Curragh Rangers and their protective role
When George Wolfe of Forenaughts, Naas, died in November
1921 the office of Ranger of the Curragh became defunct.
He had filled the office for 30 years and was the last appointee
under the British administration.
AS early as 1299 an Act had been passed to prevent swine
feeding on the Curragh to the detriment of the sward, and
for a long period it was an estate of the Abbey of Thomas
Court near Dublin, but it reverted to Crown control after
The protection of the Crown's rights was entrusted to the
Commissioner of her Majesty's Woods and forests and Land
Revenues, and to an officer titled "The Ranger Of The
Curragh." His duties included the protection of the
grazing rights and of the game, and to prevent encroachment.
The first mention of a ranger was in 1687, and from that
year onwards a list of those who held the office exists.
The salary was from the Crown, and in the early years it
was £20 a year and his livery. From 1717 the ranger
was given responsibility for surviving the King's plate
Races, and the maintenance of the race-course. About the
middle of the 18th century the salary was increased to £320
and £15.17 for livery.
The longest -serving ranger was Robert Browne (1818-1867)
and it was he who had to cope with a major intrusion in
his domain when the military settlement was being made.
The Curragh of Kildare Act 1860 drastically altered the
terms of service of the ranger.It ordained "there shall
not be any salary fees, or other pecuniary remuneration
paid to or received by the ranger" who was to have
the status of a permanent civil servant.
A decade ago Fergus D'arcy, in the Journal of the Royal
Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, described the office
and functions of the ranger from 1687 to 1961, with a list
of those who had occupied it. They mainly included men from
landed families, such as Allen, Wogan, de Robeck,Sherlock,Wolfe
In 1861, the 19-year-old Prince of Wales,heir apparent to
the British crown, was dispatched to the camp "for
10 weeks infantry training,under the strictest discipline
which could be devised." However, when the queen heard
that a young actress had been smuggled into his quarters
one evening she was not at all amused. A contemporary officer's
memory of the royal visit was "it caused a nuisance,
there were extra guard duties, and the prince sometimes
escaped from his escorts and caused problems"
About that time the Leinster Express described the Curragh
as "impaired, untouched upon on any side, no permanent
squatting had taken place. . . but the number of low public
houses were the resort of bad characters from different
parts of Ireland; there were all those unfortunate woman
who traverse the Curragh more prominently than is necessary,
particularly on Sundays."
It was also acknowledged that a "considerable extent
of the Curragh was appropriated by the troops for ball (rifle)
practice, and the whole of the Curragh is used by them for
drilling and exercise.
The improper woman had been banished some years before,
but they went on the roads and were a greater nuisance there.They
are now on the Common"
By 1923 it was alleged that "injurious and illegal
acts were being committed on the Curragh, and new legislation
was sought from the Free State
Then the ownership of the soil was in the state, and the
rights of grazier still in place, but as the Attorney General
had indicated, the Curragh Acts were no longer valid, the
army had no lease for the Curragh Camp, while the Turf Club
had a lease for portion of the green lands.
It was accepted that the 19th century Acts no longer applied,
and so the office of Ranger did no longer exist.
The Curragh of Kildare Act 1961, no longer included the
offices of Ranger and Deputy Ranger, and responsibility
for the Curragh was vested in the Minister for Defence.
Courtesy of Con Costello and the Leinster Leader