In 1852, the British war department bought lands at Renmore with the idea of building a new military barracks to replace the existing ones in the city, the Shambles and the Castle Barracks. These two building complexes were getting old and deteriorating and needed to be replaced. In 1880, the new barracks were built at Renmore. They were occupied by the Royal Irish Fusiliers and later by the Connaught Rangers.
This new barracks featured strongly during the Easter Rising and immediately afterwards when a contingent of Munster Fusiliers arrived with ‘machine guns’ to give the city a more martial appearance. It was a busy place during the Black and Tan period, and then after the truce, as the British army moved out, a local battalion of Republicans, under the command of Captain Seán Broderick, took over. The first guard mounted there was from the 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade of the IRA under Sergeant Thomas Kelly. There was eventually a difference of opinion between two factions of the IRA and as a result, part of the barracks, mostly the officer’s quarters, were burnt and the anti-treaty side evacuated the smouldering ruins.
A short time later, the National Army took possession of the complex. Our photograph today may well be a record of that event. You can see a unit of the army lined up on parade on the railway bridge in front of the barracks. They are being watched by members of the public. In the background you can see the remains of some of the buildings ruined by the fire. In 1936, the barracks was fully rebuilt by H McNally and Company from Market Street.
An Irish speaking battalion was formed known as ‘An Chéad Cath’ and they were and are stationed here. During World War II, army numbers multiplied between six and seven times and caused some problems of accommodation. After the war, the strength of the unit dwindled due to emigration from the Gaeltacht areas. In 1952 the barracks were renamed Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa after the 1916 leader of the Rising, Liam Mellowes. In the late 1950s they held a number of tattoos on the lands surrounding the barracks.
In the late 1960s, the complex was expanded with the building of a block for cadets from the military college who were doing various courses in the university, the first group of them graduated in 1972. Foreign service is a great attraction and An Chead Cath has had personnel involved in all overseas units of the army.