Thursday, June 21, 2012

White's Castle Purchase Fund

Before last week’s article on the White Castle had appeared I was contacted by several persons expressing concern and anxiety about the future of this historic building.  One man who phoned me from London spoke of his young days in Athy and although he never had the opportunity to step inside the Castle’s door nevertheless spoke of the importance of the building to his hometown.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a groundswell of support for suggestion that the Castle should be acquired by the Town Council.  Indeed one man wrote to me from Dublin enclosing a €50 draft payable to the White Castle Purchase Fund.  He asked if I could arrange for the local people and any others interested in securing the White Castle to be given an opportunity to contribute towards a fund to be utilised for the purchase of the Castle.  I must admit I was reluctant to do so but having canvassed the support of the local Lions Club and the local Chamber of Commerce and having heard of the decision of the local Town Councillors to support the move to acquire the Castle for the townspeople I decided to act as suggested.

The result is that an account called ‘White Castle Fund’ has been opened in the Allied Irish Bank Athy to receive donations from anyone who supports the idea of acquiring White’s Castle for the local community.  The President of Athy’s Chamber of Commerce and the incoming President of Athy’s Lions Club have joined me in opening the account with a view to affording everyone an opportunity of giving financial support, no matter how large or small, to a project which should be worthy of community support.

The Town Councillors at their monthly meeting last Tuesday night discussed several motions touching on securing the Castle on behalf of the people of Athy.  There was unanimous support for this and I gather that the Councillors may now be arranging to hold a public meeting to consult with the local people and so give the community an opportunity to air their views on the issue. 

The White Castle truly embodies the history of our town within its thick walls.  As I claimed last week, its history is our history and whether as a garrisoned town house, or town jail or police barracks, it has touched the lives of many who have gone before us.  Athy is a historic town.  Its people have a long chequered history and standing proud at the side of Crom a Boo Bridge is the building which more than any other personifies in its sturdiness the pride which we have in our own place.  For every Athy person the bridge and the Castle are the landmarks which bring instant recognition and a sense of pride which we can justifiably bring with us no matter where we live.  So it was with my London caller early last week.  Now long gone from his home town he nevertheless understood perhaps better than I did the importance of Whites Castle in terms of the life of our town.

Our elected representatives realise the importance of the Castle in terms of the town’s history and the building environment of the town, hence their support for the Castle to be acquired for the local community. 

The fact that two important organisations in the town, the Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club have seen fit to lend their support is a very welcome development.  The White Castle Fund set up in the Allied Irish Bank Athy affords all of us an opportunity to give practical support to the effort to acquire the Castle.  I would hope that the local authorities, either Kildare County Council or Athy Town Council, or both jointly would move to acquire the Castle and give the local community an opportunity to develop its use in the best interest of the community.  In last week’s article I suggested a variety of possible uses which if adopted would add significantly to the cultural life of the town.

We now have an opportunity which might never again arise to acquire and secure an important part of our local history.  It’s an opportunity which should be seized and not spurned and I would exhort anyone reading this article, whether in Athy or elsewhere, whether an Athy native or not, to join in the campaign to save Whites Castle for the people of Athy. 

Messages of support are always welcome but at this time more than ever before financial support is the most urgent need.

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