Appeal for funds to save family home of poet Francis Ledwidge

Museum committee warns historic building in Slane may be lost to future generations

Remembered by Seamus Heaney as 'our dead enigma' in his poem 'In memoriam Francis Ledwidge'. The 31st of July marks the centenary of death of WWI poet Francis Ledwidge. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

The operators of the Francis Ledwidge Museum in Slane, Co Meath have appealed for donations amid concerns the cottage is at risk of being lost to future generations.

Ledwidge’s childhood home at Janeville on the Drogheda Road is also a museum to the poet, who was killed in the first World War.

The museum has been deprived of funds because of the pandemic. The committee that runs it on a voluntary basis has appealed for the public to contribute €40,000 to save it from ruin.

The 135-year-old cottage is being affected by damp causing plasterwork to fall off the wall. It needs major treatment in the form of replacement with lime mortar in order to allow the building to “breathe”.

The bangor slates, ridge tiles and cast iron guttering on the roof to prevent rain getting in needs urgent replacing. The damaged windows and the need for a new heating system are also described as urgent.

The Francis Ledwidge Museum Committee chairman Terry Wogan said the museum re-opened on Monday, but it depended on revenues from historical sociteies and active retirement groups.

“Those bookings were all cancelled last year and can most likely be rules out for this coming season either. In common with all tourist venues, this has a devastating effect on museum income stream,” he said.

The committee applied on two different occasions to the Built Heritage Investment Scheme for support, but were unsuccessful.

Mr Wogan said an annual grant from Meath County Council covers the day-to-day running of the cottage, but the committee is short of funds to do the necessary repair work.

Ledwidge was born in the two room cottage in 1887, the eighth of nine children. He was a journalist and trade union organiser when he signed up to fight in the first World War with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele, July 31st, 1917.

The house was built in 1886 and went up for sale in The Irish Times in the 1970s. It was purchased by the Francis Ledwidge Museum Committee in 1979 and opened as a museum in 1982 following work by local community leaders.

In 2017, the centenary of the poet’s death was marked with a visit by the wider “Ledwidge family” to his grave in Belgium for official ceremonies.

At home, then minister for European affairs Helen McEntee, a local Fine Gael TD, was the guest of honour at a State commemoration in the garden of the museum.

The museum which has charitable status is now launching a public appeal for funds to save it. Donations can be made by cheque, postal order or to the museum’s bank account. Details at francisledwidge.com