Remembering John McGahern: ‘The Barracks’ is set to reopen in Cootehall

 

 

 

 

A childhood home of writer John McGahern in Cootehall is set to reopen early next year following a mammoth fundraising and renovation effort led by the Cootehall Development Group. The former Garda Station, which was made famous by McGahern’s first novel, the 1963 book ‘The Barracks’, is over 110-years-old and had fallen into a state of disrepair following its closure in 2012.

  Joint Chairperson of the Cootehall Development Committee, Maurice Gannon, said the refurbished house would reopen in the New Year.

  “It will reopen in February with the official opening taking place later in the year. The Barracks will feature a library or reading room in honour of John McGahern and four different seminar or meeting rooms as well as other facilities including a kitchen. We already have a plan in place to market the building to as many groups as possible, both near and far, and it can also be utilised by groups and individuals from the community of Cootehall and surrounding areas too,” he said.

  The idea to renovate the building came in 2013 following the opening of a playground in the garden of the former barracks. A plaque in honour of John McGahern was also unveiled at the site in December of that year. A tireless fundraising effort has so far yielded €25,000 while Roscommon LEADER Partnership provided funding of €156,000 which was added to a loan of €27,000 from Clann Credo, to cover the cost of the €208,000 renovation project.

  Maurice said the local community in Cootehall has certainly played its part in supporting the project.

  “We have had great support from the people of Cootehall, many of whom have moved into the area within the last few years. They’ve really bought into the community and offered great support. We have also received support from the parish of Ardcarne and the people of Boyle and Sligo, Leitrim and the rest of County Roscommon.

  “The work is being carried out by RB Contracting from Co. Cavan and they are using local contractors and suppliers. This is a 110-year-old building and what we’re doing will future-proof it for the next 110 years!

  “It’s a great boost for the locality and for tourism in the area too. Tourists using the lake from May to October will see what’s going on here and the word will spread”.

  The acquisition of the former Garda Station was far from straightforward but Maurice said that following long negotiations involving Neil Ryan from the Office of Public Works, then Minister for State Brian Hayes handed over the keys in 2013.

  “The building could have been placed on the open market like similar buildings of its kind. This is prime real estate which runs right down to the River Boyle,” Maurice said.

  Fortunately for the people of Cootehall and surrounding areas, the building is now in the hands of the dedicated committee and will be marketed as a venue for the entire community.

  “We have plans to market it to historical groups and societies who no doubt will make use of the seminar rooms, and also to all other groups in the community also.

  “The building and the surrounding area should really be known as The Barracks Quarter due to the amount of development that has taken place here over the last few years!” he added.

  The group will continue their work in December with a concert in aid of the Cootehall Barracks Renovation Fund and Maurice said fundraising efforts would carry on into the future.

  “We will be looking to get the loan of €27,000 from Clann Credo paid off as soon as possible so we will be holding plenty of fundraisers in 2019 and the coming years”.

  The joint chairperson praised the “tireless” work of the current committee members before encouraging members of the local community to become involved in the committee.

  “Like all committees, we need volunteers from within the community and particularly younger members in order to ensure the work to develop Cootehall continues,” he concluded.

  Those wishing to find out more about the Cootehall Barracks renovation project can log on to www.cootehallbarracks.ie or email info@cootehallbarracks.com.