Thurles Famine Museum, housed in St Mary’s Church, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, has re-opened.
The one year closure followed, when over €70,000 worth of malicious damage was inflicted on valuable stained glass windows by local vandals in November 2009. This led to some of Ireland’s most historic artifacts, relating to Ireland’s “Great Famine 1845-1849,” which were on show to the public and stored in the building, having to be removed in the interest of their preservation.
The closure of the museum is calculated to have cost Thurles businesses, particularly the food and accommodation sectors, an estimated .5 million euros in lost revenues, last year.
The Museum, which has never received one cent of financial support from government since opening some 10 years ago, is now about to receive a major face lift, having installed 24 hour state of the art concealed video surveillance equipment to protect the graveyard, the museum and it’s contents.
St Mary’s Church, Thurles, which houses the Museum, and the graveyard attached has huge historical importance not just for Thurles Town, but for the island of Ireland. The graveyard was used extensively for burials during the Great Famine 1845-1849 and was closed as a place of burial in 1942 at the request of Dr J.D. Hourihane, then Local Government Inspector, (With some licenced exceptions,) because of gross over crowding.
Although burials were taking place here in the early 13th century, the first recorded grave in the cemetery is 1520, the Norman ‘Archer Tomb,’ possibly better known for it’s supposed healing properties. A Church has existed on this site since early Norman times in 1179.
Other notable persons buried here include:-
Lady Elizabeth Butler, Viscountess of Thurles and mother of James Butler, Duke of Ormond, ancestress direct of Queen Elizabeth II, Charles, Prince of Wales and the late Diana Spencer, who was interred in the little Chapel of St Mary, Thurles, in 1673.
William Bradshaw, a doctor in charge of the Fever Hospital in Thurles, and who also ran a paupers clinic in The Quarry, Thurles, during the famine years. “The grave of Dr William Bradshaw (Victoria Cross) late Assistant Surgeon 32nd Light Infantry who departed his life 9th March 1861.”
Maurice Leyne, one of the founders of the Young Irelander Movement and joint proprietor / editor of the “Nation” and “Tipperary Leader” newspapers during the famine years. He took part in the Ballingarry uprising of 1848 (Battle of the widow McCormack’s cabbage patch,) and was a grand nephew of Daniel O’Connell (Catholic Emancipation). Leyne died of typhus in 1854. “In this grave are deposited the remains of Maurice Richard Leyne Esq. who died 29th June 1854.”
John Molloy, who toured Co. Tipperary with Mr Joseph Moore Labarte, latter a Government Inspector, responsible also for Tipperary’s Railway system and was Temporary Poor Law Inspector in 1847. Molloy was the first man to notify the British authorities in 1847 of the return of the blight to the potato crop in Tipperary . He also forwarded specimens of ‘Phytophthora Infestans,’ (These specimens are considered to be the oldest in existence) and these specimens, plus his original letter, are now in the care the Dept Of Agriculture Offices in Dublin. Copies of same however are on show in the Museum on site.”Erected by Joseph Molloy in memory of his father John Molloy who died at Ballycahill 28th June 1872 aged 71 years.”
Michael Hunt died April 5th 1891 aged 87 years. He was for over fifty years the faithful servant and confidant of Rev. Archdeacon Henry Cotton, The Glebe, Thurles, Co Tipperary and during this famine time. His employer, Henry Cotton was Rector of St. Mary’s Famine Memorial Church during the famine. He was also Chairperson of the Thurles / Rahealty Famine Food Committee 1846/47. Cotton’s records in the form of “Minutes ” are possibly the only records of their kind, left in existence in Ireland, and are on show in the Famine Museum, positioned in the grounds of this graveyard.
Charles O’Keeffe was land agent to the Maher Estate (Now Thurles Golf Club) in Turtulla, Thurles , Co.Tipp. He was shot dead, by a man dressed in woman’s clothing, outside the walls of this graveyard during serious land agitation, just prior to the famine. “Sacred to the repose of Charles O’Keeffe Esq. His life distinguished by justice and the truth, was devoted to the virtue of parent, citizen and man. His death on 23rd October 1838 deprived the poor of a friend, society of a benefactor.”
Nichlas Maher was a Member Of Parliament for Thurles in 1846 and for a few months in the same year, was Chairperson of the ‘Thurles / Rahealty Famine Food Committee,’ during the first year of the Great Famine
Elizabeth Trench Laurence was sister-in-law to the aforementioned Archdeacon Henry Cotton Chairperson of the Thurles / Rahealty Famine Food Committee. ” In memory of Elizabeth Trench Laurence daughter of the Most Reverend Richard Laurence, Lord Archbishop Of Cashel, who died May 11th 1818 aged 62 years.”
Fr Michael Finan, licenced Parish Priest of Thurles during the period of the Irish Penal Laws. “Here lieth ye body of Father Michael Fihan for 35 years Parish Priest of Thurles who dep this life November ye 4th 1765 aged 71 years.”
Constance Ratston, whose headstone reads “To memory of Constance Ratston daughter of Capt. Norris, 64th Regt. who departed this life on the 31st Dec 1846, aged three months.” Her father Capt. Norris was a member of the Thurles / Rahealty Food Committee during 1846 /47.
Letetia Elizabeth Sheridan who was wife of John Gore Jones, latter who was R.M. in Thurles, Assistant Chairperson of the Thurles / Rahealty Famine Food Committee 1846 -1847. He was also partially responsible for the hanging of the Cormack Brother’s now buried in an open mausoleum at Loughmore, cemetery, Thurles Co. Tipp.
Admission to the museum is just €2 per person and same will be open from 10.00pm to 4.00pm each day Monday to Friday until September 30th.
Famine Lectures are provided, free of charge, for pre-booked larger groups, visiting this most enjoyable of Tipperary visitor attractions.
Note Special Arrangement: Arrangements can be made, if requested in advance, for those wishing to visit the museum outside of normal opening hours, all year round by contacting Tel: 0504-21133.