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Davidia involucrata ‘Birr Gold’ – “The Handkerchief Tree”

Seamus O’Driscoll’s Garden Centre on the Mill Road, here in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, is as far as you need to travel over the next week or so, should you be on the lookout for something extremely rare and truly exotic.

By rare and exotic, I refer in particular to “The Handkerchief Tree” (Davidia involucrata ‘Birr Gold’) just one of the many rare trees, shrubs and plants located at this ‘Mecca’ of garden cultivation and management; all specimens which are strikingly unusual and delightfully strange, both in visual effect and in appearance.

Pictures Left to Right: (1) French Lazarist missionary Catholic priest, zoologist, botanist and naturalist, Fr. Armand David, (1826 to 1900); (2) Davidia involucrata (The Handkerchief tree); (3) Kew Garden’s trained gardener, botanist, plant collector / hunter & explorer Ernest Henry Wilson, (“Chinese” Wilson – 1876 to 1930).

The tree Davidia involucrata, was first named after French Lazarist missionary, Roman Catholic priest (Lazarist – A Catholic organization founded in 1625, at the priory of St Lazare in Paris, by St. Vincent de Paul, latter renowned for his compassion, humility and generosity to those found impoverished) and naturalist Fr. Armand David, who first described it, and who coincidently was also the first westerner to describe the Giant Panda Bear, native to south central China.

This deciduous Chinese native ‘Handkerchief Tree’  is also referred to as the ‘Dove Tree’; which can grow up to 20 metres in height (or 66 ft.) and is best acknowledged for its striking display of floral bracts in late spring. Its small, reddish purple flower heads surrounded by a pair of large, white bracts, same up to 30cms (1 ft) in length, said to resemble dangling handkerchiefs or doves perched on its branches. Foliage here is vivid green, heart shaped leaves with serrated edges and with fine points developed at each tip. Here also you will find that the very young leaves are strongly scented.

Henry Veitch (1840 – 1924)

The obituary of Henry Veitch, published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle on 12th July 1924 stated; “Sir Harry Veitch may be regarded as the most outstanding figure in contemporary horticulture, and during the last fifty years no one has exercised so great an influence on all things pertaining to gardening”.

It took some 35 years, following Fr. Armand David’s formal description given back in 1868, before the ‘Handkerchief Tree’ eventually arrived into Britain. While preserved specimens of Davidia involucrata had been sent to Kew Gardens, it was the eminent English horticulturist and nurseryman, Sir Henry Veitch, (Latter instrumental in establishing the now famous Chelsea Flower Show), who insisted on obtaining some seeds from which to propagate the tree.  In 1899 he commissioned a bright young prize-winning botanist, Ernest Wilson, to travel to China to locate the ‘Handkerchief Tree’. This proposed trip presented something of a challenge for the 22-year-old Wilson, who had had never travelled abroad previously and did not speak one solitary word of the Chinese language.

Nevertheless, following some six months stay at Veitch’s Coombe Woods Nursery, Wilson then travelled west towards China, staying for five days at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. Here he studied identified and established techniques involving the shipping of seeds and plants, without causing damage, before continuing to cross the United States by train; eventually sailing from San Francisco, to reach Hong Kong in June of 1899.

With difficulty, he eventually located a specimen of ‘Handkerchief Tree’ in Yichang city, in the western Hubei province of China. It was from this same first trip that Wilson would also introduce to Britain ‘Actinidia deliciosa’, or the Chinese gooseberry, better known today to supermarket shoppers as Kiwifruit.

Irish Botanist and Sinologist, Professor Dr. Augustine Henry (1857 to 1930).

Just a 53 minute drive, travelling north some 55.7 km via the N62, we reach the town of Birr in Co. Offaly. Here in the formal garden at Birr Castle, a “Handkerchief Tree” grew, before its death in 1980. This was propagated by Hillier’s Nursery in Ampfield, Hampshire and young plants were, I believe, planted at Birr Castle.

It is believed that the cultivar that resulted in ‘Birr Gold’ may have been a seedling from one of the original introduced here into Ireland. Certainly, Professor Dr. Augustine Henry; latter an Irish Botanist and Sinologist (Sinologist meaning person with knowledge pertaining to all things Chinese including language, literature, culture and history), further prompted the sending of Ernest Wilson to China with secret instructions to locate the ‘Handkerchief Tree’.

If you are around Thurles in the coming days, why not find your way to O’Driscoll’s Garden Centre, Mill Road, to view “up close and personal”, this rare and unusual tree, and marvel, while recognising the sheer beauty, complexity and equilibrium that is openly displayed to our world, courtesy of Mother Earth.

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2018 Tipperary Rose Is Laura Durkan

Headed For The Dome!

Congratulations to twenty six year old Miss Laura Durkan, a native of Glenconnor, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

The lovely Miss Durkan has been selected as the 2018 Tipperary Rose to represent the Premier County, for the coveted title of International Rose of Tralee, at the Rose of Tralee Festival.

Miss Durkan was chosen from some 12 other hopefuls, to represent Co. Tipperary at a special selection event in the Anner Hotel here in Thurles last night, and will now travel to Tralee to represent Tipperary, this coming August.

Rose of Tralee International Festival – 17th to 21st August 2018

The Rose of Tralee International Festival remains one of the largest and longest running festivals in Ireland, celebrating 59 years in 2018. The heart of the festival is the selection of the Rose of Tralee which brings young women of Irish descent from around the world to County Kerry, Ireland, for a global celebration of Irish culture.

The festival will also includes street entertainment, carnival, live concerts, theatre, circus, markets, funfair, fireworks and Rose Parades.

To Miss Durkan go our congratulations and every best wish in this upcoming event.

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Tipperary Ladies Vie For The Title “Rose of Tralee”

The Tipperary Rose Of Tralee Centre is proud to present the 2018 Tipperery Rose of Tralee selection at The Anner Hotel, Thurles, this Saturday night, March 31st, with doors opening at 7:30pm.

Tipperary Ladies Who Will Vie For The Title “Rose of Tralee 2018”.

Miss Katie Cleary, representing SuperValu Co-Op,  aged 23, from  Barnaleen, Donohill.
Miss Aine Ryan, representing Whitechurch Consulting, aged 26, from Kildangan, Nenagh.
Miss Danielle Ryan, representing Cashel Stoves and Fireplace Fitters,  aged 18, from Cashel.
Miss Sarah Power, The Old School House, aged 24, from Littleton, Thurles.
Miss Chelsey Power, representing Miss Ellie’s Takeaway, aged 24, from Clonmel.
Miss Aoife O’Neill, representing O’Ceallachains, Carrick-on-Suir, aged 27, from Burncourt, Cahir.
Miss Laura Carroll, representing Campus Life Services, aged 27, from Nenagh.
Miss Siobhan Hynes, representing O’ Sullivan’s Pharmacy, aged 19 from Clonmel, Tipperary.
Miss Michelle Ryan, representing Philips Furniture Nenagh / Susan Ryan Travel Counsellor, aged 26, from Nenagh.
Miss Michelle McLaughlin, representing Pride of Tipperary, aged 20, from Tipperary.
Miss Lauren Enright, representing Dolan’s Supervalu Cahir, aged 20, from Cahir.
Miss Emma Wright, representing Wright Sound and Lighting, aged 18, from Roscrea.
Miss Megan Clancy, representing In the Wardrobe, aged 22, from Clonmel.
Miss Ashlee Hally, representing Lava Rock Restaurant, aged 23, from Grange, Clonmel.
Miss Lauren Fitzgerald, representing Galileo Cafe, aged 19, from Cahir.
Miss Emma English, representing Rea Clarke Hennessy, aged 26, Carhue, from Dundrum.
Miss Laura Durkan, representing Irish Kidney Association, aged 26, from Glenconnor, Clonmel.

Best of luck to all those taking part.

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Holycross/Ballycahill – ‘Tipp Top’ in Open Drama Festival

News Flash: Holycross/Ballycahill Drama Group with their production of “Bold Girls” have qualified for the All-Ireland Confined Finals of the Amateur Drama Council of Ireland; to be held in St Bridget’s Hall, Carnew, County Wicklow from Friday, April 13th to Saturday, April 21st.

Holycross/Ballycahill Are Tops in Tipp at Co. Tipperary Open Drama Festival

Tom Ryan Reports:-

It’s official. The 50 year old Holycross/Ballycahill Drama Group are tops in Co. Tipperary!

The winners of last year’s “Tipperary Star” Cup awarded in the Confined Section of the Co. Tipperary Drama Festival, this year have won the Dr Morris Cup for Best Tipperary Play in the Confined Section. Same was announced last Saturday night in St Michael’s Community Centre, Holycross; as a hugely successful 36th Co. Tipperary Open Drama Festival drew to a close.

Ms Imelda McDonagh

Already preparations are under way for next year’s festival to be held in March, 2019.  A justifiably delighted Mr Donal Duggan, (Festival Director), thanked everybody who had contributed in any way to the success of the festival.

The “Tipperary Star Cup” in the Confined Section went to Curtain Call Productions, Dungarvan, with Neil La Bute’s “Some“Girls”.

The “Hannifin Cup” for Most Entertaining Play went to Conna Drama Group’s “Caught in the Net” and the Gallagher Award for Most Promising Actor/Actress, went to Lilly Heindich Doyle (Gorey).  Ms Jenny Bracken of the Holycross/Ballycahill Group, latter who are having a very successful year, winning many awards nationwide, won Best Actress Award for her role as
“Marie” in “Bold Girls”, to further add to other best actress awards won by this very talented Thespian.

Jacqui Lacey was nominated for Best Supporting Actress Award. Miriam Lanigan, Paddy Connolly and Conor O’Connell of Holycross /Ballycahill won an Adjudicator’s award for Imaginative and Atmospheric Lighting.

The Tipp FM Trophy for the Open Section winners was won by Bridge View, Tallow, for their truly delightful “Stolen Child” by Yvonne Quinn and Bairbre Ni Chaoimh.

Nenagh DG were second with “Duet For One”, while Thurles Drama Group were third with Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”.  Mary Bowe, playing Elvira in “Blithe Spirit” won Best Actress Award for Thurles Drama Group.  Martin Fitzgerald was nominated for Best Actor and Liam Ryan was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in “Blithe” Spirit”, while Anne O’ Dwyer won the Josie Slattery Trophy for Best Overall Set. Sandra Dunne was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Award.

Kevin Walshe of Nenagh DG was nominated for Best Actor Award and Ciara O’Sullivan of Nenagh for Best Actress Award (Open).

The Tipperary successful Holycross/Ballycahill Drama Group and Dr Morris Cup winners, comprised  Elaine O’ Dwyer, Jenny Bracken, Joanne O’Neill and Jacqui Lacey, while Claire Ryan was Director. And they and their hard-working stage crew deserve many accolades. As, indeed, do all groups who participated with a wide ranging selection of top plays over the nine days of delightful theatre, a credit to rural Tipperary.

Hopefully this prestigious festival will ever receive all the support it so richly deserves.
The festival attracted theatre enthusiasts from all over Tipperary and other counties who lavished praise on the organising committee.  It was pointed out that The Tipperary and Doonbeg Drama Festivals are the only ones to feature the playing of our national anthem. And in Holycross, Martin (“Marty”) O’Neill can be proud of his dedication in this regard. He always plays “Amhrán na bhFhiann” nightly before the plays ever get under way.

The Festival committee led by Mr Donal Duggan, Festival Director, who was MC nightly, won praise from popular adjudicator, Ms Imelda McDonagh, who was a richly informative voice nightly and very helpful to groups with vast experience at her disposal.

County Tipperary Drama Festival Committee 2018
President: V Rev Fr. Celsius Tierney, Parish Priest of Holycross/Ballycahill; Chairman: Tommy Lanigan; Festival Director: Donal Duggan; Treasurer: Maudie Bourke; Secretary; Claire Ryan; P.R.O:Geraldine O’Neill; Sponsorship: Ger O’Dwyer; Raffle: Diana Lacey; Technical: Marty O’Neill and Paddy Connolly; Committee: Peg Ryan, Elaine O’Dwyer, Derek Doherty.

A special subcommittee comprises :
Jack Henchion, John Glasheen, Aisling Henchion, Gerry Kennedy.

Attendance at the festival included:
“Tipperary Star” Sports Editor, Brian McDonnell, John Quinlan (Moyne), Martin, Mary and Anna Fitzgerald (Holycross), Marian Burke (Holycross), Tim Curran and his daughter Rachel (Thurles), Fintan O Gorman (Athnid), Denis Carroll (Clonoulty), Tom Quinlan (Ballyhcahill), Gerard J Hough (Cashel), author John G O ‘Dwyer (Thurles), Nora and Mary Maher (Thurles), Mairead Ryan (Holycross), Patrick Crowe, (Thurles), Siobhan Kelly (Thurles), Josephine O’Gorman (Thurles), Tommy Kennedy (Thurles), Mike Hennessy (Tipperary Mid-West Radio), and his wife, Breda, Dolores Purcell (Athnid), Tom and Margaret Purcell (Littleton), James Finn, and Geraldine O’Neill (Tipp FM), Kitty Devane (Clonoulty) and her daughter Edel.

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Tipperary Drama Festival Gets Under Way In Holycross, Thurles

Reporter: Tom Ryan.

County Tipperary Drama Festival Committee 2018
President: Very Rev. Fr. Celsius Tierney, Parish Priest of Holycross/ Ballycahill; Chairman: Tommy Lanigan; Festival Director: Donal Duggan; Treasurer: Maudie Bourke; Secretary: Clare Ryan; P.R.O: Geraldine Henchion; Sponsorship: Ger O’Dwyer; Raffle: Diana Lacey; Technical Support: Marty O’Neill and Paddy Connolly; Subcommittee Members: Peg Ryan, Elaine O’Dwyer, Derek Doherty, Jack Henchion, John Glasheen, Aisling Henchion and Gerry Kennedy.

Ms Imelda McDonagh

The 36th annual County Tipperary Open Drama Festival got under way in style at St. Michael’s Community Centre, Holycross, last Friday night, following a glitzy ‘Cheese and Wine’ reception, hosted by the Festival Committee and attended by many local dignitaries.

The festival was officially opened by International Festival Adjudicator, Ms Imelda McDonagh , who was welcomed by Mr Donal Duggan, latter Festival Director for over three decades and the amiable and informative Master of Ceremonies nightly.

Amongst those introduced to the attendance by Mr Duggan were:-  Archbishop Emeritus Dermot Clifford; Very Rev Celsius Tierney PP; Festival Committee President Mr Tommy Lanigan; an old friend to the festival and its Chairman Mr Michael Lowry, TD; County Councillors Mr Micheal Lowry and Mr Seamus Hanafin and Ms Kay Cahill, (sister of TD Mr Jackie Cahill).

As former adjudicator, Mr Larry McCluskey, pointed out that audiences are very perceptive and appreciative in Holycross and not only do Holycross host the actual annual festival, but they also compete themselves nationally, with great successfully.

There were lovely tributes in this year’s Festival Programme; to the late Eibhlis Quirke, former Secretary of the Festival Committee and to the late Dan Gallagher of Thurles. (Ar dheis De a n-anamacha). The late Dan and his wife, Breda, previously sponsored the “Gallagher Award” for “Most Promising Actor/Actress” and Breda Gallagher and her daughter Mary, were most welcome guests on the night, upholding a proud tradition for the popular Gallagher family.

The festival continues until next Saturday, March 24th, when results will be announced and prizes presented, including the “Tipperary Star Cup” for Best Play in the Confined Section, and the “Tipp FM Trophy” for Best Play in the Open Section.

Wednesday, March 21st (Open section) Noel Coward’s “Blyth Spirit”, – Thurles D.G.
Thursday, March 22nd (Confined) “Some Girls”, Curtain Call, Dungarvan.
Friday, March 23rd (Confined) “Bold Girls”, Holycross/Ballycahill D.G.
Saturday, March 24th (Open) “Duet For Two”, Nenagh Drama Group.

Festival fever is particularly strong in the Suirside village currently, with the Holycross/Ballycahill group’s Jenny Bracken winning “Best Actress Award” in the Rush, County, Dublin, Drama Festival and Aisling Henchion nominated for “Best Sound” at the same festival.

There is a lot of buzz about “Bold Girls”.
It looks like being a very successful year for the talented Abbeysiders. There is huge excitement about the group locally and a record attendance is expected next Friday night to see them on stage in “Bold Girls”.  Early attendance is certainly most advisable and note the ever-popular Festival Club Tea Room will be in operation on a nightly basis.

“Bold Girls”, is a stirring play based around the lives of three women; Marie, Nora and Cassie, all living in war-torn Belfast. Although their men have been either killed or imprisoned for their political activities; everyday life must go on. But the appearance of a disturbing young girl, and Cassie’s revelations, suddenly threaten Marie’s carefully structured widowhood.

This impressive Holycross/Ballycahill group, directed by Claire Ryan; winners of the Confined Section in the Roscommon Drama Festival, comprise the formidable cast of:- Joanne O’Neill, Jacqui Lacey, Eleanor O’ Dwyer and Jenny Bracken, together with a top-class backup team. At time of writing they still have more festivals in which to compete, to bring them even possibly more honour.

Looking back at the Tipperary Open Drama Festival.
A number of other groups in this festival are no strangers to both the Confined and Open All-Ireland finals. Simply only the best groups take to the stage in Holycross, offering that rare opportunity to meet; not only theatre enthusiasts, but also talented Thespians from all over Ireland.

Holycross-Ballycahill Drama Group are in existence for over fifty years. The group have reached the All Ireland Confined Finals on many occasions, including, 2016, in Castleblayney with “The Thrill of Love” by Amanda Whittington and in 2013 in Rossmore Co. Cork with “The God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza. They have won numerous acting, directing and set awards, not only on the country’s festival circuit, but also in All Ireland competitions.

“Sive” by J.B. Keane, “Run For Your Wife” by Ray Cooney, “Woman and Scarecrow” by Marina Carr and T.S. Elliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” are among the critically acclaimed productions that the group have performed around the country. They have even brought “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”, by Martin Mc Donagh to Germany, following a special request by the American forces stationed there to perform at their base in Heidelberg.

The above group have won a string of nominations e.g. Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Set (Andy Slattery) awards around the country. A magnificent achievement for Director, Claire Ryan and her talented cast and stage crew.

Ursuline Convent Secondary Win Glasheen Trophy in Schools Drama Festival
With a hugely impressive production, Ursuline Convent, Thurles won the coveted Glasheen Trophy in the unique Schools Drama Festival, in which Presentation Secondary School, Thurles and two groups from Doon also participated.  Sponsors were Stakelum’s Office Supplies here in Thurles, who were thanked. Mr Donal Duggan, Festival Director went on to thank the teachers for their committed involvement in and contribution to the festival and for fostering local drama and an interest in drama from an early age.

So, it remains a fact; to quote the words of Festival Adjudicator for the “Schools Drama Festival”, Mr Conor O’Connell, (to massive applause, I might add), “Drama is alive and well in Tipperary”.

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