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Name The New Thurles Town Park Footbridge

Thurles-ParkAs Thurles residents are no doubt aware a new footbridge is planned, same to be built over the river Suir here in the town, from the east bank of St Patrick’s college to the west bank joining Emmet Street (The Mall) and  Thomond Road, close to the “Swinging Gates.”  Same is part of preliminary design proposals put forward for the new Thurles Town Park, expected to be completed using local taxpayers money, by 2015.

So what will we call this new footbridge?

Next time you are out walking in Thurles, travelling on the right hand side from Thurles Cathedral, across Barry’s Bridge to the entrance to Liberty Square at Stakelums Fashions, note the small plaque on the south facing wall of this latter establishment.

This plaque, erected by “The Spirit of Tipperary,” commemorates the escape by James Leahy, Commandant No. 2 (Mid) Tipp-Brigade IRA, from four R.I.C. officers sent to arrest him at “Mixey” O’Connell’s pub, on the morning of March 1st 1918. This plaque however does not truly mark the spot from which Leahy made his daring successful escape. However in a statement to the Bureau of Military History (Document No. W.S. 1454.) by this Tubberadora, Tipperary native, we can be more precise with regard to a more accurate  positioning as to exactly where he successfully attempted his escape.

James Leahy himself stated:

“On 1st March 1918, I was still employed by “Mixey” O’Connell in Thurles. That morning, a party of four R.I.C., including, the local Read Constable arrived in the shop and informed me that I was to be taken into custody. At that time the British authorities decided to re-arrest all the prisoners who had been previously released under the “Cat and Mouse Act,” as a prelude to the enforcement of conscription in Ireland. (Note: The Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913 also known as the “Cat and Mouse Act” was an Act of Parliament passed in Britain under Herbert Henry Asquith’s Liberal government in 1913. The idea was that prisoners who went on hunger strike in jail should be released when they became weak or sick, since their bad health would deter them from continuing with previous illegal behaviour. If they failed to refrain from such activity they could then be re-arrested. The nickname of the Act came about because of a cat’s habit of playing with a mouse before eventually killing it off.)

My boss was in bed at the time the police called and I requested permission to be allowed to go upstairs to tell him that I was being sent back to jail. The Head Constable agreed to this, but sent one of the police upstairs with me. As we were coming back into the shop I opened the door at the foot of the stairs and held it open to enable my guard to go into the shop in front of me. He did so and I banged the door after him and dashed out the back door which I slammed after me.

I ran as fast as I could towards the bridge which crosses the River Suir in the town, pursued by the police. On reaching the bridge I ran down the Mall (Emmet Street) and from there I jumped into the river to get across to the college grounds (St Patrick’s College). The police in the meantime had divided their forces; the Head Constable kept on my back, two others got into the college grounds, while the fourth man was dispatched to the barracks for reinforcements. As I was half way across the river I saw the two policemen waiting to receive me on the college side and I then turned back again towards the Mall.

By this time, news of the chase had spread through the town and a crowd of about 30 had gathered on the Mall side of the river. They were mostly Volunteers, among them being Jack Feehan one of the captains of the Thurles companies. The crowd held up the Head Constable and Feehan handed me a bike which he had. I quickly mounted the machine and rode off into the country. Just outside the town I got rid of the bike and went through the fields to Tuohy’s in Cabra. There I got a change of clothes and sat down to a meal which I was able to enjoy as I watched the police on bikes setting out for my home in Tubberadora. After that I had to go ‘on the run.’

On the night of my escape a concert had been arranged in the Confraternity Hall  (O’Donovan Rossa Street, Thurles.) under the auspices of the Volunteers in Thurles. Arrangements for the concert were in the hands of Sean McLoughlin, a Dublin man, who had been sent down from G.H.Q. to Tipperary as an organiser and drill instructor. The hall was packed to overflowing and as it was expected that the R.I.C. might try to break up the entertainment or attempt to search the place for me. Volunteers took up positions in the outside yard, equipped with hurleys, pick handles and other such implements, to resist any police intrusion.

However, the police did not bother and the concert was a big success.”

With intended 1916 commemorations taking place in two years time, perhaps this information would allow for this new bridge to be named “James Leahy Bridge,” thus remembering at least one unselfish Irish individual who was prepared to work for the betterment of Ireland without receiving “Top Ups.”

Any other Thurles residents with thoughts on this matter? Otherwise it could get called “Phil Hogan Bridge,” due to its close proximity to water, what with Water Charges currently being all the rage here in Tipperary.

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5 comments to Name The New Thurles Town Park Footbridge

  • Will Hourihan

    Your suggestion would be very appropriate especially coming up to the centenary. So much of this history is known to only a minority of people. I am currently reading ‘Keep their names ever green’ by Padraig O’Haicead and it’s amazing what was happening in Ireland and Tipperary at the time.

  • Brid Murray

    Will, Ive been trying to get my hands on that particular book for some time. (Keep their names ever green by Padraig O Haicead. Can I ask where you got it please? I think my grandfather is mentioned in it. I have his old IRA medals here and would really love to know much more about that time. It would be very appropriate to name the bridge James Leahy Bridge I think.

  • Michael

    Hi Brid,

    The book is quite difficult to find. There is a version in the national library in Dublin to view for free: http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000224683 . The book mainly contains local news paper articles during the period 1919-1922.
    A much more relevant book about the local history recently released would be this http://untoldstories.ie/ . It looks like its sold out though.
    I have both books and would be glad to have a look through for you? Do you have a name?
    You could also search the local witness statements of the period here for your grandfathers name http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/index.html
    This site has a lot of helpful features.

  • George Willoughby

    Hi Brid, Currently a used copy on http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00VVT37B8, which can be ordered on line at cost €25.00.

  • Will

    I actually got it off my uncle who basically has a library at his home. Not sure where he got it.

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