Ratra House – A Brief History

4 May 2004

Ratra House was the home of Civil Defence since the organisation was established in 1950 until 2006 when the Headquarters was decentralised to Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. The lodge premises, which is located beside Arás an Uachtaran (official residence of the President of Ireland) in the Phoenix Park, Dublin was named Ratra House by the first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde who retired to the lodge in 1945 from his Presidency. He named it after his native Ratra Park in Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon where he had done much of his writing.
Built c.1876 the lodge was normally occupied in British times by the Private Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and was known as the Little Lodge. The neighbouring Vice Regal Lodge (now Arus an Uachtaran) was the residence of the Viceroy, royal representative in Ireland.In 1876 the then Duke of Marlborough was appointed Viceroy and brought his son, Lord Randolph Churchill, to reside at the Little Lodge as his Private Secretary. Lord Randolph was accompanied by his wife, Jennie and 2 year old son, Winston. Though he only spent 4 years there it has been claimed that the young Winston first developed his fascination with militarism from watching the many military parades pass by the Lodge.After Independence the Lodge was taken over in the early 1920s by retinues attached to the Governors General who occupied the Vice Regal Lodge. From 1926 – 1940 the premises was occupied by the Adjutant Generalof the Irish Army, Maj. Gen. Brennan (later promoted to Chief of Staff). The Lodge was the last building within the Phoenix Park to have electricity installed in December, 1937!In the search for a headquarters building for the Civil Defence organisation established in 1950 the Department of Defence decided on the then named Ratra House as the ideal location and the Civil Defence School was formally opened there on 18 June, 1951. An external training range adjacent to the main building (with a sign pointing to “Ballybruskar” – the town of the rubble) was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1952/3 at a cost of £7,950. Syndicate rooms were added in 1955 and a new lecture theatre to cater for the expanding organisation was added in 1963/4 costing over £22,000.