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Keep Your Focus On Ireland’s Ancient East

New York publican, Mr Aekerman Jensen, had arrived into Terminal 1 at Dublin Airport. He was on a trip to Upperchurch in Co. Tipperary, in an attempt to chase down his ancestors, latter whom he believed had emigrated from Tipperary bound for the US on board the coffin ship “Ellen Simpson” in 1847.

Arriving here in Thurles for the first time on the 1.00pm Dublin to Cork train, he dismounted with his luggage from the carriage and looked around. His gaze became immediately focused on Mickey Ryan standing behind a long folding table on which were displayed an assortment of what looked like bleached human skulls.
“What are these?” asked Aekerman.
“Oh, I be selling real human skulls”, replied Mickey, “Sure as Fáilte Ireland have already told you in their adverts, this be part of promoting rural Ireland and promotin Ireland’s Ancient East.”

Aekerman suddenly recalled the Fáilte Ireland brochure he had picked up from the travel agents. It had read; “From ancient high kings to modern day poets, saints and scholars to ramblers and fishermen, Ireland’s Ancient East pulsates with legendary tales”.

“I never knew Thurles was in Ireland’s Ancient East” said Aekerman, inquiring further, “Do you have any skulls from ancient high kings, famous poets or saints?.”
Mickey raised his eyebrows “Sure don’t I have the skulls of the most famous of Irishmen that have ever lived.”
“That’s really great” said Aekerman, “Can you give me some names?.”
“Begod I can sir!” said Mickey, pointing to his varied collection, “That one there is St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, and that one there with the hole in it, is Mick Collins the man who won us our freedom back in 1922.”

Mickey continued “Sure the odd shaped one over there for example, is none other than James Joyce, a famous Dublin author and playwright, and that…..”
Aekerman interrupted, “Sorry but did you say St. Patrick?”
Begod that is correct sir” said Mickey with a knowing nod.
Aekerman again recalled the wisdom of Fáilte Ireland’s brochure promise, “Learn the stories of a place and you’ll come to understand the soul of its people”.
“I believe I will buy from you St. Patrick” said Aekerman, who immediately paid over the asking price of €3,000 in cash. But then as Mickey correctly explained later “If people want quality, they expect got to pay for value.”

Aekerman flew back to New York a week later and proudly mounted the skull of St. Patrick’s on the wall in his Pub. People, especially from the ‘auld sod’, came from every America State to view this famous Skull, making him a small fortune and allowing him to retired early, a truly wealthy man.

It was during this retirement, some five years later, that Aekerman decided to come back to visit Ireland, Thurles, and Upperchurch, the source of his wealth, and to reconnect once more with his ancient ancestors.  Walking once again along the Thurles railway station platform, he spotted Mickey and his skull collection.
Anxious once more to get another bargain Aekerman asks “And what skulls do you have today?.”
“Sure begod, I have the skulls of the most famous Irishmen that ever lived” replied Mickey.
“Give me some names”, demanded Aekerman, beginning to tear some €50’s of a rather fat roll of paper currency.
“Well!” said the Irishman, pointing to various skulls. “That one there is Michael Collins, that one is James Joyce, and that one is St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, God bless his coming to Éire and the Rock of Cashel, and that one…

“Sorry” Aekerman interrupted, “But did you say St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland?”
“Begod, that’s correct!” said Mickey.
“Well”, said Aekerman, “I was here about five years ago and you sold me St. Patrick’s Skull.”
“Begod so I did” said Mickey beginning to place his wares quickly into the back of his van, “Sure don’t I remember you well … now … you see … ah … this scull here today actually is St. Patrick when he was just a boy.”

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Five Tipperary Community Projects Awarded €15,000

Some 196 Community projects nationwide are set to benefit from grants just announced (2017) by the Heritage Council. Community Projects in Co. Tipperary which have been awarded Grants are listed hereunder, with total bestowed funding amounting to €15,000.

Tipperary LibrariesCarrick-on-Suir Library – Urban Wildlife Garden 2017.
Awarded €1,500 to convert the library garden into an Urban Wildlife Garden which will raise awareness while also providing habitat for small mammals, insects, birds and especially pollinators.

BirdWatch IrelandMaking nature accessible – “Wildlife outside your window”.
Awarded €4,000 to showcase less accessible natural heritage to a diverse audience through video productions to engage children and adults of all ages with the wonders of wildlife outside their window.

Commons Old SchoolThe Commons Past and Present.
Awarded €1,500 to provide a structured activity for young people living in the village to record/research/present past life of The Commons village, through different media of visual art, audio recordings and model Construction.

Burncourt Community Council Ltd.Repair of windows to a John Nash designed hunting lodge (Mountain Lodge).
Awarded 6,000 to restore Mountain Lodge and return to use as a niche accommodation facility, hill-walkers stop and seasonal café.

South Tipperary Beepkeepers’ AssociationPollinator Education in South Tipperary in line with the All Ireland Pollinator Plan.
Awarded €2,000 to increase awareness of the plight of native Irish pollinators. To encourage young adults to take on the responsibility of safeguarding our bee and pollinator population.

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“All Hands Together” – Exhibition – Thurles Library

Thurles Library’s “All Hands Together” Exhibition

As part of the Bealtaine Festival, Thurles Library (The Source, Cathedral Street, Thurles) are currently and kindly hosting an amazing exhibition in the Source Library & Arts Centre Gallery.

Ms Phyl Dwyer, Turtulla, Thurles, demonstrates the ancient art of  ‘Quilting’.

This exhibition, featuring the skills of the ‘Spike Quilters of Littleton’ and entitled “All Hands Together”, is open free to the public until Tuesday May 30th next; to be viewed in conjunction with the opening hours of Thurles Library.

The Spike Quilters of Littleton.
‘Spike Quilters’ are a group of compatible and inclined women aged between 15 years & 90 years, who meet together on a monthly basis to undertake and learn the ancient art of patchwork. With their monthly meeting place in The Muintir na Tíre Hall, Littleton, Thurles, Co. Tipperary; here the elderly share the considerable knowledge they have acquired in the art of ‘Quilting’ with their younger counterparts. Meetings are held in the hall from 10.30am to 4.00pm on the appointed day, (Usually second Sunday of every month), with each individual working on their own project, be it a ‘Wall-Hanging’ or a ‘Quilt’. Here colours are discussed, ideas are exchanged, progress encouraged and all over numerous cups of tea and chat. Guest teachers are a regular feature of these workshops, initiating new ideas and up skilling.

The Patchwork Quilt.
A patchwork quilt is a multi-layered textile in which the top layer consists of pieces of fabric sewn together to form a design. Originally, this was to make full use of accumulated left-over or salvaged scraps of fabric.

As stated, the quilt is usually formed of three individual layers; the patchwork quilt top; a layer of insulation wadding (batting), and a layer of backing material. Same may be used as throws, wall hangings, table runners or even tablecloths.

  • The art of quilting has a long history, first evidence of which appears back in the 35th century BC, with an ivory carving, found in the Temple of Osiris, at Abydos near the modern Egyptian towns of el-‘Araba el Madfuna and al-Balyana, during 1903 and currently in the collection of the British Museum. This carving features the king of the Egyptian First Dynasty wearing a cloak which appears to be quilted.
  • Attributed to the 1st century BC2nd century AD, we have a textile in the form of a quilted linen carpet found in a Mongolian cave tomb which today is housed in the collection of the Leningrad Department of the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of the Sciences of the Union of the Soviet Republic.
  • Made circa 1400 AD, we have a Milanese ivory carving of the Holy Family depicting the ‘Flight into Egypt’, showing Joseph wearing a coat quilted in a diamond pattern. Same is housed in the collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum, United Kingdom.
  • In 1547, the Inventory of King Henry VIII of England lists “Quyltes” and “Coverpointes” among the bed linen. The inventory describes the quilts as made of “holland cloth” (linen or cotton), “bockeram” (cotton),” or various types of silk including “sarceonett”, “tapheta,” and “lynnen.” Some of these quilts would have been given to lesser members of Court, either as a sign of favour or as a gift. Indeed, the young 16 year old Catherine Howard, fifth queen (for three months only) of Henry VIII, was given a gift of two dozen quilts, sometime before being beheaded, on the grounds of treason, and for supposedly committing adultery, while married to Henry.

Now thankfully, due to the ‘Spike Quilters of Littleton’ and Thurles Library; in 2017, the craft of quilting can be seen to continue, with this exhibition showcasing work to most impressive effect.

When shopping in Thurles over the next 10 days, please do take a coffee break and go visit this exhibition of splendour and truly talented aptitude.

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Prince Charles Unveils Memorial To Thurles Soldier

Resting place of Corporal Patrick Cunningham, younger brother of Thurles born Corporal John Cunningham, latter honoured by His Royal Highness, Charles (Prince of Wales) and his wife Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall) in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin today.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

“The road is long, with many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where, who knows where,
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him,
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”.

(Lyrics – Bobby Scott and Bob Russell.)

His Royal Highness, Charles (Prince of Wales), unknowingly, just got a little bit closer to his ancestral home of Thurles, today (May 12th, 2017), when he unveiled and paused before a memorial paving stone, dedicated to Corporal John Cunningham, while at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall), were taking part in a ceremony to unveil remembrance stones to World War I Irish-born Victoria Cross recipients (1917) – namely Company Sergeant Major Robert Hill Hanna (Kilkeel, Co. Down & Canada); Lieutenant Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey (Wanderers & Ireland Rugby player, Athboy, Co Meath & Canada); Private Michael James O’Rourke (Kildimo, Co. Limerick & Canada) and the aforementioned Corporal John Cunningham (Thurles, Co. Tipperary).

Corporal John Cunningham VC.

Son of Joseph Cunningham and Johanna Smith, natives of Stradavoher, Thurles, Co. Tipperary; Corporal Cunningham was born on October 22nd, 1890 in Thurles and died on April 16th, 1917, at the age of 26 years, while a member of the 2nd Battalion, Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment fighting in Barlin, Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, in France.

An Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, [VC. (without Bar)]; latter the highest and most prestigious award given to British and Commonwealth forces, for gallantry in the face of the enemy; Corporal Cunningham today is buried in Barlin cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, (Plot 1, Row A, Grave 39).

Perhaps the outstanding bravery carried out by Corporal John Cunningham on that fateful day in April 1917, may have been partially influenced by the loss of his brother Corporal Patrick Cunningham, also a member of the Leinster Regiment, who tragically lost his life some twenty two months earlier, on June 4th 1915, at the tender age of just 20 years.  Corporal Patrick Cunningham, is buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, St Mary’s Lane, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. (See picture above, left.)

Corporal Patrick Cunningham’s citation published in,’The London Gazette’, dated June 8th 1917, relates to a deed performed on April 12th 1917 at Bois-en-Hache, near Barlin, and reads as follows:-

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in command of a Lewis Gun section on the most exposed flank of the attack. His section came under heavy enfilade fire and suffered severely. Although wounded he succeeded almost alone in reaching his objective with his gun, which he got into action in spite of much opposition. When counter-attacked by a party of twenty of the enemy he exhausted his ammunition against them, then, standing in full view, he commenced throwing bombs. He was wounded again, and fell, but picked himself up and continued to fight single-handed with the enemy until his bombs were exhausted. He then made his way back to our lines with a fractured arm and other wounds. There is little doubt that the superb courage of this N.C.O. cleared up a most critical situation on the left flank of the attack. Corporal Cunningham died in hospital (later) from the effects of his wounds.”

The medals belonging to Corporal John Cunningham, we understand remain on loan to the Imperial War Museum in London, however his name and that of his brother are recorded on the WW1 Memorial Wall, (Separate from Patrick’s grave site), situated in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Thurles, Co. Tipperary

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

[Extract from poem “For the Fallen”, by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943).]

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See Old Ireland Free

Again this year, access to OPW-managed heritage sites will be free on the first Wednesday of every month, to individuals wishing to visit these sites, and for the duration of their particular opening season.

Families looking for a free day out in Ireland, particularly here in Tipperary and indeed elsewhere here is your chance “To see old Ireland free”.   So please, old age pensioners and those enjoying free travel, do take full advantage.

That means that visits to sites in Tipperary such as:- Cahir Castle, the Swiss Cottage, the Rock of Cashel, Roscrea Heritage (Castle) and the Blackmills, and venues further afield nationally like Kilkenny Castle, Clonmacnoise, Ross Castle in Killarney; to name but a few, won’t cost you a red cent.

Of course, tickets will be allocated on a ‘first-come, first-served basis’, so visitors are advised to arrive early to avoid delays, and do keep in mind that some attractions are open all year-round, while others may have opening hours which are seasonal.

You can get more information regarding these venues, simply by clicking HERE.

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