FETHARD MILITARY BARRACKS
The Military barracks in Fethard was one of the oldest in the country. It was built on the site of the original Everard Mansion House which fell into decay c.1740 while Sir Redmond Everard (the last Baronet) lived abroad in France. In 1752, Thomas Barton of Bordeaux purchased the Everard estate in Fethard, demolished the old Mansion House and erected a new one on the same spot. The Barton Mansion House was acquired in 1797 and converted into a temporary military barracks, lighted by oil, and used to accommodate two troops of Cavalry. It was converted into proper military barracks in 1805.
The Barracks occupied an extensive area on the North of the Square and was initially occupied by horse-mounted troops. The Barracks proper had a good exercise ground amounting to an area of 15 acres. 2 roods, 0 perches.
Fethard Military Barracks was at one time an outpost of Clonmel, having a Howitzer Battery of the Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery stationed in Clonmel. In latter years it was an outpost of Cahir Military Barracks being occupied by a battery of artillery of the Cahir Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Although it was first occupied by a Troop of Hussars, during the Napoleonic Wars artillery became an important arm of the service in South Tipperary hence the deployment of artillery at Clonmel, Cahir, Clogheen, and Fethard. The photographs only show the front of the Barracks but it was quite extensive at the rear (as shown in the architectural drawings, a copy of which is held by the writer). It had accommodation for 124 All Ranks and stabling for 79 horses.
A truce was declared on 11 July, 1921, and the Treaty was signed on 6th December, 1921, but the Barracks was nevertheless raided in January, 1922, a dispersal sale having been previously held. On the day of evacuation a severe thunderstorm raged. The Barracks was immediately taken over by anti-treaty forces under Comdt. Jerome Davin, 1st Battalion 3rd Treaty Tipperary Brigade, assisted by Capt. Gerry Whelan. The Anti-Treaty Forces, said to included Seamus Robinson, O/C, 3rd Tipperary Brigade, left the Military Barracks before the arrival of the Pro-Treaty Forces on the 14 July, 1922, commanded by Comdt. Carew. The Military Barracks, like other ones in South Tipperary, was burned down before the arrival of the Pro-Treaty Forces. Comdt. Carew, who was the initial Pro-Treaty O/C, issued the following proclamation:--
(a) Civilians to be off the streets between 12pm and 6am.
(b) Illegally held money or Government property must be returned.
(c) Trespassing prohibited.
(d) Permit for all vehicles to be issued by the Military Authorities.
The late Senator Bill Quirke and the late Capt. Mick Sheehan of the Anti-Treaty Forces sent in a message to Capt. (later Comdt.) Farrell, Pro-Treaty Forces, who commanded the town when Comdt. Carew left, asking him to surrender as they had the town surrounded. He declined and reinforcements arrived from Clonmel. The attack never materialised. There was a great need for an efficient police force in early 1922 when the R.I.C. left. The first Gardai A. O'Boyle, P. Twomey, M. O'Hara, P. Cassidy, E. Lynch.
ECHOES OF THE PAST
The Military Barracks was occupied by Hussars, Dragoons and Artillery for short periods in the early 19th century, by Infantry towards the middle of the 19th century , again by Hussars towards the end of the 19th century with Artillery from the beginning of the 20th century until its evacuation.
It is interesting to note that the initial Military Barracks in Fethard was adapted from a town house acquired from the Everard Family. The Martyred Augustinian priest, Father William Terry, was lodged in Clonmel gaol after being arrested at Mrs. Everard's (nee Roche) house on Holy Saturday, 4 April, 1654, by Cromwellian troops. He was tried , found guilty and hanged in Clonmel on Tuesday, 12 May, 1654. It is also of interest to note that an Everard played with the Tipperary Minor Hurling Team that won the All-Ireland in 1982. In the floor of Holy Trinity Medieval Church, Fethard, are set a number of limestone tomb slabs of old Fethard families Everard, Kearney, Hackett, Coome, Clere, Henes, Higgins. Also at Holy Trinity Church is a fine monument to Robert Jolly. In 1680, he was a Private Soldier in a Cavalry Regt. in Fethard where he fell in love with an orphan girl, Ellen Meagher. His regiment was soon ordered abroad and Ellen went to London where through a rich Jew she became wealthy. She bought Robert Jolly out of the British Army; they were married and lived happily at Knockelly Castle just outside Fethard.
Field Marshal Alan Brooke, the brilliant Chief of the British Imperial Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, was stationed in Fethard as a Lieutenant with an Artillery Unit at the beginning of the present century. The writer as a school boy played football in the Drill Field in the late 1920's. It is now used as Fethard GAA Park.
The fine entrance off the Main Street to the Barracks has been preserved and erected at the entrance to the Sports Center on the Rocklow Road. It is great to be able to say that there are men in Fethard today who remember the Barracks immediately. In visiting it during the British Army occupation they can recall such instances as seeing horses going around in a circle, pumping water from a deep well to storage tanks. The cleaning out of deep well at Fethard was the subject of a letter from Dublin Castle on 22 March, 1807. It must be remembered that public water supply and public lighting are recent amenities. Some Fethard people can also remember the Military attending and competing in the Kilnockin Races a few miles north of the town.
TEXT: Lt. -Col. W.J. Bergin (Retd.) RIP