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December 2015
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GAA To Mark 95th Anniversary Of Bloody Sunday Tonight

bloodysunday The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) (Irish: Cumann Lúthchleas Gael) will mark the 95th anniversary of the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ (November 21st 1920), at a special ceremony in Croke Park tonight, prior to the start of the EirGrid International Rules test between Ireland and Australia.

The aforementioned date will be forever etched into the history of Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium as a result of the tragic events in which 14 adults and children were killed and 60 others wounded, after British soldiers fired on spectators and players attending a Tipperary V Dublin football challenge match.

Those who lost their lives on that fateful day were footballer and Tipperary team member, 24 year old Michael Hogan, whose name today lives on through its attachment to the famous ‘Hogan Stand’ at Croke Park. Thirteen others; namely Jerome O’Leary (10); William Robinson (11); John William Scott (14); Tom Hogan (19); Joe Traynor (21); Jane Boyle (26) (only woman and due to get married five days later); James Teehan (26); Tom Ryan (27); Daniel Carroll (30); Michael Feery (40); James Burke (44); James Matthews (48) and Patrick O’Dowd (57) will also be honoured.

Tonight, as is proper, the lights of Croke Park will be dimmed and 14 flames will be lit on ‘Hill 16’, to represent each of the lives lost on that day and their names will be read out, as part of this special memorial ceremony. For this reason there will be no spectator access to area ‘Hill 16’ for this game and the lit flames will remain burning for the remainder of this evening events.

Flag bearers will lead Uachtarán CLG Aogán Ó Fearghail and Árd Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy out onto the pitch and to the particular spot where Tipperary’s Michael Hogan was shot. A laurel wreath will then be laid opposite Gate 41 in his and the other deceased spectators memory, followed by a minute of silence.

Tonight’s match programme will contain a specially commissioned piece on these events of 95 years ago, written by journalist Michael Foley, who has written an award winning book on ‘Bloody Sunday’ entitled ‘The Bloodied Field’.

Lovers of history will note that there is currently a display in the Croke Park GAA museum where visitors can view Michael Hogan’s bullet holed Tipperary jersey, as well as the match ball used during play on that fateful day. You can read a brief account of the events which happened on Bloody Sunday by clicking HERE.

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.

Launch Of Upperchurch-Drombane Historical Journal 2015

“Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield! How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not ambition mock their useful toil, Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile, The short and simple annals of the poor.”

[Extract from a poem by Thomas Gray – “Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard]

Tipperary’s new Senior Hurling manager, Michael Ryan, will officially launch the eagerly awaited 2015 Upperchurch-Drombane Historical Journal this Saturday night Nov. 7th in Upperchurch Hall, starting at 8:00pm. This sixth annual publication, in this very successful series, has stories, poems and photographs dealing with many aspects of the history and heritage of the parish and indeed the frequent and continuous demand for back volumes prove the lasting value of each past publication.


Martin Greene, Dooree, Upperchurch, Co. Tipperary, at work.

At this official launch there will be a short talk about the history of local emigration by a regular contributor to the Journal, Eugene Shortt. Same will be followed by discussion and a question and answer session. Stories and accounts from the floor are always much welcomed at such events.

While tales of G.A.A. sports have historically been the most prominent locally, the book this year puts the spotlight on other sports where there were local connections, e.g. American Gerry Britt, a frequent visitor whose ancestors came from the area and who has published an account of his travels in Ireland, writes about the famous baseball player and manager John McGraw, who dominated the game in the USA in the early years of the last century. McGraw’s father had parents who emigrated from the parish.

The victory of locally owned ‘Rugged Lucy’ in the 1981 Galway Plate is recalled by John Ryan (C) while Tom Quinlan writes about the three Irish Senior Soccer Internationals, Shane Long, Seamus McDonagh and Mike Milligan whose ancestors were local. Billy Clancy writes about one of the greatest ever scandals in greyhound racing; which occurred sixty five years ago, involving a greyhound from Upperchurch, which today has a street in England named after it.

Sports including handball and racquet ball also feature in Paddy Dwyer’s reminiscences entitled “Gortahoola Memories”, along with the story of Gortahoola School, latter which operated for only nineteen years. ‘Courting’ (That period in a couple’s relationship which precedes marraige.) might also be considered a type of ‘sport’ by some and in verse Ned Harrington describes the goings on at the Metal Bridge Platform, in more innocent times.

A hundred years ago Ned’s grandfather John wrote a stirring patriotic ode to the green flag of Ireland, which demonstrated an encyclopaedic knowledge of Irish history, and the poem is given in full. Also on a patriotic theme, Thomas Fogarty tells of a few local connections with the 1916 rising, which also includes is the first half of Paddy Kinnane’s statement to the Bureau of Military History concerning his involvement in the War of Independence. The final part of the ‘Eamon an Chnoic‘ play is also in this new publication, as well as a continuation examining the local burial records.

Andy Byrne completes his list of local musicians and reproduces the happenings of a hundred years ago from the newspaper archives. Among the hundreds of religious and missionaries, the parish produced, were seven priests from the O’Rourke family and Joan Ryan gives a short account of each of them.

Nowadays we take for granted and frequently complain about our road networks, failing to appreciate the hardships suffered by our ancestors in putting them there in the first place; using pick, shovel, horse and cart. Eugene Shortt has researched the subject and gives the details of the various roads, fences, bridges and gullets and who put them there and when. There is also an account of the legal case concerning the Mulgrave Bridge at Drombane Creamery, which was built on a disputed land site and the ensuing tragic aftermath.

Like the road networks, it took centuries of work and nurturing to bring our agricultural land to its present state of fertility. One of the big breakthroughs was the introduction of lime from kilns and Frankie Shortt describes the process of burning lime in the various local kilns. Eamonn Ryan also deals with the subject in later years when lime from Killough Quarry became available. He also recounts early drivers and their cars and the impact of Hogan’s bus service together with wartime shortages.

All are welcome to attend this launch on Saturday night and this latest publication will be available from the usual outlets from Sunday onwards. Overseas buyers can of course order online from www.upperchurch.ie.

Wherever you reside today, this latest publication promises to be a truly heart warming read on the long expected winter nights ahead.

16th Century Archer Tomb Slowly Disintegrates

Some three attempts to rescue and preserve the 16th Century Archer tomb in Thurles, (Situated on the east side of St. Mary’s graveyard) over the past 12 years, have been met with the reply “Do Not Touch”, by those responsible for preserving our important historical heritage nationally.


Early 16th Century Archer Tomb, found in St Mary’s Graveyard, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

This unique stone carved tomb, (shown above), once clearly bore the inscription “Here [lies] Edmund [Archer] burgess of Thurles and Lord of Rathfernegh, Galboly, Corbale [and] Killienane who died on the 18th of the month of September in the year 1520. Counuchan caused me to be made”, but alas no more.

This Archer tomb, considered to be from the Ossory school of sculpture, (Same encompasses all sculpture within this region from that time period which was unsigned.) needs to be immediately protected from the elements.  There were very few sculptors who signed their work during the 16th century, with the exception possibly of the Kerin School and the O’Tunney School. Today tomb sculpture still remain the richest source of information available for the study of Irish armour and dress. Each sculpture then was a statement of status by the families who once commissioned these monuments.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, some days ago, spoke of the serious danger posed by the Islamic State group ISIS, with refugees in the Middle East now currently fleeing into Europe. Speaking to eager journalists, Mr Kenny pointed to the growth of the terrorist group in Syria and the global threat war fleeing refugees now pose in relation to the destruction of historical artefacts and century old buildings.


Ardmore Cathedral Co. Waterford

According to confirmed reports, last month these terrorists blew up a historic temple in Syria, destroyed several mausoleums in Afghanistan, sold valued artefacts on the black market, burned books / manuscripts and smashed age old statues. Now according to Mr Kenny they may wish to blow up the Rock of Cashel and Newgrange etc.

Trust me Mr Kenny; while I appreciate your worried sentiments expressed, ISIS has been operating here in Ireland, unseen for decades, in the form of politicians devoid of experience, imagination and competence. Our worries should now be focused on the failure of this nation in the past, led by successive governments, to fund the protection of our valuable existing heritage sites, if for just one reason only the further development of our future tourism business.

Recently I had the privilege of escorting some Canadian visitors on a visit to the 12th century monastic settlement of St. Declán, latter situated in the coastal historic seaside village of Ardmore, Co. Waterford. While examining the magnificent stone carvings to be found on the South ‘lunette’ west face, (‘lunette’ from the French meaning, “little moon,” – a half-moon shaped space, filled with recessed masonry or simply void) of the now ruined Cathedral, one of the group rightfully expressed their shock at our failure to protect our important past history. Today much of the magnificent stone carvings have disappeared, while the still barely visible remaining relief work continues to be eroded annually by nature and the elements.

The present Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, FG’s Ms Heather Humphreys, some months ago announced the provision of an extra €2m; to be taken from her Arts funding, and expended on Museums in Dublin and in Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s birth place of Co. Mayo. The purpose of this extended funding was to ensure that museum attractions in Dublin and Mayo, latter hosting historical artefacts, many of which have been ‘raided Viking style’  from Co. Tipperary, remain to be viewed, admission free, to the benefit of Dublin’s bustling economy.

Time now for those responsible for rural tourism, both in Co. Tipperary and elsewhere, to get their act together to ensure the protection of Ireland’s rural tourist economy, latter worth almost €4 billion annually to the Irish State.

Readers are invited to place the Archer Tomb on their ‘Bucket List’, as by next year yet another piece of this fine rare stone sculpture will have vanished forever, due to the lack of foresight by those we appoint who take on the responsibility of ‘caretakers of history’.

Three Generations Of Butlers Return On Vacation To Thurles

Bill Butler and his wife Sara, both currently residing in northern Virginia, in the town of Clifton, a suburb of Washington D.C., visited Thurles earlier this month. Bill’s large family group consisted of himself, his wife Sara, their son and daughter plus their spouses and their children (Bill’s grandchildren). Bill’s children and grandchildren live in Arlington, also in northern Virginia.


Left to Right:- Erin Butler with her twin sisters Leah & Katie, all totally captivated by the 16ft. historically accurate, 1846 model of Thurles town, latter which is currently on show in St. Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.  The model encapsulates 5 years of dedicated work by the late Thurles historian Jim Condon, who sadly passed away on December 23rd 2014. His model, built to perfect scale, is often described as being on a par with ‘Titania’s Palace’(Note: Latter ‘Titania’s Palace’, to Ireland’s shame, was sold off in 1976 and now resides as a popular visitor attraction in Denmark).          Picture courtesy Butler Family.

Bill has been researching his family tree since he retired. Sadly he has had no older relatives to talk to about his family; as they had all passed away before he had began his ‘Family Tree’ research project. Fortunately, on-line resources and a lot of digging through courthouse and county records eventually bore fruit. His research of several years eventually uncovered that his Butler family roots were here in Thurles. His recent trip earlier this month was an effort by himself and his wife to grant their children and grandchildren an opportunity to see and experience Ireland and specifically the town of Thurles here in County Tipperary.

Bill Butler’s Confirmed Ancestral History.

Bill’s great grandparents were both single people when they left Thurles around 1890, arriving in New York. Their decision to emigration from Thurles was separated by some 2 years. Their names were Thomas Butler and Mary J. Ryan. Both eventually settled in the city of Buffalo, New York, near to the Canadian border. They met and married in Buffalo in 1896.

Buffalo was then a bustling industrial city and Bill’s great grandfather worked at many jobs, before eventually taking up employment with one of the railroads firms as an engineer and fireman (stoker), until, alas, he lost his life through an industrial accident.

The same Thomas Butler’s parents were Michael Butler and Katherine Kearney of Stradavoher, Thurles and he was born in January 1867.  Mary J. Ryan was the daughter of William Ryan and Bridget Cahill of Garryvicleheen, Thurles (now today known jointly as Friar Street & Abbey Road).  Mary was also born in January 1867.

That is as far back as Bill has been able to trace the families ancestry and if he never gets any further information he will be satisfied with what he has found to date. However he will still continue in the hope further information becomes available.

In recent correspondence with this website Bill and his family have expressed what he describes as “a moving experience to observe at first hand his ancestors baptismal records from the Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles”.

Anyone with new information on Thurles Butler Family history can reach Bill & Sara by contacting us HERE on Thurles.Info.

Sioux Indian Chiefs Suspects In Thurles Murder

Rachel Willoughby, PRO St. Mary’s Graveyard Project, Thurles, reports.

New possible evidence uncovered in 177 year old murder investigation.

A single shot Percussion Pocket Pistol recently uncovered on the grounds of St Mary’s Churchyard, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, may have been the weapon used to shoot dead the opulent landholder, land agent, brewer and tanner, Charles O’Keeffe, (latter husband of Alicia O’Keeffe) in 1838.

This Percussion Pocket Pistol, possibly of French origin, is of the type then used for self-defence, during the percussion gun period 1800 to 1850. The then popular cheap pistol, whose real manufacturers today are not known, was discovered above ground under a pile of large stones. The stones, latter which were once part of a 17th century boundary wall, had collapsed sometime back during the 1940’s and from the positioning of this find and the pistols present condition; same is believed to have been at sometime concealed within the actual collapsed stone wall.


Project worker Mr Michael Kenehan examines the ‘Pocket Percussion Cap Pistol’ found in Thurles, Graveyard.

Mr Charles O’Keeffe (1775 – 1838) a Roman Catholic, was shot dead at close range by a male assassin, then believed to have been dressed in women’s clothing, on October 23rd 1838, just a short distance from St Mary’s Church front gates, close to his then tannery business premises.   A ball, fired at close range from an assassin’s percussion cap pistol, entered Mr O’Keeffe left shoulder, wounding him to the extent that he died a short time later.

It is understood that Mr. O’Keeffe had greatly irritated local peasantry by ejecting tenants for non-payment of rent from lands which he either owned or was the acting agent, e.g. the Meagher Estate, (today Thurles Golf Club) and lands held at Rossmult, Drumbane, Co. Tipperary, mortgaged for £1000 to Thomas and James Lenigan on December 22nd 1821). 

Within 25 yards from where the pistol was recently located, on the south side of St Mary’s graveyard, lies today the grave of the same Mr Charles O’Keeffe. His weather worn raised flat gravestone bears his Coat of Arms and the inscription; “Sacred to the repose of Charles O’Keeffe Esq., his life, distinguished by Justice and Truth, was devoted to the virtues of Parent, Citizen and Man, his death 23rd October 1838 deprived the poor of a friend; society of a benefactor.”

Certainly on the day of the shooting, the crack of the percussion cap pistol would have drawn the immediate attention of the then residents on St. Mary’s Avenue. The assassin or assassins had only two exits of escape, which would have taken them either westward, unto a busy Main Street (today named Cathedral Street) or alternatively through St Mary’s Church grounds eastwards unto a little populated Lime Kiln Lane (today known as Ikerrin Road). In using the latter means of escape did the assassin hide the single shot percussion cap pistol in a cavity in the 12ft, interior 17th century stone wall which then surrounded the graveyard? Why would such a weapon from this period be present, hidden in a graveyard wall?

Regrettably percussion pistols don’t talk and it is doubtful that we will ever uncover the real truth.

Who was responsible for the death of Charles O’Keeffe on October 23rd 1838?

The murder rate in Tipperary during this period was almost three times the national average. Secret Irish agrarian organisations / societies such as “Whiteboys”, (Irish: Buachaillí Bána) were common here in Tipperary in the 18th and through most of the 19th century. Local grievances relating to land eviction often saw “Whiteboys” threaten, beat and assassinate Landlords’ land agents.  Lesser agrarian grievances were dealt with, by “Whiteboys”, through the sending of threatening letters, the severing of animals hamstring tendons where livestock were known to be the property of Landlords or the levelling of ditches that often closed off common grazing land. Male members of the “Whiteboys” were known to dress with women’s outer garments over their clothing; their faces blackened with burnt cork, in an effort to conceal their true identity.

While numerous surnames were associated with O’Keeffe’s murder, mostly based on named persons who had quietly left the Tipperary area bound for America and elsewhere immediately following his death, his assassin or assassins were never brought to justice. Remarkable credible evidence however emerges some 17 years later, from America in 1855.

A sub-tribe of the American Sioux Indian Nation, the Brule (French meaning ‘burnt’ or “Burnt Thighs Nation,”) tribe, then residing in South Dakota, went on the warpath. Prior to the arrival of new European settlers they had mostly led a peaceful existence, but now following a breakdown of relations between both, they soon became involved in ever frequent skirmishes. In 1855, in response to a Brule robbery which ended in the deaths of three white male settlers, a cavalry officer in the U.S. Army General William Selby Harney (August 22nd, 1800 – May 9th, 1889), known to the native Brule tribe as “White Whiskers Harney,” had led a reprisal expeditionary force against the tribe, killing 85 of their warriors and taking many more captive.

Brule braves aware that they were no match for future expeditionary armed force and following a pow wow, now pressed for peace. A peace summit was arranged between both sides to air existing grievances. Though not part of any negotiating team, among those present at these peace talks was an Irish-born priest, Fr. Joseph Trecy. While the conference was in progress, Fr. Trecy heard a voice calling to him from amongst the Brule ranks; “Brathair, an bhfuil Gaeilge agat?” ( Translation -“Brother, can you speak Irish?”).  Looking into the assembled Brule delegation, which were fully decked out in war-paint and deerskin clothing, Fr. Trecy, who had left Ireland in 1835 at the age of 11, recalled enough Irish to answer the Indians question, and when the call was once again repeated he replied, “Ta, cuid de” (Translation – “Yes, some.”). 

A Brule Indian Chief now stepped out from amongst the Indian delegation and shook the priest’s hand. The Irish-speaking Brule Indian Chief, he soon learned, was actually a Tipperary man who, along with one other companion, was wanted in the 1838 killing of an Irish landlord in Co. Tipperary. These two men had fled from Ireland disembarking at New York, but had been tracked by authorities all the way to Missouri. In an effort to elude their possible captors, they had moved quickly north west to South Dakota and befriended Brule warriors, learned their language and had taken Squaws (Female Indian Woman) as their wives from among their newly adopted tribe. These Irishmen were reported by Fr Trecy to be in need of ‘Spiritual Nourishment’ and before long Fr. Trecy had baptised and married a further 40 Indian families, into the Roman Catholic faith.

Perhaps it was the ‘Seal of the Confessional’, who knows for certain, but Fr. Trecy refused to disclose the identities of the men from Tipperary or the name of the man they had killed. Because of his discretion these Tipperary fugitives were able to escape prosecution and continue on with their lives in their new country of adoption.

Around this period there were three recorded cases of the killing of landlords in Co. Tipperary. In two instances men were tried and hanged for these crimes, although a persistent rumour at the time suggested that others involved might have escaped. However in the case of the shooting of Charles O’Keefe in Thurles, while arrests were made, no suspects were ever charged.

It is therefore credible, by the process of elimination, that the “Brule Indian Chiefs”, now members of the American Sioux Nation from Co. Tipperary, were the same men who shot Charles O’Keefe on October 23th 1838.

The pistol, which has been examined by Thurles Gardaí, has now been returned and is presently on display at St Mary’s Famine Museum in Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

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