In the trenches in Cavan

If you are planning a visit to Cavan, you would do well to pay a visit to the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff.  We have visited a few county museums over the last few years but Cavan’s museum stood out.  Museums today should strive to create interactive user experience’s and the museum has embraced this idea.

The Museum is based in a beautiful 19th century building that was previously a convent used by the Poor Clare Order of nuns.

Ballyjamesduff convent
View of Cavan Museum building

The nuns arrived in Ballyjamesduff in 1872 with the convent itself being opened in 1883.

In 1992, with the dwindling convent community, a decision was made to close the convent and move to smaller accommodation within the community.  Cavan County Council purchased the convent to house the new county museum.

The museum is located on the Virginia Road – it’s signposted but easy to miss the turn (it’s a narrow slip road beside the church).

The building itself is substantial as you can imagine but luckily they have a lot of varied exhibitions to make good use of the space.

Exhibitions include Cavan GAA history, the history of the Barons Farnham (owners of the Farnham Estate for over 300 years until it was sold in the mid-2000s), the Great Famine, Percy French, local links to World War 1 and an exhibition on the Poor Clare Order of nuns.

There’s some other interesting pieces scattered around the museum like a gun belonging to Arthur Griffith.

Irish War of Independence
Arthur Griffith gun

Percy French was a famous Irish songwriter in the early 1900’s and he is connected to Ballyjamesduff as he worked in Cavan and wrote a famous Irish emigration song called “Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff” and in his honour a replica statue was erected in the town. I found out recently after posting the photo below on our Facebook page, a descendent of Paddy Reilly told me, he was a jarvey taxi man with a horse and cart who use to drive and collect people from Ballyduff and the Oldcastle train station, he did leave Ballyjamesduff, when he emigrated but he returned a few years later and settled back in Ballyjamesduff.

Ballyjamesduff statue
Percy French statue

By far the most impressive features of the museum are the World War 1 Trench Experience and the Visualising the Rising exhibition.

Cavan Museum have a replica trench onsite that was “built to the specifications and manuals of the Irish Guards and used by the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the Battle of the Somme 1916, it is over 350 metres long and includes frontline, communication and support trenches. Over 6000 sand bags were used in its construction. ”

World War 1 trench
Replica trenches – front line

The replica trench is the largest outdoor one of it’s kind in Ireland and the UK. This is very well done and you get a better understanding of what life must have been like in the trenches for the soldiers, they slept in something that resembled a shelf, never far from the rats and mud.  With audio posts dotted throughout the trenches, capturing some of the sounds of the WW1 trenches.

World War 1 first aid
Replica trenches – casualty clearing station

Also onsite is “a replica GPO façade and a series of tunnelled-through contemporary building interiors that allow visitors to experience the claustrophobic fighting conditions endured by the rebels.”

You can go inside the GPO during the Rising and experience the tunnelled Moore street houses.  We both read a book called Inside the GPO, it was a memoir by an Irish volunteer called Joe Goode, which recounts his time during the 1916 Rising. Goode paints a vivid picture of the last days of the Rising, volunteers tunnelling through the narrow rows of houses on Moore street and life inside for the inhabitants, with James Connolly stretchered into the house, a defiant Sean MacDiarmada and Patrick Pearse looking out at the civilians killed and writing the surrender letter and about life for the impoverished families who lived there. One story about the young volunteer Michael Collins trying to cook his ration sausages in a bedroom fireplace, on quenched emblems so as not to attract the British army snipers with smoke coming from the chimney stack, in the end ashes covered the sausages with Michael cursing the snipers.

General Post Office Dublin
GPO facade

The museum has a peace & reconciliation garden that remembers those from all sides of Irish society and the different paths they took, that led some to the trenches in World War 1 and others to the Easter Rising.

This masonic lodge meeting is no secret

There are lots of events happening around the country for Culture Night, which takes place on Friday 16th September 2016.  You can check out the Culture Night website to see what is on in your area.

I’m thinking of going to the Masonic hall in Sligo, which is only open to the general public on Culture Night. You get a tour of the building and a short talk on both the history of the building and Freemasonry in Sligo and Ireland.  This tour has been really popular in the last few years, I saw on social media in previous years, photos of queues of people, stretching down The Mall, this year thankfully, you can book a free ticket on Event brite.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned the impressive Masonic Lodge, which is perched up on the top of The Mall and has a great view over Sligo town.  It’s a detached 2 storey redbrick built between 1890 and 1900, it features a Belvedere tower above the entrance.  According to Wiki,  “A belvedere (from Italian for “fair view”) is an architectural structure sited to take advantage of a fine or scenic view.   A Belvedere may be built in the upper part of a building so as to command said view. ”


Masonic lodge Sligo
The Masonic lodge in Sligo town.


Citizens in Conflict

During the week, Richard visited the Dublin City Library to check out the Citizens in Conflict  exhibition.  It’s a 1916 Easter Rising exhibition currently on display at Pearse street Library in Dublin 2, running until the 25th June 2016.  It’s an historic multi-media exhibition which includes eye witness accounts and sources such as Dublin Fire Brigade logbook.

It gives a snapshot of the Rising through the eyes of ordinary citizens in Dublin and how the Rising affected them, with posters about Martial Law, curfews and notices about shops, banks and bakeries closed due to the conflict.

Citizens in Conflict Exhibition - Irish flags
Citizens in Conflict Exhibition – Irish flags

It has a particular focus on the Pearse Street area of the city (formerly Great Brunswick street) where Patrick and Willie Pearse grew up and where Boland’s Mill garrison was commanded by Eamon de Valera. It also remembers the 257 civilians who were killed during the rising including 40 children.

Citizens in Conflict Exhibition - Martial Law
Citizens in Conflict Exhibition – Martial Law posters

Free Guided Tour

You can pop in and view the exhibition during Library opening hours and there are also free guided tours available on Monday’s and Wednesday’s with historian Donal Fallon, the tour lasts 30 minutes. Donal is also one of the writers on the Come here to me blog and we first heard about the exhibition through the blog’s instagram page.

Citizens in Conflict Exhibition - Pearse Street library
Citizens in Conflict Exhibition – Pearse Street library

The library is worth a visit to view the beautiful building it is housed in, the Dublin City Library and Gilbert Archives on Pearse street was originally the Great Brunswick Street Carnegie Library and Dublin City Council’s library headquarters. The building dates back to 1909 and was designed by the city architect C.J. McCarthy and the façade of the original building is composed of Mount Charles sandstone with dressings of Ballinasloe limestone.

Location and Opening hours

The Dublin City Library & Archives or Pearse Street Library is located on Pearse street in Dublin 2 and is opened from Monday to Saturday from 10 am, with late openings until 8 pm from Monday to Thursday.

It is a 10 minute walk from Pearse street dart station


Images: & featured image - Google maps
Sources:, Dublin City Library & Library buildings

Landmark building in Clonmel

We are always visiting Clonmel as it is Richard’s home town,  a few months ago, we decided to do the heritage walking trail of the town. We used an old heritage trail illustration booklet that we had in the house, I checked online and can’t find a copy of it but I believe you can pick up a newer version in the Tourist office,

One of the main buildings in the town that you will see at the top of O’Connell Street is called The Main Guard.  In the late 1990’s, the building was boarded up and had fallen into disrepair, the OPW (Office of Public Works) took it over and spent a few years renovating it back to its original 17th century structure when it was used as a Courthouse.

The Main guard building Clonmel Clock tower and arches
The Main Guard building in Clonmel

Since it reopened in 2004, the OPW, maintain it and we didn’t realise until we were taking photos outside, that the building is now open to the public on a seasonal basis (April to October), it was opened on the Sunday of the May bank holiday when we visited, you can go inside and have a look around and admission is free. Richard, a local, had actually never been inside the building so it was great for him to see inside, this landmark in Clonmel.  When we visited there was a photography exhibition of Tipperary’s medieval castles and monasteries on the ground floor and upstairs there are some information banners and photographs of The Main Guard renovation project and on a Father Sheehy who was convicted of murder in the Main Guard building when it was used as a Courthouse in 1766, you can read more about the trial here.  I believe they use upstairs for exhibitions and history talks throughout the year and you can also arrange to have a group tour organised.  You can check out the heritage website here for opening times.

Brief history of The Main Guard building

(Click on an image to enlarge it and click outside the photo on the screen to close the image)

This elegant 17th century building occupies a prominent position in the Clonmel streetscape, closing the O’Connell Street vista at its eastern end.  The building is located at the intersection of the four main streets in Clonmel.  The Main Guard was built by James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, between 1673 and 1684, as a prestigious courthouse for the Palatinate (Administration) of County Tipperary. Source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

The Mainguard building Clonmel Clock tower and arches
The Main Guard building in Clonmel

The building has many of the hallmarks of a Sir Christopher Wren design, and it seems likely that its architect was influenced by Wren’s works.  As well as the courthouse, there were private apartments, a dining room and a drawing room.   Source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

The Mainguard building Clonmel old thorsel
17th Century Architecture

The Main Guard was also used as a Tholsel in the 17th and 18th Century, which was a public office where tolls, duties and customs dues were collected.  It was also a convenient place for civic gatherings.  Source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

After a new courthouse was built in 1810, The Main Guard was converted and used at first as an army barracks, from where it got its current name and then later became a public house and shop.

The Main Guard
The Main Guard

The prominent arches have now been renovated back to the original design, the ground floor is an open arcade with 5 semi-circular arches at the west side and 1 arch on each side.

Stone archway The main guard building Clonmel
Stone archways at The Main Guard building Clonmel

This is the old Clonmel heritage trail illustration booklet we used for our self guided walking tour around Clonmel’s sights.  It has wonderful illustrations of the old buildings and sights around Clonmel. I’m not 100% on who the artist was, but the booklet states, designed by a Jim Fegan.

Clonmel Heritage trail booklet
Clonmel Heritage trail booklet produced by Clonmel Corporation.

In 1810, The Main Guard building was converted and the stone arches were enclosed, as seen in this illustration.  By the late 1990’s, the building had fallen into disrepair and was taken over by the OPW and renovated back to the original 7 arches.

illustration of the Main Guard building
illustration source: Clonmel Heritage Trail Booklet

Pictured in the late 1990’s before renovations. Up to recent times, The Main Guard building was used as a bar and grocery shop, called Cooney’s.  Image Source: OPW

Old photo of the Main guard building in Clonmel before renovations
Old photo of the Main Guard building in Clonmel before renovations

The trail we did is based around these information map boards pictured below, which will you find dotted around Clonmel.  The boards have a map of Clonmel and each board, includes the illustrations of the buildings and sights.

Clonmel walking Trail signs
Heritage trail maps dotted around Clonmel

Original form of the Palatinate Courthouse in 17th/18th Century setting with the town square and market cross.

Model of Mainguard from 17 and 18th century
Model of Main Guard from 17/18th century

This model depicts the way the building looked from about 1810 up to the 1990’s when the stone archways were enclosed and it was converted to stores.

Model of Main guard before renovations
Model of Main Guard before renovations

Exhibitions are held in The  Main Guard building.  This one was aerial photographs of Tipperary’s many medieval castles and monasteries.

Monastery exhibition inside the Mainguard in Clonmel
Photography exhibition
Inside the Main guard building in Clonmel
Information boards on the history of The Main Guard
Original stone walls inside The Main Guard
Original stone walls inside The Main Guard
Inside the Main guard building in Clonmel
Timber casement windows
View from the Main guard building in Clonmel
Click to enlarge, View from the 1st floor window looking down to the Westgate

Another tourist trail you can do around Clonmel is connected to the Butler Family.

Clonmel Trail signs Butlers
Tourist Information board on the Butler Family trail

The Main Guard building is very similar in style to other buildings we have come across on our travels around Ireland and I believe they also served the same purpose as a courthouse and tholsel. There are similar buildings in Kilkenny and in Westport.

Check out our other blog posts on Tipperary.

Let us know, if you have visited Clonmel or other sights in Tipperary to visit ?

Old architecture in Birr

We recently visited Birr in County Offaly in the midlands of Ireland and saw some old quaint shop fronts.

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Clonmel Heritage Walking Tour – Anne Street

A walk around Clonmel town, will show you an array of old buildings from different historical and architectural periods, from the Medieval period up to the 19th Century.  It is the largest town in County Tipperary and the river Suir runs through it. We did a self guided walking tour around the town and visited this charming Georgian street.

One of the first points we stopped at, on our self guided heritage tour of Clonmel, was Anne Street.  I know when I first visited Clonmel, I noticed this beautiful old 19th Century street, which is located only a few minutes walk from the main street in the town.  Charles Riall (1774 – 1855) engaged builders and architects Thomas and John Tinsley to carry out the work in 1820.  It is believed the street was named after Charles Riall’s wife Anne.  The street has changed little from when it was built in 1820, all the houses are three storey and have maintained most of their original features, ornate doors and large sash windows.

On the gable end of one of the houses, there is an original Post Wall box, which dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria, it has the royal initials VR on it.  It would have been originally red but when the Irish State came into effect in 1922, all the post boxes were painted green.

Click on the any of the photos to enlarge.



Hazelwood House Distillery

Sligo will have a new Distillery following the news that Hazelwood House, the 18th century Palladian style country house,  is to be turned into a whiskey distillery and visitor centre. There is a factory behind the house, which will either be converted or demolished.

According to the Sligo Champion, the new buyer, David Raethorne and a group of investors, plan to turn  the 18th century house into a major tourism business in the North West of Ireland.  A sort of Powerscourt house meets the Guinness Storehouse combination perhaps.

I think its good news, especially as they plan on renovating Hazelwood House, which was designed by Richard Cassels, who designed Leinster House.  Sligo needs more attractions like this, especially an indoor tourist attraction, for those rainy days.  I think it will appeal to different markets, those who like distilleries and those interested in Big Houses and history. I’m sure the lands will be cleaned up and there will be walks as well.  Its a big undertaking, but hopefully the Lough Gill company, will restore Hazelwood House back to its former glory.

Hazelwood House Sligo

Image Credit: Hazelwood-house by ZxcodeOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia


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