Some three attempts to rescue and preserve the 16th Century Archer tomb in Thurles, (Situated on the east side of St. Mary’s graveyard) over the past 12 years, have been met with the reply “Do Not Touch”, by those responsible for preserving our important historical heritage nationally.
This unique stone carved tomb, (shown above), once clearly bore the inscription “Here [lies] Edmund [Archer] burgess of Thurles and Lord of Rathfernegh, Galboly, Corbale [and] Killienane who died on the 18th of the month of September in the year 1520. Counuchan caused me to be made”, but alas no more.
This Archer tomb, considered to be from the Ossory school of sculpture, (Same encompasses all sculpture within this region from that time period which was unsigned.) needs to be immediately protected from the elements. There were very few sculptors who signed their work during the 16th century, with the exception possibly of the Kerin School and the O’Tunney School. Today tomb sculpture still remain the richest source of information available for the study of Irish armour and dress. Each sculpture then was a statement of status by the families who once commissioned these monuments.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, some days ago, spoke of the serious danger posed by the Islamic State group ISIS, with refugees in the Middle East now currently fleeing into Europe. Speaking to eager journalists, Mr Kenny pointed to the growth of the terrorist group in Syria and the global threat war fleeing refugees now pose in relation to the destruction of historical artefacts and century old buildings.
According to confirmed reports, last month these terrorists blew up a historic temple in Syria, destroyed several mausoleums in Afghanistan, sold valued artefacts on the black market, burned books / manuscripts and smashed age old statues. Now according to Mr Kenny they may wish to blow up the Rock of Cashel and Newgrange etc.
Trust me Mr Kenny; while I appreciate your worried sentiments expressed, ISIS has been operating here in Ireland, unseen for decades, in the form of politicians devoid of experience, imagination and competence. Our worries should now be focused on the failure of this nation in the past, led by successive governments, to fund the protection of our valuable existing heritage sites, if for just one reason only the further development of our future tourism business.
Recently I had the privilege of escorting some Canadian visitors on a visit to the 12th century monastic settlement of St. Declán, latter situated in the coastal historic seaside village of Ardmore, Co. Waterford. While examining the magnificent stone carvings to be found on the South ‘lunette’ west face, (‘lunette’ from the French meaning, “little moon,” – a half-moon shaped space, filled with recessed masonry or simply void) of the now ruined Cathedral, one of the group rightfully expressed their shock at our failure to protect our important past history. Today much of the magnificent stone carvings have disappeared, while the still barely visible remaining relief work continues to be eroded annually by nature and the elements.
The present Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, FG’s Ms Heather Humphreys, some months ago announced the provision of an extra €2m; to be taken from her Arts funding, and expended on Museums in Dublin and in Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s birth place of Co. Mayo. The purpose of this extended funding was to ensure that museum attractions in Dublin and Mayo, latter hosting historical artefacts, many of which have been ‘raided Viking style’ from Co. Tipperary, remain to be viewed, admission free, to the benefit of Dublin’s bustling economy.
Time now for those responsible for rural tourism, both in Co. Tipperary and elsewhere, to get their act together to ensure the protection of Ireland’s rural tourist economy, latter worth almost €4 billion annually to the Irish State.
Readers are invited to place the Archer Tomb on their ‘Bucket List’, as by next year yet another piece of this fine rare stone sculpture will have vanished forever, due to the lack of foresight by those we appoint who take on the responsibility of ‘caretakers of history’.