THERE was a large crowd for Saturday’s open day at Hastings Farmhouse, one of the most historic buildings in Shannon.
Hastings Farmhouse was one of the locations where the IRA held Brigadier General Lucas during the War of Independence and descendants of the general and his captors attended Saturday’s event. LEADER funding administered through Clare Local Development Company and further fundraising has facilitated Dúchas na Sionna’s conservation of the historical landmark.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Olive Carey of Dúchas na Sionna said everything had gone very well at the open day. “We had a terrific day, a great turnout and lovely sunshine. We had some volunteers dressed in uniforms from the period from a re-enactment group. They came and added a lovely flavour to the day. We had Ruth Wheeler, the grand-daughter of General Lucas and Aideen Carroll, the grand-daughter of Sean Moylan.”
There were a number of presentations and some of General Lucas’ letters from captivity were read to those assembled.
“We opened at 2pm. We had the opening address by Greg Duff and the opening of the project was by Mayor Mike Fleming. We had an ecumenical blessing by Rosemary Power, the Methodist minister in Shannon and Fr Arnold Rosney. We had various presentations on both the history of the Hastings family and the architecture of the farmhouse itself.
“There was a presentation from Aideen Carroll, remembering how she first came in contact with the General Lucas story as a child and how she learned more about it in later life when she was doing research for the book about her grandfather.
“Then, the wonderful co-incidence of being contacted by Ruth Wheeler (Lucas’ grand-daughter) just after she had written her book about her grandfather. Ruth and her husband, Phil, came for the day. She read from the letters and it was a very moving experience. There were people in the audience whose family had connections to the General Lucas story and they really appreciated this coming full circle of the story and Ruth coming back and reading from the letters.”
Olive also said there was music and entertainment throughout the day. “We went on to have great music from Sarah Ellen Murphy and Mary Kate Hanley. Also, Maeve De Burca played as people were arising, while Blaise Phelan and Pat Costello played a session in the parlour of the house and were joined by Phil Wheeler, Ruth’s husband, who is also a musician. It was great fun.”
Aideen Carroll said she enjoyed the experience. “I don’t know really what I expected but it was quite emotional. Ruth Wheeler spoke beautifully about her grandfather and read some extracts from the letters. The audience that was there were absolutely captivated. They were smiling and enjoying it but were totally locked into it.”
She also enjoyed the address given by Donal Keane, a son of one of the volunteers involved in holding General Lucas. “He got up on the stand and he was speaking about his father’s memories of General Lucas. He was talking about when his father was dying and the high points of his life and particularly the General Lucas episode.
“He had phoned the British Army to get in touch with General Lucas, I think it was in the 1940s and he was told there was no such general. Obviously he was no longer in the army but I think it might also have been for security reasons because there was IRA activity in the ’40s and ’50s. He didn’t get any further than that but he spoke so movingly about the reconciliation of recent years and the Queen. He gave Ruth a big hug and her husband a big hug and there were tears in their eyes,” she concluded.