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Westmeath County Council launches new mini documentary

Westmeath County Council launches new mini-documentary on burning of Moydrum Castle

Saturday, July 3 — Westmeath County Council has released a mini-documentary to mark the centenary of the burning of Moydrum Castle, one of the key events of the closing stages of the Irish War of Independence in Westmeath.

The 13-minute documentary is written by Westmeath County Council’s Decade of Centenaries Historian in Residence, Dr Paul Hughes, and filmed and edited by Mullingar-based filmmaker Mark Bennett, director of CrossCut.ie.

The film gives a brief overview of the history of the Handcock family’s story and the origins of the Moydrum estate, with particular attention to the 5th Baron Castlemaine, Albert Handcock, the final owner of Moydrum Castle before its destruction on July 3, 1921.

The castle was burned by sixty members of the Irish Republican Army in retribution for attacks carried out by Crown forces in Knockcroghery, Co. Roscommon and the Coosan and Mount Temple areas of Westmeath.

The cycle of violence which led to the destruction of Moydrum can be traced back to the IRA’s shooting of a senior British officer, Colonel-Commandant Thomas Stanton Lambert, near the gates of Harmony Hall, Benown, Glasson on June 20, 1921.

“Lord Castlemaine was a prominent unionist and a member of the British House of Lords, and these were among the reasons why the IRA selected the castle for destruction,” said Dr Hughes.

“Our documentary is intercut with stills from a photo album at the National Library of Ireland, which give us some idea of the majesty of Moydrum Castle, its interior and surrounding parkland at the turn of the twentieth century.

“While it is sad that such a fine building met its demise amid the storm of revolution, the story of the burning of Moydrum is also one which demonstrates how the IRA, even in carrying out its own reprisals, sought to set itself apart from the wanton violence and destruction engaged in by the Black and Tans.”

The documentary was shot on location near Moydrum Castle (which is on private land), in Athlone (the birthplace of Lord Castlemaine) and outside the gates of Harmony Hall in Benown, where the assassination of Colonel-Commandant Lambert took place.

Among the featured contributors are Cllr Frankie Keena, cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council (who is from Moydrum), and Mr Pat Canty, principal of St Ciaran’s National School, Baylin, the school nearest to Moydrum Castle, whose fifth and sixth class pupils are working on a project about the history of the castle.

Melanie McQuade, Heritage Officer with Westmeath County Council, said: “The Moydrum Castle documentary is the first of two prepared by Paul and Mark, with the second – looking at the March 1921 capture of Longford IRA leader Seán Mac Eoin at Mullingar railway station – due for release next month.”

‘The burning of Moydrum Castle, 1921’ goes lives on social media on Saturday, July 3, on the ‘Westmeath Heritage’ and ‘Westmeath Decade of Centenaries' social media accounts and other associated Westmeath County Council social media pages.

The documentaries, as well as the Historian in Residence programme at Westmeath County Council, are funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.


Content Last Updated/Reviewed: 05/07/2021