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01 Jul 2022

Then & Now: A delightful Demesne Walk in Newcastle West

Then & Now: A delightful Demesne Walk in Newcastle West

The Demesne is a vibrant community facility that was formerly part of the Courtenay Estate. The picture above is from the big freeze of 2018

OVER THE Christmas I visited Castle Demesne in Newcastle West a few times and enjoyed its delights.

It is one of my favourite venues for walking and the weather was dry and mild. It is a wonderful facility for people to avail of as it provides shelter on inclement days.

People can do long or short circuits and the scenery changes with the different seasons. The Demesne is a vibrant community facility that keeps giving and giving.

Formerly part of the Courtenay Estate it was deeded to the town and is held in trust by Limerick Council.

As you move around you can read the maps and information signs sited throughout the Demesne. They provide a wealth of detail about the park including history, flora, fauna, environment and architectural features. You can pay a visit to the Wet Meadow and the Fox Cover and see the lovely fairy houses on the trees.

The central avenue through the Demesne is also an integral part of the local Sli na Sláinte health trail, with exercise machines along the way.

The Limerick Leader dated Saturday February 15, 1936, wrote the following: Under the auspices of the Newcastle West Town Commissioners a large and representative public meeting was held at the Carnegie Hall on Sunday in furtherance of the proposal for the acquisition of the Demesne grounds for the use of the townspeople.

It was stated that the property was about to be disposed of and that representations have been made to the Land Commission with a view to taking over the Demesne which is the last surviving part of the Devon Estate.

Mr M Culhane, Chairman of the Town Commissioners, presided at the meeting which was attended by over 300 people representing all sections of the community. Most of the members of the commissioners were present, in addition to representatives of the Town Traders Association and local trade and labour bodies and the proceedings were most enthusiastic.
In 1937 the Land Commission compulsory acquired the Demesne.

It was subsequently transferred to Limerick County Council and held in trust for the townspeople. For a few decades locals were allowed for a fee to graze cattle in the Demesne. Since the mid 20th Century, however, parts of the estate have been developed and used for a variety of sporting purposes.

The Limerick Leader dated August 8, 1970, reported the following.
Tennis the traditional social and athletic activity of the young is returning to popularity all over Ireland and particularly in Munster.

An example of this is the membership and enthusiasm of Newcastle West Tennis Club. After an excellent history in the 1930s, the local tennis club collapsed over the years due to lack of interest, but in the last fifteen months (1969) has been coming back towards the position it formerly enjoyed.

Under president Fr Houlihan now PP in Templeglantine; chairman Dick Nash; Secretary Paula Healy, treasurer Barry Nash; male captain John Sheppard, female captain Deirdre Collery, respectively, a new committee set out to first of all clear off old debts.

Their next project was the clearing of the tennis courts, whose bad condition obviated repairs and necessitated relaying. So, two new hard court at a cost of £800 were laid. Between a nonstop draw and different social activities, they raised the money.

Between adult and teenage players there is a very adequate membership of NCW Tennis club. It receives about 60 annual subscriptions many of which come from families with a few members.

And while the club is not actively looking for members, it will take anyone who is interested. The club is not devoid of talent and is at the moment enjoying some success at its game. One of its team is still in the Richard Cup and is composed of players, Jimmy Sheppard, John Barrett, Joe Golding, Deirdre Collery, Anne O'Neill, and Mary Mulcahy.

Another of its successful teams is in the Elvery Cup and will play the winners of the Templehill versus Collins match (a Cork team whatever the result) in the next round.

Playing for NCW in this game will be Vivian Collery, Bobbie Sheppard, Evelyn and Joan Fitzgibbon. The clubs next project will be the building of a pavilion. At present it is relying on a shelter since many years ago, after the original club site had been sold, its pavilion and equipment were given to the golf club.

[NOTE A year ago the club was reformed again and is now enjoying great success.]

The Newcastle West GAA club moved from Brouder's Field to the Demesne and opened the present field on May 8, 1960. I recently came across the Souvenir Programme which was published for the official opening match between Cork and Limerick in senior hurling.

It gives a list of the officials, committee members and trustees. The field cost £ 8,000 when it was completed in 1960.

In May 1976, the first sod was turned on the site of a new £20,000 squash court complex at NCW GAA grounds. This was the first undertaking of its kind by a GAA club within the Limerick County Board.

Fr Dick O'Dwyer, a Dominican missionary who was home on holidays from India performed the ceremony. Work on the foundations commenced straight away on a squash court four dressing rooms and two shower units.

Local building contractor Denis O'Grady who is a prominent member of the club, was shouldered with the task of drawing up the plans. Most of the work was done by voluntary labour all except some specialised parts of the construction. The idea of a squash court was first mentioned in 1973.

A special subcommittee under club chairman Steve Nash was set up to oversee the work. The club had about £3,000 in the kitty and were netting over £ 100 every month from a 300 investors club.

The Coursing, Camogie and soccer clubs are based in the Demesne, and it was also home to a pitch and putt course beside the Community Centre over 30 years ago.

The Bocce Court is located in the Chartres de Bretagne Park and provides an open-air training ground for the local special Olympics Bocce team. The children's playground, skateboard park, basketball court are located across the way. West Limerick athletic club train and hold events there, and the Park run is held on Saturday's.

Storm Darwin arrived in February 2014 and uprooted 17 major old trees mainly oak many over 100 years old there. The limestone base and shallower than normal roots, with only five or six feet of soil there were blamed for the devastation.

A lot of groups are involved in the maintenance work around the Demesne, who deserve the public's appreciation for a job well done.

Newcastle West is blessed to have the Demesne on its doorstep, and it was heaven sent for people during the Covid lockdown.

It is a safe place and offers a calming and relaxing course through the trees for all to enjoy.

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