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Marathon Recital Of Ancient Handbell Ringing For Borrisoleigh

Replica of St. Cualan’s Bell, Sacred Heart Church, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary.

The ancient art of Handbell Ringing is largely unheard of here in Southern Ireland; first Handbells having being developed by brothers Robert and William Cor in Aldbourne, Wiltshire, England, between 1696 and 1724.

Now on Friday next two simultaneous Hand Bell Ringing Marathon Recital events will take place in the area of the village of Borrisoleigh, Thurles, Co. Tipperary on Friday next, July 27th, 2018.   The bell ringing recitals will be conducted by the London-based guild of St. Cualan, under the direction of Mr Thomas Hinks.

This St. Cualan Guild take their name from the Bearnan Cualan, a tenth century Irish bell shrine, which originally belonged to the monastery of St Cualan at Glenkeen, Borrisoleigh, in Co. Tipperary.

St. Cualan’s Bell, (also known as the Glankeen Bell or An Béarnan Cuileáin) is a late 7th to early 8th century [Anno Domini], iron hand bell, latter encased in a richly ornamented early 12th century brass shrine; its height being about 30 centimetres, inclusive.

It had been located hidden in a tree trunk in the townsland of Kilcuilawn, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, in the late 18th century and the original now resides in the British Museum in London, (Reference Record No. 1854,0714.6.B.)

The bell shrine is decorated in what is possibly an Irish version of the Viking Ringerike style, (Ringerike style receives its name from the Ringerike district north of Oslo, in Norway who produced similar designs), with an inlaid Silver and Niello strip, (latter manufactured by fusing together copper, silver and lead before mixing the molten alloy with sulfur).

The work is similar to that found on the Clonmacnoise Crozier and the Lough Derg Sword and indeed it is quite likely that all three pieces may have originated from the same metal workshop. It is also possible that all three pieces were made either for use at or in commemoration of the Synod of Ráith Bressail, which met near Borrisoleigh in the year 1111. Latter was the most important of all the synods associated with the twelfth-century Church Reform movement in Ireland, organising for the first time an administrative structure and a territory based system of dioceses under the control of individual bishops.

Interesting: For many years St. Cualan’s Bell was used to detect false oaths; liars swearing by St. Cualan’s Bell, risked having their ‘heads reversed’. [Perhaps same should be moved for regular use in Dáil Éireann. No on second thoughts Dublin has already stolen, Viking style, most of Tipperary’s heritage and tourist attractions.]

The original bell is partially incomplete, missing its internal ‘clapper’ and a handle; however, an accurate replica of the shrine is kept on open display in the Roman Catholic parish Church of The Sacred Heart in the picturesque village of Borrisoleigh, just 14km or 16 mins drive from Thurles, Co. Tipperary, via route R498.

The bell somehow came into the possession of Birr attorney and historian Thomas Lawlor Cooke from Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, who wrote important histories on the town of Birr and district [`Picture of Parsonstown’ (1826)]. Cooke went on to sell the bell shrine, along with other artefacts, to the British Museum, where it has remained as part of religious displays ever since.

When this visiting guild of bell ringers were first formed, they were not fully aware of the ancient story behind the famous Bearnan Cualan and its association with Borrisoleigh village.

Now, at about 1.00pm on Friday next, July 27th the welcome Bearnan Cualan Chapter will divide into two groups. One half will remain in the Church of The Sacred Heart, Borrisoleigh; while the other half will attend near the ivy-covered medieval ruins of Glenkeen church, before both commence a three hour long ‘Marathon Peal’.

Needless to say, everyone is invited to make an appearance to either or both venues and to remain for whatever length of time they can spare.

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Going – Going – Gone, Griffins News Agency, Thurles

Over the past number of weeks a building on the south side of Liberty Square, last known as Griffin’s News-agency and previously, during the 1920’s, Hickey’s pub, has now been demolished to make way for a new car-park entrance,  in an effort to make Thurles town centre more pedestrianised.

The now demolished building did have some small, yet not insignificant history attached, which can be found when reading a statement from the Bureau of Military History, 1913-21 (Document No. W.S. 1454, File No. S.790), by witness James Leahy, Commandant, No. 2 (Mid) Tipperary Brigade, latter born in 1896 in the townsland of Tubberadora, Boherlahan, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

James Leahy Writes: [Signed 3rd July 1956]

“I returned to business in Thurles early in 1917, and then went to work for Michael (‘Mixey’) O’Connell, as he was popularly called. O’Connell was a prominent Sinn Feiner and Irish Volunteer and his house in later days became the headquarters of the Mid-Tipperary Brigade.

Five masked and armed policemen raided the house of Larry Hickey, publican, Main St., Thurles, when they found the owner in bed. Re was ordered out in his night attire and when he reached the head of the stairs, he was tripped and thrown downstairs by an R.I.C. man named Jackson.

In the fall, Hickey’s neck was broken and he was in great pain at the foot of the stairs, when Sergeant Enright, who was in charge of the raiders, shot him dead, to put an end to his agony. Hickey was a well known republican in Thurles, and a detailed account of his shooting was given to me during the truce period, by Sergeant Enright himself.

While the raid in Hickey’s was in progress, (Night of March 9th 1921) another party of masked policemen visited the home of the Loughnane family in Mitchell St., Thurles, and shot dead in bed William Loughnane. This man along with his father and three brothers were active members of the local I.R.A. company.

On the same night, the Barry homestead in Turtulla (Today Thurles Golf Club), a short distance from Thurles, was entered by R.I.C. men in disguise. They were looking for Denis Regan, a workman and a prominent I.R.A. man. He had hidden in a ‘couchette’ (Latter a box type bed usually found in a house close to an open fireplace, with a lid which closed during the day to become a useful bench or large seat), in the house and when the police could not find him, they ordered Michael Barry to come with them, as they were going to shoot him, instead of Regan.

Barry had no connection with the republican movement and Regan overheard remarks made by the raiders. Rather than see his employer suffer on his account, Regan left his hiding place and gave himself up. Barry was then released while Regan was led into the yard, where the police fired six or eight shots at him. Though very seriously wounded, he survived and is still hale and hearty. (In later years Denis Regan became the hearse driver for the undertaking firm of W. H. Ryan). He (Regan) was treated by his employer’s brother, Dr. Barry, who was then in practice in Thurles and was always ready to answer a call when needed by the I.R.A.

I got a dispatch from the brigade adjutant (1921) requesting me to meet him that night at Larry Hickey’s (Latter later to become Griffin’s Newsagents), in Thurles, as he had some urgent communications to send to G.H.Q. which he wished me to see and sign.

I went on to Thurles, armed with a revolver.  My going off to meet the brigade adjutant very nearly led to my capture and death. I made my way into Larry Hickey’s as arranged and was waiting upstairs for my colleague to put in an appearance, when a scout, who was posted to watch out for enemy raiders, shouted through the letter box of the door that a force of R.I.C. were searching “Mixey” O’Connell’s house next door. I waited for a while, thinking that if they found nobody in O’Connell’s, the police might move off.

Word came after awhile that they had gone. Concluding that O’Connell’s place (next door) might now be safer than Hickey’s, I went out by the back door to get into O’Connell’s back yard. The wall separating the two yards was about 8-feet high and I had my breast just on the top of it when I heard the order “Hands up”.  In the light which was shining on me I could see a figure sitting on top of the wall a few yards away from me. He was a guard whom they had left on the place. As I was leaving Hickey’s the scout, again reporting through the letter box, shouted that the main raiding party was returning. Apparently the man by whom I was now confronted was left to keep an eye on developments at the back. On being challenged I dropped back into Hickey’s and crouching as low as I could, I ran down under the shelter of the wall to the lower end of the yard.

The guard was firing after me. From the corner into which I had crouched I had a clear view of my opponent. I drew my revolver and fired four shots at him. He quickly disappeared from view. Without delaying, I seized my chance and from the yard, ran down the garden (Latter soon to become part of the new car park) and out into the Mall. I went on to Barry’s in Turtulla, where I stayed for the night.

On examining my overcoat, I found that it had been penetrated by shots several times during the brief encounter. Next day, I heard that the policeman involved was wounded by my return fire.”

Folks, do remember the prophesy in the lines from Eric Bogle’s song, “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” :-
“I see the old men all tired, stiff and sore
Those forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question.
But the band plays Waltzing Matilda,
And the old men still answer the call,
But year after year, the numbers get fewer
Someday, no one will march there at all. “

So perhaps, while this information is now fresh in our memories, our masters from the Templemore / Thurles Municipal District Council might now unveil a small plaque or stone tablet, to commemorate this piece of Thurles History.

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Oratory Medal Of Mr Justice D. F. Gleeson Goes On View In Thurles

Miss Jane Bulfin, (Research Librarian with the Tipperary Studies Section of Thurles Library), pictured here with the Dermot F. Gleeson gold medal.

A gold medal for ‘Oratory’, awarded in 1917-1918, by the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland to historian, author and Co. Clare District Justice for some 20 years, Mr Dermot F. Gleeson, has now been returned on long term loan to his beloved county of Tipperary.

Born in 1896 in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary into the family of Michael Gleeson, Mr Dermot F. Gleeson was a pioneer of Tipperary local history. His publications include “The Last Lords of Ormond” (1938) and “A History of the Diocese of Killaloe” (1962).

Mr Gleeson also contributed dozens of articles to learned journals and indeed the popular press, discussing a wide variety of aspects relating to local history. He was also a hard-working District Justice and was the youngest of a batch of twenty-seven District Justices to be appointed to the new Irish Free State of 1922. Mr Gleeson, would sufferer a heart attack and pass away, while attending a recreated Medieval Banquet as a guest in Bunratty Castle, on September 23rd, 1962, aged 66 years. (R.I.P.)

The one hundred-year-old unique gold medal now takes pride of place in the Tipperary Studies section of Thurles County Library, this week at The Source, Cathedral Street, Thurles, and can be viewed during their normal hours of opening.

This unique piece of Tipperary history was kindly presented to the Tipperary County Council Library Service on long-term loan by Mr Donough Gleeson, latter son of Mr Dermot F. Gleeson. The Gleeson family recently travelled here to Thurles from their home in England, to make the presentation, happy in the knowledge that this Gold Medal, has been returned to Mr Gleeson’s native homeland on this, the centenary of his first receiving this prestigious award.

The Tipperary Studies section of Thurles Library is also the home to many of Mr Dermot F. Gleeson literary and historic publications.

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“The Flying Nun” Celebrates 80th Birthday & Diamond Jubilee

Author, Poet and Journalist Tom Ryan reports:
Presentation Sister Patricia Wall from Ballingarry, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, affectionately nicknamed “The Flying Nun”, after she did a skydive for charity at the age of seventy five years; reached further new heights last Saturday.
The hugely popular nun, who is a former ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award winner and sister of former Tipperary All-Ireland Senior Hurling Team Captain of 1958, Tony Wall, celebrated both her 80th birthday and the Diamond Jubilee of her profession, at a convivial function attended by family members, including her brother, Tony and several hundred parishioners, in Anner Hotel, Thurles.

Other family members present at the special Mass, celebrated by Fr. Joe Walsh with Fr. J.J. O’Rourke also present, included Sister Patricia’s sister, Mrs Helen De Veale; her brothers, Aidan, Tony and Michael and other relatives, neighbours and friends.

The presentation of symbols at the Mass featured Sister Patricia’s Volunteer Award; a lantern; a book, and flags of Zimbabwe and New Zealand, where she has ministered in the past.

Sister Patricia Wall, formerly of No.10, Fianna Road, Thurles and other Presentation Sisters renewed their Vows on the very special and unique occasion when many tributes were paid to the good- humoured, caring and selfless nun of many talents, as outlined by Ms Clare Cashman, latter Manager of the Millennium Resource Centre in Glengoole.

Local County Councillor, Imelda Goldsboro and Fr. Joe Walsh also lauded the sterling qualities of the ever-energetic Sister Patricia who is regarded as a great organiser.  Other Public Representatives present included Dáil Éireann Deputies, Jackie Cahill, Seamus Healy and Mattie McGrath.

Present also were representatives of the numerous voluntary and community organisations in historic Slieveardagh where the Irish Tricolour was flown for the first time in Ireland, said Sister Patricia. This writer learned many years ago that it was brought over from France to Waterford, but Thomas Francis Meagher wished it to be flown for the first time near the historic village of The Commons, Ballingarry (SR), scene of the significant 1848 rebel uprising, (battle of the Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Patch) as a major symbolic gesture from a European context.

Sister Patricia, who featured in a video presentation by Mr Kealy of Ballingarry Community Development committee, spent 40 years devoted to teaching and “bringing the charism and vision” of the Presentation Sister’s foundress, Nano Nagle, to the classroom and in one instance into the home of a person for five years for home schooling.

She spent 12 of her 40 years in school work in New Zealand (six years) and in Zimbabwe (six years). She has been Principal of Presentation Secondary School in both Thurles and Ballingarry and was a good friend of the Arts here in Thurles, indeed I can personally vouch for her help with the production of a play of mine, “Children of the Nation”, which won awards for Presentation Secondary School, Thurles in the Co. Tipperary Schools Drama Festival.

Among those present on the night were Mr Denis and Mrs Sadie Heffernan, who have done so much for theatre in Slieveardagh Region. Teachers and former teachers present included Mr Joseph Moran, former National President of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI).

Sister Patricia spent the last 20 years doing volunteer work in the Slieveardagh area, where she is a legend in the true sense of that word and to whose people in Glengoole , Ballingarry, Ballynonty, etc.
She has given unstinting and devoted service, displaying her many talents in the process and achieving so much, as outlined by Millennium Resource Centre Manager in Glengoole, Ms Clare Cashman.

A sumptuous repast was enjoyed by all, in the best traditions of the Presentation Order and Slieveardagh people, and a night of music followed when many happy memories were exchanged.  Music for the Mass was provided by Sister Theresa of Presentation Secondary School, Ballingarry, with both the Mass vocals and music truly uplifting.

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French Second Level Students Visiting Tipperary.


A number of French Transition Year and 5th year students; part of a student exchange programme undertaken by Scoil na mBraithre Chriostai (C.B.S) secondary school, and Coláiste Phobal Ros Cré, are presently visiting the towns of Thurles and Roscrea this week.

Here in Thurles, on Monday morning last the group were the guests of Hayes Hotel, who kindly invited them to partake of mid-morning tea and scones, together with a one-hour history lecture on Ireland’s Great Famine (1845-1850).

The group is being led by French and English-speaking teachers; Mary Kennedy, Pauline Deegan, Anne Marie Mullins, Isabelle Herlet and Sylvie Lissillour.

The all fluent English-speaking students, were formally welcomed to Thurles town by Independent T.D. Mr Michael Lowry, Ms Philomena Cunlu (Asst. Man. Hayes Hotel) and Mr Tiernan O’Donnell (Principal Thurles C.B.S.).

Lady Elisha (Elizabeth) Mathew
The students were surprised to learn that during the Great Famine period in Ireland’s history, while England may have ruled Ireland; Thurles and its lands were owned by a French diplomat of aristocratic descent.

The once owner of Thurles Town, Francis James Mathew, 2nd and last Earl of Llandaff, had been a spendthrift. To pay his enormous racing and gambling debts, he had sold all the family estates in Wales and some of his Irish estates; while heavily mortgaging the remainder including Thurles.  He died suddenly, intestate, in Dublin on 12th March 1833, leaving no issue.  His divided estate lands here in Tipperary then passed to his sister, Lady Elisha (Elizabeth) Mathew, born in 1781, and who herself died unmarried at her house in Molesworth St., Dublin, on 14th December 1841.

Following her death, Lady Elisha Mathew, in her legal right, and through her Will, bequeathed the Mathew, Earl of Llandaff (Welsh: Eglwys Gadeiriol Llandaf,) estates, including Thurles, Co. Tipperary (latter 1,713 acres), to her cousin the Comte de Jarnac, Viscount Chabot, (1815-1875), of the house of Rohan, France.

Thomas F. Meagher – Irish Flag.
The student group also learned, possibly for the first time, that Thomas Francis Meagher and William Smith O’Brien leaders of the failed Irish Nationalist uprising at Ballingarry (SR) Co. Tipperary, (Also known as the Battle of Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Patch), in 1848; having visited France to study revolutionary events there, had returned to Ireland with the new ‘Flag of Ireland’, a tricolour of Green, White and Orange made by, and presented to both men by French women sympathetic to the Irish cause.

Today, Article 7 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, Constitution of Ireland, confirms; ‘The national flag is the Tricolour of green, white and orange’.

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