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*Hastings Farmhouse. Photograph: John O’Brien

A HISTORIC farmhouse in Shannon will be among the locations showcased for Heritage Week.

Dúchas na Sionna and Clare County Council host an event this Saturday between 3pm and 5pm at Hastings Farmhouse near Ilaunmanagh Cemetery. The free event will hear Dúchas na Sionna (Hastings Farmhouse) CLG share their plans to restore Hastings Farmhouse for the people of Shannon.

Hastings Farmhouse is one of the last surviving links to the pre-town landscape on which Shannon Town is built. It is a cob-built structure inhabited by generations of the Hastings Family from 1847 until the early 1970s after which the house fell into decay.

Now Dúchas na Sionna, the town’s volunteer heritage group, with assistance from Clare County Council plan to restore the farmhouse and an adjoining outbuilding, preserving the site’s heritage value. It is envisaged that the restored buildings will be used as a heritage centre, small exhibition space and community meeting venue. It is also intended to run workshops in traditional building techniques during the restoration process.

Recent developments include the production of a Conservation Plan, Feasibility Study, Architectural Survey and Clay analysis report. Consolidation works were carried out in 2021 to stabilise the surviving cob structure during which mud bricks were made by community volunteers and transition year students from St. Patrick’s Comprehensive School.

This Heritage Week event will tell the story of the restoration project, the sustainable architectural tradition of vernacular buildings and the history of the Hastings family and farmhouse including its use as a safe house during the War of Independence. Participants will be treated to a live music session and refreshments will be served.

Assisted by grant aid from the Heritage Council, the local authority are planning an upgrade to the entrance to Hastings Farmhouse and are commissioning a detailed cost plan for the restoration project. In addition a series of training workshops on traditional building methods is planned for the early Autumn and Duchas na Sionna is to benefit with aid to become established as a Company Limited by guarantee’.

Hastings Farmhouse featured as a safe house for the IRA in 1920 during the kidnap of Brigadier General Lucas. During his month-long captivity the General was held in safe-houses throughout north Cork, Limerick, and south Clare. Hastings was one of a number of local houses in which the General was accommodated before being moved back to county Limerick to avoid detection. After developing cordial relations with his captors, who organised an exchange of letters between him and his wife, General Lucas ‘escaped’.

It is widely believed that his escape was facilitated by his guards as keeping him captive was proving to be a drain on their resources and curtailing their activities. The General spent his time in captivity playing cards with his guards, reading, saving hay, and even engaging in a spot of salmon poaching on the river Shannon. Back in England after his escape a newspaper journalist asked the General about his time in captivity with the Irish Rebels. He responded simply ‘I was treated as a gentleman by gentlemen’. Now a century on the granddaughter of General Lucas is a friend of the Hastings Farmhouse Restoration project and visited for the 2012 Open Day after initial conservation works to the farmhouse.

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