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Borrisoleigh Rural Community In Larger Irish Setting

The very successful monthly series of history lectures which have been continuing in the Community Centre, Borrisoleigh, Thurles, Co Tipperary, (Latter building situated behind the Sacred Heart Church) over the past year, will continue on Friday April 10th next, at 8.00pm.


Picture from the late 1960’s of Borrisoleigh village centre in Co. Tipperary.

This month’s lecture, a broader than usual theme, will examine social change in rural Ireland, as seen through the prism of guest lecturer Professor Liam Kennedy’s own parish of Borrisoleigh in North Tipperary.

For those of you not already familiar with the work of Professor Liam Kennedy; he is Professor Emeritus of Economic & Social History at Queen’s University Belfast. He was born in Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary, in 1946, well before the era of rural electrification, the Friesian cow, Radio Telefís Eireann and the European Union. His interests include social change in Irish rural society, the Great Irish Famine and ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.

In 2005 he held a visiting professorship at the University of Toronto and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Professor Kennedy retired from the academic staff in September 2011, but remains an active member of Queen’s History community. He is currently completing a book of historical essays, less than imaginatively titled “The Irish,” latter which will be published, possibly towards the end of this year.

In the 1950’s and the 1960’s a number of studies appeared which proclaimed the death of rural Ireland. Most of these came out of the west of Ireland and somehow did not seem to fit the rural world of Professor Kennedy who had experienced growing up here in Co. Tipperary. Thus began his interest in studying marriage patterns, dowries, farm inheritance, land hunger, religious change, women in rural society and much more.

“At this history discussion in Borrisoleigh I hope to explore these and other related themes and would be delighted to hear of the life experiences of others as well,” stated Professor Kennedy.

This planned evening event promises to be truly entertaining, particularly for lovers of social history, so do try to keep your calendar free for Friday April 10th next, 8.00pm.


Summer ‘Daylight Saving Time’ Begins 1.00 am Tomorrow Morn

Remember at 1.00am tomorrow morning, Sunday, our clocks here in Ireland will go forward by one hour, thus marking the official start of Irish Summer Time.

NPG x91747; William Willett by Elliott & Fry

William Willett

Daylight Saving Time is instigated annually here in Ireland so as to make better use of our natural occurring daylight. So by putting clocks forward one hour during the Summer and one hour back again in the Autumn, same can be achieved. These same actions reduce considerable unnecessary energy consumption, while also saving countless lives, since fewer accidents occur in the mornings when compared to our darker evenings.

Tomorrow morning in the European Union, all time zones will change at the same moment.

DST or ‘Daylight Savings Time’ has been in use throughout much of the world including the U.S.A., Canada and Europe since World War I, when it was first established by the ‘Summer Time Act’ in 1916. However between 1940 and until July 1945, (during the Second World War), clocks were not put back an hour at the end of ‘Summer Time’ in a bid to save both fuel and public finance.

The idea of attempting to not waste our daylight came about following a campaign by the Edwardian British builder William Willett who lived in Chislehurst, Kent, England (Great-great-grandfather of co-founder, lead singer and songwriter Chris Martin of the band ‘Coldplay.’), former who strongly promoted this idea of time change in 1907.  Annoyed by what he viewed as the continuous waste of daylight (Note Willett loved golfing in the evenings which may have also encouraged this notion of ‘Daylight Saving’.), he produced a promotional pamphlet called The Waste of Daylight.

During Willett’s own lifetime however no such change ever took place. It was not until one year, following his death from influenza at the age of 58, on March 4th 1915, that British Summer Time became a reality; beginning on May 21st 1916 and ending on October 1st, in an effort to improve output in factories and reduce the amount of coal used in particular for obtaining gas, used in public lighting.


Charles Lysaght To Lecture Borrisoleigh Historical Society

BrackenMr. Charles Lysaght, the biographer of Brendan Bracken, is giving a lecture on Bracken to the Borrisoleigh Historical Society at the Community Centre, Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary at 8pm on Thursday, March 12th 2015.

Brendan Bracken, son of J.K. Bracken of Templemore, one of the founders of the GAA, strayed from his background so far as to became a Tory Member of the House of Commons, Minister of Information in Winston Churchill’s wartime Government and finished up as Viscount Bracken, Chairman of the Financial Times Group of newspapers.

His mother, Hannah Ryan, was born in Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary.  Widowed in 1904, when her son Brendan was only three, she moved her family of four children and two step-children, to Dublin.

In 1916, aged just 14, he ran away from a boarding school in Co. Limerick. As a result his mother exiled him for the remainder of his teenage years, to Australia.

On his return Brendan settled in England passing himself off as an Australian and made a mystery of his background. The only connection he maintained with Ireland was with his mother, who had treated him so harshly, but to whom he remained unequivocally devoted.

When she died in 1928, aged 54, he travelled to attend her funeral in Borrisoleigh and was seen weeping beside her grave in Glankeen cemetery. This was to be his last known visit to Ireland.

Brendan died from throat cancer in 1958, aged 57 and not reconciled to his Roman Catholic Church to which his mother had reared him. He left instructions that no funeral or memorial service was to be held and that his ashes should be scattered on Romney Marsh in Kent. He wished to leave, as he had arrived……..without trace.

Charles Lysaght, who has researched Hannah’s family background, including letters her famous son wrote to her, makes the case that she may be the key to a whole strange story.


Death Of Tipperary Born Commodore Liam Brett

deathIt is with great sadness we learn of the death last Friday (20th February 2015) of Tipperary born former Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Liam Brett, of Glounthaune, Co. Cork and formerly of Lucan, Co. Dublin and Cappauniac, Cahir, Co Tipperary.

Mr Brett passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, while in the tender and compassionate care of the Sisters, Nursing and Care Staff at the Bon Secours Care Village, Mount Desert, Co. Cork.

Loving husband of the late Eileen (nee Twomey) and father of Bríd, Denise, Martin and Joseph; Commodore Brett will be sorely missed by his children for his love, life and leadership and by his son-in-law Seán, grandchildren Róisín, Deirdre and Gearóid Cottrell, Amy and Richard Brett, nieces, nephews, relatives and a wide circle of neighbours and close friends.

Commodore Brett’s internment will take place following 11.00am Requiem Mass at the Sacred Heart Church, Glounthaune, tomorrow, in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Little Island, Co. Cork.

Aged 86, Commodore Brett, during his lifetime, was central to the development of the Irish Naval Services, beginning when the Service commissioned the ‘LE Deirdre’ (1971) from the Verolme Dockyard in Co. Cork. Later under his watch the Naval Service would also acquire a further seven ships, thus allowing it to carry out Irish offshore patrols and fishery protection duties, following Ireland’s access to the then EEC.

Commodore Brett was also involved in the operation to recover the Aer Lingus Viscount aircraft that crashed off Tuskar Rock in 1967 and was involved in the recovery operation to raise the Air India plane which crashed into the sea off the West Cork coast in 1985. He played a major role in the interception, by three Naval Service ships, of the ‘MV Claudia’, latter bearing with guns, bound for the Provisional IRA, off Helvick Head in Co Waterford in 1973. Some eleven years later he was involved in a similar operation, when the ‘LE Emer’ and the ‘LE Aisling’ intercepted the vessel ‘Marita Anne,’ again with an arms cargo, off the Kerry coast.

Commodore Brett first joined the Naval Service in 1947, enjoying a 44-year career and rising to the rank of Flag Officer, prior to his retirement in 1990.

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.


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.