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Who Shot William Loughnane In Thurles On March 9th 1921?

Who shot 23-year-old William Loughnane at his home in Mitchel Street, Thurles on this month 96 years ago; March 9th 1921?

Certainly, his parents had no doubt as to those who were responsible, when you read the epitaph written on William’s tombstone, in St. Mary’s Graveyard, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Most people don’t see the glaring spelling error made by the then stone mason (‘THIR’ instead of ‘THEIR’), so distracted are they by the unambiguous and overt wording; “Murdered by British Forces.”

Some newspapers printed the story as part of the other happenings of this time around the country, as shown hereunder.

“A party of armed and disguised men yesterday at Thurles shot and killed Laurence Hickey, a Republican, and William Loughnane, a Sinn Feiner. It is presumed the men were shot in reprisal for the killing of James Maher and Patrick Mara, former soldiers, near Thurles Tuesday night.”

The story had been released, through Thurles R.I.C. and Black and Tans soldiers, that Loughnane had been shot by the close friends of ex-British soldiers James Maher (“Rockam”) and Patrick Meara (“Swordy”).  Both these latter named were suspected as being spies by the Thurles IRA volunteers and were executed on the orders of James Leahy, Commandant, No. 2 Mid-Tipp-Brigade.

Indeed, the facts are given by James Leahy; same written hereunder and contained in a Bureau of Military History statement made in relation to Irish Volunteers, Irish Republican Brotherhood and Sinn Féin activities here in Thurles, Co. Tipperary and relating to the years 1914-1921.

Leahy states: (See File No S.790. Document No. w.s. 1454.  Pages 66, 67, 68 & 69.)

“In the last days of February 1921, one of the Thurles I.R.A. companies were drilling at Loughtagalla on the outskirts of the town when several lorries of police attempted to surround them. There were about 6o Volunteers on parade but they all managed to get away safely. One young Volunteer, Thomas Kelly, Mitchell St., who was running to warn his comrades of the approach of the lorries, was fired at by the police and shot dead.

Following that shooting incident, things became very lively around Thurles for a while. Two natives of the town and both ex-British soldiers James Maher (“Rockam”) and Patrick Meara (“Swordy”) had been under observation by the Volunteers. Both men were intimate pals and had been mixing a great deal with the R.I.C. and Black and Tans. They had been seen, too be hanging around country roads in the vicinity of houses where “wanted” men were fed and sheltered.

A number raids carried out in the town and district by the R.I.C. were attributed to information supplied by these two men. On the day of Gerry Ryan’s arrest, they met him as he was leaving a house in the town and saw him enter another house nearby. They went away, but shortly afterwards a force of R.I.C. came along and halted a short distance from where Ryan was visiting. He was not aware of their presence as he emerged into the Street and was held up and taken prisoner. He had nothing to incriminate him in his possession, but he was sent to an internment camp on Spike Island. (Latter is an island of some 103 acres in Cork Harbour, Ireland, which had previously in earlier Victorian times contained a 24 acre fortress that was then the largest convict depot in the world.)

“I cannot say now whether it was the arrest of Jerry Ryan or the shooting of Tommy Kelly that led the Battalion Council of the 1st Battalion to ask for permission to execute as spies Maher and Meara. I gave authority for their execution.

It may have been on 1st March 1921, that the two of them, while sitting on Turtulla Bridge, were captured by Mick Small and members of the brigade column. They were taken across the fields to Ballytarsna (Some 8 miles (13 km) by road, South East of Thurles) where they were informed by Small that they were about to be shot as spies and if they wished to have spiritual attention it would be forthcoming. Meara did not answer, but Maher became very abusive. Both men were then told to go on their knees and say their prayers. Neither of them did so, and Small then ordered the firing party to proceed with the execution. From what I was told afterwards, Meara was silent as he faced the firing squad. The usual notices were pinned to the bodies or both men announcing that they had been executed as spies by the I.R.A.

Reprisals for those executions took place on the night of 10th March 1921. Five masked and armed policemen raided the house of Larry Hickey, Publican, Main St., Thurles, when they found the owner in bed. He 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, 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, (In 2017 house is home to 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 bench type wooden box seat, which when the lid of the seat is lifted, same contains a bed inside.) 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. He 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.”

Two politicians, Mr. T. Griffiths (1867–1955) and J. Galbraith (1872–1945), on separate days (13th April 1921 & 14th April 1921) asked in the British Parliament as to the result of the official inquiry into the murders of William Loughnane and Laurence Hickey and the attempted murder, on the same occasion, of men named Regan, Griffin, Leahy, and Lupton, all of Thurles.

Their questions were addressed to the former Solicitor General, and later Attorney General and Chief Secretary for Ireland (July 1919) and soon to be first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland (1921 to 1925) Mr. Denis Stanislaus Henry. In Parliament, and while living under the constant threat of death at the hands of IRA assassins, it was Mr Henry’s lot to defend and explain government policy during the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-1921, as Ireland and Tipperary continued its spiral into anarchy and chaos.

The reply in parliament by Mr Henry, on both occasions, regarding the findings of the Military Court of Inquiry, in lieu of inquest into the deaths of Laurence Hickey and William Loughnane, was that they were wilfully murdered by persons unknown. The police have up to the present been unable to obtain any evidence leading to the identification of the person by whom these murders were committed or of the persons by whom the houses of the other persons mentioned in the question were raided on the same night.

It must be remembered that the ‘Restoration of Order in Ireland Act 1920’ was passed on August 9th 1920 in an attempt to address the collapse of the British civilian administration in Ireland.  This Act also provided for the replacement of ‘trial by jury by courts-martial’ in those areas where IRA activity was most prevalent. Military courts were now to be substituted for coroners inquests, since local authorities had begun finding British soldiers liable for the deaths of Irish civilians.


Statue Of Archbishop Patrick Leahy, Thurles Cathedral

Statue of Archbishop Dr. P. Leahy, in Thurles Cathedral yard.

Destined to become one of the most prominent Roman Catholic churchmen in Ireland, Patrick Leahy (1806–1875) was born at Fennor, in the parish of Gortnahoe, Co. Tipperary, on May 31st 1806, the son of Patrick Leahy, a moderately successful Civil Engineer and Surveyor in Co Tipperary and Co. Cork, and Mary Margaret (née Cormack), a native of Gortnahoe.

Following his ordination he became the Roman Catholic curate of a small parish in the diocese of Cashel and was later appointed professor of Theology and Scripture here in St. Patrick’s College in Thurles, and a short time later President of that same Institution.

By August 22nd 1850 he was one of the Secretaries of the Synod of Thurles, and was afterwards appointed parish priest of Thurles and vicar-general of the Diocese of Cashel.

When the Catholic University was first opened in Dublin in 1854, he was selected for the office of Vice-Rector under then Rector Dr. John Henry Newman, (afterwards Cardinal Newman), thus filling a Professor’s chair.

He was elected Archbishop of Cashel on April 27th 1857 and consecrated on June 29th of that same year. In 1866 and 1867 he was deputed, with John Derry Bishop of Clonfert, to conduct the negotiations with Lord Mayo (Richard Bourke),[1] the Chief Secretary for Ireland, with respect to the proposed endowment of the Roman Catholic university.

[1] Five years later, on February 8th 1872, the same Lord Mayo (Richard Bourke), stopped off at Ross Island near the entrance to the harbour at Port Blair in the South Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, then a British penal colony.  Here Lord Mayo was stabbed to death by Sher Alia a convict from the North West Frontier, who was on a sick leave. His death caused great disturbance in diplomatic circles but the decision was made to play down the incident; quietly hang the murderer and appoint a new Viceroy.

A strong advocate of the cause of temperance, Archbishop Leahy enforced the Sunday closing of all public-houses in his Diocese. Owing to his energy the Cathedral of The Assumption at Thurles was built, at a cost of £45,000 pounds.

He died on January 26th 1875, and was buried in Thurles Cathedral on February 3rd of that year.

Hereunder find the following extract, relating to the erection of the statue to Archbishop Leahy in the yard of the Cathedral of The Assumption Thurles, taken from the journal of Fr. Michael Maher C.C., Thurles, and dated 1911.

“At the end of the year, the Archbishop (Thomas Fennelly 1901-1913) got a statue of Dr. Patrick Leahy erected in the Cathedral enclosure. It was sculptured at Carrara [2] by Professor Pietro Lazzerini and it is made of Sicilian or Bastard Statuary Marble. [3]

It was ready for shipment when the strike occurred on the railways in Great Britain and Ireland in August 1911. [4] We wrote to the sculptor not to send it until matters would be settled. It was sent from Leghorn [5] when the strike ceased, but arrived in Liverpool when the Irish strike was at its height in October. It was delayed some time on that account, but arrived safely in Thurles from Liverpool and Dublin in November. It weighs two tons and cost £120. I sent the cheque to Lazzerini.”

[2] Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), the Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance period, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art, worked here at the Carrara marble quarries.

[3] Statuary Second or Bastard blue-grey Marble was used since the time of Ancient Rome.

[4] This strike arose after widespread dissatisfaction with the activities of conciliation boards set up to negotiate between workers and their employers the Rail Companies. Local disputes led to unofficial strike action in July and early August of 1911, with a meeting of all the main rail unions arranged in Liverpool to coordinate action nationally. These Unions issued an ultimatum to the Rail Companies to accept direct negotiation with their representatives within 24 hours or suffer a national strike. Keen to ensure that the railways would not be shut down. The Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, son of a Yorkshire clothing manufacturer, told the rail companies that police and troops would be deployed to help keep the trains running, resulting with soldiers being brought into London and 32 other towns in England and Wales. The then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill supported the police and troops against the striking union employees.

[5] Traditionally known in English as Leghorn, Livorno is a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, in Italy.

“The pedestal was fashioned by Mr P. Best of Cashel from stones got in the quarry at Camas, (Cashel). It cost £70. The Archbishop composed the inscription which is simplicity itself and a Galway man named Laurence Clane cut the letters.

Messr Leahy Brothers of Thurles had charge of the erection. It was no small work to get the statue in position without cranes or other powerful leverage. It was done this way. They constructed a large framework of wood around the base of the pedestal, then they hauled up the great box (2 tons 5 cwt.) containing the statue with pulleys attached to a horizontal iron bar above and let it rest on planks. They next built the pedestal and when that was finished they opened the box and got the statue into position by means of the pulleys. They finished the work a few days before Christmas.”

Overall Cost of Monument £214-10-0
[Statue £120-0-0; Pedestal £70-0-0; Leahy erection £12-0-0; Carriage from Leghorn  (Livorno) to Thurles £12-10-0.]


Should Unclaimed Bodies Pass To Anatomy Departments

American-born feminist, theologian and independent politician, Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children, referred in the Dáil yesterday to the 474 “unclaimed infant remains” which were transferred from mother-and-baby homes and related institutions, to medical schools in Irish Universities. Same were transferred into the anatomy departments of Irish medical colleges here in Ireland right up to the mid 1960’s.

The Minister stated she wished to offer solidarity and a personal apology for the wrongs that were done to those affected.

‘Resurrectionists’ on the ‘Graveyard Shift.’

While apologies and offers of solidarity are all very well, one must ask the questions:
(1) Were there any laws broken when such transfers of unclaimed infant remains were transferred from these homes to Irish Universities?
(2) Do we now need to change or update existing law with regard to such matters?

In 2017 we must consider ourselves as living in more enlightened times. We learn that today, Friday 10th March 2017, that what is described as a highly original and thought-provoking exhibition of human anatomy will come to Dublin for a limited time only. Yes it is the ‘Human Body Exhibition’, which also features the bodies of genuine humans. The specimens featured were donated in accordance with Chinese law to the Dalian Hoffen Biotechnique Laboratory, which conducts research into plastination and provides specimens to medical schools.

This exhibition the purpose of which we are told is to further educate, is expected to run for six months and the promotions company founded by Eamonn McCann and Denis Desmond (MCD), have sent invitations to medical schools and primary and second-level students. Tickets however are priced at €14 for adults and €8 for children.

This exhibit has indeed attracted criticism since it is not possible to attest as to whether any of the specimens voluntarily donated their bodies, or whether they are instead the misappropriated remains of executed Chinese political prisoners, latter who had not given their consent to have their bodies shown, following their execution.

Should the Irish people at this time be upset by the arrival of this “highly original and thought-provoking exhibition of human anatomy”, in light of the 474 “unclaimed infant remains” similarly transferred from mother-and-baby homes to Irish medical schools between 1940 and 1965 ?

Prior to the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes were those condemned to death and dissection by the courts who were often guilty of harsher crimes. However those sentenced by Courts did not provide enough subjects for medical schools / private anatomical schools. During the 18th century hundreds had been executed for what we regard today as trivial crimes, however by the 19th century only about 55 people were being sentenced to capital punishment on an annual basis.

As many as 500 dead bodies were needed annually due to the expansion of the medical schools. Interfering with graves was not a felony, rather a misdemeanour in common law and therefore only punishable with imprisonment and a fine, instead of transportation or execution. Thus the trade of Body Snatching became a sufficiently lucrative business with the authorities tending to ignore what they considered a necessary evil.

The business of ‘Body Snatching’ became so prevalent that it became necessary for relatives and friends of deceased persons to watch over bodies until burial, and then to keep watch over the very grave itself to halt violations. Mortsafes, (a framework of iron bars placed over grave sites) and Iron Coffins, where affordable, had to be used frequently.

Graves were dug quite shallow and ‘Body Snatchers’ or ‘Resurrectionists’, as they were known, would dig at the head end (West) of a recent burial, using wooden spade (quieter than metal implements). On reaching the coffin, they broke the side open before placing a rope around the corpse and dragged it out. Stealing jewellery or clothing would cause them to be liable to a felony charge, so in many cases they were careful not to steal either.

Resurrectionists were also known to hire women to act as grieving relatives and claim the bodies of the dead from within poorhouses. Often poorhouses received a small fee from undertakers, or resold the bodies (especially those with no family) to doctors. Women also attended funerals acting as grieving mourners to ascertain any future hardships these Body Snatchers might later encounter during disinterment. Even bribed servants would sometimes offer body snatchers access to their dead master or mistress lying in state; the removed body would be later replaced with suitable weights in closed coffins.

Remember in more recent times the huge furore over Irish human tissue banks and the  removal of organs retained for further examination and sometimes subsequently used for educational and research purposes, dealt with by the Dr. Deirdre Madden Report on Post Mortem Practises & Procedures.

Enough with the apologies and offers of solidarity; our legislators now need to sit down and ask the question: “Do we now need to change or update existing law with regard to such matters?”  We as a nation can no longer afford the costs of day after day public enquiries, followed by the inevitable compensation claims in an attempt to remove our guilt, especially with regard to matters of Church and State, and which once were seen as being morally quite acceptably, by Irish Society, all those decades ago.


Erection Of The Thurles Wesleyan Methodist Chapel

L-R. Pic (1) Wesleyan Methodist chapel today. Pic (2) Initial Drawing of Wesleyan Methodist chapel 1847. Pic (3) Drawing of the Missionary Mrs Asenath Hatch Nicholson, who visited Thurles in 1848.

The Wesleyan-Methodist chapel, built originally 1848, was described back then as being a detached three-bay gable-fronted building, having three-bay two-storey side elevation with lean-to extension to the rear, and with a pitched artificial slate roof with rendered chimney stacks. Lined-and-ruled rendered walls to the front with square-headed niches with limestone sills and moulded render surrounds, ashlar limestone pilasters, and limestone pediment with fascia and acroteria with anthemion motif. Central square-headed replacement timber panelled double doors with render cornice with consoles and limestone steps.

In more recent years its continued use would see it become the home of Thurles FCA [Currently known as the Reserve Defence Force, (RDF)]
and even more recently the newest home to Thurles Youth Centre.

However a report sent to the editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine[1] records the opening of the Thurles Wesleyan-Methodist chapel; situated as it does today on the west side of Slieve-na-Mon Road, in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Remember 1848 Thurles was still experiencing the aftermath of three years of the Great Famine of 1845 -1849.

Note: The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine[1] was a monthly magazine published between 1778 and 1969. Founded by John Wesley as the ‘Arminian Magazine’, it was later retitled the Methodist Magazine in 1798 and later again, in 1822, the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.

A report by Mr Robert Bruce of Roscrea (Tullamore Methodist District) in 1848 reads: “On March 1st a very neat and commodious Wesleyan chapel was opened in Thurles, in the Roscrea Circuit, Ireland by the Rev. Messrs. Croggon and Reilly, who preached very excellent and appropriate sermons, Mr Croggon from Genesis Chapter 28-Verse 17. [And he was afraid, and said, How awesome is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven”] and Mr Reilly from St John Chapter 1 – Verse 29 [The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.]

Mr Bruce reports “The building is 34ft x 25ft and will afford sittings for about 130 persons. There is a very good school-room; there are also apartments for a Master under it. Mr Croggon intends as soon as possible to fix a suitable person here; and in no part of Ireland, so far as scriptural education is concerned is a school more wanted. The building does great credit to the architect, Mr Tinsley, Clonmel and to Mr Leister of Thurles.” [Possibly Thomas or Joshua Leister, Turtulla, Thurles, Millers & Brewers]

Mr Bruce continues, “Through the perseverance and defatigable exertions of the latter, indeed the house has been completed. The cost is £350 of which the sum of £250 has been raised, leaving a debt of only one hundred pounds. It is about thirty years since the Wesleyan Ministers commenced preaching in Thurles, during which time Mr Leister and his excellent wife have been the ardently attached and unwavering friends of Methodism.  With our additional advantages we trust we shall enjoy a larger share of the prospering blessing of Almighty God”.

Asenath Hatch Nicholson
Determined to personally investigate the suffering of the Irish poor during the ‘Great Famine’, self appointed missionary Mrs Asenath (Latter name taken from the Book of Genesis) Hatch Nicholson, was also on an unaccompanied visit to Thurles, Co. Tipperary. An American teacher and arthritic widow of 52 years; (Miss Asenath Hatch had married Norman Nicholson, a widower with three children) who had previously been the proprietor of a vegetarian boarding house and who had championed the causes of abolitionism and temperance arrived here around 1848.   Walking through the countryside on her mission to bring the Bible to the Irish poor, she arrived in Thurles, to distribute copies of the Bible to those who could read, and read the Bible to those who could not.

“The morning was pleasant”, she writes, “and had not my heart been a little sad, it would have been congenial to every feeling of my mind, so naturally fitted for the enjoyment of rich scenery in nature.

She states, “Thurles is an ancient town in the county of Tipperary, somewhat neatly built. It contains a good market-house, fine chapel, college for Catholics, Nunnery, and Charity-school, with a Protestant church, and a Methodist chapel. My reception here was cordial, and the house in quite American taste. My stay was continued a day or two longer than I at first intended; and as Tuesday was market-day, it presented a favourable opportunity of seeing the peasantry, who appeared more cleanly and comfortable than those of many towns in Ireland, though much like Kilkenny.”

Even back then Mrs Nicholson was challenged government on their record of stewardship of relief resources, and their overall attitude toward the poor, for whom she rightly claimed they were fully responsible.

Even then and just like staff employed by modern charities today, Mrs Nicholson made a distinction between the paid relief officers, whom she characterized as bureaucratic, hierarchical and self-serving; and volunteer relief workers, e.g. Quakers, Coast guardsmen and their families and Local Clergy, latter whom she regarded as being compassionate, egalitarian and selfless. Unlike our modern day highly paid charity executive employees, in the early 19th century Mrs Nicholson was scrupulous about her own personal expenses, allowing herself 23 pence a day for food; a diet of bread and cocoa and reduced her stipend to 16 pence (no cocoa) when her resources showed signs of dwindling.

She raged against the diversion of grain being converted from food into alcohol; charging that grain used for distilling could have fed the Irish poor. She stated in her writings, “Reader, ponder this well. Enough grain, converted into a poison for body and soul as would have fed all that starving multitude.”

Methodism had been introduced into Ireland by John Wesley himself.  A body of preachers were attached to travelling circuits, visiting chapels. Of course political correctness was a long way off in the early days of census taking and a number of disabilities were crudely noted revealing a less than sensitive attitude. These census designations were openly identified as, “deaf, dumb, blind, idiot, imbecile and lunatic”.  It was seriously noted that the only groupings showing an increase for example in the 1901 census were, yes, “Lunatics and Methodists”.


Skeleton Of Tipperary Giant To Remain In Trinity College

Cornelius Magrath the Silvermines Co. Tipperary giant.

Trinity College Dublin claim that they have no immediate plans to release the skeleton of a giant, born in March 1736, near the Silvermines, Nenagh, Co Tipperary to assist in his burial.

Cornelius Magrath who suffered from gigantism was 7ft 3in tall when he died in 1760. Legend recalls that Trinity students stole his body the day he died and it has been kept at the University ever since.

Of course body snatching was a lucrative business back in the 18th century  and those who were involved were often called “resurrectionists” or “resurrection-men”, who often benefited on the double, stealing personal effects from the corpses sold on for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools. Because the only bodies legally available for medical dissection back then were the remains of executed criminals, demand soon outpacing supply.

Such body snatching activity possibly lends itself to the use of the phrase “The Graveyard Shift”.  Graveyards started running out of places to bury people. So coffins were often dug up and bones sent to a “bone-house” allowing for the reuse of grave space. When opening such coffins, it was discovered that a considerable number were found to have scratch marks on the inside lid, confirming that individuals were being burying alive. Based on this evidence it was agreed that a piece of string be tied to the wrist of certain corpses; to be lead through the coffin and up through the ground before being tied to a bell. An individual would sit out in the graveyard all night (the “graveyard shift”) to listen for bell; sounds, hence someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered to be a “dead ringer.”

The Magrath skeleton today is viewed only by those doing research and continues to inspire scholarship through teaching a great many students, scientists, professors and experts studying his disease.

While it is claimed that Tipperary locals are calling on Cornelius’s skeleton to be released for burial; certainly Thurles.Info has heard nothing about it and Trinity College have released a statement also confirming it also had not been approached by any Tipperary individuals who are requesting his burial. The University in the past admits putting Cornelius’s skeleton on public display, but there are no plans for such similar displays into the future; leaving Cornelius to be only visited by medical students or associated groups involved in research or other educational activities.

Looks like our Dublin Media were stuck for front page sensationalism and national debate again.

You can read all about the Tipperary Giant Cornelius Magrath simply by clicking HERE