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Mr Harry Gleeson Officially Pardoned


Mr Harry Gleeson

President Michael D. Higgins has officially granted Ireland’s first posthumous pardon to a man from Co. Tipperary; hanged for murder over 74 years ago.

Mr Harry Gleeson was hanged having being wrongfully convicted of the murder of a mother of seven, namely Miss Mary ” Foxy Moll” McCarthy, in New Inn, Co. Tipperary. Mr Gleeson was executed by the then British hangman Albert Pierrepoint (1905 – 1992) in Mountjoy jail in April of 1941.

A recent review of the case found that then Gardaí and the Prosecution had withheld crucial information and fabricated evidence against Mr Gleeson, thus securing his execution.

The granting of this posthumous pardon yesterday by the Irish President, completely clears Mr Gleeson’s name and it is hoped that same, however late, will  serve as a tribute to his memory.

It is understood that the government through the Department of Justice have expressed sympathy to Mr Gleeson’s family and indicated their intention to hold a commemorative event for family members, early in the New Year, when a more detailed explanation of the pardon will be forthcoming.

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.


Next Borrisoleigh Historical Society Lecture – 7th Dec. 2015

Monday night, 7th December 2015 – Lecture by Seán Hogan – “Seamus Burke – Tipperary TD, 1918 – 1938”

Seán Hogan, author of best-selling book “The Black and Tans in North Tipperary” will be the welcome guest speaker at Borrisoleigh Historical Society’s lecture on Monday night next, December 7th 2015.  His lecture will feature the life of a neglected figure from recent Tipperary history and a man with deep Borrisoleigh connections. Séamus Burke (1893 – 1967) was a TD for Tipperary from 1918 to 1938. The elements of privilege, tragedy, loss, achievement, celebrity and controversy will be found in Hogan’s telling of the story of Burke’s life.

Lovers of history here in Thurles will be particularly interested in travelling to this lecture. Back in March 1919 it was reported that the tone of speeches made by Séamus Burke; a recently elected Sinn Féin members of Parliament, showed increasing hostility towards the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).  One such speech was indeed given by the same Seamus Bourke, asserted that the correct way to deal with RIC officers was not to shoot them, as this was being irresponsible, “but (instead) to make their life unbearable, treat them as outcasts of society, as we cannot be in any place that some of these ‘vipers‘ are not in our midst.”

Séamus Bourke was duly prosecuted by the RIC for these apparent inflammatory remarks. His arresting officer was none other than District Inspector Michael Hunt from Thurles, who was later shot dead by first cousins Jim and Tommy Stapleton from Finnahy, Upperchurch and Jim Murphy (Latter known as “The Jennett”) from Curreeney, Kilcommon, on June 23rd 1919, as the former entered Liberty Square. The RIC County Inspector believed then that his involvement with the case against Séamus Bourke was the main reason why District Inspector Hunt had been targeted for assassination.

Séamus Aloysius Burke – Sinn Féin Teachta Dála, Irish Cumann na nGaedheal founder member and later Fine Gael politician.

Séamus Burke’s parents were originally from Borrisoleigh and his family gained a considerable fortune in America, enabling them to live amongst the existing social elite. His early life was blighted by the deaths, from ‘Scarlatina’ (Scarlet Fever), of his two elder brothers. Séamus (James) went on to be educated by the Jesuits in both Fordham College, New York and Clongowes Wood; qualifying as a barrister in 1916.


Seamus A. Burke (Identified by red frame in picture of 1st First Dáil – January 21st 1919,)standing beside school friend Kevin O’Higgins, (on his right), latter who was assassinated on Sunday July 10th 1927 in revenge for his part in the executions of IRA men during the civil war.

Burke’s story encompasses a critical period in Irish politics, in which he was a significant player on the national scene. On December 14th 1918, at the age of 25, he was returned as Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for mid-Tipperary. One of his roles during the turbulent years of the War of Independence was raising funds in America for the underground Irish Republican movement. However, he was the only Tipperary TD to support the Treaty in 1922 and during the Civil War which followed, his home at Rockforest House was burned after Anti-Treaty IRA men; Frederick Burke (Ileigh), Martin O’Shea (Borrisoleigh), Pat Russell (Thurles) and Patrick McNamara, (Ballina), were executed in Roscrea on January 15th 1923.

Burke headed the poll in Tipperary in subsequent elections and became Minister for Local Government and Public Health in W.T. Cosgrave’s Government of 1923 – 27. His was a very significant contribution to the development of the new State during difficult years, going on to become a founder-member of Cumann na nGaedheal. Although largely absent in the standard texts of the period, Burke’s political contribution was of the same order as his well-known Ministerial colleague and school friend from Clongowes, Kevin O’Higgins, who would be assassinated in 1927.

Burke’s married in 1929; his wife none other than Zenaide Bashkiroff, further adds to the intrigue surrounding his life and times. Zenaide was the niece of Prince Felix Youssopoff, who assassinated Grigori Rasputin, the Russian peasant, faith healer, advisor and trusted friend of the family of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. Zenaide supported Séamus Burke well in his political endeavours, writing a memoir of their lives entitled “Views from a Window.” (Note if anyone has a copy I would love to read it.) During the 1930’s he was active in debates about the merits of Fascism and Communism in Europe. He was a trenchant critic of Eamonn De Valera and eventually lost his seat in 1938. He retired from politics after narrowly failing to take the last seat in the 1943 election. He later moved to England where he died in 1967.

In his meticulous style as a Tipperary historian, Seán Hogan has now researched extensively on matters relating to Burke’s life. He is a public servant in the Department of Environment, which is the successor in title to the one in which Burke laboured to create for the new State in the very challenging 1920’s, impacting in many ways on the future lives of Irish citizens.

This well-illustrated lecture promises to be yet another memorable event for Borrisoleigh Historical Society; in the societies endeavours to promote Tipperary history.


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’.