Kildare barracks gates brought back to life to commemorate army apprentice school

Niamh O'Donoghue

Reporter:

Niamh O'Donoghue

13 May 2022

Email:

niamh.odonoghue@leinsterleader.ie

The Devoy Gates Restoration Committee: Jim Brady, Michael Devereaux, Cllr Seamie Moore, Cllr Michael Coleman and John Sweeney pictured in front of the restored gates

Click on the gallery above to see all the pictures from Martin Rowe 

Almost 2,000 young people walked through the gates of the army Apprentice School during its 42 years at Devoy Barracks, Naas.

Now, after 24 years of sitting in storage, these iconic gates have been brought back to life and are installed at the grounds of Kildare County Council (where the barracks used to call home).

Over 500 people turned out for the official hand over of this piece of history at Aras Chill Dara, on Wednesday, May 4 with people traveling from as far away as Canada, Switzerland, Coventry, and London.

“It passed all our expectations,” said Jim Brady of the Devoy Gates Restoration Committee.

“It was fantastic. We have been working on the project for four years and it was delayed with Covid but one of the mottos of the Defence Forces is ‘planning and preparation prevents poor performance’ and that worked out to be the case. We were over the moon.”

The was organised by the Devoy Gates Restoration Committee, a group of former members of the Army Apprentice School and others who served within Devoy Barracks.

The army Apprentice School opened in October 1956 and vacated Devoy Barracks in September 1998 before it was shut down permanently six weeks later.

The building was knocked down. The civic offices were built and the gates were in storage at Kildare County Council. The committee employed Alan Donoghue to sandblast the gates and repair any weak spots in the structure.

Mr Brady explained that Mr Donohoe also had to extend the gates with the same pattern to fit the opening.
The gates’ crests, which were on display in the Curragh Museum, have been secured 0n permanent loan and been reattached to the bars, which are now painted the original traditional blue.

The gates were formally handed over to the Mayor of Kildare, Naoise Ó Cearúil by Cllr Michael Coleman, who is a past graduate of the army Apprentice School, having served for 43 years in the Defence Forces.

Mr Brady praised Kildare County Council Acting CEO, Sonya Kavanagh for her support and he also thanked the Defence Forces for their help on the project as well as the staff from the Curragh Museum.

A presentation was made to Eamon Moore, the designer of the crest and logo back in 1957/58.

The band of the Western Command under the baton of Captain Tom Kelly provided the entertainment.
Two retired GOCs, Noel Bergin and Colm Mangan, who both served at the apprentice school, were also in attendance.

“We also paid tribute to the teachers and the staff of the school. They were really the driving force behind people getting the high qualifications they got,” said Mr Brady.

“We could not have asked for a better day. It was 19 degrees so the 500 bottles of water donated by Kildare Farm Foods were very welcome.”

The handover of the gates was also marked by the publication of a commemarative booklet to honour the contribution of all who served in the unit throughout its 42 years in existance and to mark the contribution it made to the development of the modern army. It also commemorates the closure of the barracks.

The first commanding officer was Lt Col ‘Jock’ McDonald from the Army Ordnance Corps and the first female to graduate was Donegal’s Penny O’Donnell.

Grainne Cummins from Carbury was the first Kildare female apprentice to graduate as an electrical apprentice.
Three former apprentices died in action, Pte Stephen Griffin, Lt Aegnus Murphy and Winchman Ciaran Smith while Patrick Mulcahy, a former FA regiment member, passed away after being injured in the Congo.