Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Past and Present. Vol 3 (Templemore Town Hall)

The town hall was originally erected at the expense of Sir John Craven Carden's tenants and to his instructions in 1816 as a Market House. After the killing of two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in the County Tipperary Soloheadbeg Ambush by members of the IRA in January 1919, the Irish War of Independence began. British soldiers and RIC based in Templemore were involved in operations to suppress IRA guerrilla activity.

On 16 August 1920, Templemore Town Hall was burned down by the British Army in reprisal for the killing of District Inspector Wilson. D.I. Wilson was shot by Volunteer James Stapleton on the orders of local IRA commander James Leahy. Troops of the Northamptonshire Regiment based in Richmond Barracks took petrol from a local garage to burn the hall while they shot up local businesses with indiscriminate rifle fire. Lieutenant Colonel S.H. Beattie, the son of Sir Andrew Beattie, Dublin, who accompanied the soldiers was engaged to Wilson's daughter. Beattie, a decorated World War I veteran, either fell from a ladder or jumped from a window and died from burns and broken bones later that night. Some days later badly burned human remains apparently crushed by fallen beams along with bits of kit and a rifle with a bayonet attached was found as local workmen cleared the ruins of burnt out buildings. The soldier was identified as Lance Corporal H. J. Fuggle whom the authorities claimed was a deserter. 

In a second reprisal following an IRA ambush on a patrol in Thomastown, County Kilkenny in which three British soldiers died, the troops once again rampaged through Templemore burning and looting houses and premises causing extensive damage. Townspeople feared the town would eventually be entirely reduced to ruins. Edward McGrath another local IRA leader was held captive in Richmond Barracks and was forced to accompany military patrols as a hostage before he was transferred to Ballykinlar internment camp.

The Town Hall building was rebuilt in 1927 and was widened. The ashlar masonry of the quoins and dressings are clearly the work of skilled craftsmen. The plethora of ornamental features underlines the importance of this building in the town of Templemore. Its unusual shape and dominant location are such that the town hall makes a strong and positive contribution to the streetscape where it proudly stands today.