'Exquisite' Leinster Regiment artefacts go on display in Birr Library

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karen.ogrady@midlandtribune.ie

Items of silverware and crockery once used in the Officer’s Mess at the Crinkill headquarters depot of the Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment have gone on display at Birr Library.

The items, some more than 140 years old, were gifted to the Leinster Regiment Association by a family from Belfast and Southampton with strong ties to the regiment.

They were handed over by Evelyn Ellison, granddaughter of Lieutenant James Robertson Herbert Whitla who was in the regiment from 1915 until 1922 and served in the 3rd Battalion. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1917 and five years later, he transferred to the North Staffordshire Regiment. He retired in 1929.

The collection consists of two exquisite silver-plated serving dishes; one cloche; one damaged serving dish; one dinner plate and five saucers. The family subsequently donated cutlery amounting to five salad forks; six silver dinner forks and four side knives.

Some of the items pre-date the formation of the Leinsters in 1881 and bear the crest of the antecedent regiment, the Royal Canadian Regiment. The Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) came about on the amalgamation of the Royal Canadians and the Bombay Infantry.

The crockery and silverware were presented in Belfast by Evelyn Ellison to Ray Hayden, Ireland Secretary of the Leinster Regiment. Ray then handed them over to Joe Kinane, Birr Library, for inclusion in the growing regimental display.

Last week, Evelyn’s aunt, Rosemary Henson, accompanied by her son, Tom, and grandson, Alex, travelled to Birr from Southampton and Hornchurch, Essex, to view the display, bringing with them the cutlery and some photographs of the regiment dated 1922. They also visited the Memorial in Crinkill and the dedicated stained-glass window in St Brendan’s Roman Catholic Church.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Evelyn said: “We wanted these items to make their way back to Birr where they were used in the Officer’s Mess. We heard about the association and the display in the library and thought that would be a natural home for them.

“It was wonderful to see the way the library has dedicated space to regimental artefacts and we hope that what we donated to the association would add to what is an impressive collection.

“From what I know, he was always very proud of his Leinster Regiment connections. Being here in Birr with my aunt, her son and grandson, brings this part of our family heritage back to life and it’s wonderful to see the work that is being done to keep alive the memory of the regiment.”

Ireland Secretary of the Leinster Regiment Association, Ray Hayden, said the Ellison and Henson donations added considerably to the display in Birr Library.

Ray said: “We are indebted to Evelyn and Rosemary for their generosity and the trust they have placed in us. From our perspective, these items are priceless and now stand alongside medal collections, photos, hand-written notes, emblems and other memorabilia.

“The Library is a wonderful venue to exhibit what we have and to tell the story about the regiment and its exploits in South Africa, the First World War, the Middle East and India.

“These items really have to be seen to be fully appreciated. They give us a glimpse of what life was like in the Officer’s Mess in Crinkill which, at its peak, was more like a self-contained town within a town.

“The handover of exquisite crockery, silverware and cutlery is timely, coming as it does ahead of the Annual Lecture in Birr Library on August 10, which this year will be given by local noted historian, Brian Kennedy.”

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