St Mary’s Graveyard Project Under Way In Thurles

Death the Leveller

[Extract from the poem by James Shirley. (1596–1666)]

“The glories of our blood and state, are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate; death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown must tumble down and in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.”

On April 2nd last year (2014) here on Thurles.Info we featured a Video Blog, asking the question “Are we Neglecting Tipperary’s National Heritage?”.  We highlighted in that particular feature, the neglect of St Mary’s Graveyard here in Thurles, in which numerous individuals of national and county historical importance have, in the past, been laid to rest.

Now one year later, following planning and debate, work has finally begun, using voluntary labour and the valued assistance of Tús Community Work Placement Initiative members, led by supervisors Mr Tony Lanigan, Mr Maurice Leahy and Mr Michael Carey.

This project, now ongoing, together with those involved, have been extremely careful to ensure that this historic burial ground is respected in full, firstly, with regards to the rights of living family members of those deceased, and secondly, the rules already put in place by the Heritage Council with regard to the Guidance for the Care, Conservation and Recording of Historic Graveyards.

A partial planting programme began last November (2014) with the support and supervision of North Tipperary Co Council officials, Mr Michael Ryan (Administrator) and Mr Seamus Hanafin (Co.Councillor), under the direction of Dr Aine Lynch, latter a Conservation Ranger with the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Note: You can view details of many of those persons currently laid to rest within St Mary’s Graveyard simply by clicking HERE.

Click on ‘Vimeo’ (Bottom Right of this Video Clip) to view progress to date in HD.

Aims and future aspirations of this St Mary’s Graveyard Conservation Project.

Very few tourists, if any, visit St.Mary’s Graveyard in Thurles for its own merits presently, with those who do arrive intent only on viewing the Famine and War Museum, latter situated centre on this site. Imagine their delight when, weather permitting, they are taken into the surrounding ancient graveyard area, to view the final resting places of some of Tipperary’s greatest citizens.

Just a few of the people of significant national importance at rest in this cemetery are listed here:- (A) Irish nationalist, repeal agitator, ‘Young Irelander’ member and grand-nephew of Daniel O’Connell, Maurice Richard Leyne (1820-1854). Leyne participated in the Ballingarry (South Tipperary), Famine Rebellion of 1848 as well as being an editor of newspapers “The Nation” and the “Tipperary Leader.” (B) Thomas Semple (1879–1943) renowned Irish hurler who played as a half-forward for the Tipperary senior team and after whom our splendid Thurles GAA Stadium is named. (C) The Norman Gothic stone-carved tomb from the Ossory School of sculpture erected over Edmund Archer (1520)(D) Land agent, opulent landholder and brewer and tanner, Charles O’Keeffe (1775 – 1838), latter shot dead when a ball, fired from a pistol entered his left shoulder. Mr. O’Keeffe was a Roman Catholic, but had irritated local peasantry by ejecting tenants for non-payment of rent on the Meagher Estate (Thurles Golf Club today) and which he then managed. Murder rate in Tipperary during this period in Co. Tipperary was about three times the national average. (E) William Loughnane shot dead in 1921 by Black and Tan forces in Mitchel Street, Thurles. (F) John Molloy who toured Co. Tipperary with Mr Joseph Moore Labarte, latter responsible for Tipperary’s Railway system and Temporary Poor Law Inspector in 1847.  John Molloy was the first man to notify authorities in 1847 of the return of the blight to the potato crop here in Co. Tipperary. (G) Dr. William Bradshaw (1830 – 1861) V.C. (Victoria Cross 1857) for a time a doctor in the Fever Hospital in Thurles and who also ran a paupers clinic in Mitchel Street (The Quarry), Thurles, during the Great Famine period 1845-49. (H) Fr. Michael Fihan, the only licensed Parish Priest in Thurles during the Penal Laws.  (I) Eva Hunt, daughter of District Inspector Michael Hunt, a native of Sligo, latter who was shot dead in Thurles on the evening of June 23rd, 1919, in a gun battle with IRA volunteers, etc, etc,.

To date some one hundred shrubs including Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum’Koja’), Victorian Pheasant Berry (Leycesteria formosa), Buddleia or Butterfly Bush (Buddleja americana), distinctive all seasonal colourful barked woody shrubs from the family Cornaceae have been planted on the outer parameter of the grounds. A few trees e.g. White Cherry and Silver Birch have been planted, same ideally suitable for confined spaces and suitable in the fact that they will not exceed 18ft in overall heigh, thus not likely to cause major problems in later years.

Some 1,000 bulbs mostly consisting of daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells and peony rose tubers, have also been planted, many of which will be re-planted again this autumn to ensure maximum dispersal and fullest visual overall effect in later years.

This week both perennial and annual garden flowers have been planted, together with the reseeding of many wild flowers. Garden plants like Elephant Ears (Bergenia cordifolia), Madonna Lilies (Lilium candidum), Lupins (Lupinus perennis) and Irises (Iris germanica).

Wild flowers including Columbine (Aquilegia), Ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), Corn Poppys (Papaver rhoeas), Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), Violets (White; Viola sororia), Shirley Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Corn Marigolds (Glebionis segetum) and Forget-me-nots (Myosotis).

Narrow gravel pathways will now be added to this landscape which will direct future visitors through the graveyard in a more organised fashion. Some Victorian antique furniture has now also been purchased; all in keeping with this soon to be enhanced area.  A particular ‘thank you’ to voluntary late evening workers Mr Gerry Cullen and his son Mr Matty Cullen and for lending their considerable landscaping expertise and design assistance, in this environmental planting programme.

How Can You the People of this Community assist in this New Project?

(1) Do you have any “Overcrowded Perennials” in your garden drastically in need of division? We would be happy to accept your leftovers. Remember overcrowded perennials often have fewer and smaller flowers than their well-spaced and divided counterparts.

(2) Do you have relatives buried in St Mary’s Graveyard? Perhaps, finance permitting of course, you would like to take this opportunity to have the headstone cleaned, lettering repainted or a grave kerb added, replaced or repaired. Unable to undertake this work yourself, then talk to James Slattery, Tel 0504 – 22219, who specialises in dealing with ancient limestone headstones.

(3) Are you feeling generous? Why not make a small financial contribution to this worthwhile Thurles history conservation project. Your donation and full details of how your money was spent will be publicly acknowledged here on Thurles.Info in future regular news updates.

(4) Finances low and no garden flowers to share!  Not a problem, why not give us a call to 0504-21133 and join our voluntary workforce for an hour some sunny Saturday afternoon; we would love you to be part of this Thurles community, environmental and history conservation project.

This graveyard conservation project will now also greatly complement our new Thurles Town Park; latter which will offer a more crowded social dimension to our community, while the former will offer a quieter space for perhaps guidance, through peaceful reflection, thus ridding this space of the present label of ‘overgrown waste land’.

Remember also Thurles and rural Ireland must learn to ‘do for themselves’. Learn to expect no assistance financially from our present Dublin solely orientated government. The Easter Rising (Irish; Éirí Amach na Cásca) may have taken place in Dublin, but we here in Co. Tipperary had begun the push for independence and an end to British rule in Ireland well before 1916. So let us at least protect that memory.


5 comments to St Mary’s Graveyard Project Under Way In Thurles

  • Katie.

    George. Is St Mary’s Grave Yard the one that was next to a pig farm. My Mother is buried there along with the Ryan’s from New Hill and Noard two mile borris. Josie one of the cousins used to visit there every year and was suppose to be paying some one to look after the family graves. I am sure it could be James. Josie has now passed away in London. I would love to know what is happening now. Has James got an email address. This is a great project and hope the Thurles people will appreciate the hard work been put into this very important project. Looking forward to seeing you all 2016. Can’t wait to trace the O’Connell family.

  • Patrick Kenehan

    I was born in Kickham St and went school with Georgie Loughnane. We were, as children, dimly aware that some relative of Georgie’s had been shot during the time of the Black and Tans. One day Georgie took us bunch of kids to actually see the grave. We were dead jealous but deeply impressed none the less. Great days.

  • George Willoughby

    No Katie, St Mary’s is the graveyard between Kickham Street & Mitchel Street some 500yds east of the Cathedral in Thurles.

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