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November 2015
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James Watson Stained Glass Window Thurles


“A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”
[Extract from a poem by William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940)]

All too often these days, in the hustle and bustle of our individual daily life, we fail to take time to‘stand and stare’, to observe and enjoy with local pride the many historic symbolic gems contained within our own individual communities. Many of these gems are to be found staring us in the face on a daily basis, their significance now perhaps partially erased from the blackboards of our minds, as we go about scratching a livelihood for ourselves and our dependants.

The Watson stained glass window in St Mary’s Church, Thurles, which we discuss hereunder, is one such perhaps temporary forgotten artistic gem.


Left To Right: (1) The ‘Watson of Youghal’ stained glass window, St Mary’s Church, Thurles, Tipperary. (2) William Holman Hunt’s original painting “The Light of the World”.  (3) Photo of artist William Holman Hunt in eastern dress.

The original allegorical portrait (centre above) depicted by James Watson in this stained glass window is the work of renowned Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt. This work, entitled “The Light of the World,” was originally painted by night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey, England, between the years 1851 & 1853. Due to Holman Hunt’s failing eyesight, he was assisted in the completion of a larger version of this painting by the English painter Edward Robert Hughes.

The painting (Centre above) and stained glass depiction (Left above) both show the figure of Jesus Christ knocking on a door and careful further study indicates that this same painted overgrown entrance has remained unopened for some considerable time.  In his painting Holman Hunt is attempting to illustrate a quote from the New Testament scriptures; to be precise the Book of Revelation: Chapter 3: Verse 20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me”.  Viewers of the original painting will note that this depicted door has no visible handle and can therefore only be opened from the inside, thus representing the choice given to the closed and unsure minds of both lapsed Christians and non-believers.

Here in Thurles regrettably, we do not have Holman Hunt’s wonderful painting “The Light of the World,” to view; same lovers of art must travel to the Chapel at Keble College, Oxford, or to St Paul’s Cathedral in London, where a later version, latter which once toured the world, has now taken up residents. However here in Thurles we do own the next best thing; “The Light of the World,” as depicted by renowned stained glass artist James Watson of Youghal, Co Cork.

James Watson, born in England circa 1860, came from a long line of English stained-glass manufacturing artists. In 1888, attracted by the growth in church building in Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant, James moved to Youghal, with his wife, Mary and his sons Hubert and Maurice. His reputation as a stained glass artist soon became a by-word for artistic excellence, with the importing of brilliantly coloured glass from Europe; the red from England, the best blue’s, orange and yellow’s coming from France and the green’s coming from Germany. Watson would eventually go on to exhibit his stained glass at the St Louis World’s Fair of 1904.

Using large detailed artistic drawings called “cartoons,” painting was undertaken using a translucent stain
which was then applied in numerous layers, giving that masterful effect of light and shade. The final tiny details achieved often using a needle and each complex masterpiece produced demanding several firings. The required leading, joining each piece of painted glass, had to be made by a hand cranked machine, while thermally insulated chambers or kilns used, took days to fire up.

Although the Watson workshop survived until recently, maintained by successive generations of the Watson family, much of the firm’s finest work was done in the early years of the 20th century, as can be seen in the designs and drawings displayed currently at the Crawford Art Gallery, Emmet Place, Cork, under the stewardship of Exhibition Curator M/s  Vera Ryan, latter who recently visited Thurles to view the Watson window in St Mary’s Church.

Note: A truly magnificent “Watson Archive Exhibition” is currently on display at the Crawford Art Gallery, Emmet Place, Cork, containing some one thousand works on paper, including records, account books and other material. This exhibition will only run until March 2015, but is a must see for lovers of art and indeed Tipperary history.

Thurles Exhibition – Archaeological Artefact Replicas

LibraryExecutive Librarian M/s Ann Marie Brophy Reports;

Thurles Library, The Source Complex, Cathedral Street Thurles is proud to present an exhibition of ‘Replicas of Archaeological Artefacts’.

The exhibition will open on Tuesday 10th February at 7.00 p.m. and will be launched by Mattie McGrath TD. All are welcome to attend.

This exhibition will run until Tuesday 10th March, during normal Thurles Library opening hours. [e.g. Monday: 10.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. / 2.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m. TuesdayThursday: 10.00 a.m. – 8.30 p.m. Friday: 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.  Saturday: 10.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. / 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.]

Created by Mr Edward Moten-Letsome, the exhibition features objects in stone, wood, leather, copper and silver; from Early Man through to Egyptian, Greek, Inca, Aztec, Olmec and Viking periods. Edward has also crafted agricultural items from our own Irish heritage.

Edward was originally born at Tullaskeagh, Roscrea but moved to the picturesque Gaeltacht village of Newcastle in 2006. He is a self-taught sculptor and artist. Edward says, “It was during one of my many walks on Bothar na nGall, latter situated in the South Tipperary mountains, that I was inspired to create these artefacts.”

Edward uses the artefacts on display to illustrate his 40 minute talk, which covers the evolution of Early Man and his progress up to the Viking period. Edward hopes that the people who visit this free exhibition will derive as much pleasure from it as he has from sculpting the objects.

If you are interested in bringing a group to this exhibition please contact Thurles Library on Tel: (0504) 29720.

This exhibition should be of particular interest to schools and other educational groups and offers all visiting students and their teachers an ideal opportunity to also visit other interesting primary resource centres, which are within easy distance of this immediate area, e.g. St Mary’s Famine & War Museum Tel: (0504) 21133; Lár na Páirce GAA Museum Tel: (0504) 22702; Cormackstown Heritage Centre Tel: 085-7131584 and the Cabragh Wetlands Trust Tel: Tel: (0504) 43879.

Note: In the case of all of the above named venues, booking in advance is essential to ensure a qualified tour guide is present during your visit.

Tipperary Co Co Win ‘Council of the Year’ Award

The Council of the Year Award 2015 has been won by Tipperary County Council.

Tipperary County Council have deservedly won the ‘Council of the Year’ award at the Local Authority Members Association (LAMA) Community & Council Awards 2015, held in association with IPB Insurance, latter event which took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dublin last Saturday night, (24th of January 2015).
Tipp-CoCoPictured above receiving the award on behalf of the overall Tipperary Council Team are M/s Ruth Maher (Project Leader, IT Section, Tipperary Co Co), Cllr John Carroll (Leas Cathaoirleach Tipperary Co Co), Cllr Micheál Anglim (Tipperary Co Co), and Cllr Andy Moloney (Tipperary Co Co), with Mr Ronan Foley (CEO IPB Insurance, Sponsor) and LAMA Chairperson Cllr Mags Murray (Mayor of Fingal Co Co.)

This annual awards event, hosted this year by M/s Miriam O’Callaghan, recognises and celebrates Community and Councils working together and provides a great opportunity to highlight and celebrate the work undertaken within communities, while also rewarding unsung heroes.

This deservedly won award, as expected, was quickly branded in the press and on local radio, by populist negative Tipperary Independent TD Mr Mattie McGrath, as ‘premature’; latter no doubt anxious to associate himself in some degree with this hard won accolade.

Mr McGrath, in his usual negative tirade failed to mention that all the targets set by this new joint Tipperary authority has been achieved; no easy task when attempting to combine North and South Tipperary into one single unit.

While many logistical problems still continue to demand solutions within this latest merger, Tipperary CEO Mr Joe MacGrath and his Council Team must be fully congratulated in their welding together the uncoordinated hallucinations of Mr Phil Hogan, latter the former dictatorial government Minister, whom history and future elections will record as having contributed greatly to the downfall of the present Fine Gael administration.

Meanwhile a Message to Tipperary Independent TD Mr Mattie McGrath.

“Sir, You were one of five apparently powerless elected Tipperary public representatives who attended  at the Horse & Jockey in Co Tipperary on Friday April 25th 2014, for the launch of the “Derrynaflan Trail Tourism Project.” Your attendance was observed by all, as a self promotional long ‘weekend away‘ for Tipperary TD’s, latter whom were originally sent by the counties electorate to represent Tipperary in our National Parliament.

As a Co Tipperary elected representative, please now inform your electorate of your success to-date in changing the current non-lending policies of our Dublin based National Museum and Government, with regard to loaning the Derrynaflan Hoard for three months, to Thurles this year.

Latter Derrynaflan Hoard was taken, without permission or right of ownership, from its rightful home (Co Tipperary), and is now used to attract overseas visitors to Dublin’s already flourishing economy, at the expense of the county you claim to lovingly represent.”

I wonder what day will Vincent Browne be arriving in Thurles for his ‘People’s Debate’

Still today, with the weather so cold, it seems we can relax according to one contributor on Facebook who posted; “Its so cold outside I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.” 

I wonder was he wearing his own coat?

New Thurles Town Park – A Positive Step Into Our Future


Construction begins on the new Thurles Town Park.

Perhaps it comes from that occasional light tap I received on the back of my head from a loving Grandmother as a young boy; her occasional reminder that I had failed to convey an appropriate “Thank You” at a required point in time.  Perhaps, maybe it is my own inquisitive nature in attempting to acquire true historical facts, or indeed maybe it’s both. Whichever, this week I found myself rummaging amongst the publicly accessible records, held currently behind the attractive red brick exterior of the Thurles Town Council office.

As many of our local readers will be well aware, an exciting new project, which has the backing of both Thurles residents and businesses; obtained through a process of full consultation, has now been initiated here in Thurles; the end positive result of which will be the emergence of a much needed Town Park amenity.

For the benefit of our many absent readers, latter formally natives of the town, but now for one reason or another are resident abroad; the construction of this soon to be realised Town Park is on property, formally farmland, owned by St Patricks College and positioned to the rear of The Source Complex, immediately east of the river Suir.

Chosen for the overseeing construction of this new park is SIAC Construction, a large multi-disciplined construction group with significant operations across Ireland and further afield, established and renowned for providing turnkey solutions to the Irish Building and Civil Engineering industry.

A Town Park For Thurles

From my research possibly the first public mention ever of a Town Park for Thurles, (according to notes examined), was back in 1910. The suggested site was, believe it or not, on hallowed turf known today as “Semple Stadium.” Back then different views and ideas were being tossed about as to whether the present Semple Stadium site should be used, not to build the second largest Stadium in Ireland, but for use as a Graveyard or as a Town Park. Lack of any real decision making, resulted in an umbrella group being formed by some residents of Thurles, latter seeking a ‘Sports Field,’ which same eventually and through personal private / donations was successfully purchased for a sum reported to be between £1,100 and £1,700.

However today’s now sanctioned Thurles Town Park project was initially the brainchild of visionary Mr Tomas (Tom) Barry, latter recently retired Chief Executive of Carlow Co Council, but who was Thurles Town Manager in 2002.

Following discussions with his Council Administrative Staff, Mr Barry decided to include a proposal to Thurles Councillors to increase the towns overall ‘Commercial Rate’ by 25%, in the upcoming 2003 Budget estimates, bringing it into line with other Irish towns of similar size.  His forward looking plan was that some 15% of this 25% increase would be ‘ring fenced,’ to meet local contributions required for a possible number of future Capital Projects within the town. It was anticipated back then that this 15% would yield some €200,000.00 per annum.

The Visionary Future For Thurles

Mr Barry in his five point visionary plan unveiled a possible, yet attainable dream for Thurles, details of which are listed hereunder:-
(1) A Leisure Centre.   (2) Regional Arts Centre.   (3) Thurles Town Centre Enhancement.   (4) Thurles Town Park / River Walk.   (5) Upgrading / Extension to Thurles Council Offices (Latter then grossly overcrowded and unfit for day to day business transactions.)

Mr Barry, in his report on this proposed budget, had stated to his elected Councillors that a Leisure Centre, Regional Arts Centre and a Town Park should be visualised for the future, as being all major practical additions to any town’s recreational facilities, while a Town Enhancement Scheme would dramatically augment an overall appearance of the Thurles town centre.
Having shared his vision with Town Councillors, Mr Barry’s proposals were considered at the 2003 Budget Meeting which was held on Thursday, December 19th 2002. This aforementioned Budget, which including this 25% Commercial Rate increase, was formally adopted by a 5 votes to 2 majority, with two other councillors unavoidably absent from that meeting.

Who Shared In Tom Barry’s Thurles Town Vision?

Those who shared Mr Tom Barry’s future vision, thus voting Forthe adoption of this proposed 2003 Budget increase were; Elected Councillors Mr John Kenehan (Now retired former Thurles Mayor), the Late Mr Paddy Durack (RIP), Mr John Kennedy (Now an outgoing Councillor), Mrs Mae Quin (Now retired), and Mr Martin Ryan (Now retired).

Those who voted ‘AgainstMr Tom Barry’s future vision for the town and thus against the adoption of this same 2003 Budget were; then elected Town Councillor Mr Paddy Barry (Now retired) and Mr Jim Ryan (Recently re-elected Co Councillor).

Those who ‘Abstained, through being unavoidably absent from this Budget meeting were; Elected Councillors M/s Frances Boyle (Now retired) and the Late M/s Ann Mernagh (RIP).

This new Budget, then formally adopted in December 2002, saw the immediate ring fencing of some 15% of annual town revenues generated, which in turn were wisely invested by an ever shrewd Town Clerk, Mr Michael Ryan, latter now presently Thurles District’s Administrator.  Mr Ryan’s superb money management, through selective investments, would later lead Councillor John Kenehan to be entered into the final Minute Book of Thurles Town Council, using wording to the effect. “I would like to thank in particular Town Clerk Mr Michael Ryan, who kept Thurles Town Council always so strongly and clearly financially focused along a straight and narrow path .”

Work has now begun to put this long awaited amenity in place with great care being taken to preserve and restore all existing important historical architecture and stonework identified with this site, including the restoration of the arched entranced Victorian farm shed, once associated possibly with the storing of horse drawn machinery.

To all persons past and present, who through their vision and business acumen, or in any way, shape or form, contributed to this now, soon to be realised, Thurles Town Park, the people of Thurles say “Thank You” for your successful planning, management and overall foresight, as we watch this dream now become a reality.

Tipperary’s Canon Stephen Neill Relocates His Own Roots


Tipperary’s Canon Stephen Neill with US President Barack Obama.

Church of Ireland Rector, Canon Stephen Neill, the man who confirmed US President Barack Obama’s ancestral roots with Moneygall, has decided to pull up and relocate his own roots.

The 45 year old has announced he is leaving his Cloughjordan and the Borrisokane Group of parishes to become Rector of Celbridge and Straffan with Newcastle–Lyons. His Service of Institution as Incumbent of the latter parishes will take place on Thursday, February 12th, 2015 next at 8.00pm in Christ Church, Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Canon Neill has ministered to Cloughjordan residents for the past seventeen years and as part of his move, he now relinquishes his Church of Ireland “Canon” status; laughingly admitting “I will be getting €50 less a month in salary, so I’m not going for the money.”

In explaining his desire to uproot, Canon Neill explains that he now seeks new challenges and fears becoming “too comfortable,” latter which has caused “an itch that needs to be scratched.”

Canon Neill admits that leaving the Cloughjordan and Borrisokane Group of parishes won’t be easy for himself, or for his wife Nicola and their teenage son Aaron. He feels a sense of guilt and regret walking away, after such a long time, having secured strong bonds of proven loyalty and tested friendships with those within his community; all of whom have stood together with him, through thick and thin.

The Dublin born Canon, who is also Precentor of the joint chapter of St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick and St Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, made headlines around the world after his research led to the confirmation that US President Barack Obama’s great-great-grandfather Joseph Kearney had been baptised in the parish of Moneygall. Indeed his personal contribution, within the wider midland regions of Ireland to encourage tourism alone, have far surpassed Fáilte Ireland’s derisory attempts at marketing and highlighting this area.

Canon Neill himself is a very keen reader, blogger and writer, contributing opinion pieces on his website and on local and national newspapers. Previously Curate Assistant in Monkstown, Dublin and in Limerick City Parish, he is a committed ecumenist, believing that the future of our Churches is in gaining closer bonds between all Christians of all traditions, while at the same time discovering where God is at work outside the walls of churches.

Rev Ruth Gill, latter who is already familiar with the Cloughjordan & Borrisokane Group of parishes will now serve as interim Priest-In-Charge for the time being.

In a recent Blog Canon Neill wrote:-

“As I write these notes I am conscious that there is still an occasion to come when I will have a chance to say a formal farewell to you my friends in this group of parishes. But for those of you who may not be able to be present may I thank you on behalf of myself, Nicola & Aaron, for the warmth and generosity you have shown us since our arrival in August 1998. It has been a privilege to be your rector and fellow companion on the journey of life. We will always consider this place very special and it is you the parishioners who have made our time here a happy one. We leave with good memories and not a little sadness. May God bless each and every one of you as you have blessed us.”

Moneygall Development Association made a presentation last Monday night in Ollie’s Bar to acknowledge Canon Neill’s contribution to their community; described him as being selfless and having strengthened bonds between faiths which will remain a lasting legacy. Using President Obama’s quote, “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it” the association whole heartedly agreed that Canon Neill’s presence in their community had definitely shaped a brighter future for the area.

North Tipperary’s loss is most definitely a gain for the Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough and so we wish Canon Stephen every success in his new journey and in the words of the old Irish Toast; “May you have warm words on a cool evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.”

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