Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lt. Col. Anthony Weldon

Anthony Weldon of Kilmoroney was commanding officer of the military forces stationed in Limerick during the Easter Rising.  Having joined the militia in 1885 he was subsequently appointed as an aide-de-camp to field marshal Viscount Lord Wolseley, Commander in Chief of the British forces from 1895 to 1900.  During the Boer War Anthony Weldon served on General Buller’s staff and took part in the relief of Ladysmith and military engagements at Colenso, Tugela Heights and several other centres of battle.  He was mentioned twice in despatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service medal.


On the death of his father in 1900 Anthony Weldon inherited the Weldon estate amounting to almost 2,800 acres in counties Kildare and Laois.  In keeping with a long-established family tradition he proved to be a considerate landlord and on his marriage in February 1902 his tenants presented him and his bride Winifred Varty Rogers with a silver salver.  Anthony Weldon lived in Kilmoroney House, a fine five bay house of grand proportions with a balustrade roof parapet remodelled in or about 1780 by Stewart Weldon.  The house was originally built around the mid 18th century and was identified on Taylor and Skinners Map of Kildare in 1783 as ‘Sportland’.  Sir Anthony was very involved in local affairs in Athy, as was his wife Winifred who was responsible for founding the Athy branch of the Women’s Health Association in 1907.  He was the first President of Athy Golf Club and opened the club’s first pavilion in August 1906.


On the reorganisation of the British army Weldon was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and Commander of the 4th Leinster battalion of the Leinster Regiment.  That battalion moved to Limerick in April 1916.  By all accounts Lt. Colonel Anthony Weldon dealt fairly and in an even-handed manner with the Volunteer rebels in Limerick.  He succeeded in having the local Volunteers hand over their arms following the unsuccessful rebellion in Dublin and ensured that all those arrested were treated with respect and dignity.  Michael Colivet, Commander of the Limerick Volunteers, wrote following Anthony Weldon’s death ‘Weldon was a very considerate man and Limerick was the only district where severe measures were not taken after Easter week’. 


In early 1917 the newly promoted Colonel Weldon went to France where he was wounded.  He subsequently suffered a stroke and was admitted to Dr. Wheeler’s Hospital for Officers in Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin.  He died in hospital on 29th June 1917 aged 54 years. Colonel Weldon was buried in the Weldon family vault in St. John’s cemetery, that historic burial ground which once formed part of the first monastery founded in Athy in the early 13th century.


As a member of Athy Board of Guardians Colonel Weldon while at home on leave in August 1916 said: ‘without the North Home Rule will be impossible.  The later rebellion ill judged and ill advised as it was, has opened the eyes of the people to the dangers of carrying arms which should never have been allowed ….. however I think out of ill may come some good as some measure of local government will be devised with the wish of the whole country which will bring peace to this unhappy country in the future.’


On Saturday 1st July the Leinster Regiment Association will hold a wreath laying ceremony in St. John’s cemetery to make the centenary of Colonel Weldon’s death.  The event is one of several organised by the Association to mark the centenary anniversary of those Leinster Regiment members who died during the 1914-18 war.  It commences at 12.30p.m and the public are invited to attend.  A Leinster Regiment exhibition will be held in the Heritage Centre on the same day.


The involvement of men from Athy in the 1914-18 war has been well documented in recent years.  The death of 122 young men from the town while fighting overseas at a time when the town’s population was less than 4,000, created social issues which have lingered to this day.  After the death of Colonel Weldon, the Kilmoroney estate went into decline, resulting in the auction in 1934 of many valuable items accumulated over the years by generations of the Weldons.  Mrs. Winifred Weldon moved to Dublin that same year and 13 years later the Land Commission took over the Weldon lands and Kilmoroney House fell into ruin. 


Today as you travel on the road to Carlow you will notice on the right-hand side in the distance the crumbling remains of Kilmoroney House.  It is a roofless derelict shell standing outlined against the Laois skyline.  Its story and that of Sir Anthony Weldon is part of our shared history. 

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