Oldbridge House - home to the Battle of the Boyne Interpretative Centre which critics say could be expanded into a National Museum of Military History.
The grounds of Oldbridge House on the site of the Battle of the Boyne are a popular and much valued recreational space for the people of the wider Drogheda area but a cross-border heritage and environment forum has said that much more could be made of the site to attract many more visitors.
The forum, it’s called Battle for the Boyne, has called for significant investment in expanding the Interpretative Centre which is situated on the site of Ireland’s most famous battle and that this should a new Museum of Military History.
“Since the Irish Government acquired the battle site in the millennium year, a modest interpretative centre was developed, but most of the site is simply leased to local farmers” said Brian Hanratty, Director of Battle for the Boyne.
“So there is huge potential to expand on both the story of the largest and most famous battle ever fought on Irish soil, as well as Ireland’s military history and legends throughout the ages – and to do it in a sensitive manner” he said.
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Hanratty compared the centre commemorating the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium, which he says is “quite spectacular,” with the current Interpretative Centre for Ireland’s most famous battle site which he describes as “modest and underwhelming.”
In expanding the facility at Oldbridge to become an All-Ireland Museum of Military History, he points out that there is currently no proper venue at which to appreciate both the chronological and geographical significance of the Irish contribution to military history across the world.
“Too often we tend to think only about battles and campaigns fought on Irish soil and forget about the role the Irish played elsewhere, in two World Wars and in the British army and navy and others across Europe and the Americas” Hanratty said.
“There are the inventors too, like John Philip Holland who invented the first viable submarine. Way back, there’s Brian Boru and further back again, the legends of Finn MacCumhaill and the Fianna,” he added.
He believes there are many possibilities to consider within such an extensive site that’s easily accessed from across Ireland, being only thirty minutes from Dublin and ninety from Belfast.
With the centenary of the foundation of the National Army approaching in 2022, Hanratty laments the fact that the history and important memorabilia associated with the Defence Forces are scattered across the Republic in various military installations and other locations, including Collins Barracks.
“For example, the Irish Air Corps has a collection of vintage military aircraft housed at their Baldonnell airbase; the Army has the historic “Sliabh na mBan” armoured car in which Michael Collins travelled on the day he was shot at a museum in the Curragh Army base.
“It makes sense that all these historical items are brought together in a suitable location for people to appreciate. In my opinion, Oldbridge is that location” said Hanratty.
“With nearby historic locations like Drogheda, Trim, and Tara having their own unique military history; the adjacent privately owned Irish Military War Museum in Collon and Francis Ledwidge’s home at Slane, the Boyne Valley is a natural centre for Military History and the potential to attract tourists” he points out.
“We need to honour the illustrious military history of this small island and those professional Irish soldiers who bravely fought across the globe. Let’s not forget the worldwide interest in a modern day invention – “Game of Thrones” – the Fianna and other Irish legends are bound to fascinate overseas visitors too!” he concluded.