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Thurles Heritage In Grave Danger

“Our heritage is about our past, our present and our future and contributes greatly to the quality of life in our urban and rural communities. It is shared by all and is fully inclusive. Interaction with our heritage not only provides physical and mental health benefits, but contributes to overall well-being, while biodiversity is an essential component in the functioning of our environment.” – Signed Mr Joe MacGrath (Chief Executive, Tipperary County Council).

As we stated recently, (May 18th, 2020), work has now begun on a new local authority housing development, consisting of some 28 houses on the east side of Thurles in an area locally known as Mill Road. In the early 19th century the area was known as Manor Mill Road.

While this development is to be truly welcomed; this newest construction site is taking shape close to an area of heritage possibly the only one of its kind in Ireland, the Great Famine “Double Ditch”.

Entrance to ‘Double Ditch’ previously destroyed by Tipperary County Council employed contractors.
Photo G. Willoughby.

Lest you forget, first read all about the Great Famine “Double Ditch” HERE in a previous publication.

We previously wrote about this area, here on Thurles.Info in October of 2019; aware of Tipperary Co. Council’s proposals to develop this property close to this heritage site of national importance.

Tipperary Co. Council sadly, in their lack of knowledge, refer to this area as the Mill Road Walkway on current signage. It is not and never has been the Mill Road Walkway; its name is The Double Ditch and must now; with developers moving into place, be fully protected and returned to its original state.

We have been in contact (November 12th, 2019) with Ms Róisín O’Grady, (Heritage Officer with Tipperary County Council, Ballingarrane House, Cahir road, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary), whom we have met and remained in contact with via email up until late February 2020. But alas, the Covid-19 pandemic broke loose, bringing everything to a standstill.

Why should the town of Thurles worry regarding the further destruction of this historical asset?

This 174 year-old-old famine project and pedestrian Mass Path has had its Mill Road entrance previously destroyed by the very contractor employed by Tipperary Co. Council, involved in erecting fencing and a short concrete footpath fronting on this latest housing project. Back then Tipperary engineers conveniently turned a blind eye before signing off on this project. They have also turned a blind eye to the erection of posts and barbed wire on this public-right-of-way and have permitted the area to become a graveyard for supermarket trollies, toys and domestic furnishings.

Despite raising this issue in October 2019, no effort whatsoever has been made by Tipperary Co. Council or local public representatives to have this area cleaned up, except to remove their own embarrassing, dumped signage.

Yesterday, again I walk this neglected historic pathway, noting the collection of abandoned supermarket trolleys have now increased three-fold and the numerous, offensive, new poles / stakes holding up even more offencive barbed wire have been removed, possibly for firewood over last winter.

Our wish then and now is to highlight the historic importance of this area to Thurles business and tourism sectors and to prevent same from being destroyed by (A) further development; (B) those owning adjoining land and (C) those responsible for ‘Fly Tipping’.

Sadly the history of this area has been conveniently forgotten; lost in the mists of time to the memory of local residents and could in the near future be totally destroyed; lost to any future town tourism.

I defy any resident of the Irish state to identify any other such similar project undertaken during this sad period of our Irish history 1845 – 1849.

This area, back in April 1846 was the focus of development then, mainly by the business people of Liberty Square together with the clergy of Thurles; both Roman Catholic and Protestant, in an effort to put money into the pockets of starving paupers, thus ensuring that stomachs remained at least partially filled.

This event had followed the loss of the potato crop in the autumn of 1845, commemorated in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin city centre recently, and referred to in the history books as “The Great Famine”. (Irish: an Gorta Mór).

Somehow, no one has realised that this year, 2020, is the 175 anniversary of the start of that tragic historic event.

We here at Thurles.Info have now begun the tedious process of digitizing all hand written documentation affecting Thurles and the Great Famine; same material which describes the real facts surrounding this period, which include details of the initial plans for this Double Ditch.

These same details are being currently formatted and are published HERE (See page 6 Re Double Ditch) on our sister website Hidden Tipperary.com, for the benefit of our large viewing public, both here at home and abroad.

A copy of this statement has been forwarded to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ms Josepha Madigan; Chief Executive Tipperary Co. Council, Mr Joseph MacGrath; all Councillors elected to represent the Thurles Municipal District and Thurles politicians.

Funding must immediately be put in place to protect and restore this area, in association with the current housing development.

We will be happy to meet with anyone who requires further clarification on this area of national importance.

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