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