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Fascinating Story Of Tipperary’s Paddy McCarthy

Tipp Mid West Radio’s Tom Hurley Reports On ‘The Cashel Pioneer.’

In 1900, an Irishman named Paddy McCarthy arrived in Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. After initially working in the port, he obtained a position as a physical education teacher in a school, but also boxed and became involved in football as a player, coach and referee.

In fact, he competed in what’s considered the country’s first ever professional boxing match and his name is also associated with the foundation of Boca Juniors football club, with some even crediting him for assigning them their trademark blue and gold jerseys, which they still wear today.

Later through his work with the Sports Municipal Committee of Buenos Aires, Paddy McCarthy did much to promote sport especially among the young but is purported to have gone to his grave in 1963 at the age of 92, having revealed little about himself or indeed his time in Ireland. Interestingly however, it is written that he was born on the 17th of March 1871 in Cashel, Co. Tipperary and attended the Christian Brothers School. It has also been suggested that he had the Premier County’s GAA colours very much in mind, when selecting a kit for Boca Juniors.

McCarthy’s fascinating story will now be the subject of a 4-part documentary to be aired on Tipp Mid West Radio, which uncovers more about his time in Argentina and investigates his links to the historic town of Cashel.

It emerges that from around 1850 until the end of the century, Argentina had been a popular destination for Irish emigrants especially from the Midlands, with numerous people from Cashel continuing to make the voyage well into the 1920’s. As a consequence, hurling was one of the sports introduced from abroad, which became increasingly popular.

The documentary has uncovered a lot of new information on Paddy McCarthy and the high regard in which he was held in his adopted homeland. For example, he had the distinction of refereeing the first ever Superclásico, latter the name given to the football derby played between Boca Juniors and River Plate. Boxers he regarded as friends included Babe Herman and Gene Tunney, whilst he is also photographed with the president of Argentina, the Duke of Kent and the Prince of Wales when they visited Buenos Aires in 1931. He was also the recipient of a gift from Theodore Roosevelt.

Interviewees for the programme include Cashel residents Albert Carrie, Seamus King, John O’Connor and Tom Wood.  Noel Blanchfield from Ballyneale who resides in Yonkers, New York outlines how he became intrigued by McCarthy’s story, having first come across his name in the United States. Among the other contributors is academic and historian Edmundo Murray from Buenos Aires, who has conducted the most extensive research on McCarthy to date.

The revealing 4-part documentary entitled ‘The Cashel Pioneer’ by Tom Hurley will be aired over four Wednesdays at 11.05am on Tipp Mid West Radio, beginning on April 19th next. The programmes can be heard outside the county on www.tippmidwestradio.com.


Walk Thurles – Holycross Pilgrim Path On Saturday Next

Bringing our communities together.  Thurles – Holycross Annual Pilgrim Path Solidarity Walk.

HolyCross Abbey, Thurles, Co Tipperary on Vimeo.

The annual “Thurles-Holycross Pilgrim Path Solidarity Walk” will take place on Saturday next April 15th, 2017.
Those wishing to participate can register at Thurles Cathedral of The Assumption, at 10.00am. The walk will depart Thurles Town Park beginning sharp at 10.30am.

Note, a €10.00 fee will be charged to cover the cost of refreshments and a guided history tour of Holycross Abbey.
As with all walking events; please do remember to outfit yourselves in suitable footwear and clothing for the 7.1km (4.5ml) journey.

For further details and any other information required; please feel free to contact Telephone No – 087-7962177.


Francis Grose Visits Thurles & Sheela na gig’s

The address “Westgate”, (Irish – An Geata Thiar), here in the town of Thurles, refers today to that area which remains the small expanse one visits, as you exit Liberty Square unto Friar Street in the town.

Pictured Left to Right(A) Drawing of Francis Grose (1731-1791). (B) Grose’s Antiquities, Vol. I, showing an engraving of the “Black Castle” at the West end of Liberty Square as it appeared in 1790.  (C) Thurles Castle today (March 2017) viewed from the side facing north.

Picture (A) above show us a drawing of a one-time visitor to Thurles back in the late 18th century (1790 / 1791); his name Francis Grose.(1)

His engraving, (picture (B) above), give us a valuable insight into an earlier view of this same “Westgate” area, portrayed by him for his famous and historical publication “Antiquities of Ireland.” Same work was posthumously published on his behalf by Samuel Hooper and portrays, through this ‘west gateway’, a long-forgotten view of Thurles Castle, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

This former vista through Westgate shows the “Black Castle” viewed through an archway flanked by two towers. This archway once led into a quadrangular courtyard, at the far end of which was the castle and other, now not known, imposing buildings.

While a castle still survives, alas, the Westgate itself of 1791 no longer exists, but back then it represented the entrance to the home of Elizabeth Poyntz (1587-1673), daughter of Sir John Poyntz of Iron Acton in Gloucestershire, whom, in 1608 became Lady Thurles, following her marriage to Thomas Butler, (Viscount Thurles), son of Walter, 11th Earl of Ormond.

Prince Charles Mountbatten-Windsor, the current heir to the British throne, is a direct descendant of Viscount and Lady Thurles, through their eldest son the Duke of Ormond. The Duke’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl Chesterfield, and their daughter Elizabeth Stanhope married John Lyon, 4th Earl Strathmore. Later in direct line was the 14th Earl Strathmore whose daughter, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married the future King George VI; the grandparents of Prince Charles.

Lady Viscountess Thurles was a staunch Catholic Royalist. During a short period between 1658-1660, while under the rule of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and after the triumph of the Parliamentary army, the Cromwellian administration was to find that Lady Thurles was indeed a most difficult woman with which to deal. According to a Cromwellian edict, no Catholic who lived in the “Irish Quarters” before 1649, could be exempted from confiscation of their property followed by transplantation, “To Hell or To Connaught”.(2)   An inquisition found that Lady Thurles held a life interest, in the right of her jointures in the Castle, town and lands of Thurles, Leugh, Killinan, Athlummon, Clobanna, Lahardan, Derryfadda, Longfordpass, and Garranroe, in the Barony of Eliogarty; and Kilshane, Cleghile, and Lagganstown in the Barony of Clanwilliam: also she had 80 head of cattle, and 800 sheep and lambs, all of which ought to be then forfeited to the Lord Protector and Commonwealth.

The Cromwellian “Adventurers”, as distinct from the soldiers, had, among the lands allotted to them, the Baronies of Eliogarty and Clanwilliam, and clamoured for the immediate removal of Lady Thurles. Two thousand acres, calculated to return her an income of £200 a year, were set out for her in Connaught, but by various stratagems she managed to delay her removal. She succeeded in winning over to her side, to plead her cause, among others, deep-dyed Puritans as the ‘regicides’, (Name given to Cromwell’s supporters who signed the death warrant of Charles I) Sir Hardress Waller and Colonel Robert Phaire, Governor of Cork; also Colonel Hierome Sankey, Governor of the Clonmel Precinct, a man whose reputation for savagery in dealing with the Irish was scarcely less than that of Cromwell himself.

In July 1656, the Cromwellian Council transmitted the petitions of these men on behalf of Lady Thurles to the Commissioners adjudicating on the Irish in Co. Cork, for their report on it. Their report, on 13th August, shows that they were also under the spell of Lady Thurles. It stated that the good lady had several times in 1641 harboured, entertained, and preserved from murder and famine divers English families whom the Irish had plundered, robbed, and attempted to murder; in all, 60 persons, and in particular Mr. Bullock and family, Joane Harris and family, and a minister, Mr. Price, and his family.

That also, after the fall of Archerstown Castle, Thurles, she received the wounded Major Peisley, and others of his company, into her home, entertained them for several weeks until they were cured, and then gave them money and other necessaries when they betook themselves to the English garrison at Doneraile.

This appears to have settled the matter in favour of the Adventurers, and the Council was powerless to refuse their claims. But although Lady Thurles lost her lands, it would seem that she was never ejected from her castle in Thurles.

That was in in 1658; however, the Adventurers did not long enjoy their newly acquired lands. Two years later, in 1660, Charles II was recalled to the throne, and James the son of Lady Thurles, returned to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant. He immediately ran the planters off his own lands, and those lands of his mother and their friends.

Sheela na gig
Of course, this West gateway had also another name, that of “Geata na gCailleach”, which translated from the Irish means “Hags Gate” or the “Gate of the Old Woman.”  This gate most likely got its name from the fact that a carved stone ‘Sheela na gig’ made up part of this west gateway’s rock construction.

Continue reading Francis Grose Visits Thurles & Sheela na gig’s


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.]