By Áilín Quinlan
THE home of Bandon’s historic ‘Maid of Erin’ is getting a much-needed facelift – at a cost of more than €5,000.
A major renovation project is under way at the town’s Garden of Remembrance – formerly known as Allen Square – in which the 7’6” marble statue, now more than 100 years old, is on display.
The space, originally known as the Fair Green, was re-named Allen Square in 1940 in memory of William Philip Allen, one of the Manchester Martyrs, who was raised in Bandon.
He lived at the Bridewell in North Main Street, later the site of the Bandon Vocational School and now a block of apartments.
In 1867, a Party of Fenians attacked a prison van in Manchester to rescue two Fenian leaders who had been arrested.
During the attack, Sergeant Brett, a police officer, was fatally injured.
Three of those taken prisoner in the attack, William Philip Allen aged just 19, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien, were later executed.
The clean-up of the area, nowadays known as the Garden of Remembrance, which began last September and is due to finish within weeks, is an initiative by the Tidy Towns group.
First planted some 30 years ago, the amenity has become overgrown and unsightly, says local Tidy Towns chairperson Catherine Fitzmaurice.
‘The square is in a very visible area at the Dunmanway Road. Some local residents living next to the square were also very keen to have it re-planted,’ she explained.
As extensive clean-up work was carried out on the historic Maid of Erin statue last year, she said it was now time to enhance the Garden of Remembrance itself.
It is hoped it will be ready in good time for planned commemorations surrounding 1916.
The Maid of Erin, a figure on a fluted column, standing on a pedestal of Scottish granite, has an interesting history.
It was originally erected close to Bandon’s Methodist Church in 1901 to honour the centenary of the 1798 rebellion.
However, that structure was pulled down by British troops and the Black and Tans in April 1921.
Four years later a new marble figure was erected on the original base.
The Maid of Erin as the statue is now known, was moved to the Garden of Remembrance, in May 1987, but became weather beaten and discoloured over the years.
Recently the Crois Na Leanbh Commemoration Committee carried out a major clean over of the monument.
Now the garden around the figure is getting a much needed face-lift, thanks to a €5,000 grant from Cork County Council.
‘We applied to Cork County Council for a community grant to re-landscape, and we also did some street collections,’ said Ms Fitzmaurice.
The project began last autumn with the removal by Tidy Towns members of the overgrown shrubbery.
Award-wining local landscaper Anne Hamilton of Fox Gardens laid out and landscaped the site, and contractors were hired to put in gravelled pathways, paving and benches.
The area will be planted with low maintenance plants and grasses over the next few weeks.
‘It was basically a complete face-lift for the park, which was very overgrown,’ said Catherine, adding that the work is also being carried out in advance of the centenary commemorations of 1916 next year.
The Tidy Towns group is now starting to plant and install the benches at the site.