BURNING OF KILL VILLAGE HALL
An article from the Kildare Observer February 8, 1919 telling of a claim for compensation for the burning of Kill Village Hall. Re-typed by Aisling Dermody
Burning of Kill Village Hall
CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION DISMISSED
At Naas Quarter Sessions on Wednesday The Countess of Mayo claimed £600 compensation for the alleged malicious burning of the village hall at Kill on the night of 1st January 1919.
Mr. Cecil Fforde (instructed by Mr. C.P. Tracy, solicitor) appeared for the applicant: Mr. W.A. Lamphier, solicitor, for the Kildare County Council and Mr. Kinahan, B.L. (instructed by Messrs. Brown and McCann), for the Naas No. 1 District Council.
Mr. Fforde in opening the case said the claim was for £600 odd in respect of the malicious burning of a village hall in Kill. Some years ago Lady Mayo wished to provide some place where the people around about could hold concerts, dances and amusements of that kind. She got subscriptions amongst her friends and raised a sum of £101, of which she subscribed £25 and Lord May £10, and there was a balance of £150, which Lady Mayo provided part of which was repaid by the receipts and there was still a sum of £80 due to Lady Mayo. About a year ago the hall was used for dancing classes, and its use for that purpose was discontinued as it led to noisy scenes, etc. In August, 1917, the secretary of the local Sinn Fein club wrote to Lady Mayo demanding the hall for the purpose of meetings on the grounds that as the hall had been built by public subscriptions they were entitled to use it. “I need hardly say” said council, “that these gentlemen did not subscribe one penny to that or probably to any other purpose to serve the nation.” The letter from the Sinn Fein club of Kill and Ardclough set out that as the hall had been built by public subscriptions, the committee came to the conclusion that they should have the use of it. The letter was signed by Thos Clarke, New Row, Kill. To that letter, Lady Mayo replied stating that the use of the hall could not be given, as under its rules it could only be used for educational or recreational purposes. Later on, there was a certain amount of these public demonstrations which took the form of cattle-driving, and a number of Lord Mayo’s grazing tenants’ cattle were driven off the land. It was necessary to bring police into the district, and the police took possession of the hall without permission of Lord or Lady Mayo to be used as a centre. On the 1st January of this year, a concert was being given in the hall in aid of the fund for payment of the district nurse, and some soldiers gave their assistance. That entertainment closed at about 10 o’clock. A number of lamps that had been used in the hall were carefully extinguished. About midnight some of those who took part in the entertainment passed the hall and there was no sign of fire. About 2 o’clock the police were notified that the hall was blazing. The hall cost £255 to build, and could not be rebuilt now for less than twice that amount. There was a lot of things in the hall, which brought the claim up to £600.
Lady Mayo, examined, in reply to Mr. Fforde, said the hall was built in the year 1914 on her own initiative for educational recreational schemes in the neighbourhood. A number of her friends and the people of the neighbourhood helped by subscribing about £70. About a year ago the hall had been let for dancing classes, and that was discontinued. In the year 1918, there was a good deal of cattle driving on the lands of Lord Mayo’s tenants. On the 1st January this year there was a pantomime held in the hall. The replacement value of the hall was over £300. The articles enumerated in the list produced were in the hall at the burning. A few days after the burning witness got an anonymous letter. (Council said he would not read the letter, but would hand it up to his Honour).
Mr Kinahan objected to the introduction of the letter.
Lady Mayo, examined by Mr. Kinahan, said the public around the district subscribed to the fund for the erection of the hall. There was no boycotting of another enterprise of hers in Kill – the Dewdrop Inn. The hall was insured but she did not know whether the policy precluded the use of the hall for theatricals. There was not to her knowledge any repudiation by the insurance company of liability.
Frank Leckton, butler at Palmerstown, examined by Mr. Fforde, said he got up the pantomime on 1st January. There was in the hall a portable oil stove, which was alight during the day of the performance, but was extinguished by him before 7 p.m. There were oil lamps in front of the stage and over the auditorium. There was smoking in the auditorium and a certain amount amongst the players on stage. The performance concluded at 10.10 p.m. Witness saw the pianist put out the candles on the piano and he then went to put out the oil lamps on the stage. All the lamps were put out except three suspension lights and one light in the dressing room. The footman footman put out the remaining lights, and witness said the others went to supper at Mr. Stevens’s. When returning on their way home about 12 o’clock everything was all right and the hall was in darkness.
The direct examination of Frank Lockton was continued on Thursday morning. In answer to Mr. Fforde witness said there was nothing inflammable in the room at the back of the stage. During the performance there was smoking on the stage. There was a small window in the gable end of the building. The evening of the fire was wet and the floor was wet and damp with the audience. Cross examined by Mr. Kinahan – Smoking was not forbidden in the body of the hall. About four men might have been smoking in the dressing room. The performance was “Dick Whittington” and a lot of fancy dresses were used. The window at the gable end was taken out to illustrate the throwing of chestnuts from the scenes as if from trees.
Mr. Fforde – The chestnuts were pantomime jokes (laughter).
Witness continuing said that no particular hostility was shown to them during rehearsals.
George Franklin, chauffer to Lord Mayo depose that he extinguished the acetone lights on the night of the performance. Witness saw no cigarette ends or burning tobacco in or near the dressing room.
William Whitaside, footman at Palmerstown, deposed that he put out all the lights on the night of the performance with the exception of a hurricane lamp, which was outside to show people the three steps leading up to the hall. After the people left the hall a woman came in and said she had lost a key. With the aid of the hurricane lamp witness searched the whole of the floor, and there was nothing about to cause a fire.
Mr Richard Lowe, Manager of the Dew Drop Inn Kill, deposed to being awakened at 1.50 on the morning of the 2nd January. He went to the window and on looking out saw the hall on fire. The place was just one mass of flame.
To Mr. Kinanhan the witness said everyone round the place dealt in the Dew Drop Inn.
Constable Longheed deposed that he was at the performance on the 1st January. He would not say there were any Sinn Feiners in the hall that night at least no pronounced Sinn Feiners. There might have been some of the weak-minded Sinn Feiners there. (Laughter)
His Honour. Some people say that description might apply to all and explain the existence of the institution. (Laughter)
Further examined the witness spoke of having been awakened by the noise of the burning and seeing the hall in flames.
Mr R.H. Hall produced a map of the district showing the position of the hall. His Honour in the course of his remarks in summing up said it was a great pity this fine hall that was created through the generosity of Lord and Lady Mayo who had done so much for the locality should have been burned. He thought the theory of accident was extremely unlikely. The tendency of his mind was to say that the possibility and the probability was that it didn’t happen by accident. But he could not decide on probability. He thought it unlikely the fire happened by accident but he could not say it was impossible. He wanted evidence and he had not got that evidence and he therefore had to refuse the application. He allowed £6 10s costs and expenses. There were a number of other claims in respect of loss of property through the burning. A like order was made in all the cases.
The Kildare Observer 8th February 1919
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