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"Cad atá ar súil agat ?" - What are you doing?


August 2014
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“Irishmen In The Great War” By Tom Burnell

“To all of the fallen in their silence we offer our own silence, without judgement, and with respect for their ideals, as they knew them,
and for the humanity they expressed towards each other.”

(Extract from the speech by Irish President Michael D Higgins during the dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin this week.)


Dublin born author, Mr Tom Burnell, now resident here in Holycross, Thurles, Co.Tipperary, has penned yet another remarkable factual history book; launched just yesterday entitled “Irishmen In The Great War.”  Many of our regular readers will be familiar with Tom’s other publications including “The Wicklow War Dead,” and “Tipperary Casualties of the Great War,” and of course his valued assistance through this website in tracing military family members lost in two great wars.

Tom has taken over twenty-seven Irish newspapers for the period covering the Great War (1914-1918) and has trawled through each and every publication to deliver the most amazing stories of those years, which as we now realise changed our world for ever.

While the book is not necessarily just about Co Tipperary it nevertheless does have many Tipperary people mentioned in it, most of whom survived World War1. Names like:- Miss M. J. Fitzgibbon, Corporal Michael O’Mara (Carrick-on-Suir), Sapper James O’Donnell (Carrick-on-Suir), Private W. Roberts (Clonmel), Corporal A.S. Dowling (Tipperary), Corporal Edward Jackson, (Roscrea), Private Robert Walsh (Carrick-on-Suir), Miss Mary F. Doheny, (Carrick-on-Suir), Sergeant Major Drought Jackson (Roscrea), Captain W. Gibson (Brittas Cashel), Cyril Triscott, Dr Wetterell (Tipperary) and Lance Corporal George White (Knockanvar, Cappawhite).

Contained between these hard covers are the fascinating accounts of the day-to-day lives of men in the front lines; of torpedoed ships; drunken wives, final farewell letters and requests direct from the trenches. There are also many eye-witness accounts of the slaughter as it was happening; battle reports from officers serving in Irish regiments; quirky snippets; chaplains’ sympathetic letters; P.O.W reports of conditions and war poetry.

Here are the tales of the Leinster’s, Munster’s, Connaught’s and Dublin Fusiliers serving in the Ulster Division, 10th and 16th Irish Divisions. We read of medical breakthroughs, paranormal occurrences and miraculous escapes from death.

After the Irish Rebellion of April, 1916, these type of newspaper articles and lists of casualty slowly began to dwindle as here at home Irish hearts would became politically divided.

A cracking great read compiled for the very first time into one single publication and offering a memorable primary source for true lovers of Irish History.

Tipperary Author Sean Hogan To Visit Borrisoleigh Historical Society

HistorySeán Hogan, a native of Puckane in North Tipperary and the author of best-selling book “The Black and Tans in North Tipperary, Policing, Revolution and War 1913 – 1922,” will be the guest speaker at the Borrisoleigh Historical Society’s second lecture of this season to be held on Tuesday night next, December 10th, 2013, in the Community Centre at

Seán Hogan’s book looks at the years 1913 to 1922 and examines in detail how County Tipperary went from being one of the least crime hit police districts, to being one of the bloodiest and most terrifying areas in which to reside.

Hogan’s lecture is expected to recount the events surrounding local ambushes and armed engagements, the struggle for political power at council level and indeed within the IRA membership itself, as well as giving detailed background on those in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Crown Forces who were murdered.

Seán will also attempt to examine the murders and other atrocities carried out against civilians during this period – carried out by both the IRA and the Black and Tans.

Admission to this event costs €5.00 and is a must for students of Irish history and lovers of factual Tipperary History in particular.

Christmas Tales At Thurles Library

BefanaHave you ever heard of Befana the Christmas witch?
Well Italy’s traditional Christmas celebration includes tales of a witch known as La Befana who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5th in search of the Christ Child and fills kids’ stockings with sweets for all the good children and places lumps of coal in the stockings of the bad ones. (Children take special note.)

Have you ever heard of Nisse the mischievous elf that plays tricks on people during Christmas time?
Well during Christmas in Denmark, the mischievous Danish elf, Nisse, plays pranks on people. Nisse lives in old farmhouses and wears gray woollen clothes, a red bonnet, stockings and white clogs.  Nisse generally helps people on the farm and is very good with children, but is known to plays jokes during the Christmas season, especially if families don’t leave a bowl of rice pudding out for him.

So why am I telling you all about this when you can hear it from real story tellers?
On Saturday December 21st Simone Schuemmelfeder and Michael Phelan from Story Gate will entertain us all with Christmas tales from around the world. In a very special day of storytelling organised by the local Library, situated here in Cathedral Street, Thurles, Co Tipperary, Ann Marie Brophy informs me that you can find out much more about this favourite time of the year and how Christmas is being celebrated in various other countries.

There will be a special session held for under eight year olds at 11.30 a.m. and another session held for the over eight year olds, at 2.30 p.m.
Note: This is a free event and each session will last about one hour, with Milk and Cookies being served.

But please Mum and Dad do contact Thurles Library on Tel: 0504-29720 to sign up for a place, (Well Ann Marie wants to make sure she doesn’t run short on those very necessary Milk & Cookies,) at what promises to be a very heart-warming, informative festive event!

Tipperary Urged To Return To Lemons, Salt, Vinegar & Soda

Householders throughout Tipperary are being urged to cut down on domestic cleaning products and go back to basics when it comes to household cleaning.

The Southern Waste Management Regional Office (SWMRO), which manages waste recycling and prevention activities for Tipperary’s Local Authorities, has produced a ‘Greener Cleaning’ guide outlining how people can save money and help the environment by replacing household cleaning chemicals like bleach with relatively inexpensive traditional cleaning ingredients such as vinegar and soda.

Every year millions of cleaning products are purchased by Irish consumers to clean and maintain their home. Many products are purchased to do a specific task and often languish under the sink or in the bathroom cupboard,” explained Pauline McDonogh, SWRMO Waste Prevention Coordinator.

DSC_3887 Ms. McDonogh continued: “These chemicals become household hazardous waste and should be disposed of properly which can be a costly process. Furthermore, we tend to use household chemicals liberally and pay scant heed to dosage and usage instructions. It should be remembered that most of these chemicals are discharged to the sewers as waste water which requires significant treatment before it becomes potable again.

There are alternatives and this booklet will get householders started,” stated Ms. McDonogh who added: “Our guide is simple to follow and is packed full of ideas on how to clean your home cheaply and environmentally friendly. Using five simple ingredients and following our recipes most cleaning tasks around the home can be tackled. The five wonder products are Soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, salt and lemon juice.

According to Ms. McDonogh: “This EPA-funded research project highlighted the lack of public awareness of alternatives to the many unnecessary chemicals that we use on a daily basis. The ‘Greener Cleaning’ guide addresses this awareness gap by promoting the fact that household cleaning using more traditional products is cheap, effective and better for the environment and your heath.

The free “Greener Cleaning: Environmental Tips for Domestic Cleaning & Hygiene,” guide is produced by the Southern Waste Management Regional Office, which manages waste recycling and prevention activities for local authorities in Limerick, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Carlow. The publication is also supported by the EPA and the Clean Technology Centre (CTC).

Note: The guide is available on request from the SRWMO at 061-496596 or by Emailing

Lost Tipperary Child To A ‘Fallen Woman’

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.St. Matthews Gospel Chapter 7: v 1-2

PhilomenaRegularly we receive requests, mainly from Tipperary expatriates, inviting us to recommend titles to books about Tipperary, its past history and its undoubted scenic beauty.

In relation to our past, one such compelling book comes highly recommended, from the pen of ex-BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, published some three years ago. It is “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” now also about to be launched as a new film directed by Stephen Frears and entitled ‘Philomena.’

In the film version the main role of Philomena Lee, an Irishwoman in her 70′s, is played by the Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench, supported by actor, comedian and producer Steve Coogan.

Both the book and film tell the heart rending story of Anthony Lee, a three year old boy who was born in the mother and baby home, run by the nuns and known as Sean Ross Abbey, here in Roscrea, Co Tipperary. It details in particular the trials of his unwed mother Philomena, who was forced to give up her baby for adoption, a few years after his birth.

At the time of Anthony’s birth, readers must understand that the democratically elected Irish government of the period were paying the church £1 a week for every woman in its care, and two shillings and sixpence for every baby in similar circumstances. This same Irish government, however, were not so generous to the babies born of unwed mothers, who choose to run this gauntlet of assumed shame while remaining outside this prescribed ‘mother and baby home,’ system.

In the 1950′s young unwed mothers were harshly judged by the vast majority of Irish society, not just Roman Catholics. As horrible and tragic as this compelling story will read, one must remember that society, the nuns and the church who undertook this social remedy, did not perceive themselves as evil, instead the motivation behind their actions, while misguided, was mostly seen from the point of view as being for a child’s future betterment.

The girls’ parents, because of perceived social family shame and secrecy, together with these nuns truly believed that these adopted children would possibly be better off with the stability of a two parent family. The nuns firmly believed as did unnecessarily embarrassed families that by hard work in these religious establishments girls would somehow atone for their sexual transgressions and thus redeem themselves morally in their lifetime. Of course these actions undertaken did not take into account the feelings of the mother and child.  Both then and even in more recent times, with the church’s role in these adoptions emerging and with much of the incriminating paperwork disappearing in somewhat unexplained circumstances, the church continues to guard itself in its role played in these adoptions.

When she became pregnant as a teenager in the Ireland of 1952, Limerick native Philomena Lee, aged 19, was sent to Sean Ross Abbey convent in Roscrea Co. Tipperary, to be cared for as a ‘fallen,’ woman. Having given birth, she was permitted to care for her new born for three years until the Church took him from her and sold him, like countless others, to America for adoption.

After giving birth, these ‘fallen women,’ mere girls, were allowed to leave the convent, but only if they or their family could afford to pay the nuns £100. Those who couldn’t afford this substantial sum, which were the vast majority, had to leave these girls in the convent for three years, where the latter occupied themselves in kitchens, laundries, greenhouses or making rosary beads and religious artefacts, while the church kept the profits from their labours.

Like all the other girls in similar circumstances, Philomena Lee would be made to sign a ‘Renunciation Document,’ agreeing to give up her son, while swearing on oath: “I relinquish full claim for ever to my child and surrender him to Sister Barbara, Superioress of Sean Ross Abbey. The purpose is to enable Sister Barbara to make my child available for adoption to any person she considers fit and proper, inside or outside the state.”  From the end of the Second World War until the 1970s, such oaths would now entitle these children born out of wedlock to be the property of the church and now with or without the consent of their mothers, these babies could be sold.  In fact the only condition laid down by the then Archbishop McQuaid was that adopting parents should be acknowledged as fully practising Roman Catholics.

Philomena cried when Anthony was taken from her that Christmas period of 1955.  She was not told he was being taken and it was felt that it was in her best interests that she should not be allowed to say goodbye.

Philomena’s son Anthony would now vanish from Ireland; sold to an American couple from St Louis, Missouri, USA, to re-emerge under the adoptive name of Michael Hess.  Anthony (Michael Hess) would go on become a Senior Counsel to both the George Bush Snr and Ronald Reagan administrations. Philomena and Anthony, despite much searching for each other, would never be reunited, though both he and his mother visited Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary several times over the decades, both individually inquiring about the whereabouts of each other.

Truly a heart rending remarkable true story and a must read‘, for all book lovers in Tipperary and further afield.

Highly recommended as a stocking filler for all those loving dedicated mothers out there, with Christmas just some eight weeks away.

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