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"Cad atá ar súil agat ?" - What are you doing?

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Templemore Lady Knew Kitty Kiernan

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” – Banksy

St Mary’s Famine Museum were honoured to receive a visit by Ms Mary Bergin recently. Now in her 90th year and educated at the Presentation Convent here in Thurles, Ms Bergin was accompanied on her visit by a comrade, Ms Eileen Forbes.

It is seldom that Museum staff have the opportunity and great honour to discuss history with a lady who has such a vivid and clear recollection of the early 20th century, but to meet someone who personally knew Kitty Kiernan, the one-time fiancée of the great Michael Collins, was something truly inimitable.

Ms Bergin regularly met Kitty Kiernan as she walked along Dublin’s Harrington Street, the former going to her place of employment, the latter on her way to meet her later husband Felix Cronin.

KKiernan

Pictured above (L-R) Ms Mary Bergin, Main Street, Templemore, Co Tipperary, her comrade Ms Eileen Forbes (Corcoran), and the late Ms Kitty Kiernan and Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins.

Of course, Catherine Brigid Kiernan, better known as Kitty Kiernan (1892 – 1945) was a Co Longford woman widely recognised as the fiancée of assassinated Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins.

Kitty was born in Granard, County Longford and later educated in the Loreto Convent, in County Wicklow.  She was the daughter of wealthy parents, Bridget and Peter Kiernan, and one of a family of seven children including twins, having five sisters and one brother. The Kiernan family were proprietors of the Greville Arms Hotel, a bakery, hardware store, timber yard, an undertakers business, together with a grocery shop and a public house.

In 1907 one of Kitty’s twin sisters died in her late teens, followed the following year (1908) by the deaths of both parents, both within a couple of months of each other. The family would be later devastated the following year (1909) by the death of the remaining twin sister.

Michael Collins, one of the principal founders of Irish State independence, and later Chairman of the Irish Provisional Government, was introduced to the bubbly and cheerful Kiernan sisters by his cousin Gearóid O’Sullivan. Gearóid was already courting Kitty’s sister Maud.

Collins in the first instance appears to have thrown an eye on another of the sisters, namely Helen, but she turned out to be already engaged. Seeing no future here he then turned his interests on the attractive Kitty. Kitty had already captured the interest of one Harry Boland, latter a friend of Collins. This interest would be however short lived and Collins and Kitty soon became engaged. They planned to marry in Dublin on November 22nd 1922, in a double ceremony to include her sister Maud and Gearóid O’Sullivan. The death of Collins four months earlier would result in only one wedding taking place with Kitty attending dressed in black.

Three years later, in 1925, Kitty would instead marry Felix Cronin, latter a Quartermaster General in the Irish Army. They would have two sons; the eldest was named Felix (Rex) Cronin the second named Michael Collins Cronin, obviously both named after her two great loves.

Kitty died of Bright’s disease (Kidney disease) as did all of her siblings, on July 24th 1945, and was laid to rest in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, not far from where Collins lies. Husband Felix and their son Rex were to join her there some 19 years later.

Kitty Kiernan and Michael Collins had both kept up lengthy correspondence with each other even while Collins was still in London during the Treaty negotiations and he had written to her every day. These letters are now the subject of a published book written by Leon O’Broin entitled “In Great Haste“.

Kitty Kiernan and indeed Ireland’s worst fears would be realized when Collins was assassinated by Denis ‘Sonny’ O’Neill at the age of just 31 years, near Béal na Bláth, County Cork, on August 22nd, 1922.

Downton Abbey Exhibition Returns To Thurles For One Week Only

Teachers, All Students, History Societies Take Note

To coincide with the University of Limerick’s launch of “The Armstrong Papers” in the East Room of Plassey House on Monday next October 21st, St Mary’s Famine Museum will feature, for one week only, (October 16th to October 23rd inc) the rare and exciting exhibition entitled; “Downton Abbey, A Tipperary Perspective.”

Larger than the exhibition shown just last year, this historic exposition also happily coincides with the popular Downton Abbey, Series 4, currently showing each Wednesday night on TV3 at 9:00pm.

The TV series Downton Abbey is set on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England, home to the Earl and Countess of Grantham and which follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V.
The Thurles exhibition on the other hand, while showing major similarities in life at the big house, takes a look at and follows the family of the Armstrong Family of Moyaliffe, Co Tipperary, during this very same period in Irish history, which also covers the First World War and the later period referred to as the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ and later.

Some of the items on show in this exhibition can be seen in the video shown above.

The ‘Roaring Twenties,‘ is of course a term often used to refer to the 1920’s, characterizing the decade’s distinctive cultural edge. Normality had returned to politics in the wake of hyper-emotional patriotism during World War I, jazz music blossomed, the ‘flapper,’ redefined modern womanhood, and Art Deco peaked. (Flappers were the “new breed” of young Western women in the 1920s who wore skirts short, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior.)

Included in the exhibition this year are Dan Breen’s revolver, William Trant’s (Dovea) revolver together with original photographs by Heinrich Hoffmann (1885 – 1957) latter Adolf  Hitler’s official photographer together with Military costumes, some dating back before 1900 from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in Surrey, with rare memorabilia from the Gallipoli Campaign including original cigarettes purchased in Port Said (1915 -1916).

Total cost of admission to this unique Tipperary exhibition is a mere €2 per person, which also incorporates a chance to examine the Famine Museum, latter which boasts the largest amount of original memorabilia, pertaining to the Great Famine (1845 – 1849).  Tours will be also accommodated at night to  facilitate visiting historical societies.

Note: All Schools & Historical Societies are requested to book their tour, some hours in advance by phoning 0504-21133, thus ensuring the presence of a lecture tour guide.

The Armstrong Papers

The Armstrong Papers, soon to be launched in Limerick, contain some 50,000 items including over 13,000 photographs. These documents encompass some 350 years of family history and were donated to the University of Limerick by Mrs Susan and Mr Graham Armstrong, formally of Moyaliffe, but who presently reside in Natal, South Africa.

Thurles Town and St Mary’s Famine Museum are also grateful to Mrs Susan and Mr Graham Armstrong for their continued patronage in loaning the Armstrong Collection to this area, which continues to attract tourists each Summer season, to the town.

The Thurles exhibition opens tomorrow Wednesday and is truly a ‘must see’ for lovers and students of Irish History.

Calling 100 Thurles Small Business Investors

Just a thought, but may I ask a question?  “Has anyone got a few quid hidden away under the Bathroom Floor, in a Cookie Jar, the Fridge Salad Crisper Drawer or under your Mattress?

How much do you want?”  I hear you scream excitedly.

Well to be honest it all depends on an item that goes under the hammer at “The Chatsworth Fine Art Sale,” to be held in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny on Tuesday October 8th next.  The particular item which generates my particular interest is, I believe, numbered Lot 727.

Mary-Power-Lalor

Painting of Mary Francis Power Lalor (Ryan)

It is a painted portrait of Mrs Mary Francis Power Lalor (nee Ryan) formally of Long Orchard, Templetuohy, Co. Tipperary.  Mrs Power Lalor is featured wearing a black lace dress with pearl and diamond necklace, (Print Size about 130 cms x 105 cms or 51 ins x 41 ins) set in its original carved gilt-wood oval frame, signed and dated 1859.

This featured individual was born Mary Francis Ryan, daughter of George Ryan of Inch House, Thurles, Co. Tipperary and Catherine Whyte of Loughbrickland, Co Down. Her father was born on July 17th 1791 and died on September 6th 1884 at the age of 93.  He had held the office of Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) of County Tipperary and the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for County Tipperary.

I believe this painting should now be purchased so as to remain in North Tipperary and preferably be proudly hung in Thurles Library for all to see and contemplate.

In early 1858, Mary Francis Ryan was presented at the State Drawing Room in Dublin Castle, to George William Frederick Howard, seventh Earl of Carlisle (Lord Morpheth of Morpeth Roll fame) being then Viceroy at that time, and in October of that year at the tender age of eighteen, she was married to Captain Edmund James Power Lawlor of Long Orchard, Templetuohy, Thurles Co Tipperary.

In 1859 Mary was presented to the Papal Court, during which time spent in Rome she was greatly admired for “her unusual beauty and a singular fascination of manner.” She visited some artist studios by special invitation and was painted at this time by G. Canavari.

After the death of her husband Edmund, James, Power Lalor, on August 4th 1873, and the following year by her daughter Helen Georgiana Power-Lalor in 1874, latter from meningitis, Mary devoted her life to charitable works and in 1880 published an appeal in the leading newspapers of the time on behalf of starving children following the famine of 1879 known as the “mini-famine” or An Gorta Beag.  The New York Herald donated the massive sum then of £10,000 which enabled her to feed over 52,000 starving children throughout the country.

It was in this same year that on the Thursday evening of August 21st 1879, 15 people in Knock (Irish Translation: An Cnoc, meaning ‘The Hill,’ now more generally known in Irish as Cnoc Mhuire, “Hill of Mary”) County Mayo experienced an apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist, who all appeared at the south gable of the local church, together with an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered. Two Commissions of Enquiry, in 1879 and 1936, would later accept their testimony as being both trustworthy and satisfactory.

This Knock apparition brought about a massive religious revival during this Irish famine, latter now erased and rarely remembered in Irish history. Many Christians even today believe that this visitation to the “Hill of Mary”, contributed greatly to the low number of deaths then experienced in 1879, compared to the earlier Great Famine of 1845 -1849.

Mary Francis Power Lawlor now took full charge of this fund, clothing children of all denominations, thus saving many from certain death. In 1886 Mary Power Lalor established the Distressed Ladies Fund; latter to assist poor Irish women suffering through the non-payment of rent and the then land depression in Ireland. This Fund also established in Dublin a home to care for the many poor old ladies living in garrets and cellars, which in 1887 was opened in Mountjoy Square (Then Rutland Square,). This house subsequently became known as the Power Lalor Home, with Queen Victoria as patroness, and Princess Louise as President of the Central Committee, when this fund was extended to include England.

In 1912 Mary Francis Power Lawlor took up the reins in Ireland of the International Catholic Girls Protection Society and opened the Bureau and Home for Catholic Girls in Dublin, in the same year. It is also to her that the people of Templetuohy owe a debt of gratitude for organising  the building of the magnificent Church of The Sacred Heart, Templetuohy and the beautiful stained glass window, which she then had specially commissioned in memory of her late husband, with the fitting title “For The Greater Glory Of God.”

Mrs. Power Lalor died on March 26th 1913, (100 years ago this year) and is buried next to her husband in Templetuohy Graveyard.

It’s just a thought but if 100 people, including businesses and  including myself, came up with €50 each, we could possibly meet the asking price (Between €3,000 – €5,000) for this portrait of one truly great Tipperary lady and take her home to her native County.

Anyone interested in venturing into this “Thurles Historic Art Investment Co-Operative Programme,” should contact me Email george.willo@gmail.com and sure who knows, it might just sell for less than its asking price.

There I go, possibly dreaming again, but in recessionary times we all must dream.

Measures Needed To Address Alcohol Epidemic

arthurs-dayThe Royal College of Physicians Ireland (RCPI) have launched a scathing attack on Arthur’s Day, organised by Diageo, latter to supposedly celebrate the anniversary of the Guinness brewing company.

To this end RCPI have organised a public discussion aimed at highlighting the dangerous side of alcohol and to further underscore their concerns that alcohol related illnesses in Ireland have now reached epidemic proportions.

Dr Stephen Stewart a Liver Disease Specialist, together with Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Bobby Smyth will speak at this event tomorrow evening, with the Chairperson of the RCPI’s policy group on alcohol, Professor Frank Murray opening the meeting.

The RCPI claim that deaths relating to cirrhosis of the liver have doubled between 1994 and 2008, and that hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease has almost doubled between 1995 and 2007. The RCPI also claim that increasing numbers of young people are dying from alcohol related illnesses due to alcohol substances being more affordable than ever, being more acceptable than ever and being more available than ever. (A pint of Guinness in Dublin is €0.70 cheaper than in Thurles.)

The RCPI debate will take place at 6:00pm tomorrow Monday, at the college’s headquarters on Kildare Street, Dublin, and will wave the banner “Join the National Conversation on Alcohol: Who’s calling the shots.

Diageo is not aware yet, but Guinness porter of course was first accidentally conceived in the early to mid 1700’s at the Palace of Archbishop Price, here in Cashel, Co Tipperary, now known as the Cashel Palace Hotel. Estate manager and Arthur’s father, Richard Guinness, was in charge of supervising the brewing of beer for the estates employees on the Archbishop Price estate. Supplying beer to employees at that time was considered part of their weekly entitlement.  A servant was dispatched from the estate to purchase and convey the necessary beer making materials from Ryan’s brewery stores here in Main Street, Thurles, latter now known as Cathedral Street. (Time for Urban Councillors to erect another Memorial Plaque in St Mary’s Graveyard perhaps.)

In the brewing process, later back in Cashel, some of these ingredients, barley possibly, was accidentally over heated in error, in fact roasted until virtually black, thus giving that unique burnt flavour known to us today as porters ale or Guinness porter and described by the then Archbishop as being “a brew of a very palatable nature.”

It is not too long ago in Ireland that pregnant women were told to drink a glass of Guinness every day to fortify themselves and their baby. Indeed US scientists in the state of Wisconsinin in 2011 gave Guinness to dogs who had narrowed arteries. They found that Guinness worked as well as aspirin in preventing clots forming. They believe that antioxidant compounds in Guinness are responsible for these health benefits because they decrease harmful cholesterol gathering on artery walls. But then what do I know?

Still this National Conversation on Alcohol could now lead to the start of Fine Gael and Labour’s promised two year Dáil Reforms, with Mr Enda Kenny closing the Dáil Bar instead of the Senate. (Possible new Logo for those opposed to Irish Senate closure. “Close The Bar Not Our Senate.”)

(Just a thought, sure you never know, Mr Enda Kenny and Minister for Health Dr James Reilly could decide to lead by example, instead of their “Do as we say, not as we do,” current philosophy.)

Gold Coins Return Briefly To Tipperary

Charles II Gold Coin

Charles II Gold Coin

The 17th Century gold coin hoard found by workers during renovations to a building in Carrick-on-Suir Co Tipperary earlier this year, are back on South Tipperary soil for a one month-long exhibition.

The 81 coins (some 77 guineas and four half-guineas,) were found last January at Cooney’s Bar in the town and were identified as dating back from between 1664 (during the reign of King Charles II,) and 1701, (during the reign of William III).

The coins on loan from the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, will now become part of an exhibition at the Tipperary County Museum in Clonmel, for just one month.

The exhibition will be officially launched at Tipperary County Museum tomorrow at 7.30pm during Culture Night at the Museum. Admission to the launch is free.

In comparison North Tipperary Co Council, aided by indifference from our current FG & Labour elected TDs, and without any public discussion, turned down a similar opportunity for a visit by the Derrynaflan Hoard last year, latter which would have created some 300 full time & part time jobs here in Thurles.

Despite ample security and a modern currently underutilised exhibition space being available in Thurles, this exhibition was shelved, despite the fact that same would have attracted for the first time, the lucrative Coach Tour business to Thurles, later currently totally neglected as a tourist destination in this the year of “The Gathering.”

Ireland may be officially out of recession however I suspect Co Tipperary may have been left out of recent CSO figures which show that Ireland’s economy grew slightly by 0.4% between April and June.