Twenty one years after his son Michael created a model of the old South Tipperary County Museum, in its former location on Parnell Street in Clonmel, Ollie Harte, rediscovered the impressive replica by chance one day, and was reunited with the project that occupied his son for so many weeks during the Summer of 1992.
It was while carrying out some research in the current County Museum in Mick Delahunty Square, on a project with his friend Tony Hunt, that the surprise discovery was made, explained Ollie.
“I was doing some research in the bowels of the museum with Tony on a book that we are working on about the motor trade in Clonmel, when I saw the bare corner of this object sticking out, and I knew it was the model that Michael had made,” said Ollie. While he was almost certain he was correct, he knew that there was one thing he could check that would confirm it.
“I went over and put my finger on top part of the railing that was built around the building and with my back to it, I asked Tony, if he knew what it was, he knew straight away what it was, and I then said it was a spark plug,” said Ollie.
When Tony questioned how he knew that the car part had been used on a random model building that they had just found, Ollie replied: “Because I helped build the thing,” he laughed.
And so the mystery of the old model museum which had lain unloved for over 20 years, with no knowledge of where it came from or who had made it, was solved and reunited with the Harte family.
“I remember when Michael was making the model, he had to use as many materials as possible, so we used old coat hangers, welding rods, perspex, whatever,” said Ollie. So Ollie decided to take the model museum back home and give it a bit of a facelift.
He spent all last Summer working on it, and in keeping with the original brief of using as many materials as possible, Ollie made some minor changes to the original structure with an array of items including wooden dowels, chopsticks, a soap dispenser pump and a car bulb!
Ollie explained that when his son Michael was young, he used to work in his grand-uncle’s green grocers which was located on Parnell Street, across the road from the old museum.
“He looked at that building everyday of his life when he worked there. He would go in there everyday after school cutting and delivering vegetables and he would be looking out the window onto that building,” said Ollie. So when it came to choosing a project for his sixth year building construction course in CTI secondary school on Raheen Road, Michael knew exactly what he would build. He had see it hundreds of times and was also interested in the building’s architect William Tinsley, whom he resaerched and wrote a book about, as part of the same project.
Ollie remembered fondly spending time with Michael on the project but admitted proudly that it was all Michael’s hard work that earned him top marks. Yet when the model museum was brought back home, Michael gladly allowed his father to give it the facelift it needed. “I told him I had something to show him, but hadn’t told him I had found the museum, and he just said ‘oh God where did you get that?’” laughed Ollie.
The model was lost in transport when the museum relocated to its current state-of-the-art home on Mick Delahunty Square some years ago but now takes pride of place once again in the County Museum. Slightly modernised and freshly painted it is currently on display for all to see how the museum once looked in its former location.