Wednesday 22 May 2019

Bring West End Gardens concept back to life

The Diary - Hubert Murphy

Mayor Frank Godfrey has declared his support for any future project that will see the once majestic West End Gardens reopen to the public.

Situated in an area between Scholes Lane and West Street, with openings at Bell's Court and the archway up to the Sinn Fein office on West Street, the gardens were once a magnificent feature in the town.

Now the mayor has them on his agenda.

'Malachy McCloskey did wonderful work in getting the gardens opened back in 1984 and I'd love to see them back in operation. It would be a great place for people to meet up and so central,' he stated. 'I will help if I can.'

The new public gardens were opened in July 1984 by then Mayor Michael Bell and blessed by Bishop James Lennon amid much pomp and ceremony , which included a recital by the Drogheda Brass Band.

On the day, Bell's Court was named afer the former TD. For once a politician was caught for something to say. "It is not often that I am stuck for words, but I am this morning," said the Mayor at the honour.

He went on to describe the naming of the park after him as the highlight of his public career.

With its 1,500 plants, an aviary and water gardens the West End Gardens were described as an oasis of peace, charm and character in the heart of town centre Drogheda.

Town planning expert, Mr. Patrick Shaffrey, and his wife, Maura, were the architects who designed the project, while the builder was Mr. John Bohan of Drogheda.

"This is a great and historic day for Drogheda," said Mr. Shaffrey. "Civilisations are advanced by efforts like this. These grdens have created something of beauty and charm out of an area that had been languishing for a hundred years."

Mr. McCloskey thanked the many sponsors who contributed to the garden, including the Drogheda Independent who donated an old stone achway, the EBS who gave the huge iron gates, the Tropical Fish Society who stocked the water garden, the Cagebird Society who looked after the aviary, Wavin Pipes who sponsored the water garden, Irish Cement who gave the paving slabs in the forecourt and Mr. Vincent Hoey who commissioned a steel tree sculpture by Padraig Murphy.

A great feature of the gardens were the giant flowering climbing shrubs in the main public garden. They stood at 20ft high, made up of Honeysuckle (Lonicera) , Clematis Montana (white) and Clematis Montan Rubens (pink). There was also Wysteria Sinesis. They were planted in the 1930s in the then private garden of Miss McQuaile, who at that time owned most of the property in that area of West Street.

Every aspect of the design was historic. The walls of Loughcrew House were transported to Drogheda to form the pathway linking Scholes Lane to West End Arcade.

The original owner of Loughcrew was a Plunkett, brother of St Oliver.

The aviary at 15ft by 12ft was the longest public aviary in Ireland outside the Zoological Gardens. The roof was made of heavy ironwork and was originally the dome of the stairwell in Gibbstown Castle.

The whole idea for the public garden was sparked in 1966 when Malachy bought an old map of Ireland in a shop in Madrid. He then bought more old maps and town planning took his interest further.

In those early days, the Garden Restaurant was a wonderful spot - with staff including Paula Reilly, Madeline Byrne and Ann Marie Duff.

Drogheda Independent