The 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 reformation.

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 and Drogheda.

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