The two main thing you have in spades in retirement is dwindling money resources and plenty of time. Dwindling money resources, what with bankers, government and markets all joining up to rob you of all your hard earned that you had put by for a rainy day and plenty of time in which to enable yourself to catch up with 21st century living but because of the aforesaid dwindling resources you have to decide on the most economic way of spending that plethora of time. As there is no room to earn, your time is therefore spent volunteering for various causes but also being canny and picking the cheapest form of volunteering. There is no point in volunteering to sweep floors in pubs, the distraction would be too great. Before you know it the volunteering would turn into social entertainment with all its costs.
No something quiet, away from everything is required and that is why I am at the start of a trial period. For three hours a day, three or four days a week I will sit in the Room of Remembrance in King House , here in Boyle and wait and write. I am waiting for visitors to the House enquiring about the Connaught Rangers who were a famous regiment in the British army. I am the General Secretary of the Connaught Rangers Association and so have every right to lie in wait.
King House is a Palladian mansion built in the mid 17th century by the King family, the plantation family bequeathed to Boyle by Queen Elizabeth I of England in reward for their services rendered. They took over the historic lands of the McDermot clan who had ranched the lands round where Boyle finds itself now for the previous 700 years. As with most things owned by the rich and famous the Kings realised as soon as they built this imposing edifice that they did not wish to live there and so moved up the road a few miles to Loch Ce and built themselves another imposing pile which unfortunately did not stand the test of time and they sold King House to the British army who in turn installed the newly formed Connaught Rangers who used it has one of their military barracks. That was in about 1790 and the Rangers in the form of their reserve battalion, the Roscommon Militia which eventually morphed into the 4th Reserve Battalion which trained soldiers for the two regular fighting battalions who served overseas wherever the going was rough. By the time of the First World War four battalions of Connaught Rangers had been raised and were provided with drafts when needed from the 3rd and 4th reserve battalions. The barracks at King House used to hold about 15 officers and about 250 soldiers in very reasonable accommodation considering the military barracks of the time.
So King House has some claim to fame as well as being a very fine example of 17th century architecture it was also a military barracks of the British army for about 130 years and brought the town of Boyle up from a few mud huts to the town we know today giving employment and business to civilian entrepreneurs attracted to the town. This all changed in 1921 when Ireland gained its Independence and in May 1922 the Connaught Rangers, along with five other regiments from Southern Ireland were disbanded. After a brief spell of excitement during the Civil War in 1923 when a shell fired by irregular forces landed on the roof of King House the Irish Army took over the barracks and used it until the end of the Emergency which is what Ireland quaintly calls the Second World War.
For 40 odd years it lay empty, slowly wandering into dereliction and finally ending up as a fuel store before it was posted for demolition in the early 1990s in order to form a car park. However a bunch of high-minded citizens got together, stopped the demolition process and persuaded Roscommon County Council of the glory that was in the building and how refurbishment with all its costs was far superior to a mundane car park. RosCoCo took up the challenge, found the wherewithal and reinstated it to its former glory. That was some 15 years ago and it is now the jewel in the crown of Boyle. A splendid example of what can be done with dilapidated history.
The Connaught Rangers Association with some help from RosCoCo have set up a small museum of Connaught Rangers memorabilia which is growing in size by the year as the centenary of the commencement of the War comes near. People are donating medals won by their ancestors, a chalice from a lady in Donegal that was used throughout the war by a Rangers chaplain and a relative of her’s. Only yesterday Doncaster Museum in Yorkshire donated a Ranger’s cap badge that was surplus to their requirements. A lovely reminder of the 350 men from that area who enlisted in the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment in 1914 only to be attached to the recently formed 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers who were building up to full strength in readiness for their inclusion in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in 1915 where they were decimated.
People come from all over the world to visit King House and walk round its galleries. In the last few months we have had visitors from Australia, America, Canada, India, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales and all over Ireland. Most come for one purpose, the Connaught Rangers. With the Irish diaspora over the last 100 years many relatives are journeying to their spiritual home to search out long forgotten relatives who served in the Connaught Rangers mainly during the Boer War and the First World War. I receive at least 20 e-mails a week from people enquiring and asking for information.
My self appointed task is to meet and greet these people, answer their queries and follow up their requests for more intimate information on these forgotten lives by contacting our archivist, Mr Oliver Fallon, which he keeps on a massive data-base concerning the regiment. The excitement this service gives people is palpable, the emotion for us and them is real. I think we do an excellent job and from the comments we get, so do they. The beauty of what I am doing is two-fold, besides helping these earnest people, I can sit, write and research or wander round the galleries which also contain the Boyle Civic Art Collection, as well as our museum, as I wait for the expectant tourist. It is unpaid but wonderful, time consuming and a cheap way of filling my retired life.