East Cork town, Youghal, expects an annual economic boost of €1.4m when an iconic monument re-opens to the public as a museum next month.
Craftsmen from 17 specialist companies are fitting out all four floors of Youghal’s Clock Gate tower. “We’re looking at specialist joinery, electrics, graphics, costumes, models, audio-visual aids, film production, etc”, says Aileen Murray, manager of the Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group (YSEDG), which is spearheading the €650,000 project.
Each floor will depict a historic period, covering the 1400s, 1700s, 1800s and 1900s, up to the building’s use as the private residence of the McGrath family in the 1950s. The project is being designed by Scroope Design, Courtmacsherry.
The Clock Gate stands on the site of the former Trinity Castle, one of five gateways into Youghal. The clock was installed in 1620 to broadcast the death of children and was retained when the tower was built in the 1770s. It served as a prison until 1837.
A few floggings and executions took place in the tower, particularly after the 1798 rebellion. However, serious offenders were generally transferred to Cork.
The new attraction will also reflect the town’s evolving social, political, and commercial life.
The building closed as a small museum in 1993, with the current renewal launched by the former town council in 2008. Cork County Council currently leases the monument to the YSEDG, under a 10-year contract.
The restoration programme was boosted by Fáilte Ireland’s Ancient Ireland East initiative, as the tourist body provided €200,000 towards the €350,000 design and fit-out, with matching funding from Cork County Council.
Previously, conservation and restoration of the building’s exterior were funded by €240,000 from SECAD, while Youghal Town Council contributed towards preliminary, €60,000 planning costs.
Visitors will book tours, not exceeding 20 members, at the nearby tourist office. Technology and craft will play a part, including language translations and digitally created images of old Youghal, but it will, ultimately, “be all about stories”, says Ms. Murray.
Cork historian, Dr Alicia St Leger, has researched extensively to create scripted tales of bygone times. “The stories are highly authentic and derived from archival records and similar sources”, says the manager. “They will bring Youghal’s, and the Clock Gate’s past to life magnificently.”
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