‘Behind the Walls: The Curragh Camp’ is one of five one-hour documentaries being broadcast on local radio stations across the country that explore the history of Defence Forces barracks situated within the region. It follows on from the recent documentary for LMFM Radio in Louth/Meath on Aiken Barracks and will be followed by future documentaries on Collins Barracks Cork and the recently closed Columb Barracks (Mullingar) and Connolly Barracks (Longford).
This radio documentary series seeks to travel behind the walls of Defence Forces barracks and camps across Ireland in doing so, offer listeners a chance to aurally explore what lies behind them, with the stories of the history they encompass told by those who know them best. Through interviews with defence force members, local historians and key members of the local community, we explore the history of these places through the stories associated with key buildings, artefacts and places throughout their campuses.
The Curragh is synonymous with the military dating back to prehistoric times when it was famed as the practice ground for the warriors of Na Fianna, along with having links to Henry II in the late 1100s and the Jacobite Army in the late 1600s, but its status as a permanent military post dates back over 160 years to 1855 when established by the British Army. Its earliest uses by the British included the setting up of a training camp to train soldiers for the Crimean War at that time, followed by the Boer War from 1899 onwards and not long afterwards, World War 1.
Before its hand-over from the British Army to the Irish Free State on 6th May 1922, the camp had become a thriving community with approximately 6,000 British Army troops and 4,000 civilians living and working in the camp. Following its handover, it evolved into a far more joyless place of internment and detention during the ensuing Civil War, and again during The Emergency in World War 2, when it also housed both allied and German internees in an unusual arrangement for the time. Gaining the name of ‘Tin Town’ during this period, it is estimated that approximately 2,000 men passed away in the camp during this period. Over the years, the camp boasted many facilities including a swimming pool, a gymnasium, many shops and a cinema and was considered to be a great place to grow up.
‘Behind the Walls: The Curragh Camp’ takes the format of a guided walking tour around the camp, intercut with recordings looking at important historical artefacts from the museum, and an interview with the current Chief of Operations and Training in the Curragh Camp. The guided tour is expertly led by Reggie Darling, member of the Curragh Local History Group, who worked as a barber all his life on the Curragh, having been born and bred there.
The museum segments are led by retired army officer Ray Stewart, again an expert on the Curragh having grown up on the camp, along with spending most of his army career stationed there. With Ray’s assistance, we explore and visually describe the many wonders the museum has to offer, including the Brown Bess Musket and the Sliabh na mBan Rolls Royce Armoured Car, part of the convoy that accompanied Michael Collins during his ambush and death in 1922, amongst many other historical treasures.
The Curragh is now well-known as the main Training Centre of the Irish Defence Forces with the Command and Staff School, the Cadet School, the Infantry School, the Combat Support College, the Combat Services Support College, the Equitation School, a logistics base, a supply and services unit, and the United Nations School. With the help of Lt Col Shane Bradley (Chief of Operations and Training Oversight in the Defence Forces Training Centre in the Curragh Camp), we explore the current training activities at the camp.
These interviews and tours, along with music and sound effects, allow the listener to experience the rich and varied history of the Curragh Camp, including the many historical objects and places of interest behind its walls, along with its historical and social impact on the locality and the wider Kildare community.
Broadcast on the 18th of March and the 22nd of April 2019 on KFM radio.
Funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence Fee.