Royal British Legion - Limerick Branch

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A Phoenix from the Ashes 

A History of Limerick Branch

The branch first came into being in 1922, making us one of the oldest in the organisation.  Although founded in the wake of the turmoil of the War of Independence (Anglo-Irish War) and during the birth pains of the fledgling Irish Free-State, these early years saw the branch flourish with as many as 400-500 members. While this may perhaps reflect the magnitude of the city's sense of loss to the First World War, it may a be a greater testimony to the very real needs of Limerick veterans and their families for fellowship and practical support in a very poor city.

In those post war years the British Legion fulfilled a vital role for the ex-service community in this region, mitigating their burdens in very many ways. Our role in Remembrance of our Limerick dead was no less important. In 1929 a 20-foot high memorial dedicated to "the memory 3,000 Officers, N.C.O.'s and men of Limerick City and County who fell in the Great War 1914-18 was erected (it was later rededicated to also include those who lost their lives in World War Two). It was paid for entirely by public sucscription. The large membership was sufficient to also establish a Legion Club in Lower Hartstonge St in the heart of Limerick City.  

The branch continued strongly until the 1950’s when there was a gradual change in Republican sentiment nationally. In August 1957, the Limerick War Memorial was blown up and so began a steady decline in the membership. The outbreak of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland after 1969 accelerated this, ultimately leading to the closure of the branch and sale of the Legion Club in the city. A new War Memorial in Pery Square dedicated to those who lost their lives in 1914-18 and 1939-45 was erected in the 1970s’.

The re-birth of Limerick Branch began in 1987 when Mr. Cyril McMahon, Mr. Brendan McMahon and Mr. John Rennison wrote to the Royal British Legion HQ in Dun Laoghaire seeking information on our possible revival. The then RBL Area Organiser, Mr. K.T. M. Robinson met with them at Cruise’s Hotel, Limerick on the 26th October. He told them they needed at least 10 members to form a committee and achieve offical recognition. He provided an old list of potential contacts obtained from the Royal Air Force Association. They thus embarked upon a search to find ex-servicemen in the Limerick region - a quest that yielded 6 members.

The first meeting of the re-convened Limerick Branch was on 19th January 1989. It was chaired by Mr. John Rennison and held at the recreation room at the St. Vincent De Paul Old Men’s Hostel in St. John’s Square. The first order of business was to elect a committee. John Rennison was elected Chairman, Mr. Gordon Spillane (Secretary) and Mr. Patrick Lowe (Treasurer). Mr. Brendan McMahon and Mr. Frank Cairns were also elected to the committee. With only 4 ordinary members the branch was deemed too small for a President.

Our first Remembrance Parade took place at the Limerick War Memorial in 1990 and the occasion was videoed.

And so it was that Limerick Branch arose from its ashes. In our early years the membership rose to 120 but with the gradual passing of Great War veterans we now hold steady about 75. Our re-birth was supported by other established branches in Ireland, both North and South. All offered their fellowship, many also made offers of funds. We also received funding from through the Area Chairman - from the earlier sale of the Club in Hartstonge St.

We acknowledge our debt and extend our gratitude to all those who helped us.

[Thie author is grateful for the assistance of Mr. Paddy Lowe, Branch Chairman, photo courtesy of Limerick Museum.