Perhaps it comes from that occasional light tap I received on the back of my head from a loving Grandmother as a young boy; her occasional reminder that I had failed to convey an appropriate “Thank You” at a required point in time. Perhaps, maybe it is my own inquisitive nature in attempting to acquire true historical facts, or indeed maybe it’s both. Whichever, this week I found myself rummaging amongst the publicly accessible records, held currently behind the attractive red brick exterior of the Thurles Town Council office.
As many of our local readers will be well aware, an exciting new project, which has the backing of both Thurles residents and businesses; obtained through a process of full consultation, has now been initiated here in Thurles; the end positive result of which will be the emergence of a much needed Town Park amenity.
For the benefit of our many absent readers, latter formally natives of the town, but now for one reason or another are resident abroad; the construction of this soon to be realised Town Park is on property, formally farmland, owned by St Patricks College and positioned to the rear of The Source Complex, immediately east of the river Suir.
Chosen for the overseeing construction of this new park is SIAC Construction, a large multi-disciplined construction group with significant operations across Ireland and further afield, established and renowned for providing turnkey solutions to the Irish Building and Civil Engineering industry.
A Town Park For Thurles
From my research possibly the first public mention ever of a Town Park for Thurles, (according to notes examined), was back in 1910. The suggested site was, believe it or not, on hallowed turf known today as “Semple Stadium.” Back then different views and ideas were being tossed about as to whether the present Semple Stadium site should be used, not to build the second largest Stadium in Ireland, but for use as a Graveyard or as a Town Park. Lack of any real decision making, resulted in an umbrella group being formed by some residents of Thurles, latter seeking a ‘Sports Field,’ which same eventually and through personal private / donations was successfully purchased for a sum reported to be between £1,100 and £1,700.
However today’s now sanctioned Thurles Town Park project was initially the brainchild of visionary Mr Tomas (Tom) Barry, latter recently retired Chief Executive of Carlow Co Council, but who was Thurles Town Manager in 2002.
Following discussions with his Council Administrative Staff, Mr Barry decided to include a proposal to Thurles Councillors to increase the towns overall ‘Commercial Rate’ by 25%, in the upcoming 2003 Budget estimates, bringing it into line with other Irish towns of similar size. His forward looking plan was that some 15% of this 25% increase would be ‘ring fenced,’ to meet local contributions required for a possible number of future Capital Projects within the town. It was anticipated back then that this 15% would yield some €200,000.00 per annum.
The Visionary Future For Thurles
Mr Barry in his five point visionary plan unveiled a possible, yet attainable dream for Thurles, details of which are listed hereunder:-
(1) A Leisure Centre. (2) Regional Arts Centre. (3) Thurles Town Centre Enhancement. (4) Thurles Town Park / River Walk. (5) Upgrading / Extension to Thurles Council Offices (Latter then grossly overcrowded and unfit for day to day business transactions.)
Mr Barry, in his report on this proposed budget, had stated to his elected Councillors that a Leisure Centre, Regional Arts Centre and a Town Park should be visualised for the future, as being all major practical additions to any town’s recreational facilities, while a Town Enhancement Scheme would dramatically augment an overall appearance of the Thurles town centre.
Having shared his vision with Town Councillors, Mr Barry’s proposals were considered at the 2003 Budget Meeting which was held on Thursday, December 19th 2002. This aforementioned Budget, which including this 25% Commercial Rate increase, was formally adopted by a 5 votes to 2 majority, with two other councillors unavoidably absent from that meeting.
Who Shared In Tom Barry’s Thurles Town Vision?
Those who shared Mr Tom Barry’s future vision, thus voting ‘For‘ the adoption of this proposed 2003 Budget increase were; Elected Councillors Mr John Kenehan (Now retired former Thurles Mayor), the Late Mr Paddy Durack (RIP), Mr John Kennedy (Now an outgoing Councillor), Mrs Mae Quin (Now retired), and Mr Martin Ryan (Now retired).
Those who voted ‘Against‘ Mr Tom Barry’s future vision for the town and thus against the adoption of this same 2003 Budget were; then elected Town Councillor Mr Paddy Barry (Now retired) and Mr Jim Ryan (Recently re-elected Co Councillor).
Those who ‘Abstained‘, through being unavoidably absent from this Budget meeting were; Elected Councillors M/s Frances Boyle (Now retired) and the Late M/s Ann Mernagh (RIP).
This new Budget, then formally adopted in December 2002, saw the immediate ring fencing of some 15% of annual town revenues generated, which in turn were wisely invested by an ever shrewd Town Clerk, Mr Michael Ryan, latter now presently Thurles District’s Administrator. Mr Ryan’s superb money management, through selective investments, would later lead Councillor John Kenehan to be entered into the final Minute Book of Thurles Town Council, using wording to the effect. “I would like to thank in particular Town Clerk Mr Michael Ryan, who kept Thurles Town Council always so strongly and clearly financially focused along a straight and narrow path .”
Work has now begun to put this long awaited amenity in place with great care being taken to preserve and restore all existing important historical architecture and stonework identified with this site, including the restoration of the arched entranced Victorian farm shed, once associated possibly with the storing of horse drawn machinery.
To all persons past and present, who through their vision and business acumen, or in any way, shape or form, contributed to this now, soon to be realised, Thurles Town Park, the people of Thurles say “Thank You” for your successful planning, management and overall foresight, as we watch this dream now become a reality.