreed of course.

The  Stones were prepared and bag for export to Flanders by John Reynolds stonemason from walderstown drumraney
Indeed John Reynolds was the stone mason who  was  charged with building the round Tower . In total 200 tons of Stone was removed from the building in St Mary’s Hospital to build the round Tower.

The westmeath people involved in the construction of the tower were John Reynolds, Val Reynolds, Derek Reynolds, Rory Reynolds, all from Walderstown, along with Bernard Cassells, of Glasson.

The park was built near where the 16th (Irish) Division and 36th (Ulster) Division fought together at the Battle of Messines Ridge though the actual site where the tower is located was captured by the New Zealanders on June 7th, 1917.

The Battle of Messines involved the British Second Army, under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer, in an offensive on the Western Front near the village of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium on 7-14 June, 1917.

Soldiers from the 16th (Irish) and the 36th (Ulster) Divisions played an important role in one of the war’s most effective large-scale operations by reclaiming the German occupied Flemish village of Wijtschate. It was believed that the success of the operation on June 7 created the prospect of reconciliation between the two political traditions in Ireland – British unionism and Irish nationalism.

Recently  a group of people went out to visit the tower in Flanders and discovered that there  is a plaque at the tower that the stone used to build the Round Tower came from Mullingar (Work House).

It’s great to see  that the  thousands of people who visit the island of Ireland peace Park every year  know where the stone that built the
Irish Peace Tower came from Mullingar.

We are unsure if it is mentioned at the round Tower that a westmeath man / Irish stone mason and workers from Westmeath  helped build the Irish Tower. If anyone has information let us know.

This truly is Mullingar’s unique gift to the Island of Ireland  Peace Park. Commentators have suggested that a plaque should be placed at the site of the former Workhouse in Mullingar, (St Mary’s Campus, Cluain Lir) to educate people passing by of the monument’s connection to Mullingar.

But there is a deeper twist to this story, An incredible Twist of Fate.

We also know from records that children were born in the workhouse from 1846 to 1921 . (Until the workhouse system was abolished , when Ireland gained independence)

Some of the children who were born there  when  they  reached adulthood they subsequently joined the British Army in WWI and died in Battle  in  Flanders Fields in the Messines  in Belgium..

One young Mullingar man named William White (22)had given his address as the Work House when he joined the Army. . William like many thousands others died not too far from the Island of Ireland Peace Tower.

A truly remarkable story., that the  stones  in the workhouse where a baby boy  William White   was born is now in  Belgium, not far from where he was killed in action in the Theatre of War.

The stones now take the shape of  a round Tower acting as a memorial  built  to honour Irish soldiers like William White who were killed in WWI from the island of Ireland.

By Editor of Mullingar History

Aerial view of the workhouse in Mullingar and section highlighted that was demolished


Historian Ruth Illingworth looks at the historical lineage that makes up Boris Johnson, who once called himself a ” One Man Melting Pot”

One of his great-grandfathers was a Turkish journalist and politician;a great – great grandfather was a Rabbi in Lithuania; His great x3 grandmother was a Circassian slave girl from the Russian Caucasus. His mother was American and he himself was born in the United States;he is descended from a British monarch and two German Princes;his first wife was half Italian and his second wife half-Indian.His American stepfather was of Hungarian parentage.

One of his great x4 grandfathers was Irish and his godmother,Lady Rachel Billington,is a sister of Thomas Pakenham of Tullynally Castle,Castlepollard.. Brought up a Roman Catholic and a convert to Anglicanism,he has Jewish and Muslim ancestry and a Sikh mother-in law. It is not surprising that Britain’s new Prime Minister,Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson,once described himself as ” a one man melting pot.”

The Turkish great-grandfather was Ali Kemak, the grandson of a slave girl brought to Turkey from Circassia. Kemak was a prominent journalist in the Ottoman Turkish Empire in the years before the First World War and was on good terms with Sultan Abdul Hamid. In 1909,the London “Times” newspaper described Kemak as “amongst the leading men of letters in Turkey.”

He served briefly in the Turkish government in 1919 and was one of the Turkish delegates to the Paris Peace Conference in the aftermath of the First World War. He was murdered by a lynch mob in Ankara in November 1922 during the Turkish War of Independence. His Anglo-Swiss wife settled in Britain and one of her grandchildren was Boris’s father Stanley.

On the maternal side of his family,Boris Johnson is a great-grandson of a noted Jewish-American scholar,Elias Avery Lowe,who was a well known paleographer. Born in Lithuania in 1879,Lowe was the son of a leading silk merchant.

He emigrated to America in his teens and married Helen Tracey Porter,a noted translator who was particularly famed for her translations of the works of the great German novelist Thomas Mann.

She also wrote a play called “Abdication” which received its premier at the Gate Theatre in Dublin,produced by Micheal MacLiammoir in 1948. Her grandfather was a Rabbi in. Lithuania.

The Prime Minister’s mother,Charlotte Fawcett Wahl is a noted artist. Born in 1942,she and her siblings were close friends of the Pakenham family. Charlotte is a descendent of the noted British suffragette,Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Her father,Sir James Fawcett,was a distinguished lawyer who helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the UN in 1948 and served on the European Commission for Human Rights from 1962 to 1982.

Boris Johnson also has German ancestry-as seen in his third name-von Pfeiffel. His great x3 grandfather was Prince Paul of Wurrtemburg-a prominent aristocrat in mid-19th century Germany Another German ancestor was Frederick Eugene,Duke of Wurttemburg. A more distant ancestor was King George the Second of Great Britain and Ireland Through this German lineage,the Prime Minister is distantly related to Queen Elizabeth and to the King of Spain..

Johnson is the first Prime Minister of the UK to be a baptised Roman Catholic-although he is was later confirmed as an Anglican (Church of England),and now appears to be a follower of the religion of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. He speaks French,German,Spanish,Italian and Latin. Part of his schooling took place in Brussels when his father was working there as an MEP and an European Commissioner.

A Westmeath St. Patrick Scholar

On St Patrick’s Day , Historian Ruth ILLingworth looks at one of Ireland’s leading Celtic Scholars who was an authority on St. Patrick.and old Middle Irish.

Professor Kathleen Mulchrone from Westmeath was one of the most distinguished Celtic and Irish language scholars of the 20th century. She was an authority on the life of St Patrick and the early writings about our national Saint, as well as being a scholar of Old and Middle Irish.She published numerous books and scholarly essays on Early Christian Ireland and ancient Irish manuscripts such as The Book of Lecan and The Tripartite Life of St Patrick.

Kathleen was born in Kilbeggan on November 22nd 1895,the daughter of an RIC sergeant. The family moved to Fore where Kathleen attended the local National School. She went to Loreto Convent in Mullingar for her secondary schooling where she got an Honours Leaving Cert in 1913 and was awarded a scholarship to UCD She graduated with a BA in 1916 and got an MA in 1918 .

After the First World War she was awarded a Travelling Scholarship which enabled her to go to Germany to study for a Doctorate at Bonn University. Her doctoral supervisor was a noted Swiss born Celtic scholar called Rudolf Thurneyson,who regarded Kathleen as one of his best students. Her Doctoral thesis was a study of writings about the life of St Patrick.

She would later publish this thesis as a book entitled “Bethu Phatraic:The Tripartite Life of St Patrick.” in 1939. This book was praised by the noted Irish Celtic scholar,Osburn Bergin as,”The best of its kind that has appeared for many a year.”

On her return to Ireland from Bonn,Kathleen was employed by Westmeath County Council teaching Irish to students in the Vocational School in Mullingar. The school was then located in the County Buildings in what is now Aras An Mhuilinn.. She worked there from 1925 to 1927,then moved to Dublin where she taught in Rathmines Vocational College from 1928 to 1938.She was a Lecturer in Irish at U.C.D ‪1931-1938‬.

From 1928 to 1938 she worked for the Irish Manuscripts Commission at the Royal Irish Academy. Her work involved compiling a catalogue of the many manuscripts in Irish in the possession of the RIA. She published a large number of studies of these manuscripts in academic journals and books.

Between 1926 and 1970,she authored or co-authored 14 of the 27 fascicles of the catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the RIA. Her essays in academic journals included “Studies in Early Irish Law” (1936) and “The Book of Lecan” (1938).

In 1938,Kathleen was appointed to a Professorship of Old and Middle Irish and Celtic Philology at NUI Galway.. She often delivered her lectures in Modern Irish..She retired in 1965 and came back to Mullingar where she lived in Patrick Street…

Professor Kathleen Mulchrone died on June 13th 1973,aged 77. She is buried in Ballyglass .