Bid to save one of last World War legion halls

The British Legion hall in Killester, Dublin, has gone on sale for 50,000 euro (�41,000).
The British Legion hall in Killester, Dublin, has gone on sale for 50,000 euro (�41,000).

Politicians are being urged to support a campaign to save one of the few remaining British Legion halls in Ireland built for First World War veterans.

The building in Killester, north Dublin – part of a suburb originally known as Little Britain – has gone on sale for e50,000 (£41,000) after pleas to preserve it as a war memorial were rejected.

Aaron Crampton, 16, whose great-grandfather John Brophy fought in the First World War, said preserving it as some form of mini-cenotaph or community centre and peace park would be a fitting tribute.

“My nan Effie would say that when my great-grandfather John came back he never spoke about the war,” he said.

“He had his medals in a golden Princess Mary box in the living room but that was the only sign – now the hall would be a sign to show what this area was known for and what it was built for, to show the history.”

Some 247 houses were built in Killester between 1918 and 1922 for ex-servicemen and their families on what was called the garden suburb model, with large rear gardens to help families be self-sufficient.

The hall was built in the early 1920s as a community facility and is thought to be one of only two left in Ireland.

Some 49,000 soldiers from the island of Ireland died in the First World War or from injuries.

Kevin Madden, an organiser in the campaign to save the Killester hall, said he hoped MPs in Britain would take up the campaign to save the building – £1 for every Irish soldier – in the centenary of the war’s outbreak.

“If I’d one message it’d be for Britain to lend us some moral support in leveraging the local authority here for this special purchase,” he said.

Aaron, who still lives in the area where his veteran relatives were housed, said a preservation order should be put on the hall.

“The hall has been near-derelict and left to rot for so long. It would have been hugely important after the wars, it would have been the heart of Killester.

“Everyone would have been using it back in the day,” he said.

“My nan knew everyone who lived around the area. She could tell you stories about which family had their relatives in the war.”

Aaron’s great-grandfather John Brophy enlisted in 1913 with the Highland Light Infantry aged 19.

His brother Bernard died fighting in France with the Royal Irish Regiment aged 19 as the war drew to a close.

John returned to the British Army to serve with the Royal Warwick Regiment in the Second World War and his son Tom also signed up.

The Irish government last year apologised for soldiers who signed up to fight the Nazis but were branded deserters and barred from state jobs on their return from the frontline.

The legion hall was used as a sports centre for decades but remained owned by trustees of the British Legion until it was sold for about e300,00 (£246,000) 14 years ago.

Members of an Irish parliamentary committee are to hear appeals for support from the campaigners later this month.

The Department of Arts and Heritage has rejected approaches to buy the hall, saying it has set aside significant taxpayer investment in a number of Decade of Centenaries projects.