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Canon John Hayes Founder ‘Muintir na Tíre’ To Be Remembered

Late Rev Canon John Hayes“We will be judged not by our plans and aspirations but by what we have performed and carried to fruition.”

An Anniversary Mass for the late Very Rev Canon John Hayes (1887–1957), founder of Muintir na Tíre, will be celebrated in Bansha Parish Church on Friday February 7th next at 7.30pm. Canon Hayes was Parish Priest of Bansha/Kilmoyler Co Tipperary from April 1946 until his death.  This Mass will mark the 57th Anniversary of his death.

History of Rev Canon John Hayes

Muintir Na Tíre was founded by Canon Hayes in 1937.

From its conception the three main and ever abiding aims of this organisation were: (A) The spirit of self-help; (B) The cultivation of community spirit; (C) The basic ideal of a unit of thought and understanding for the life of each rural parish. Included in these basic principle or ideals for Muintir Na Tire was that it should be based on the acceptance that all sections of society were equal and display at all times a spirit of complete neighbourliness within each community.

Canon John Hayes was born in a land league hut at Murroe, Co Limerick on November 11th, 1887. Five of Canon Hayes’s brothers and sisters had died before he himself had reached the tender age of seven years, these deaths caused by squalid living conditions. Canon John, a practical joker with a great sense of humour, was initially educated at the Jesuit College in Limerick and at the age of seventeen he began his studies for the priesthood here in St. Patrick’s College, Cathedral Street, Thurles. In 1907 he attended the Irish College in Paris and was finally ordained in 1913. In 1915 he was sent to Liverpool,England to minister, later moving back to became Chaplain to the Mercy nuns in Templemore, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

In 1925 he was moved to Ballybricken, a rather remote parish in east Limerick where he set up a branch of the Pioneers Total Abstinence Association (PTAA) in the adjoining parish. His own parish refused to support his PTAA efforts. In 1927 he was moved to Castleiney, Thurles, Co Tipperary and here his PTAA efforts were again accepted.

These early community experiences taught Canon Hayes that an organisation was very much needed to demonstrate strong leadership, which would support rural country folk. Then British Rule had down through the years, particularly following the Great Famine (1845-49), been systematic in the destruction of organised rural community life through past centralised systems of administration, (Minister Phil Hogan take note lest history repeat itself.).

Father Hayes, ignoring centralised Dublin administration, now sought to mould rural people together and so began his attempts to construct and identify possible rural industry and pressurise these same controlling centralised systems of administration.

These now attempts by him at identifying rural industry initially were aimed at the Angora Rabbit Scheme, in particular providing fur for the lining of jackets used by aeroplane crews. During WW2 thousands of jobs were created providing turf.  Tobacco and Rhubarb growing became small but profitable  industries. To these same ends educational lectures and ‘Rural Weeks’ were organised.  There were many successes and as in so many such ventures some failure also, however rural communities began once more to have a faith and confidence in themselves and Muintir na Tire came to be allied quickly with this growing progressiveness.

Parish meetings were often held in freezing school classrooms using only the light of a ‘spitting’ candle. Representatives were chosen and sent to Dublin to obtain telephone kiosks for remote rural parishes and to demand better rural water schemes. New ‘Community Halls’ began to spring up and necessary repairs to almost derelict local schoolhouses began to be implemented in every small village and hamlet.

The biggest achievement for Muintir na Tíre however was possibly the implementation of Ireland’s rural electrification scheme, began in the early 1950’s. Latter was the process of bringing electrical power to the rural, impoverished and remote areas of Ireland.

Note: All Muintir na Tíre units and members, together with the public are welcome & invited to attend this special Mass in Bansha Parish Church on Friday February 7th next at 7.30pm.

Thurles – Decade Of Centenaries – Public Consultation

A public consultation session on the ‘Decade of Centenaries‘ 2012-23 will be held here in The Source, Cathedral Street, Thurles, Co. Tipperary at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 28th next.

Same is being organised by the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations, which was established by the Irish Government in 2012 to assist it in its efforts to frame an appropriate approach to the centenary commemoration of the ‘Revolutionary Decade’ in modern Irish history, 1912-23.

The first part of the session will consist of a brief overview of both the work of this committee itself (Its personnel remit and to-date  activities) and the broader range of commemorative initiatives involving the Irish government.

The major part of the evening will, however, be a forum in which the Tipperary public can express their opinions on what considerations the government should take into account in framing its policy towards the commemorative decade, especially in the years leading up to the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

Dr Maurice Manning, Chairperson of the group will be in attendance, as will Dr Martin Mansergh, Vice-Chairperson.

The event is free, and open to all members of the public.

Name The New Thurles Town Park Footbridge

Thurles-ParkAs Thurles residents are no doubt aware a new footbridge is planned, same to be built over the river Suir here in the town, from the east bank of St Patrick’s college to the west bank joining Emmet Street (The Mall) and  Thomond Road, close to the “Swinging Gates.”  Same is part of preliminary design proposals put forward for the new Thurles Town Park, expected to be completed using local taxpayers money, by 2015.

So what will we call this new footbridge?

Next time you are out walking in Thurles, travelling on the right hand side from Thurles Cathedral, across Barry’s Bridge to the entrance to Liberty Square at Stakelums Fashions, note the small plaque on the south facing wall of this latter establishment.

This plaque, erected by “The Spirit of Tipperary,” commemorates the escape by James Leahy, Commandant No. 2 (Mid) Tipp-Brigade IRA, from four R.I.C. officers sent to arrest him at “Mixey” O’Connell’s pub, on the morning of March 1st 1918. This plaque however does not truly mark the spot from which Leahy made his daring successful escape. However in a statement to the Bureau of Military History (Document No. W.S. 1454.) by this Tubberadora, Tipperary native, we can be more precise with regard to a more accurate  positioning as to exactly where he successfully attempted his escape.

James Leahy himself stated:

“On 1st March 1918, I was still employed by “Mixey” O’Connell in Thurles. That morning, a party of four R.I.C., including, the local Read Constable arrived in the shop and informed me that I was to be taken into custody. At that time the British authorities decided to re-arrest all the prisoners who had been previously released under the “Cat and Mouse Act,” as a prelude to the enforcement of conscription in Ireland. (Note: The Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913 also known as the “Cat and Mouse Act” was an Act of Parliament passed in Britain under Herbert Henry Asquith’s Liberal government in 1913. The idea was that prisoners who went on hunger strike in jail should be released when they became weak or sick, since their bad health would deter them from continuing with previous illegal behaviour. If they failed to refrain from such activity they could then be re-arrested. The nickname of the Act came about because of a cat’s habit of playing with a mouse before eventually killing it off.)

My boss was in bed at the time the police called and I requested permission to be allowed to go upstairs to tell him that I was being sent back to jail. The Head Constable agreed to this, but sent one of the police upstairs with me. As we were coming back into the shop I opened the door at the foot of the stairs and held it open to enable my guard to go into the shop in front of me. He did so and I banged the door after him and dashed out the back door which I slammed after me.

I ran as fast as I could towards the bridge which crosses the River Suir in the town, pursued by the police. On reaching the bridge I ran down the Mall (Emmet Street) and from there I jumped into the river to get across to the college grounds (St Patrick’s College). The police in the meantime had divided their forces; the Head Constable kept on my back, two others got into the college grounds, while the fourth man was dispatched to the barracks for reinforcements. As I was half way across the river I saw the two policemen waiting to receive me on the college side and I then turned back again towards the Mall.

Continue reading Name The New Thurles Town Park Footbridge

Josephine McNeill Thurles Town’s Forgotten Diplomat

Josephine McNeill (née Ahearne), the Irish Diplomat, was originally born on March 31st 1895, in Fermoy, County Cork. She was the daughter of James Ahearne (shopkeeper and hotelier) and Ellen Ahearne (née O’Brien). Josephine was educated at Loretto Convent, Fermoy, and later at UCD.  Today in Co Tipperary and indeed in her own native Co Cork its citizens have almost forgotten her varied contribution to twentieth century Irish History.

Equipped with a BA in French and German she began her teaching career, teaching first at the St Louis Convent, Kiltimagh, Co Mayo and later in 1917, here in Thurles at the Ursuline Convent. Josephine was fluent in the Irish language and held a passion for Irish music and literature. While here in Thurles she also took an active part in the cultural side of the Irish independence movement, becoming a member of Cumann na mBan and in 1921 became a member of the executive committee of that same organisation.

It was also while here in Thurles, in 1917, that Josephine first met Pierce McCann, latter president of the East Tipperary executive of Sinn Féin and the Commander of the Tipperary Brigade in the 1916 Easter Rising. By May 1918, she was paying regular visits to Ballyowen House, near Cashel, and they would eventually became engaged just before McCann was arrested by the R.I.C. for the second time.  Following this latter arrest Pierce McCann would die of influenza in Gloucester jail, possibly after it was claimed that a doctor had dosed him too strongly with strychnine on March 6th 1919 in a British nursing home.

Indeed when McCann’s corpse arrived in Dublin, amongst those who carried his coffin from ship to hearse and later to the Dublin / Thurles train, were Harry Boland and Michael Collins. In Dublin his hearse was preceded by a group of over one hundred Volunteers and was followed by another group of fifty, as it wended its way for a Mass held at the Pro-Cathedral. Following this Mass, the cortège and about ten thousand mourners walked through the city centre. On reaching the Quays it is reported that a British officer attempted to halt this cortège to allow a British military truck the first right of way. This officer together with his motorcycle are understood to have found themselves floating in the River Liffey, courtesy of a group of bystanders, because of what was perceived as a lack of respect for the dead.

When McCann’s coffin arrived by train here in Thurles, Volunteers from all over Tipperary were represented and the coffin was removed to the Cathedral of The Assumption, where it was received by the then Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr. John Harty. On Sunday, March 10th, the funeral left Thurles at 2:30pm bound for buried in Dualla, Cashel, County Tipperary. Note the present McCann Barracks in Templemore, County Tipperary, remains named after him.

Later in 1923 Josephine Ahearn would now go on to marry a man, 26 years her senior, one James McNeill, Irish High Commissioner in London from 1923- 1928.  James McNeill would also serve as a member of the committee under Michael Collins, latter then chairman of the Irish Provisional Government, and would also assist in drafting the Constitution of the Irish Free State. Both Josephine and James greatly resented the manner of their treatment by Eamon de Valera when the Office of the Governor General was suppressed  in 1932. However later, while Minister to Switzerland, Josephine put this same anger and  resentments aside, when de Valera visited Switzerland for eye surgery and indeed it is reported that she went to sit with him during this period of convalescence.

Continue reading Josephine McNeill Thurles Town’s Forgotten Diplomat

Anger At Moving Of Memorial Plaques In Thurles

Anger has been expressed over the dumping of memorial plaques in St Mary’s Graveyard, to make way for a plaque to commemorate the Korean War.

St Mary's

The badly worded inaccurate Korean war plaque, displaying grammatical errors, commemorates the death of 130 (Should read 159 Irish Born, 30  soldiers, seven members of the Columban order and an Anglican nun.) Irish born unnamed persons which have no known association with Thurles town, was unveiled on March 2nd last by Korean native Mr Kim Yong Ho. Later the plaque was removed and re-erected more recently, displacing at least three small plaques previously erected by local Thurles residents, whose relatives are buried within the graveyard’s confines.

No Korean War victims are buried in the grounds of St Mary’s graveyard Thurles and indeed only one Tipperary soldier Sgt. TJ O’Brien a native of Ballyvistea, Emly was killed in Korea, and his body was never recovered.  The now displaced plaques, erected by relatives of persons actually buried in this area, now accuse local councillors of attempting to raise their personal profiles in time for local elections brochures, due for production before next May.

According to the inscription on the plaque, same was erected by an organisation calling itself “Dúrlas Éile Eliogarty Memorial Committee,” whose members include Local Town Councillor’s Mr Jim Ryan, Mr David Doran, and Mr Noel O’Dwyer, together with Mr John Worth (President & PRO) and Mr Pat Walsh (Chairperson).

The local Church of Ireland community who share the grounds within the graveyard complex refused to comment on the removal of these memorials, other than to state that they had been contacted by concerned and angry individuals regarding this matter and had directed same to contact Thurles Town Council. They were also anxious to point out that they had in the past totally opposed the erection of this and other such plaques, which has by their presence destroyed and desecrated an area of immense historical importance.

The Church of Ireland Community also stated that the following written confirmation was received by them on the May 11th 2010, from North Tipperary Co Council via Thurles Town Council regarding planning permission, Quote; “In reply to your e-mail, I wish to confirm that we have no record of any planning applications for permission to erect memorials in the grounds of St Mary’s old graveyard, situated at St Mary’s lane, Thurles, Co.Tipperary.”

The Church of Ireland community confirm that threats of legal action expressed in some complaints made, should now be addressed to Thurles Town Council, latter Administrators of this historic fourteenth century burial ground.

Owners of the plaques dumped claim that no permission or indeed request was ever received by the committee responsible for their removal, and also claim this is a final indignity to those who in the past were unable to afford a simple headstone marker.