Some Notes from a recent query! Mario Corrigan
According to Frank Taaffe’s blog, Eye of the Past the starting point for all things to do with Athy…
“The night is drawing in as we walk through the People’s Park and what a pleasure it is to do so. Laid out over 200 years ago it is a wonderful facility and maybe there is truth in the claim that the Duke of Leinster’s family brought back a young tree from every foreign country they visited which they later planted in the Peoples Park.”
Trying to find out a little more about the People’s Park necessitated a little detective work
Kildare Observer – 19 February 1887 – a disagreement in Athy over livestock belonging to the Railway on the road. The Park was described in the Kildare Observer as a luxuriant “public park in the town of great beauty” – “a park second to none in the kingdom” … flanked by a row of trees, a boulevard, in fact, which is most luxuriant and of great natural beauty,” … “trees of thirty years’ growth” One speaker said the park was given to the town forty years ago but the figure thirty mentioned on a few occasions.
Outrage At Athy [see below] – Kildare Observer 20 Sept 1902 – mentions planting of two rare fir trees in Park for the coronation with a handsome railing – torn up by ruffians – mentions Leinster family providing Park forty years ago and cut stone residence for caretaker – park consisting of over 5 acres.
It this leads one to believe the park was laid out about 150 years ago – some time around 1860- maybe around time of accession of 5th Duke in 1851 or even Victoria in Ireland in 1849 or 1861
There was a campaign in 1860s to make Stephen’s Green a Peoples Park – it was a popular concept in other areas a s well.
19 February 1887 – death of Duke of Leinster Kildare Observer, a mention of “He gave them the Peoples’ Park.”
7 September 1864 Leinster Express – County Kildare Agricultural Society annual show held “on the beautifully laid out park of Athy”
6 September 1862 Leinster Express– advertisement; Grand Horticultural Exhibition will be held in the Town Park of Athy Wed 10 Sept; first County Kildare Agricultural Show will be held same day in adjoining parks
Was it laid out for this first Show?
Is there in 1862 – THERE IS A SUGGESTION – A FEELING – THAT IT IS NEWLY LAID OUT – not there on 1837 Map but has arrived by 1908 Map of Athy – seems to have been chosen with Railway in mind as much as a recreational space- Railways c. 1846
Possibly the Park was laid out around 1860-62
Kildare Observer 20 September 1902
Outrage at Athy
On Coronation Day it had been arranged that the Ladies Fitzgerald would plant two trees in commemoration of that auspicious event in the handsome park in Athy, which the Leinster family provided and have maintained at their own expense for the recreation of the people for the past forty years. Owing to the unavoidable absence of the ladies Fitzgerald the ceremony was performed in presence of a numerous assemblage by Lady Weldon and Mrs. H.W. Waller, the Rectory. Two fir trees of a very rare species were planted on the occasion, and a handsome rustic paling erected round each. On last Monday night some ruffian or ruffians, in a spirit of ruthless vandalism, tore up the trees and carried them away. To those acquainted with the spirit of unparalleled generosity which the Leinster family has ever evinced towards Athy, this wanton outrage is particularly painful. The park itself, consisting of over five acres in the heart of the town, was not alone provided, but has been maintained for the past forty years at the expense of the Leinster family, who pay a substantial salary to a caretaker, as well as having built an exceedingly pretty house in cut stone for his residence. To enumerate the benefits bestowed and the free gifts presented to Athy by the Leinster family for ages past would require the research of a historian, and their reward for all is to be denied the privilege of planting trees in their own ground. It is shrewdly conjectured that the perpetrators of this wanton outrage were not drawn from a class that had to spend the previous day toiling for a day’s wage, but from those to whom a plank bed would be a novelty – and the judicious application of the birch rod a beneficial and much-needed corrective.
Kildare Observer 21 May, 1904
On Sunday morning last as man named Holohan was passing along the road that partly surrounds the grounds of the people’s park, Athy, his attention was attracted by the cries of an infant. A closer examination led to the discovery of a female child of about two months old partly concealed in some laurel bushes. The infant was warmly clad and provided with a feeding bottle containing milk, and to all appearances was a well-developed healthy child. Holohan secured the services of a woman named Hyland, who had the infant christened Sarah Parker in the parish chapel, and from thence conveyed to the workhouse. At the meeting of the Guardians on Wednesday last Mrs. Hyland made an application for remuneration for her trouble, who rewarded her with a donation of 2s. 6d. The police up to the present have been unable to discover any clue in connection with the desertion
Freeman’s Journal 12 September, 1863
Kildare, Queen’s County
and Carlow Horticultural Society
The autumnal show of plants, flowers, fruit, vegetables &c., in connection with the above society, was held on Wednesday, in the beautifully laid-out well-kept Town Park, liberally presented by his Grace the Duke of Leinster for the benefit of the residents of Athy. On these pleasure grounds, which adjoin the town, a number of marquees were placed, in which a fine collection of stove plants, cut flowers, and tempting fruits were ranged with artistic skill, displaying their varied attractions to the best possible advantage. At about one o’clock the visitors began to arrive, and from that hour until about five o’clock in the evening the place was visited by the elite of the three counties. The courteous and hard-working hon. secretaries – Messrs. Conolly and Cross – were unceasing in their endeavours to add to the success of the exhibition, and the comfort and convenience of exhibitors and spectators. It is satisfactory to know that the entries were considerably more than at last show, and that there was not, at all events, any falling off in the quality of the specimens exhibited in any of the departments. The band of the Carlow Rifles was in attendance, and performed at intervals during the day.
[thanks to Kevin Kelly for typing the newspaper articles and Bridget Loughlin for asking the question]