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Sunday 21 September 2014

Society saves Halpin's bell from the scrapyard

Published 09/08/2014 | 12:00

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John Finlay with the Capt Halpin estate bell

Wicklow Historical Society has saved a bell once belonging to Captain Halpin from scrap by purchasing it.

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Having been bought by the society, the bronze bell (which weighs around ten stone) is now resting at the home of its chairman, John Finlay.

Captain Robert Halpin was born in 1836 in the Bridge Tavern in Wicklow town and died in 1894 in Tinakilly House. He captained the SS Great Eastern which laid trans-oceanic telegraph cables in the late 19th century.

Once an opportunity to purchase the bell arrived, John said the society couldn't turn down such a chance.

'We just felt it is worth preserving and it would have been a shame to see it melted down. We want to preserve it for people while also giving the person who sold it to us some recognition for looking after the bell so well down the years.'

The Tinakilly Estate Bell was used at Captain Halpin's abode in Tinakilly House. The ringing of the bell at various stages during the day either marked the start of the workforce's day, their lunch break or the end of their working day.

The members of Wicklow Historical Society are carrying out further research work to try and ascertain just how old the estate bell is.

'We think it was cast in Glasgow. We know Captain Halpin moved into Tinakilly House around 1880 and he died there in 1894.

'He already had the bell before he died so it was made some time in the later part of the 19th century.

We also believe in the early stages of the last century that someone tried to steal it from Tinakilly House. They didn't succeed and the bell would be far too heavy to steal anyway. It weighs at least ten stone.'

The bell is currently in storage at John's home as the society mull over a suitable place of display.

'We were considering the Halpin Room in Wicklow Gaol but that has been moved and there isn't any place in the gaol downstairs for the bell. We have a few ideas in mind and have been in discussion with different people about finding a fitting location to display the bell to the public,' concluded John.

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