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Thurles During Night Of The Big Wind 1839

The almost hurricane winds experienced on Wednesday last here in Tipperary were really nothing new when we examine the history of similar weather patterns experienced previously here in Thurles and indeed on the island of Ireland, down through the centuries.

Surely global warming was not the reason for the hurricane winds of 1839, which had developed similarly after a period of unusual weather and which saw heavy snow falling across Ireland on the night of January 5th of that year.  This unusual snowfall was replaced on the following morning, January 6th, by an Atlantic warm front which brought a period of complete calm. Temperatures rose well above the seasonal average and resulted in this previous night’s rare heavy snowfall, melting rapidly.


Main Street, Thurles, (Now renamed Cathedral Street, Thurles) as it looked in 1839 and as viewed from a similar angle today in 2014.
(Picture courtesy St Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles.)

Like our recent weather conditions experienced, on January 6th 1839 a deep Atlantic depression had begun to move towards Ireland, forming a cold front.  When the cold and warm air collided, this resulted in strong winds and heavy rain. From mid-day the stormy weather began to move very slowly across Ireland, gathering immense strength as it wended its way. By midnight the winds had reached hurricane force. This “Night of the Big Wind” was to now to become the most severe of storms to affect Ireland in that century. Historic accounts indicate that as many as 300 people may have lost their lives, with untold damage done to property and personal possessions nationwide. This same afternoon and night of Saturday January 6th, 1839, is now resigned to our history books as Oiche na Gaoithe Moire (Translated from Irish: The Night of the Big Wind.)

Prior to the 1839 January storm, children had played with great enjoyment in the unusual heavy snow, while their parents went about their normal work eagerly preparing for the festivities of the feast of the Epiphany, possibly better known today as “Little Christmas Day.”  By dusk, wind speeds had greatly increased, with showers of rain and hail beginning to fall. By 9.00pm that night the wind had reached heavy gale force and continued to pick up speed. Over the next three hours it reached hurricane force, with winds gusts of over 185 km and remained at that level until after 5.00 am in the early morning of January 7th. (Note: regular meteorological observations as a science had begun in 1795.)

On Cathedral Street, Thurles, then known as Main Street, terror reigned as thatched roofs were quickly removed from a small row of houses, (See picture above.). Some of this dislodged thatch quickly caught fire possibly from one of the fireplaces and now fanned by this hurricane wind set fire to the surrounding buildings attached. The sites of these ruined buildings would later be purchased by the Presentation Convent, who in 1862 would replace them with their Secondary School Boarding House, now evident today.

Continue reading Thurles During Night Of The Big Wind 1839

Tipperary Heritage Sites May Undertake Civil Marriage Ceremonies

Rock-of-CashelThe Office of Public Works (OPW) are offering engaged couples, who are intending to get married in a future civil ceremony, the option of ‘tying the knot’ at some of Ireland’s well known heritage sites.

This move could now mean that some of Ireland’s most beautiful and atmospheric attractions could be made available for a couple’s big day.

Minister of State Brian Hayes said the OPW wants to open up key sites like the Rock of Cashel, latter situated here in Co Tipperary to more visitors, by offering a greater variety of uses.

To this end OPW staffs are currently understood to be consulting closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to identify the suitability of various visitor attractions.

All approved sites will only be the venue for the official civil ceremony itself, and not for any celebrations intended later on the day.

The mention of possible costs for holding such civil ceremonies in these romantic and historical venues has not, as yet, been fully discussed, if indeed approval is ever finally agreed. However the advent of such an agreement could see many celebrities worldwide, latter undertaking Civil Marriage Ceremonies, now deciding to visit Irish atmospheric heritage sites.

The current number one request to wedding photographers by couples living in Tipperary is to be photographed with the Rock of Cashel in the background.

Wanted: Info. On Tom Semple & The Thurles Blues.

Attempt At Preserving Tipperary’s Rich Sporting History

Tom Semple is most certainly one of the most iconic GAA personalities in The Premier County, having played with and presided over one of the finest teams in the land. But surprisingly little enough is known about the great man. Well, all that is about to change and local GAA man, historian and retired school Principal, Liam O’Donnchu of Thurles Sarsfields fame is embarking upon a book entitled ‘Tom Semple and the Thurles Blues.’

SempleLiam, the long recognised voice of Semple Stadium, has taken on this project following encouragement from Tom Semple’s son Martin, who now resides in Denver, Colorado and is delighted to have the support of the Semple family in bringing together as much information as possible about Tom Semple and his famed team, which won two All-Ireland titles for Tipperary in 1906 and 1908.

Our picture (left) shows Tipperary (Thurles Selection) All-Ireland Hurling Champions 1906.
Back Row:  Tom Allen, Jack Cahill, Jack Gleeson, Tom Kerwick, Paddy Maher (Best), J.M. Kennedy Sec.
Middle Row:  Denis O’Keeffe (Chairman), Paddy Burke, Jimmy Burke, Paddy Riordan, Ger Hayes, Martin O’Brien, Phil Molony (Treasurer).
Front Row:  Jack Mockler, Joe O’Keeffe, James O’Brien (Hawk), Tom Semple Captain, Tom Kenna, Michael Gleeson, Paddy Brolan.

The book will cover the period 1904 -1912, a time when Thurles were at the very pinnacle and Liam is anxious to bring together any nuggets of information about Semple or any of the players on those teams, as he attempts to weave together the story of their success, their lives off the field and their attitudes to the social, political and cultural events of the day. Of course much of the focus will be on Tom Semple who worked as a ‘Porter’ first and then as a ‘Guard’ with the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. He lived in Fianna Road in Thurles, but he came from the village of Drombane in Tipperary originally.

Tom Semple


Tom Semple’s grave – Grounds of St Mary’s Churchyard, Thurles, Tipperary.

Tom Semple was a leader off the field as well. He was heavily involved in the purchase of Thurles Sportsfield in 1910, but died in 1943 and did not live to see Semple Stadium at its brilliant best, as it is today. He would surely be proud to see 50,000 people crammed into the grounds on Munster Final day with the stands and terraces heaving with excitement and the thrill of the ancient game – or would he?  Would Tom Semple have approved of the way the game has gone, the Association has gone, or even the way Thurles Sportsfields has gone? The answers to those questions, we will never know, but perhaps you might have answers to other questions, or might be able to provide Liam with information which could open up other aspects of Semple and the Blues lives. (Click on Image immediately left for larger Resolution.)

Author Liam O’Donnchu

Liam O’Donnchu himself has been heavily involved with the match programmes in Semple Stadium; spent 25 years as Secretary of the Tipperary GAA Yearbook Committee; penned a history of Pouldine National School of which he was Principal; was involved in the Pictorial Record of the Horse and Jockey; and co wrote and edited the Tipperary GAA Ballads book, which is a real collector’s item and a ‘must have’ in all GAA homes in the county.

Liam is hoping that descendants of those great men might have information, photos, newspaper cuttings, or stories from those times which can be relayed and used in the book which it is hoped will be a social, historical, sporting and cultural history of the era involved.  The teams which went on to win the All-Irelands contained  players from Horse and Jockey and Two-Mile-Borris, Drombane and in 1910 they represented Tipperary at the Celtic Congress in Belgium playing in such places as Fontenoy. They hurled in the Croke Fennelly Cup – Semple himself was involved in the erection of the Croke Memorial in Liberty Square, Thurles, back in 1922.

Information, photographs etc. of any kind, are urgently needed on the following  players and officials:-

Winners of the All-Ireland Hurling Final 1906
 Tipperary (Thurles Selection): Tom Semple Capt., Jer Hayes (Vice Capt.), Jim ‘Hawk’ O’Brien (Goal), Paddy Bourke, Martin O’Brien, Paddy Brolan, Tom Kerwick, Jack Mockler, Tom Kenna, Hugh Shelly (Thurles), Paddy Riordan, (Drombane), Tom Allen, Paddy Maher (Best), Jimmy Bourke, (Two-Mile-Borris),Jack Gleeson, Joe O’Keeffe, (Horse and Jockey),  Tim Gleeson (Drombane). Subs: Jack Mooney, Joe Moloughney, Mickey Gleeson, Jack Cahill, Rody Berkery (Thurles), Tim Condon (Horse and Jockey).
Club Chairman-Denis O’Keeffe, Secretary – J.M. Kennedy, Treasurer – Phil Moloney.

Winners All-Ireland Hurling Final 1908
Tipperary (Thurles Selection ): Tom Semple-Captain, Jack Mooney, Tom Kerwick, Martin O’Brien, Jack Mockler,  Tom Kenna, Hugh Shelly, Paddy Bourke, James ‘Hawk’ O’Brien, Paddy Brolan, Anthony Carew, Joseph McLoughney, (Thurles), Joe O’Keeffe, Jack Gleeson, Bill Harris, Bob Mockler, (Horse and Jockey), Tim Gleeson, (Drombane). (Drawn Match)
For the replay, the twelve from Thurles were unchanged while the remaining included Jimmy Bourke (Two-Mile-Borris), Tim Gleeson, Michael O’Dwyer, (Holycross), John and Pat Fitzgerald (New Birmingham).

Note: All photos and other associated material presented, will be quickly scanned and returned immediately to their owners in original condition.

Contact: Liam Ó Donnchú, Ballymoreen, Littleton, Thurles. Tel: 0504-44106    Mobile: 086-6036547 or email

Information, photographs etc. can also be left at Thurles Sarsfields Social Centre or at Lár na Páirce.

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.