The Club’s successful Field Trip to the midlands commenced with a visit to the Garda College in Templemore on Thursday, 21 June where the 24 participants, including 5 spouses, were formally received by the curator of the Garda Museum, Sergeant John Reynolds.  Following lunch, the Group received a conducted tour of the College.   Sergeant Martin Fogarty welcomed the Group to the training enter for D Company 3 Infantry Battalion, formally the HQ of 31 Field Arty Regiment.  Subsequently, Sergeant John Reynolds provided the Group with a comprehensive brief on the history of policing in Ireland, McCan Barracks and An Garda Síochána.

Thereafter, the Group re-assembled at Templemore Town Hall and viewed two refurbished 4.5inch howitzers on permanent display due to the commendable efforts of the McCan Branch of ONET, along with an impressive engraved granite stone from Glen Imaal.

On Friday, 22 June, Comdt Derek Coulter (Retd) provided an interesting insight into the history of the 3 Field Artillery Regiment (FCA), the 31 Field Artillery Regiment (FCA) and Crinkill Barracks. .

The Group was formally welcomed to Birr Castle, Gardens and Science Centre by the 7th Earl of Rosse for an adapted and focussed tour of the Demesne.

Lord and Lady Rosse kindly devoted a considerable amount of their time in bringing the Group on a private tour of the Castle, home of the Parsons family since 1620, including the Great Hall, Dining Room, Muniments  Room, Music Room, Drawing Room, and Library.

In 1690, the castle was besieged by Patrick Sarsfield, but of no avail.   Having observed the impact of cannon on the walls of the Castle, the Group offered to conduct a crater analysis to determine where Sarsfield had his gun lines.

A sample of the vast range of artefacts held in the Castle was displayed to the Group,  The Group was briefed by Archivist Lisa Shortall in the Castle’s Muniments Room, location of the estate’s extensive archives.

Leaving the castle, Lord Rosse led the Group on a walk through the garden terraces, explaining some of the many variations of rare trees and herbaceous plants.   Lord Rosse provided a extensive brief on the Great Telescope built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1845, which was the world’s largest telescope up to 1917.

The Club remains grateful of opportunity of visiting Birr Castle and availing of the hospitality of Lord and Lady Rosse.   In the Whirpool Spiral, a plantation of lime trees in the shape of the Galaxy, planted on the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the M51, a presentation of the Club’s Plaque and Tie was made to Lord Rosse.

Birr Castle is a valuable national asset, testimony to lives of the Parsons Family over the past 400 years in astronomy, photography, engineering, botany and service to the State and its institutions.

Photographs courtesy of Tom Mulrooney, Cormac Lalor and Paul Pakenham