Terry Wogan (4th left) Chairperson, Francis Ledwidge Museum Committee with Committee members Colm Yore, Rosemary Yore, Paul Murphy and Paul Mongey.

New lease of life for Ledwidge Museum after serious worries the home of celebrated Slane poet would be lost

In May 2021 The Francis Ledwidge Museum in Slane faced an uncertain future. There were serious worries that the home of celebrated poet Francis Ledwidge would be lost to future generations due to structural issues with the building, requiring urgent repairs to gable walls and the roof. Severe dampness in the kitchen and panel rooms had deteriorated to a stage where plasterwork was falling away and paint was peeling from the walls. An old heating system was no longer fit for purpose.

The museum led by a voluntary committee simply did not possess the resources to fund the works required from its own resources, estimated at €40,000. Thus last year the museum which has charitable status launched a public appeal seeking donations in an effort to raise funds to carry out urgent repair works.

The appeal struck a chord with the public as donations came in from loyal supporters of the museum, from the local community and all areas of the north east and indeed many from abroad who supported the works of the museum and clearly identified with the role it plays in promoting the built and cultural heritage of County Meath.

Museum committee chairperson Terry Wogan says “We are so appreciative of the support we received from the public. We were so heartened by the level of donations we received from so many people, their kind words and encouragement really strengthened our resolve to push the building campaign forward”.

A key element in progressing the works was a full building survey and conservation report carried out by Liam Mulligan Architects & Historic Building Consultants in Kells. The report clearly set out the level of the works required over the next few years and allowed the museum committee to come up with a targeted phased programme of building works to be carried out.

The committee received a major boost with a grant award from Slane Distillery Brown Forman fund administered by Slane Community Forum. This allowed for a new modern heating system to be installed in March 2022.

This was followed by a successful grant application under the Built Heritage Investment Scheme administered by Meath County Council. Thus the summer months saw a range of works carried out under this scheme, including the full re-pointing of west facing gable end of museum, the repair of broken slates on museum roof and the ridge capping tiles have been treated with appropriate lime based mortar and re-bedded securely. Further works saw the installation of stone filled drain around the perimeter walls of both the museum and adjoining cottage property, with a new wheelchair accessible limestone pathway from entrance gate to rear of the museum. All cast-iron gutters on both museum and adjoining cottage have been repaired and refurbished.

For many visitors to the museum, the adjoining garden is a tranquil retreat for reflection and relaxation. The garden too has been a hive of activity in recent months, led by the enthusiasm, energy and vision of Rosemary Maye of Mullaghdillon House. Rosemary has created a new plan for the garden and grounds and supported by committee members has carried out huge landscaping, planting and cleaning works in recent months. The chairperson affirms “we are bowled over by the huge amount of work that Rosie has done, she has given freely of her time and advice, not to mention huge donations of plants and bulbs that will transform the shape and appearance of the garden. We are so appreciative of her coming on board as a real champion and ambassador for the museum and persuading many garden centres to donate plants and flowers to the garden works scheme, we thank them all so much for their generous support”.

Fast forward to November 2022 and the mood music is much more positive around the future of the museum. The first phase of building and conservation works have been completed, and the hard work and dedication of the museum committee has been rewarded as the physical appearance of the museum and gardens have been transformed.

Committee chairperson Terry Wogan said: “We wish to thank all who have supported the museum since we launched our campaign last year, to all who made donations and rallied around in support. In particular to thank Meath County Council Conservation Section through the Built Heritage Scheme, and Slane Distillery though Slane Community Forum for their grant funding awards. A special acknowledgement to Rosemary and Padraig Maye for their invaluable advice and support. Also we wish to pay tribute to local contractors, Kellystown Electrical and Allan Coyle Plant Hire who oversaw the main building works and to their skilled craftsmen who carried out the works with such dedication and skill”.

It is fitting that these works were carried out this year as 2022 marked the 40th anniversary of the opening of the museum. A highlight of the year saw the publication of Poems by Francis Ledwidge in association with Gallery Press. This beautifully produced publication brought together for the first time all the published poems of Francis Ledwidge in one collection. Available in both hardback and paperback editions and on sale from the museum, the volume would make a wonderful addition to one’s personal library or indeed as an ideal Xmas gift for family and friends.