How was the park financed?
Captain William Gibbons of Church Street died on 14 December 1894 age 67. In his will he left a bequest of £1,750 to the townspeople for the creation of a park, improvements at the lookout and for a park at Ringnasilloge(the latter project was never carried out). Edmund Keohan later recalled the handing over of the bequest:
Mr.Edmond Keohan, being Chairman of the then town Commissioners, waited by appointment at the Town Hall, where there called upon him the late Mr.Evans, manager of the national Bank and the solicitor, Mr.J.F.Williams. Mr.Evans then handed the cheque to Mr.Keohan, who, for the people of the town, returned thanks and said he hoped the public body would carry out the beneficent intentions of the donor.
On 19 January 1895 the Town Clerk, Thomas McCarthy, received a letter from the Rev.Denis Whelan( one of the Trustees of Gibbon's will) of St.John's College Waterford: I have every confidence that all concerned will do everything in their power to have the money expended in a proper and judicious manner and thus carry out the wishes of the good man whose name should ever be held in grateful recollection.
Two Commissioners, Edmond Keohan and Maurice Flynn met with Mr.Shanahan, the owner of the land at the Lookout. Shanahan wanted £200 for his interest in two plots which comprised of 3 tenant's gardens of 22 perches each and one garden in his own possession, alternatively he offered to rent the land at £6 per annum for a period of 60 years. In March the Commissioners agreed to the latter suggestion.
A small archway was erected as an entrance to the park. It had an inscribed plaque with decorative limestone surrounds. At the commissioners meeting of June 1895 the following inscription was ordered to be placed over the arch: These grounds were acquired and ornamented and the bathing place adjoining improved by the Town commissioners with portions of a bequest of £1,760 left them for specific improvement on the 13th December 1894 by William Gibbons, Dungarvan.
Trustees: Rev.Denis Whelan, St.John's College ; Edmond Keohan, Chairman Town Commissioners ; William Evans, National Bank, Dungarvan. ; Contractor: George Stokes, Dungarvan ; Engineer: Michael Beary B.S., Dungarvan ; Thomas McCarthy, Town Clerk.
The plaque and surround were commissioned from E.O'Shea of Callan,Co.Kilkenny. In June J.F.Williams, solicitor served notice on the Town Commissioners to attend at the High Court on 2 July 'at the suit of the executors and executrix of the will of the late captain Gibbons, verses the beneficiaries of the will- Mrs Mary Gibbons,Cork; Helena Gibbons, Dungarvan; James Gibbons, Dungarvan, and the Town Commissioners.
A dispute arose about the names and information which the Commissioners had placed on the plaque. In July the Rev.Whelan and Mrs Gibbons asked the Commissioners to omit the executor's names. They agreed to this but insisted on retaining their own names explaining that - 'as we believe, in doing so we are only following a custom which as regards historical records are beneficial, advisable and instructive.'
On 23 April 1895, Edmond Keohan compiled a report on the progress of the works at the park and bathing place:
I am much pleased at Mr.Stokes progress of his contract and the general appearance of the bathing ground which must be a source of great attraction to visitors. Grass seeds are now showing over ground...the trees with only one or two exceptions are doing splendidly.
In early September the Commissioners enquired when the work on the park would be completed. The following month Mrs Mary Gibbons contacted the Commissioners asking them to remove the plaque on the arch into the park or she would take legal action. 'I have been asked to give your Town Commissioners another oppurtunity of complying with my request regarding that objectionable tablet.' On 14 November the Borough Surveyor reported that he had removed the slab as ordered. Before its removal the plaque had been crossed out in paint and was photographed by Edmond Keohan. He titled the picture The Condemned Slab. In November O'Shea was paid £28-5-1 for the plaque and related work.
In February 1896 the Town Clerk wrote to John Egan, R.I.C. Inspector, asking if he could send a man to watch the park which was being badly vandalised ! Further works were carried out in the park in May. Dennis McGrath was paid £40-6-7 for works to the cliff wall and erection of an iron railing. Robert Tutty was paid £14 for building a rubble wall opposite Shanahan's houses. Thomas Butler received £10 for clearing stones from the beach.George Stokes, the main contractor, received £500.
In July 1918 the Council decided to purchase the park and the lease and the houses on the site if possible. The auctioneer Edmund Keohan informed the Council that they could purchase the park for £100. This transaction does not seem to have occurred as in March 1925 E.A.Ryan solicitors wrote to the U.D.C. on behalf of the representatives of the late Nellie Lennon. They were selling her fee simple estate and her interest in the park.
The following year the Local Government Dept. granted permission to the U.D.C. to purchase Mrs Lennon's interest in the park for £100.
Author: Willie Fraher