Saturday, November 07, 2015

Richmond Barracks


Click on any image for a larger version

The date is 7 November 2015 and the Dublin City Library Learning Van is parked outside St. Michael's Community Centre in Inchicore.

All very mundane, or so it seems. But the centre is the location for today's phase of the restoration of Richmond Barracks, or what's left of it.

The barracks played a major role in the aftermath of the 1916 rising, which may explain the sudden burst of interest in this decade of centenaries, but the location has seen many changes since then.

In 1926 the site was used for social housing (Keogh Square) and this trend continued with the construction (1970) and subsequent demolition (2013) of St. Michael's estate.

There is very little of the original barracks left today, but the idea is to restore what there is and it is expected that this will be completed by early next year.



People were drifting in to St. Michael's hall, bringing stories and artifacts, to be recorded today or in subsequent follow up.



The project was explained in great detail and people were able to explore their connections with this historic site.

This was my first visit to the barracks site despite fairly strong family connections with it in its heyday.

My grandfather, Patrick Mortimer, worked there as a canteen assistant at the end of his working life (1916-18) and my great grandfather, Patrick's father in law, Christopher Burgess, had a bootmaking contract with the military there at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century.

I was bringing along my grandfather's death certificate which showed that he was still employed at the barracks when he was fished out of the Liffey at Eden Quay in June 1918. He had been missing for the previous week. It is not known if his death was connected to his working for the British military in the barracks.



Dublin City Library staff were there to help record the stories and memorabilia, or just the contact details for the subsquent follow up.



Joe Lee is an independent film maker and he was on hand to scope out his contribution to the project. Joe has worked closely with Dublin City Council in the past and I have seen two of his amazing films on the O'Devaney Gardens and on St. Michael's estate. He made these some years ago during his stint as resident film maker with the Council. They are very moving films which could only have been made by someone who had got the full trust of the residents at the time.

I will be very interested to see his film on Richmond Barracks.



A brief confab on how the day is going between Joe and Éadaoin Ní Chléirigh, CEO of the project.



St. Michael's school rolls are inspected while the young lady with the microphone gathers material for her forthcoming Newstalk radio documentary.



There she is again. No opportunity lost.



There is a model of the old barracks on display, and would you believe it, all that is now left of all those buildings is the orange coloured gym and the two buildings on either side. There is also St Michael's church which used to be the barracks church (Protestant) but is now the local Roman Catholic church.



You can see it more clearly on this 1900 map, the three red highlighted barracks buildings in the centre and the church on the extreme right. The large barracks square, the white area at the top of the picture, is where St. Michael's estate was, up to a few years ago.



This is a current view of the barracks square, now totally greened, with the three remaining barracks buildings in the background.



This is a closer view of the right hand of the three remaining buildings. Liam O'Meara in his book From Richmond Barracks to Keogh Square records this, the South Recreation room, as housing a Canteen. It appears this was the Officers' canteen and the canteen for the private soldiers was at the western side of the barracks, just behind where this photo was taken from, at St. Vincent St. W. So whether we are looking at the canteen where my grandfather worked, or whether that was in one of the now demolished buildings is anyone's guess.



This is a closer up shot of the orange building in the middle, originally the gymnasium. It was the scene of the trial of Tom Kehoe after the 1916 rising. He died later in the Civil War and I have already drawn attention to his amazing tombstone in the graveyard in Knockananna. It was also the scene of the trial of Eoin McNeill to whom I am distantly related (maternal grandfather of husband of 2nd cousin of mine).



And, finally, an exclusive look inside the Learning Van, the technical hub of today's proceedings, where all the scanning is done.



And viewed on the big screen.


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