Local Weather

Partly sunny
real feel: 1°C
wind speed: 6 m/s WSW
sunrise: 6:10 am
sunset: 8:50 pm


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’.


A Case Of Vanishing Thurles Street Furniture

Before we discuss what Street Furniture has mysteriously vanished, let us discuss for a moment what, today at least, currently exists.

We pass them every day giving them little recognition; but very soon the Irish Post Box is likely to become obsolete. Indeed, were it not for that essential correspondence each November with Father Christmas and our insistence on sending other miscellaneous thingamajigs, such as invitations, Christmas cards; this service would have vanished altogether.

Walled Post boxes and Post Pillar Boxes, where they currently exist in Thurles today, remain the once symbol of a more autonomous order, which demanded at all levels, high standards. With education being encouraged during Victorian times, communication, through the writing of letters was being identified as essential. Children were being encouraged to attend schools, except of course during peak harvest times, when family run farms saw crop saving as taking precedence; deemed more necessary to the needs of family preservation, than education.

Browse in any well stocked Irish tourist shop, which sells greeting cards, and you will most likely find a postcard featuring a green post box. Check same on any real street-scape scene today however, and you will find such collection boxes in an extremely neglected state, many gagged with “Out Of Service” signs, (See picture one above). The changeover, by modern society, to mobile phone text messaging and emailing have seen the news filled, multiple page, hand written, letter to the family, become almost as extinct as the white Rhino.

Irish Post boxes erected before 1922 usually carry the insignia, or cipher, of the reigning British monarch, dating the time of is initial placement. The vast majority of such postal collecting boxes arrived here in Thurles during the reign of Edward VII, (1901 until his death in 1910).

The oldest free-standing cast-iron pillar box in use in Thurles, (c. 1879), today sits on the south side of Friar Street, placed there during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819 -1901). Same is identified by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as being an interesting example of good quality street furniture, with high-quality design and execution.

Óige Sinn Féin opposed to British symbols on post boxes in Northern Ireland believing that they could fight oppression and bring about a united Ireland by painting the red post boxes in a Republican green. Behaving rather like Islamic State (ISIS) followers in Syria and then in Iraq, they also, in a much more minor way of course, began the destruction of their heritage, attacking unsuspecting pillar boxes, foolishly believing that a two-inch paint brush, would strike terror and thus the deciding blow in attaining a united Ireland.

Alas, no one had informed their leadership that when these red postal pillar boxes were first introduced, most of same had been painted a dark green. It wasn’t until 1874 that the British Post Office had decided to paint them Royal Red, in an effort to ensure that they could be recognised more easily, by letter writers. With the arrival of Irish Independence, the Irish Post Office changed the colour red back to green here in our new Irish Republic.

Interesting to note; when a postal surveyors job came up in central Ireland in 1841, the position was quickly filled by the renowned British novelist Anthony Trollope, (1815-1882).  Trollope was based initially in Banagher, King’s County, (Co Offaly), just 10 miles from the Tipperary border, with his work consisting largely of inspection tours in the province of Connaught. Trollope remained stationed at Banagher until late 1844, when he was transferred to Clonmel, here in Co. Tipperary; living at Briarview House, Marlfield, just a couple of miles west of Clonmel town. It is he whom today we credit with the introduction of the Irish pillar box.

Missing Thurles Street Furniture.
It is described in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as a Cast-iron Water Pump, set on a platform with Stone Trough. It had a banded shaft and curved handle with fluted neck and fluted cap with pineapple finial. It had a foliate decoration where the spout met the neck.

The inventory goes on to say, “This water pump has an unusually comprehensive repertoire of artistic detailing, including banding, fluting, and foliate decoration to the spout. The pump is located at the junction of three streets, a typically busy location for a water source for the community. While no longer in use today, it still makes a positive contribution to the street-scape”.

What it wrongly stated is that it was erected c.1870; factually it was erected in the late 1980’s by the late Mr Wilbert Houben, Mr Joe O’Regan and myself, when we were members of Thurles Tidy Towns. I personally purchased the cut stone trough, referred to in this National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, from Auctioneer Mr John Gleeson who located it on my request.

The water pump and cut stone trough were removed a few years back, with the knowledge of Tipperary County Council & Thurles Urban District engineers, who stated that same would be returned, following the installation of the Cathedral Street Roundabout. This Street Furniture, consisting of a donated water pump and my cut stone trough, were never returned and I would love to know would the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage be able to confirm their current whereabouts.

Maybe our elected Municipal District Public Representatives, (all committed, as one would expect, to developing a strong sense of pride in our Thurles community); their fellow committed County Engineers and District Administrators, would stick their heads outside the door, to let a yell down the yard, so as to enquire into who might have seen them last.


Degrees Of Separation – Thurles Railway Station & English House of Parliament

What has Thurles Railway Station, Co. Tipperary and the English Houses of Parliament got in common?

Mr Sancton Wood (1815–1886) was an English architect, born in the London Borough of Hackney. He was the son of Mr John and Mrs Harriet (née Russell) Wood, his mother being a niece of the painter and antiquarian draughtsman, Mr Richard Smirke, (1778–1815).

Back in 1845, the first year of the Great Famine here in Ireland, Mr Sancton Wood won a competition for the designing of Kingsbridge StationA. in Dublin (Built 1846). The competition, commissioned by the Great Southern & Western Railway Company, saw Wood’s designs selected unanimously by the railway company’s London Committee, despite the fact that the Dublin Committee had favoured the design of an Irish architect, Mr John Skipton Mulvany, latter a founder member of the Royal Hibernian Academy of Art, situated in our capital city of Dublin.

A.  Note: Kingsbridge Station in Dublin of course is today called Heuston Station, renamed in honour of Seán Heuston, an executed leader of the 1916 Easter Rising, who had worked in the offices of Kingsbridge Station.

In that same year Mr Sancton Wood was appointed as architect to the Great Southern & Western Railway Company; designing all the railway station buildings between Monasterevin, Co. Kildare (including Thurles Railway Station) and Limerick Junction inc..

All of these station houses, with the exception of Limerick Junction station, are designed in a gabled picturesque Gothic style. Mr Wood also later became an architect to the Irish South Eastern Railway Company, which developed their railway line between Carlow and Kilkenny from 1848-1850. Six years later Mr Woods work, with reference to Ireland, appears to have ceased altogether.

Top Pic.: Thurles in 1846, before the introduction of the Railway in 1847/48.   Middle Pic.: Back entrance view of Thurles railway station.   Bottom Pic.: Front entrance of Thurles railway station.

Architect Mr Sancton Wood – The Early Years

Having developed a taste for drawing, Sancton Wood’s mother arranged to have him admitted to the office of his cousin, Sir Robert Smirke, RA. (Royal Academy), latter then an artist and leading London architect. From here he was transferred to Mr. Sydney Smirke, R.A., who succeeded to his brother’s practice. He remained with Mr Sydney Smirke for several years, working on the drawings of important works; which included sketches of the designs for the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, which Sir Robert Smirke had already prepared for Sir Robert Peel’sB. the Prime Minister of the then English Conservative Party government,(1834–35), following a fire on October 16th, 1834.

B. Sir Robert Peel had entered politics in 1809, at the age of just 21 years, as an MP for the Irish rotten borough of Cashel, just 14 miles from Thurles here in Co. Tipperary. The son of a wealthy textile-manufacturer and politician 1st Baronet Sir Robert Peel, would ensure that his son Robert would become Chief Secretary for Ireland and the first future Prime Minister of England, from an industrial business background. With a double first in Classics and Mathematics from Christ Church, Oxford, and law training at Lincoln’s Inn; in 1809 Peel would become known as the father of modern policing, with his forces nicknamed ‘bobbies’ in England and less affectionately known as ‘peelers’ here in Ireland. In 1829, in setting up the principles of policing in a democracy, Peel declared that, quote: “The police are the public and the public are the police.”
It was Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel who first imported, secretly, maize into Ireland for the first time, which due to the lack of knowledge on how to properly cook it; same became known as “Peel’s brimstone”.  His attempt to breech a ‘Laissez-faire
(or ‘Let Do’) system of economics in Ireland, saw him loose out to Lord John Russell as Whig Party Prime Minister in 1846.

Following this Houses of Parliament fireC. the immediate priority for the British government, was to provide accommodation for the next Parliament, and so the ‘Painted Chamber’ (Latter the medieval Palace of Westminster), and the ‘White Chamber’ (Latter the meeting place of the House of Lords from 1801), were both hastily re-roofed and repaired for temporary use by the Houses of Lords and Commons respectively, under the direction of the only remaining architect of the Office of Works, the said same Sir Robert Smirke.

C. Yet, one other famous artist, William Turner RA. [Joseph Mallord William Turner  (1775-1851)], had watched the burning of the House of Lords and Commons in 1834, before painting several canvasses depicting the scene. 

Sir Robert Smirke’s temporary repairs to House of Lords and Commons were demolished in 1851, with the House of Commons deciding in favour of an open competition for the proposed rebuild. Alas, Sir Charles Barry conceived the eventual winning design for the New Houses of Parliament; the construction of which he continued to supervise until his own death in 1860.

Mr Sancton Wood died at his home in Putney Hill, in south-west London, England SW, on April 18th 1886, and is buried in Putney Cemetery.

Today, Thurles Railway Station, which officially opened on March 13th 1848, boasts two through platforms and one terminating platform and remains a major stopping stage on the Dublin-Cork railway line, with numerous trains running hourly in both directions daily. Three times winner of the Irish Rail Best Intercity Station prize, it was also from here that on August 5th 1848  William Smith O’Brien was arrested, following his unsuccessful insurrection in Ballingarry, South Tipperary, known by the British disparagingly as the “Battle of the Widow McCormack Cabbage Patch”.


A Valued Piece Of Choctaw Indian Costumery Resides In Thurles

Picture shows a beaded, star shaped, neck tie medallion, latter a gift from International Artist and Choctaw Indian nation member Mr Waylon Gary White Deer, which will go on show at this year’s Lions Club, Vintage & Classic Car Show, scheduled for Sunday May 13th next in St. Patrick’s College Campus Thurles.

The tale of the Choctaw Indian Nation (Name derived from the Choctaw phrase ‘Hacha hatak’ meaning ‘River People’), and their donation to Ireland’s Great Famine (1845-1850) victims is indeed one of firstly, great association and secondly, responsive compassion.

In the year 1847 referred to as “Black 47”, the Choctaw Indian community collected $170 to send to the Irish victims of the Great Famine, which is today’s equivalent of, in or around, €4,000. This great sacrifice by the Choctaw Indian Nation was sent despite the fact that they themselves had undergone a similar hardship involving exposure, disease, and starvation, some 15 years previously; same being forced to move west of the Mississippi by the government of Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), in a journey known and remembered today in history as the “Trail of Tears”.  In 1831, the Choctaw Nation became the first to be removed, and their removal served as the model for all future relocations.

[Note: After two wars, the Seminoles Indian nation were removed in 1832. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation were removed in 1834, the Chickasaw Nation in 1837, and finally the Cherokee Nation in 1838].

Choctaw Indian Nation member Mr Waylon Gary White Deer, himself an Internationally Renowned Artist, visited Thurles back in 1999, leaving a gift of the beaded neck medallion, which can be seen at this year’s Lions Club, Vintage & Classic Car Show, scheduled for Sunday May 13th next in St. Patrick’s College Campus Thurles.

During World War I, Choctaw soldiers served in the U.S. military as the first Native American ‘Codetalkers’. 1

Yesterday the Irish Taoiseach, Mr Leo Varadkar, met with Choctaw leaders and addressed members of the nation community at an event in Oklahoma, 2 the 28th-most populous of the 50 United States of America, where he thanked members of the Choctaw Nation for the generosity shown by their ancestors to the island of Ireland during this period in Irish History.  Mr Varadkar stated that at a time when the Irish people were being oppressed, abused, neglected and degraded by our Irish colonial master, the Choctaw spirit of generosity was at its highest.

He went on to announce a new scholarship programme, which in the future will allow members of the Choctaw Native American community to come here to Ireland to undertake further study; with the first scholarship commencing in the autumn of 2019.

  Codetalkers: The use of obscure or little understood language, in this case the Choctaw language, for to provide a form of coded radio and telephone transmissions during wartime, offering secret communication.

2  Oklahoma: The name is actually derived from the Choctaw words ‘okla’ and ‘humma’, meaning “Red People”.


Work Set To Begin On Barry’s Bridge

It looks like the necessary surface work required to upgrade Barry’s Bridge, crossing the River Suir here in Thurles town, is at last about to start.

Health and Safety barriers were erected on the bridge this morning beginning at 9.00am, together with led digital signage, requesting drivers of vehicles, where possible, to use alternative routes out of the town centre.

Barry’s Bridge in Thurles, Co Tipperary, has provided passage over the river Suir, since around 1650, and was partially widened again circa 1820.

Bridge Castle, overlooking this seasonally shallow river crossing, has dominated the Thurles skyline since as early as 1453, built possibly by the Norman invader McRickard Butler of whom history records that he erected, in 1453, two castles at Thurles and one at Buaidlic (Boulick).

While footpaths for pedestrians remain unrestricted presently, we understand that vehicles will be curtailed to one single lane of traffic crossing the bridge, for the duration of the period deemed necessary to carry out the resurfacing work.

So, where possible do try to use the alternative entrance and exit routes indicated, in order to keep traffic flowing.