The rear of the newly refurbished Barrack House.

New lease of life for Barrack House in Kilmainhamwood

“It is unbelievable that something that was an eyesore in the village for so long now enhances the village so much,” local councillor Eugene Cassidy said at the official handing over of the keys to the Barrack House in Kilmainhamwood last Friday evening.

Known locally as McMahons, the former pub and shop lay vacant for 30 years and had fallen into disrepair but a project that began over a decade ago to return it to community use has now come to fruition and the building is once again a focal point in the north Meath village.

Minister for Justice and local TD Helen McEntee joined Cllr Cassidy and the Kilmainhamwood Area Development Association (KADA) committee for the handover of the keys from builder Dominic Owens following completion of the works.

With meeting rooms downstairs, the building will be available for use by the local community and there are also plans for a community cafe. Upstairs, there are two rooms providing office space to be used as a digital hub offering remote working facilities.

Before...and after the transformation.

Minister McEntee said it was going to be “absolutely transformational for the village” to have this community resource with a community cafe, community hub and access for people to work. She said that a building that had always been part of the community had been “brought back to life” and she was looking forward to seeing it in full swing again.

Cllr Cassidy said it was hard to believe what the building was like before and congratulated the builder Dominic Owens on his work. “To come here and see the space that is here and to see how well the rooms turned out, it is hard to believe what it was like before.”

Both Minister McEntee and Cllr Cassidy spoke of how future plans would see the building linked up with the Boyne Valley to Lakelands Greenway when the footpath to Whitewood Lake and the boardwalk across the lake are constructed. Cllr Cassidy outlined that a lot of the studies required had been completed and he hoped it would go to planning in September.

KADA chairperson Robert McKinley on behalf of KADA thanked everyone who was involved in the project which he said had been evolving over a large number of years and in particular thanked their treasurer John Keogan for his research on grants and oversight of the project.

A grant of €250,000 in last year's Town and Village Renewal Funding Scheme financed the refurbishment but there also earlier grant allocations that saw other works completed at the site.

The building has a rich heritage and was originally built as part of a plan by the British government to provide accommodation for cavalry horses with grants provided to farmers to provide such accommodation.

The Kellett family received a grant and built McMahon’s building. In early 1798, Orange Lodge No. 577 used the building as its headquarters. Lieut. William Smith married into the Kellett family and subsequently public hangings were conducted on the fair green.

The Smith family occupied the house for about eighty years before it was bought by Michael McMahon. It traded as a shop and public house and was occupied by McMahon’s until 1995.

In 2013, KADA took a 100 year lease on the building with a view to saving it from it from complete dereliction as a section of the roof had collapsed.

In 2014, KADA received funding from Meath Leader to save the roof and restore the site to a Village green area. In 2017 funding was received from Town and Village scheme to restore the perimeter walls and provide a footpath around the site.

In 2020 additional funding was provided from the Town and Village scheme to provide a new car park on the site.