Pictured at the Symposium held in All Saints Church Mullingar L-R The Most Revd.John Mc Dowell Archbishopof Armagh and Primate Of All Ireland , The most Rev,Patricia Storey ,Bishop of meath and Kildare ,Professor Katy Hayward, Professor of Political sociology at Queens University , Belfast and Rev.Cannon Alastair Graham Mullingar Union of Parishes

On September 27th 2021 , a symposium was held in All Saints’ Church Mullingar Co Westmeath on the subject of ,”Brexit, Borders And The Greater Good” in Northern Ireland. The symposium was addressed by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh ,Dr John McDowell and by Professor Katy Hayward of Queen’s University Belfast. The event was chaired by the Bishop of Meath and Kildare,Most Rev. Pat Storey.Bishop Storey made history in 2013 when she was consecrated as the first woman bishop in Britain or Ireland.

 Professor Katy Hayward lectures in Political Sociology and is an internationally renowned expert on the subject of Brexit and of political borders.In her talk she described the impact being made on Northern Ireland by the departure of the UK from the EU. She said that Brexit had “raised existential questions with regard to territory,identity and borders.” Northern Ireland was now in “an unhappy limbo” and it was “possible to feel the heat of the past on our heels.” 

She explained the problems arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol contained within the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement.The Protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland within the  EU Single Market for goods-thus avoiding the return of a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. But the Protocol obliges the UK to check goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This has created an Irish Sea Border and created a barrier  within the internal UK single market.

 Prof. Hayward explained how Unionists  oppose the Protocol because they see it as undermining Northern Ireland’s status as a full part of the UK and threatening their British status. There have been violent street protests against the Protocol in Loyalist areas and the DUP Leader,Jeffrey Donaldson,has threatened to pull out of government and bring down the Executive and Assembly if the Protocol is not amended or dropped. Former First Minister,David Trimble has warned that the Protocol  risks undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

(Click on photos to enlarge )


Prof.Hayward noted that “where there is uncertainty,fear grows.”  Unionists are uncertain about the future of Northern Ireland and fearful that Brexit and the Protocol make a united Ireland more likely. There is alack of trust in Northern Ireland now,with Unionists having litle trust in the British or Irish governments or the EU.  Nationalists in the North also believe that Brexit makes a united Ireland more likely. They do not trust the British government Ireland-although they are inclined to trust the Irish government and the EU.  However surveys carried out by Prof Hayward and others do not indicate majority support in the North for Irish unity. Around 52% of voters would vote to remain in the UK and just 37% would support a united Ireland.

 Brexit was largely driven by English nationalism and,according to Prof Hayward,the British government,in “getting Brexit done”,has undermined devolution within the UK. She said that Northern Ireland’s voice was not heard during the negotiations over the Withdrawal Agreement and the Province was taken out of the EU against the wishes of a majority of local voters.  For most of the negotiation period there was no Northern Ireland government because of the collapse of the institutions in February 2017. She also noted that some parts of the Good Friday Agreement had never actually been fully implemented.  A Civic Forum,which was supposed to give wider civil society-trade unions,churches,the business community,a voice was not restored when devolution returned and  a cross border civil society forum never set up at all.  

Professor Hayward said that the Good Friday Agreement had made the Border almost irrelevant and invisible,while the Agreement had also made it possible for people to identify as Irish or British or Northern Irish.. Brexit was bringing back the border and  questions of identity. Cross community contacts were becoming  harder and people felt that they had no control over Brexit or what was happening.

Archbishop McDowell talked about his childhood in working class Protestant East Belfast in the Sixties. Before entering Church ministry,he had worked for Short Brothers  aero engineering-one of Northern Ireland’s most famous businesses. His father had worked for the same company. Before his election as Archbishop of Armagh in 2020,he had served as Bishop of Clogher.  During his time in that cross -border diocese,he had written to Boris Johnston to explain the complexities of the Border A visit to one of his parishes necessitated crossing the Border eight times. 

The Archbishop   expressed his concerns about the way in which Northern Ireland had developed into a “Market Society” in which the “dignity of work” seemed to be forgotten about and the number of working poor was on the increase. He criticised the lack of vocational  training and apprenticeships and that the development of a meritocracy was undermining the common good by making the less well educated/skilled felt left behind.

Archbishop McDowell said that Brexit and the Covid crisis had shown up the divisions in Northern Irish society. These divisions were not unique to the North. In a memorable phrase,the Archbishop said that the Brexit vote,the election of Donald Trump and the rise of populist leaders in Brazil,Hungary and elsewhere meant that over the last five years, “The rest of the world began to look like Northern Ireland.”    He suggested that divisions into majorities and minorities would no longer work. “We are all minorities now”.-North and South.

Minorities were not going to go away and some means would have to be found to allow society to hold together-a recognition of common objectives and of “the things we do together.” Political decisions have to take account of minorities.This was not done with Brexit,where the views of the 48% who voted Remain (including voting majorities in two of the four UK Nations) were not taken into account.

The Archbishop talked about the importance of respect in trying to work for the common good of society. Respect for one another   is at the foundation of human society.-“You are other than me-but I will listen to you.”  Northern Ireland suffers from a mentality in which what is seen as good for one side must be bad for the other side. “We are in danger of  no longer being able  to understand and act in the common good. More of our society than we think  depends on holding back on   our individual and group aspirations. and saying that there are some things which can only be good for me if they are good for you also.”

“If we don’t start to think about that we will have a society forever divided into winners and losers. We win a political argument and say “right,that’s it,we know what to do.’.  But in a properly working democracy the people who are not in the majority are not going to go away.  What am I going to do about that? Am I going to say,in the long term we are going to have to occupy the same space,so we’re going to find something we can all gather around.”

Dr McDowell  told the young people in the audience that their vocation “is to be the prophets of this country”-renewing the vision of what it is to belong to a nation,and helping to answer what sort of a nation we want to be.

The presentations by Archbishop McDowell and Professor Hayward were followed by a Q & A session.  Issues raised included the financial support received by Northern Ireland from the British  government;the need to understand the Unionist tradition and the  question of whether the political centre ground in Northern Ireland.

Bishop Storey  expressed her hope that “this occasion  will make an important  contribution to  building the  reconciliation and understanding that is needed.”

Among those in attendance were Minister Robert Troy T.D.Minister Peter Burke T.D,Deputy Sorca Clarke T.D,and Senator Emer Currie. Senator Currie is Fine Gael Spokesperson on Northern Ireland in  the Seanad,and is the daughter of former SDLP and Fine Gael politician Austin Currie..

Canon Alastair Graham,rector of All Saints’ and organiser of the event thanked “the distinguished speakers” and stated that, “In light of developments in the North regarding Brexit,it seemed appropriate  and important that those of us in the midlands of Ireland would be informed of the situation.” 

Ruth Illingworth

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Mullingar In 1920



The year 1920 was a dramatic one in the history of Mullingar. The escalating War of Independence increasingly impacted on the town as the year progressed,with shootings, armed raids on trains and the arrests of many local republican activists. The Local Government elections saw gains for Sinn Fein and Labour in the town. Streets were re-named in honour of Irish patriots and the Tri-colour was flown from the County Buildings. Amidst the political turmoil,however, normal life continued, Teachers went on strike for higher pay;local drama groups staged plays in the County Hall, a Choral Society was formed;the Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath denounced “immoral” fashions among women and the Town Commissioners planned to make public baths available for the men and women of Mullingar,


On New Year’s Day,shots were fired at a couple of cars at Clongowney just east of Mullingar, One of the cars belonged to Captain Batton, Director of the Mullingar Motor Company of Castle Street. The other car belonged to Messrs Daly of the Daly Brothers Company in Dominick Street, No-one was injured in the attacks, although Mr Broderick, who was driving the Daly Brothers car had a lucky escape when a bullet lodged in his coat sleeve. The bullets smashed the windows of both cars.

A week later shots were fired at a car belonging to the prominent Mullingar businessman and local councillor,P.J Weymes,as he was being driven along the Dublin Rd. The occupants of the car escaped injury as bullets entered the windows and lodged in the car seats. The attacks on the cars were apparently carried out by local republicans as part of a campaign to stop drivers taking out British car licenses. At a meeting of Mullingar Rural District Council,Cllr Lennon-a Sinn Fein supporter, declared that those refusing to take out motor permits were “making a grand fight for Ireland”.

On January 15th,Mullingar voters had the first opportunity to use the PR system of voting when elections took place to Mullingar Town Commission. Twenty-three candidates ran for the fifteen seats,with the town divided into North and South urban districts. The electorate totalled 1449. All the candidates were male.

Before the election a big meeting was held in the County Hall by Mullingar Trades Council in support of the Labour candidates. The meeting was preceded by a march from the railway station (where the President of the ITGWU and the President of the Railway Workers Union were welcomed to Mullingar) through the town led by three bands. At the meeting,Mr John McKeon,President of the Mullingar Trades Council,declared that while there had been progress in securing the rights of workers in Mullingar,there was “room for greater improvement in workers pay and conditions”

T.J Redmond,the Secretary of the Trades Council, referred to his great-great grandfather,who had been killed in the battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798. Miss Hoyne of the Irish Womens Workers Union also spoke. She was described as “a prepossessing young lady of some 25 summers,who immediately captured the hearts of her audience when she made an eloquent appeal to the women to stand by the men,in the fight for democracy.”


A number of Mullingar men were arrested and tried by military court as the army and police sought to crush the escalating republican campaign. Terence Smyth and Patrick Byrne were arrested at their homes in Patrick Street and were brought to Dublin to be tried at Ship Street barracks. They were accused of possession of ammunition. They refused to recognise the court.

They were convicted and sentenced to terms of one and two years imprisonment with hard labour. Another Mullingar man,Michael McCoy was also arrested. He was tried in Mullingar and sentenced to prison in Mountjoy.
All three men were members of the Mullingar Battalion of the IRA. A raid was also carried out on the bakery and confectionary business owned by the Leonard sisters in Earl (Pearse) street. Nothing incriminating was found but the sisters were leading members of Cumann na mBan. in Westmeath.

The Manager of the Mullingar Motor Company,Lt Delamere,was held up by armed men near the Military Barracks. They searched him for weapons but when they found none,they returned his keys and money to him,tied him up and then let him go unharmed,

At a meeting of Mullingar Town Commission,a rate of 1s/5p in the £ was set for the coming year. An extra 15p in the rate was to be used for the building of up to 200 new houses and an extension to the sewerage system.

In a sermon in the cathedral,Bishop Laurence Gaughran denounced “immodesty and extravagence in women’s dress.” He urged women to adhere to the modesty and purity long associated with Irish womanhood.

At a meeting of Westmeath County Council there was discussion of a proposal from the County Surveyor that the Council should purchase a motor lorry. Some councillors were opposed to the suggestion because it would put the council carters out of work and it was decided not to go ahead with the purchase.

At the monthly meeting of the Asylum Committee,it was stated that there were a total of 976 patients in the asylum as of February 1st. New blankets were required for patients. The contract for supplying tea to the asylum was awarded to Mr John Coleman of Austin Friars Street.

It was reported that a total of £119.00 had been raised in the Parish of Mullingar for The starving children of Europe Appeal and for The Conversion of the Nigerians.


A Mullingar Branch of the Comrades of the Great War Association was set up following a meeting in the County Hall. A total of 200 members were enrolled. The Chairman of the Branch was Mr O McLoughlin from Patrick Street. The Treasurer was Captain Farrell from Harbour Street and the Secretary was Mr T Gaffney from Patrick Street.

The other Committee members were Messrs T Murray,Mill Rd,M Conlon,Springfield Terrace,M Craig,Austin Friars Street,P Callaghan,Trinity Cttgs,C Giff,Austin Friars St and M Connell, Austin Friars St.

The Westmeath War Pensions Committee (Chairman P.W Shaw) was continuing its work in 1920 of caring for the many war veterans in the county. A total of £500 was allocated by the Red Cross for orthopedic treatment for ex-servicemen in Westmeath and the Committee allocated a £28 grant and free passage to Australia for a local ex-soldier who was emigrating.

During the First World War the government had brought in compulsary tillage for farmers to ensure that people were fed during the conflict. With the war now over some farmers wished to stop tillage. The Mullingar Rural District Council was deeply opposed to this.

At a meeting the RDC called on the Department of Agriculture to “compel the graziers of Mullingar District to till the required amount of land under the Tillage Act so that sufficient food for our people will be raised and thereby avoid the threat of starvation which is racing across Europe.

A special Mass was held in the cathedral on St Patrick’s Day at which the sermon was preached in Irish by the President of St Finian’s College,Rev Maurice Weymes. The Choir was conducted by Miss Rosanne Daly of Mt Auburn House and the Mass was followed by a ceili in St Mary’s Hall. The Mullingar Branch of the Gaelic League were among a number of Mullingar amateur drama groups to stage plays in the County Hall and St Mary’s Hall during March. The other groups were the St Mary’s Temperance Club and the Workingmens Club.

A new Education Act was proceeding through the House Of Commons in the spring of 1920 and was causing much concern in Ireland because it seemed to rule out religious schools. The Act was denounced at meetings of Westmeath County Council, Mullingar Rural District Council and Mullingar Town Commission as “godless and anti-Irish” and an attack on Ireland by “a reactionary government.”

The Bishops of Ireland condemned the proposed bill and 1400 people took part in a special novena organised by the bishop in Mullingar cathedral to pray for the failure of the act.


A number of local men imprisoned in Galway and Dublin were freed during April. William Murray and Peter Tormey from Patrick St had been arrested following an incident in which shots were fired at a police patrol on Millmount Rd. When they arrived home in Mullingar they were met by local Volunteers and Sinn Fein members.

They were brought to the County Hall where a meeting of the Railway Workers Union was held in support of Mr Murray-a member of the union. A couple of weeks later,Terence Smyth,Patrick Byrne and Michael McCoy were welcomed by cheering crowds at the station. Three bands headed a massive procession through the town to the County Hall in which local Volunteers marched in military formation. At the Hall a reception was held for the three men. Those in attendance included Cllr Pat Brett and Dr Tony Stanley.

A Special meeting of the Mullingar Comrades of the Great War Association took place in the Parochial Hall to discuss the Irish Ex-Soldiers and Sailors Land Act,which proposed making land available for ex-servicemen to farm. The Mullingar men were determined to get land and looked to the local ranchers and big landowners to give up some of their extensive acres..

At the meeting,Mr Caffrey stated that “whilst Irish soldiers had stood by the Empire in its hour of need,they had never forgotten that they were Irishmen first,last and at all times. They were not going to be denied the benefits which the Land for Soldiers and Sailors Bill promised them.

The ex-servicemen had endured the unimaginable hardships of campaign on all the different war fronts and had fought on behalf of the farmers and protected them. They now wanted some land for themselves. The meeting passed a resolution calling on “the Land Commissioners to at once complete the purchase of lands under the provisions of the Land Act.”

Farmers also came under attack from Rural District Councillor,Mr Lennon-a Sinn Fein supporter. In an extraordinary speech Mr Lennon declared that he “regretted that he belonged to the farming class,amongst whom they would find the most impure and putrid members to be found in any class”. He went on to accuse the farmers of being subsidised by the British government.

At a meeting of the Town Commission a discussion was held on a proposal to supply public baths for the people of Mullingar. One Commissioner declared that “they are badly wanted in Mullingar.” Another Commissioner stated that ” the ladies should be provided for also. They would want a bath as well as the men.” It was suggested that the baths should be located at the Supply.

****. MAY****

On May 31st ,elections were held for the County Council and Rural District Councils. Nationwide these elections were u passed off peacefully, with the Crown forces keeping out of the way.

The newly elected county and district councillors in Mullingar included Mick McCoy and Pat Dooner-both of whom were leading members of the Mullingar IRA. Also elected was Pat Brett,a local shopkeeper who had set up the first Sinn Fein club in town in 1916.

Labour candidates elected included John McKeon of the Mullingar Trades Council. Among those re-elected were P.J Weymes and P.W Shaw. No women ran for election although local Cumann na mBan activists were busy canvassing for the Sinn Fein candidates.

Shortly before the elections,the Mullingar IRA raided the council buildings and,with the help of caretaker Patrick Bailey,they took the rate books from the County Secretary’s Office and hid them under the stage in the County Hall.,where they remained until the new Sinn Fein led council took office.

There was a row at a council meeting at the start of the election campaign when the Mullingar IRA offered to patrol outside the polling stations on election day and keep order. The Secretary of the Council,John T Roche , refused the offer,saying that he was going to use “direct labour” on the day and that he did not want a political party involved in policing the polling. Sinn Fein councillor,William Gillivan accused Mr Roche of having “sworn allegiance to the King”- an accusation denied by the Secretary.

While Mullingar was becoming increasingly radicalised and opposition to the Crown forces was growing,the town remained a British garrison and many local families still had connections to the military. Throughout May advertisements appeared in the local press seeking recruits for ” His Majesty’s Army”.

There were vacancies in the Transport,Signals and Medical Corps of the Army. While the East Yorkshire Regiment were stationed in Mullingar,many local men were serving across the expanding British Empire in places such as Egypt, Iraq and India.


The new council soon began to flex its republican muscles. A resolution was passed at a Rural District Council meeting which called for the County Infirmary (then on the Dublin Rd) to remove two RIC men who were being treated in the hospital. The councillors referred to the police as the “blue coated army of occupation” and stated that the RIC had become a military force.

“They are being treated and made well so that they can go out and shoot people ” one councillor claimed. The Infirmary should refuse to treat members of “the occupation forces.” The British Red Cross symbol on the workhouse ambulance should be painted over.

The job of policing Mullingar was now increasingly being carried out by the Volunteer or Republican police.They were involved in “quelling disturbances and generally seeing to it that good order prevails. In not a few cases they have recovered stolen property.”. Some offenders were ordered out of the town and others were imprisoned in derelict houses or in old jail cells in the County Buildings complex.

On June 29th,the Mullingar IRA carried out a daring operation at the railway station. Having been informed by station employee Michael Horan that an consignment of petrol for an RAF base in Co Galway was coming by rail through Mullingar,the IRA took over the station and took the train into a siding and drained off more than a thousand gallons of the petrol. There was also a raid carried out on the National Bank in Dominick Square in which a number of weapons were seized.

Local IRA members William Murray and Peter Tormey were court-martialled in Dublin for possession of guns following their arrest at a military checkpoint in Mullingar on the Dublin Rd. The two men refused to recognise the court.


The Dail or Republican courts set up by the Dail government began to function in Westmeath in July. The first Sinn Fein Arbitration Court met in the County Buildings on July 3rd. A number of local solicitors were present and the Court was presided over by the prominent Co Tyrone republican lawyer,Kevin O Shiels. Proceedings were disrupted by the military who broke into the meeting and seized documents. However the Court soon met again and increasing numbers of people began to use it.

The Crown court was finding it difficult to function with defendants and lawyers not turning up. The Assizes could only take place on July 8th because “the Courthouse was taken over by the military .Sentries were placed in front of the building and armed soldiers were in position inside.” Local magistrates-Justices of the Peace, as they were known,began to resign their commissions.

Those who resigned included P.J Weymes and P.W Shaw. Many local RIC members also resigned-some because they were being boycotted by their neighbours and others because they refused to carry guns against fellow Irishmen. Many of the police barracks’ in the rural hinterland round Mullingar had by now been burned or abandoned.

At a meeting of the County Council,Cllr Pat Brett proposed that the council should insist,when leasing out the County Hall for a dance that “at least 50% of the dances are Irish.”

It was “time a stop was put to the jazz,two step and other English inspired dances which are included in the programme of dances held in the hall from time to time and are a disgrace to people who call themselves Irish. ” Another councillor declared that “nothing but our own good old Irish dances” should be allowed in the hall

Despite the escalating violence normal life continued in the town. July 1920 saw revival after many years of the Lough Ennell Regatta. The Midland Feis was held in St Mary’s CBS and attracted large crowds. And the summer race meeting at Newbrook Race Course was “a great success.”


Special meetings of the County Council,District Council and Board of Guardians took place in mid-August at which councillors pledged their allegiance to the Dail Government. They also agreed that they would work with the Dail Local Government department,not the British controlled Department based in Dublin Castle.

In further signs of how radical nationalism now controlled Westmeath Council,it was agreed that business should be conducted in Irish where possible and that the Council should work on Irish or Dublin Mean Time,which was 25 minutes behind Greenwich Mean Time. (Dublin Mean Time had been abolished in 1916 by the British government.)

Westmeath County Councillors also wished to erase history and expunge from the record the fact that the Council had condemned the Easter Rising. The 1916 Minute Book was placed on the table and the offending pages recording the Minutes of the post-Rising meeting and the words of condemnation were torn out and burned. This action was completely illegal and was also pointless,since the condemnation of the Rising had been reported in the local papers.!

Mullingar Town Commission and the Rural District Council were also keen to rename local streets in honour of the the dead patriots of Ireland. Without consulting the local people,they drew up a list of new names. Earl Street became Pearse St and Greville Street became Oliver Plunkett St. Harbour St was re-named after the O Rahilly and Springfield became Republican Glen.

Military Rd was re-named in honour of Thomas Ashe and Barrack St was named after the recently murdered Lord Mayor of Cork,Thomas McCurtain. Castle St became Thomas Clarke St and Blackhall Emmet Street.The Bleachyard/Jail Hill was now to be Thomas McDonagh Avenue and Valley Cottages became Larkin Cottages. Mount St was named Seery Street and Grove St became Thomas Creamer St.

In a sermon preached in the cathedral,Bishop Gaughran prayed that God “through the intercession of Mary would guide the country through the present dark and difficult times.” In the rural hinterland of Mullingar attacks on police barracks continued and a mail train was stopped at the Downs by the IRA and official letters seized. The Mullingar Branch of the Railway Workers Union supported the decision by Dublin railwaymen to refuse to handle munitions or drive trains carrying soldiers.

The County Council was in dire financial straits and was £ 50,000 in the red. There was little or no money for the wage increases sought by council staff such as the Waterworks engineer,James Raleigh (this author’s grandfather) and his colleagues. However,it was decided to go ahead with plans to build a new Vocational School for the town. The school was then based in the Governors House in the Council Buildings and had 180 full and part-time students.


At a meeting of the County Council,councillors were told that the Dail government wished local councils to give work,where possible,to men who had resigned from the RIC “and by this act of loyalty to Ireland they have exposed themselves and their dependents to all manner of hardships “. Councillors agreed to do what they could to help.

A large number of local RIC men had by now left the force. One man who remained with the police in Mullingar,Sergeant Foskin, was passing on valuable information to the IRA-including police codes. A constable who had served in Mullingar,Michael Kelly,was killed in an ambush in Co Clare in September.

A Sinn Fein arbitration court was held in Mullingar on September 20th. It was presided over by local county councillors, Thomas Noonan , N Crosbie and M.J Kennedy and TD,Lorcan Robbins. Mullingar solicitors in attendance included J.J Macken and J.E Wallace.

By now,the local Crown Courts were almost deserted. The only case heard in the Petty Sessions that month involved Thomas “the Bags” McCormack,appearing for the umpteenth time on a charge of being drunk and disorderly.

The altar servers and boy choristers from the cathedral enjoyed an excursion to the shores of Lough Ennell. They visited the grounds of La Mancha house as guests of Mr Thomas Shaw, where they played games and had a picnic. They included K Whelehan, P Shaw,F Shaw,J Jennings,J Carey and P Lynam.

Colonel Charles Howard-Bury of Belvedere House was a long way from his home in September of 1920. The explorer and soldier was in Tibet and India preparing the ground work for a reconnaisance of Mount Everest which the Royal Geographical Society planned to undertake in 1921.

Howard-Bury would lead the reconnaisance. In September of 1920,he visited the Dalai Lama and obtained his permission for the expedition to travel through Tibet. In his diary he described looking northwards ; “In the evening far away the peak of Mount Everest stood up against the setting sun.”


Meetings of the County and Rural District Councils and of the Town Commission were adjourned as a mark of respect to Terence McSwiney,following the death of the Cork Lord Mayor on hunger strike on October 25th.

Earlier in the month many local bodiies , including the councils and the Comrades of the Great War Association had passed resolutions calling for the British authorities to intervene and save McSwiney’s life. The Town Commission passed a resolution condemning the “brutality of the English government.”

The Railway workers Union had decided to refuse to handle trains carrying British soldiers or weaponry. Many workers were dismissed from their jobs as a result of their actions.

The Mullingar railway workers union branch held a meeting to discuss financial support for the sacked workers and also to discuss how Mullingar could be kept fed if the railways closed down as a result of the workers actions and continuing IRA attacks on trains.

It was decided that canal barges and cars could be used to deliver foodstuffs and other essential supplies. People were requested to make their cars or lorries available. Mullingar would become a distribution centre for the surrounding districts with food stored in the town.

The Mullingar Trades council was raising funds to support Catholic workmen expelled from the shipyards and other industries in Belfast. At a meeting of the Council, it was reported that donations received included £18 from the Walshestown area, £10 from the priests of Mullingar and £2/11s from the Railway Workers.

A very substantial donation of £50 was raised at a meeting of the local Protestant community in the Greville Arms,at which the attacks on Catholic workers was strongly condemned

The Mullingar Volunteers were increasingly taking over the task of law enforcement from the RIC. They were reported to have been “very active recently in the suppression of crime of all kinds.” In one case, a man who had tried to rape a girl was imprisoned and given 10 strokes of the birch. Another man was imprisoned after he threatened to burn his mother’s house .

Bishop Gaughran preached a sermon in the cathedral in which he condemned drunkeness.. “If the young people are filled with drink and if the old folk are also full of drink,what is to become of the country?”

A meeting of the Town Commission was told that residents in Springfield were threatening to withhold house rates because the lamps in the area were not being lit. The town lamp – lighter and the Manager of the gas company were blaming each other for the lighting problem.

There was also a problem concerning a lamp in Meeting House Lane,with confusion as to whether the lamp was the property of the Town Commission or of the Methodist Chapel,which was located along the Lane (now Indulgence hair salon).


Despite the escalating war nationwide Mullingar was still considered to be “one of the quietest towns in Ireland”. This changed on the night of November 27th when “an extraordinary and alarming incident caused great sensation and panic in Mullingar.”

A military truck passed through the town and two grenades were thrown from the vehicle as it went down Pearse Street. A 15 year old youth,Joseph McCormack,was taken to hospital suffering from shrapnel wounds and shock. The windows of a number of business premises, including P.W Shaw Ironmongers , Porters Wine Merchants and Canton Casey’s pub were broken.

At a meeting of the County Council, Cllr Thomas Noonan noted that membership of the council “was dwindling as a result of the action of the enemy government”. One councillor (the chairman) was in prison,a second councillor had just been arrested and a third councillor “had a miraculous escape from death by shooting.”

Cllr Noonen praised his arrested colleagues because “they were living in times when every every man who called himself an Irishman was willing to suffer for the sake of his country. To be taken from their houses in the cause of Ireland was a matter of congratulations.”

Arrests of local republicans continued throughout the month. Cllr Pat Brett and Cllr Pat Dooner were among those detained following raids on their homes. Pat Byrne from Patrick Street,who had been released from Mountjoy in March after going on hunger strike was returned to jail. In the House of Commons,the Belfast Nationalist MP,Jo Devlin raised the issue of Byrne’s detention,arguing that it was unlawful.

The Council was actually unable to hold a meeting due to a lack of a quorum. The council chamber was also occupied by the police and the military raided the building and took away minute books and other documents. The tricolour which flew over the building was fired on by Black and Tans,then taken down and dragged along the street behind a military truck.

At a meeting of the Town Commission,a resolution was passed expressing sympathy to the “Lady Mayoress of Cork,Mrs McSwiney” on the death of her “martyred husband.” The Commission also passed a resolution offering condolences to the family of Kevin Barry,executed in Dublin.

The Mullingar Trades Council held a meeting in support of council outdoor staff who were seeking a wage increase. There was criticism of the councillors.

One speaker declared that:” the new councils were composed of revolutionaries , but my experience was that in their dealings with labour ,they were anything but revolutionary.” Thomas Redmond,the Secretary of the Trades Council,stated that “the councils claimed to be out for an Irish Republic,but Labour was out for one better-a Workers Irish Republic.”

The Trades Council was continuing to raise funds for the Belfast Expelled Workers Fund. Among the local donations were 10 shillings from the residents of Dominick Street and 19 shillings from the residents of Lynnbury and Belvedere Terraces.

Money was also being raised for a new Fire Brigade for Mullingar. The Brigade numbered 17 members by the end of November. Subscriptions to the fund included £5 from Colonel Batton of the Mullingar Motor Company; £ 2 from the priests of the parish, and £2 from Richard Mullally,plumber.


Arrests of local IRA members and other republican activists continued as 1920 drew to a close. Christopher Fitzsimons was detained in a raid on his father’s house. Owen Mc Loughlin was also arrested. Both men were members of the Mullingar Brigade. The house of Cllr Pat Brett was raided by police once more.

Members of the County Council arrived for a meeting to find Head Constable Kidd and six other policemen in occupation of the council meeting rooms. It once again proved difficult to get a quorum for the meeting. When the meeting did get underway,the main item for discussion was the demand by council outdoor staff for a wage increase. The council was not in a position to grant such an increase as it was nearly bankrupt.

A club house for the Mullingar Comrades of the Great War Association was opened by Colonel Cooper of Dunboden. The club was located close to the military barracks in Patrick Street. The British Army was still a strong presence in Mullingar and an advertisement in local papers sought magazines and books for the Soldiers’ Home at the Fair Green. The home had opened in 1906 and was designed as an alcohol free recreation centre for the soldiers stationed in the town.

The Mullingar Motor Company was advertising cars for sale at prices ranging between £625 and £800 .The types of car on offer included the Talbot and the Alvis.
The Company was expanding at its premises on Castle Street,with Managing Director, Colonel Batton declaring that the business would be selling products ” which would be among the best in the United Kingdom.”

Other shops and businesses in the town in 1920 included Days Bazaar; Weirs’ Medical Hall; Dave O Callaghan’s cycle shop: the Arcade Ladies Drapery; T L Hutchinson Drapery;Coyne’s Forge and Brophils Hotel.






Over the past week or so (January 2020)  there has been a lot of controversy regarding the proposed Government plan to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.). Irrespective of ones standpoint on this issue, it’s worth noting that Mullingar had its part to play in a very important aspect of RIC history.  This important historical aspect was as one of main locations chosen for the disbanding of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

On Monday the 13th February 1922, the Army Barracks, Mullingar, was inadvertently handed over by the British Army’s Sussex Regiment to the Anti-treaty element of the IRA, led by Comdt James Maguire, Mullingar Brigade (Anti-treaty IRA) and Captain Todd Andrews. Earlier in the day, Captain Andrews had held up the Mullingar phone exchange and phoned the British officer in charge of the Army barracks pretending to be a pro-treaty officer working on behalf of the Provisional Government.

He requested the handing over of the Army barracks with immediate effect. The British officer willingly obliged.  Both anti-treaty officers were acting on behalf of Comdt Gen Andy Cooney, Officer Commanding 1st Eastern Division Anti-treaty IRA, who saw the occupation of Mullingar Army barracks as a major coup for the Anti-Treaty position in the midlands and a challenge to both the pro-treaty political leadership and of course to Gen Seán Mac Eoin of the pro-treaty element of the IRA, who had taken over Athlone Army Barracks.

Point to note at this juncture:

Captain Todd Andrews later became a prominent figure in public life and helped to found Bord na Mona and was also chairman of both CIE and later RTE, notably, he is the Grandfather of RTE’s Ryan Tubridy.

However, not long after the anti-treaty IRA had taken control of this historic military facility, another contingent of uniformed personal arrived in the Barracks, this time under the direction of District Inspector Harrington of the Mullingar R.I.C.  D.I. Harrington was on a very important mission and needed nothing to hamper the urgent task ahead.

This important task was the requisitioning of Mullingar Army barracks as a facility for the disbanding of the R.I.C.  The Anti-treaty IRA commanders viewing D.I. Harrington’s mission as of utmost importance, evacuated the Army barracks almost immediately, moving to new locations in Mullingar, ironically, the recently vacated local RIC barracks and Courthouse!!!!

In early 1922, arrangements for the disbandment the RIC had been issued by Deputy Inspector General C.A. Walsh. Both regular RIC and also the hated reinforcements of the R.I.C. including the R.I.C. Special Reserve (Black & Tans) and Auxiliary Division R.I.C. (Auxies) were to be included as part of these general orders.

Mullingar, with its central location, main rail terminus and large army barracks which could accommodate up to 1,000 personal, was viewed as being ideal for the task ahead. Another major location that was also used for the disbandment of the RIC was Gormanstown Camp situated near Drogheda on the east coast which had previously been the main Irish base of the dreaded RIC reinforcements.

So it was on a dreary Monday evening in February 1922 that large numbers of Royal Irish Constabulary members from around Ireland arrived in Mullingar by train for disbanding.  It was an amazing scene to behold, for while many other towns in Ireland including nearby Athlone were witnessing the evacuation of British forces from their localities, Mullingar as it appeared to the locals, was in reverse and becoming the centre of British imperial rule in Ireland.

Indeed, many locals in Mullingar on seeing these large numbers of policemen arriving, feared the worst with rumours spreading around the town and elsewhere that the treaty was dead and war with Britain was about to reignite.

However, this consternation and bewilderment along with the fears felt by many in the town regarding the events at the Army barracks was about to be put to rest.   D.I. Harrington on hearing these concerns knew that this idle chat could lead to major political fallout; as such he issued a press release to the Irish Times.

In this press release, D.I. Harrington expressed with the greatest urgency that the media should make it as clear as possible to the public that the occupation of Mullingar Army barracks by the RIC was a temporary measure and would only be until RIC Barracks around Ireland had been evacuated, and the demobilisation of the RIC as a force had been complete.

D.I. Harrington was very highly respected by many in both Mullingar and in nearby localities. But no more so than by Gen Seán Mac Eoin, who remembered him for his sympathetic support, when being interviewed by the Irish Bureau of Military History in the 1950’s.  In this interview, Gen Mac Eoin recalled being shot and seriously wounded at Scout Tail steps near Dominick Street, Mullingar by members of the R.I.C, having escaped capture at the railway station in March 1921.

Gen Mac Eoin went on to state, that  a crowd of “savage black and tans” arrived into Mullingar RIC barracks and began to beat him as he leaned half standing against the cell wall, seriously injured. Upon witnessing this, D.I. Harrington moved in quickly to protect him and had him removed at once to the nearby Army barracks for his own safety.

Indeed, Gen Mac Eoin also stated that D.I. Harrington had previously been very sympathetic to the IRA cause and had in fact provided confidential RIC information to Michael Collins.

This is not as a surprising revelation as it might appear.  During the early stages of the War of Independence in 1919; Michael Collins had issued a decree to all Irishmen to leave the regular RIC and allow the Dail and its Army to govern the country.

This of course, was unless the RIC members were involved with his intelligence network, providing vital information, thus in Collins eyes, serving the Irish Republic.   While some within the RIC may not have welcomed Collins directive, it appears that D.I. Harrington did, and was one of the “Collins’s men” serving the Republic as requested.

By late August 1922 the Royal Irish Constabulary was consigned to the annuls of history with many of its members, especially those of the regular RIC returning to their family farms or joining the new Irish Civic Guard, later renamed An Garda Síochána.  Others transferred to the R.U.C. in the recently created Northern Ireland.

And what was the outcome for the RIC Special Reserve (Black & Tans) and Auxiliary Division R.I.C. (Auxies) many of you may ponder??

The answer to this may not surprise many of you!!!

While some of these men returned to their families in mainland Britain many more were to once again follow the orders of Winston Churchill in his new appointment as Minister of State for the Colonies and travel to Palestine to become Constables of the Colonial Palestine Police.

The skills of death and destruction these men had fine-tuned in Ireland since 1920, was now to become even more perfected, if that is possible, as they dealt with the native population of Palestine.

The commander of the Auxiliaries in Ireland, General Henry Hugh Tudor was to never forget Ireland, for soon after the disbanding of his force, he fled to Canada and went into hiding, fearing an assassins bullet from either an Irish Government agent or indeed from members of the IRA, which almost became a reality on a number of occasions before he died in 1965 in Newfoundland.

Interestingly, while Mullingar was one of the locations chosen for the disbanding of the RIC it must be noted that Winston Churchill himself was no stranger to Mullingar.   Churchill had spent a period of his childhood in the late 1870s, living in nearby Knockdrin Castle with his family, his parents, Randolph and Lady Churchill and his grandfather the Duke of Marlborough, who was then the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, all as guests of Sir Richard Levinge.

In conclusion, while this is just a brief article regarding Mullingar and its links to the disbanding of the RIC, it has to be stated that it was not the end of Mullingar’s or indeed that of the Army barracks involvement in matters of historical importance, during this period.

By late April 1922 with RIC demobilisation complete at the Army barracks, it was once again handed over, this time to the pro-treaty Irish Free State Army under the command of Lieutenant General Ginger O’Connell.

Shortly thereafter Mullingar was to become the centre of hostilities between both pro-treaty and anti-treaty forces, mere months before the official beginning of the Irish Civil War.  Sadly more tragedies were to beset Mullingar with deaths and executions becoming part of the historical narrative before eventual peace and normality was to return to both Mullingar and her citizens after the Civil War had ended.

Article research and written by

Historian and military expert Jason McKevitt  ©


**********.  Picture ************

This  group photograph of the disbanded RIC Force is from the family collection of Tom Wilkinson. It shows the remaining members  at disbandment in Mullingar Barracks, February  1922.

Seated centre are the senior officers and (in civilian clothes) the Divisional Commissioner, Brigadier-General Netterville Guy Barron C.M.G., D.S.O.

The photograph, originally torn and damaged by children,  was superbly restored by Christine Downes BA.


981125_1165369713492855_7752979769398247480_oWESTMEATH V ROSCOMMON
The suggestion that Roscommon could lose up to 10% of its population and significant territory to Westmeath is causing huge anger among Roscommon folk. This is not surprising. In Ireland county identity runs very deep.

Our counties may be a legacy of English rule,but people still cherish their county deeply. It took Irish emigrants in America a very long time to see themselves as Irish rather than as Corkonians,Dubliners,Mayomen etc.

What makes the possible annexation of parts of Roscommon to a Greater Westmeath (or Greater Athlone) even more galling for the Rossies is the fact that such an annexation would also put proud Connaught men and women into the Province of Leinster.

The four provinces of Ireland retain very distinct identities even in our overcentralised state today and they go back an immense distance in time. Ireland had four provinces even when St Patrick came here 1600 years ago (and there was also a fifth province-Mide,for many centuries until around 1210.

The boundaries between the provinces have shifted over time,it is true,but the provinces have been there since at least the start of the first millennium AD.
The Greater Westmeath suggestion is not,of course,the first time that one county or province has tried to take over the territory of another. The boundaries of Connacht extended into what is now Westmeath in the period just before the Christian era and possibly included the Sacred Centre of Ancient Ireland-the Hill of Uisneach.

Then the Kingdom/Province of Mide emerged and would come to embrace Westmeath and other parts of the Kingdom of Leinster.The Ui Neill tribes from Connacht conquered the Midlands and also pushed back the ,Kingdom of Uladh/ Ulster to east of the River Bann.

The Leinster Bridge just east of Clonard in Meath is a reminder of the fact that the Midlands was lost to Leinster for some 700 years (515-1210).
By the 11th century the power of Mide was in decline and after 1022 they no longer were High Kings of Ireland. Now it was the turn of Connacht to try to claim the High Kingship.

The formidable O Connor kings from modern Roscommon swept through what is now Westmeath and Meath,plundering and burning. It was the O Connor kings who built the first bridge of Athlone and also erected the first castle there in the early 12th century. The last Gaelic High King of Ireland was Rory O Connor.

The 12th century also saw the creation of Dioceses by the Roman Catholic Church. The Shannon was already the boundary between two province/kingdoms. Now it also became the boundary between two dioceses. The Leinster part of what would become Athlone was in Ardagh/Clonmacnoise (though Clonmacnoise and Ardagh were actually seperate dioces for a number of centuries),while the Connacht side became part of Elphin.

Although a future reduction in the number of RC dioceses seems likely, it is not likely that Ardagh will be extended across into Roscommon-although Meath might in time annexe Ardagh.! (The Church of Ireland Diocese of Meath and Kildare includes Athlone).

The arrival of the Normans saw the creation of parishes and counties. Athlone began to grow as two urban settlements developed on either side of the river. Counties began to appear in the 13th century. Roscommon is older than Westmeath and was the site of the Norman castle built around 1210.

A town grew up in the shadow of the castle and a Cluniac monastery nearby. The most important town in the area at this time was not ,however Athlone but Rindoon,further north along the Roscommon shore of Lough Ree. Even now the remains of the town wall and the castle of Rindoon give a sense of how imposing a place Rindoon was in the 13th/14th centuries.

Had it not gone into decline,Rindoon-entirely in Roscommon then and ever since,might have become thhe major strategic town along the Midlands stretch of the Shannon,rather than Athlone !.

But Rinddon declined and Athlone grew. It was the base for the Norman expansion into Connaught which ended the rule of the O Connor kings. In the 16th century,as the Tudor rulers of England sought to conquer and control Ireland,Athlone became the political and military capital of Connaught in 1569 when the Presidency of Connaught was set up with its HQ in Athlone Castle.

For the next 113 years-until the abolition of the presidency,the power of Athlone extended not just across all Roscommon but as far as the Aran islands and Sligo Bay and Clifden.

It is probably not surprising that Athlone began to get imperial ambitions! In 1600,English Lord Deputy Mountjoy,after a visit to the castle even suggested to Queen Elizabeth 1 that Athlone should be made the capital of Ireland because of its strategic location.

At this stage the Roscommon side was still the most important side of Athlone.The Leinster town became part of the newly created county of Westmeath in 1542 but the new county town was not Athlone but Mullingar,which occupied a more central location in the county. From the Leinster shore the Williamite Army besiged and captured Jacobite held Athlone and swept into Connaught in 1691.

A few years later the Roscommon side of Athlone gained a new importance with the building of a new military barracks-what is now Custume Barracks-one of the oldest surviving military bases in Europe.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Athlone began to grow and expand on both the Westmeath and Roscommon sides of the Shannon. A Corporation ruled the town until the 1840s and Athlone was represented in the Irish parliament and after the Union in the UK parliament.

In the 1840s,the Corporation was replaced by a Town Commission.The Commission governed the old medieval heart of the town on both sides of the Shannon but,at this stage Athlone remained divided between two counties,with the landlord run Grand Juries of Roscommon and Westmeath looking after roads,drainage and other issues in the outlying districts of Athlone

The two Roman Catholic dioceses remained proudly independent of each other,building fine churches and schools in their own parts of Athlone.

The setting up of county councils and urban district councils in 1898 began the problems which are causing so much grief today to Roscommon. Athlone was upgraded to Urban District Council status (unlike the Westmeath County town of Mullingar which remained a mere Town Commission and was not a rating authority.

It was at this point that Westmeath began its expansion across the river into Connacht and Roscommon. Probably for reasons of administrative tidyness it was decided to put all of urban Athlone into County Westmeath. Now Connaught Street and other parts of Roscommon Athlone including the castle and barracks came under the authority of Westmeath County Council.

The annexation of Roscommon had begun. (in a similar way Co Armagh lost part of Newry when the Armagh parts of that town were put into Down County Council.

In the 1930s,a strange Dail constituency called Athlone-Longford was created which included a large chunk of Roscommon. Roscommon councillors were furious at this move. One councillor declared that “Connaught men will never be Leinster men.” Another councillor stated that “Cromwell said “To hell or to Connaught. Now we are being told “To hell or to Leinster.”! The trans-provincial constituency lasted a while but was eventually abolished.

In the century since Athlone-Leinster was amalgamated with Athlone-Connaught the town has grown.Country fields that clearly lay beyond the urban areas are now sprawling suburbs. With the abolition of Athlone Town Council and its autonomy,power has moved further -much further-away from the Roscommon Athlone people.

It is not surprising that people who follow Roscommon GAA and Connaught rugby feel a deep anger at the prospect of being taken into a different county and province. The Shannon is,as we all learned at school,Ireland’s biggest river.

The idea that one county can be spread out across both sides of this mighty river makes little sense.Westmeath may want Roscomon like President Putin wants Crimea- and Athlone may dream of becoming a sort of city state. But local loyalties run deep and should not be lightly tampered with.

In Britain in the 1970s ancient counties were abolished or amalgamated in the name of administrative improvement. Some of these counties have now reappeared and it is likely that the huge drop in voter turnout in local elections has something to do with people feeling no connection to remote authorities in distant towns . Athlone can be a city with its present county boundaries.

Westmeath is a fine proud Leinster County and has no need of parts of Connaught. Personally,I believe that,whatever the Report on Alan Kelly’s desk suggests,the borders will remain as they are. Or perhaps all of urban Athlone could be transferred to Roscommon instead.Better of all will be for Athlone to stay the unique place it is-one town in two counties,two provinces and three dioceses.




An era in the cultural history of Mullingar truly ended on April 2014 when it was announced that Hubie Magee was retiring after a record 57 years as Director of Mullingar Town Band. His daughter,Kim,will take over as Band Director and Hubie has been given the title Band Director Emiritus. Hubert Magee has enriched the lives of thousands of Mullingar children,teens and adults over the last six decades. Under his directorship the Band has won numerous prizes and commendations at concerts across Ireland and abroad. Membership of the Band has risen to over 150 and the Band is an integral part of the musical and social life of Mullingar.

That Mullingar still has a Town Band is very largely due to Hubie Magee. The Band has been around since 1879,when it was founded by local Roman Catholic priest,Father Poland. Father Poland was Director of the Holy Family Confraternity and the Band started life as the Mullingar Confraternity Band. Many of the Band members were British soldiers who had played with the various regimental bands stationed in the Army Barracks. The link between the Band and the Confraternity continued until the 1940s. It was then handed over to a Committee and became the Mullingar Brass and Reed Band. The Band played at functions such as the annual commemmoration of the Easter Rising. But few new peole joined and by 1957 the membership had dwindled to four. There seemed little hope that it would continue. But then,Hubie Magee was appointed Director.

Hubie was playing clarinet in the Band. He spent six years in Dublin where he studied clarinet, piano harmony, and composition.He also holds diplomas and fellowships in clarinet,band mastership and conducting from Victoria College of Music,London. Over the last six decades he has brought his professional talents and outlook to the running of Mullingar Town Band. When Hubie became the Director,the Town Band was barely in existence. Hubie began to recruit new young members. One of the biggest changes he made was to bring in girls. Because of its origins in the Confraternity and the military,the Band had been an all male affair. There had never been any female members. Times were changing however and the girls began to come in. The Band practise rooms in the Market House began to fill up. One of the new girl members was my sister,Elizabeth Illingworth,who played clarinet.

By the mid 1970s,the Mullingar Town Band was growing in numbers and professionalism.In 1974 the Band took part for the first time in the International Youth Band Festival at Pumerand in the Netherlands. International travel became a regular feature of the Band year and ,by the early years of this century Mullingar Band was taking part in an international exchange with the Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh,North Carolina,U S A. Increasingly the Mullingar Town Band was returning from national and international competitions with gold medals and other awards.

Hubie had set himself the target of having 100 members in the Band by the time the centenary came round in 1979. He achieved this goal and the Band has continued to grow since then. Afine new Band Hall opened to accomodate what was now both a Marching and Concert Band-with the Marching Band now known as The Celtic Crusaders. New uniforms were introduced along with majorettes. There was no occasion of note in Mullingar at which the Band under Hubie’s direction did not play a part. They were there for the Golden Jubilee of the Easter Rising , and for the Golden Jubilee of the Cathedral too.

The Band was on hand to serenade the homecoming Westmeath football teams after their victories in 1963,1995 and 2004. They were on hand to welcome the Lebanese Special Olympics Team in 2003 and to mark the birth of the new Millennium in 2000. When Fleadh Ceoil na hEireann came to town in 1963,the Band was there and when the Army left the Barracks for the last time in 2012 the Band was there to bid them farewell.

Mullingar is now famed nationwide as a musical town. Many of the most talented musicians in this town spent time in the Band . That is one of the reasons why Mullingar owes Hubie Magee a big debt of gratitude. He drew out musical talent where it existed and provided disciplined education for all who came through the band. And like all great teachers he never forgot his pupils-remembering their names even decades after they had moved on. Hubie has always seen his work and the job of the Band as being threefold; To Entertain,To Educate and To Elevate.

That he has most surely done during his close on sixty year stint as Band Director. He is now to be succeeded by his daughter,Kim. She now makes history by being the first female Director in the 135 years of Mullingar Band. Hubie opened the bandhall doors to girls and,so it is appropriate that his succesor should be a woman. Kim Magee is a very worthy successor to her father.
Band Director Emiritus Magee deserves the thanks of all the people of Mullingar for his years of dedicated service to the town. Hope that he has a very long and happy retirement.

by Ruth Illingworth Historian


A large crowd gathered at Belvedere House on Friday,May 15th for the unveiling of wall plaques in the Reception Area highlighting the major mountaineering feats of two great Mullingar men; Anthony Adams-Reilly of Belmont ,Ballinea and Charles Howard-Bury of Belvedere. The plaques were unveiled by Dr Dawson Stelfox,Leader of the first Irish Expedition to Everest in 1993,Kevin Higgins of the Mountaineering Council of Ireland and Marian Keaney,former Westmeath County Librarian and expert on the life of Charles Howard-Bury.

Dawson Stelfox was the first Irishman to reach the summit of Everest,on May 27th 1993. This was the first successful British ascent of the mountain from the north side. The route taken by Dr Stelfox and his team was the same as that taken by Colonel Howard-Bury in 1921 when he led the first reconnaisance of the mountain for the Royal Geographical Society. Dr Stelfox spoke about the remarkable achievements of Howard-Bury and his colleagues which included,not just the discovery of the North Col and north-east ridge route to the summit,but also an original survey of 12,000 square miles and a detailed photographic survey of 600 square miles in the Everest region plus the revision of 4,000 sq miles of existing mapping ,as well as the discovery of new species of plants and flowers.

Dr Stelfox read an extract from Howard-Bury’s Diaries describing sunrise over Everest and then showed a photo of sunrise on Everest taken during the 1993 Expedition. He praised Howard-Bury for his open minded attitude towards the cultures of the peolple of Tibet and the other lands through which he travelled and noted that the photos taken by Howard-Bury provide an invaluable record of the now almost lost civilisation of Tibet.

Kevin Higgins from the Mountaineering Council of Ireland who grew up in Mullingar and will be best remembered by many for his role as Captain of the victorious Westmeath Minor Football Team in the 1963 All Ireland Championship,paid tribute to the climber and map maker,Anthony Adams Reilly. Adams Reilly was born in Ballinea in 1836 and grew up at Belmont House before going to school and university in England. He climbed extensively in the Alps in the 1860s,at a time when the region was divided between a number of countries and had still to be properly mapped. He climbed Mt Blanc twice in one year and climbed the mountain five more times in the next 5 years.

In 1863 he began a survey for Mt Blanc which was published by the Alpine Club in 1865. He also mapped the Mt Rosa district of Italy. His was the first correct map of the Mt Blanc chain. He climbed with all the great pioneering mountaineers of the age. His maps remained in use in France well into the 20th century and a number of features on Mt Blanc and in the area of the Matterhorn are named in his honour-including Col Superior Adams Reilly and Aiguille Adams Reilly.
He returned to live at Belmont in 1868 before moving to Wicklow and then Tipperary where he is buried at Collbawn,Kilbarren. He died in 1885 at the age of only 55. Kevin Higgins highlighted Adams Reilly’s importance as one of the key figures in the exploration and mapping of the Alps.

Marian Keaney spoke about the achievements of Charles Howard-Bury before and after the Everest expedition.She mentioned his illustrious ancestors amongst the English Tudor aristocracy,the Dukes of Norfolk and the Dukes of Suffolk. She also talked about the large amounts of source material now available on Howard-Bury in libraries and online,and the growing interest in his life.

In 2013 a group of young British and Mongolian explorers re-enacted the 1913 journey undertaken by Howard-Bury across Russia,Siberia and Central Asia to the Tian-Shan mountain range in China. (It was on this journey that Howard-Bury bought the bear,Agu, who lived at Belvedere for many years.).The 2013 expedition was entitled “One Steppe at a time”. Marian explained that googling “Charles Howard-Bury” online now brings up a vast range of material.
The Event also was shown a video from Nepal made by the Longford mountaineer,Paul Devanney. He has climbed mountains on 6 continents and was on his way to scale Everest when the earthquake stuck Nepal. He is now helping with relief efforts in the devastated country.

The wall plaques commemmorating Adams Reilly and Howard-Bury and detailing the maps they created of the Alps and Hi malayan regions were then unveiled by Dawson Stelfox,Kevin Higgins,Marian Keaney and Michael Duffy (member of the Mountaineering Council of Ireland and father of 32 marathon/Deca Ironman runner,Gerry Duffy.)
It is hoped that ,in time there may be a Howard-Bury museum of some kind at Belvedere. Mr Christy Maye,owner of the Greville Arms Hotel,brought out some of the Howard-Bury material which he has on display in the Greville Arms,including the stuffed head of Agu,the bear,to be shown at the launch.

(1) Mountaineering enthusiast Kevin Higgins, Mullingar and Kilkenny, giving an illustrated talk in Belvedere last Friday evening.

(2) From left are Jacinta O’Neill, Becka Duffy and Lucy Finnerty attending the function in Belvedere last Friday, 15 May.

(3) Left and right are Tim Lavery, CEO of the World Explorers Bureau, and Christy Maye, Mullingar at the function in Belvedere last Friday night.

(4) Dawson Stelfox, the first Irish man to climb Mount Everest, giving an illustrated talk on his own 1993 Expedition to scale Everest and on the legendary Mullingar mountaineers, Charles Howard-Bury (Belvedere) and Anthony Adams Reilly, to those attending the function and unveiling ceremony in Belvedere last Friday night, 15 May.

(5) Pictured after the unveiling of the wall panels display in the covered courtyard at Belvedere House, Gardens and Park last Friday night, 15 May, are, from left, Michael Duffy, Mullingar, the principal organiser of the event; author and historian Marian Keaney, Mullingar; Dawson Stelfox, Belfast, the first Irish man to climb Mount Everest; Peter O’Connell, Everest climber, and mountaineering enthusiast Kevin Higgins, Kilkenny and formerly from Mullingar.

(6) Among those in Belvedere on Friday evening were, left and right, Jonathan Shackleton, a great-grandson of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton,

(7) Mullingar author and historian Marian Keaney giving her talk on Charles Howard-Bury and Belvedere at the function last Friday night.

(8) Pictured at the talks in Belvedere last Friday are, from left, Dawson Stelfox, Michael Duffy and Peter O’Connell.

(9) A section of the attendance in Belvedere on Friday night last

-Ruth Illingworth
Thanks to James Wims (MCIJ) for supplying Photographs of this great night .