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Upperchurch Celebrate Ten Years Of Scenic Walking

Upperchurch, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, this year celebrate ten years of successful walking weekends.

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Pictured Above:  A select group of walkers leaving Upperchurch village, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, on the ‘Knockalough Walk’.

Details of this years Upperchurch Walking Weekend 2015 to be held on November 6th, 7th and 8th have been announced, as this attractive, world class ‘walking hub’ now celebrates its tenth annual event. This year there will be a much expanded programme of events which will include emigration and reconnecting with the local Diaspora as an associated theme.

New chairman M/s Eileen Ryan has taken over from the long serving Mr Billy Clancy and has brought with her a new energy to the fifty strong team of volunteers, latter who have nourished the Upperchurch Walking Weekend to its present position as one of the most popular such events in the country, with over one thousand participants expected to descend on the rural village for this upcoming event.

There will be ten walks to celebrate each one of the ten years of the festival, along with several associated events such as traditional set dancing and music, a race night, organised cycles and displays on the “Upper Limits”, climbing wall.

The weekend also provides a great opportunity to renew old acquaintances and in keeping with the focus of welcoming home our emigrants there will be a lecture and discussion on the history of emigration from around the area. The much sought after 2015 Upperchurch-Drombane Historical Journal will also be launched during this most enjoyable of walking event.

It is evident that walkers in general have become fitter in recent years and that demand for longer and more challenging walks has therefore increased. While the usual eight to ten kilometre walks on the three local National Loop Walks and the popular night-time walks on the roads, will again be featured, it is the new, specially organised, one off longer walks that appear to catch the interest of the more experienced walkers and those looking for that real challenge.

Featured Walks:
(A) The ‘flagship walk’ of course will again be the 18 km “Hills of Upperchurch Walk”, latter which is strictly for the very fit and experienced.

(B) The 15 km “Farney Castle to Upperchurch Walk” drew a large crowd last year and will be held again with an opportunity for a tour of “Farney Castle” beforehand.

(C) Likewise the “Hollyford – Red Hill” walks will be of similar length (15 km) with visits to the hiding place and grave of Eamon an Chnoic included.

(D) A completely new walk this year will be a 12 km “Drombane to Knockalough” walk; starting at Drombane GAA field and going over the top of Knockalough to finish in Upperchurch Village.

(E) Even if you are a completely unfit beginner, there is no need to be overawed at this required fitness level; a recently introduced gravelled 1 km “Bog Walk”, beside Upperchurch village can be also utilized. This facility is also very suitable for wheelchair users.

But forget the walking for a moment; mostly this weekend is about making and renewing friendships, observing nature and the countryside close up and at its best, forgetting your cares for a few hours and working up an appetite or maybe a thirst. In short it is about taking a mini holiday, without stress and major expense, so be sure to put Nov 6th, 7th and 8th straight into your diary.

Note: Brochures are now available from the Community Centre in Upperchurch and other local outlets or same can be downloaded from www.upperchurch.ie .

All phone enquiries to Mobile: 087 0518934.

Three Generations Of Butlers Return On Vacation To Thurles

Bill Butler and his wife Sara, both currently residing in northern Virginia, in the town of Clifton, a suburb of Washington D.C., visited Thurles earlier this month. Bill’s large family group consisted of himself, his wife Sara, their son and daughter plus their spouses and their children (Bill’s grandchildren). Bill’s children and grandchildren live in Arlington, also in northern Virginia.

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Left to Right:- Erin Butler with her twin sisters Leah & Katie, all totally captivated by the 16ft. historically accurate, 1846 model of Thurles town, latter which is currently on show in St. Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.  The model encapsulates 5 years of dedicated work by the late Thurles historian Jim Condon, who sadly passed away on December 23rd 2014. His model, built to perfect scale, is often described as being on a par with ‘Titania’s Palace’(Note: Latter ‘Titania’s Palace’, to Ireland’s shame, was sold off in 1976 and now resides as a popular visitor attraction in Denmark).          Picture courtesy Butler Family.

Bill has been researching his family tree since he retired. Sadly he has had no older relatives to talk to about his family; as they had all passed away before he had began his ‘Family Tree’ research project. Fortunately, on-line resources and a lot of digging through courthouse and county records eventually bore fruit. His research of several years eventually uncovered that his Butler family roots were here in Thurles. His recent trip earlier this month was an effort by himself and his wife to grant their children and grandchildren an opportunity to see and experience Ireland and specifically the town of Thurles here in County Tipperary.

Bill Butler’s Confirmed Ancestral History.

Bill’s great grandparents were both single people when they left Thurles around 1890, arriving in New York. Their decision to emigration from Thurles was separated by some 2 years. Their names were Thomas Butler and Mary J. Ryan. Both eventually settled in the city of Buffalo, New York, near to the Canadian border. They met and married in Buffalo in 1896.

Buffalo was then a bustling industrial city and Bill’s great grandfather worked at many jobs, before eventually taking up employment with one of the railroads firms as an engineer and fireman (stoker), until, alas, he lost his life through an industrial accident.

The same Thomas Butler’s parents were Michael Butler and Katherine Kearney of Stradavoher, Thurles and he was born in January 1867.  Mary J. Ryan was the daughter of William Ryan and Bridget Cahill of Garryvicleheen, Thurles (now today known jointly as Friar Street & Abbey Road).  Mary was also born in January 1867.

That is as far back as Bill has been able to trace the families ancestry and if he never gets any further information he will be satisfied with what he has found to date. However he will still continue in the hope further information becomes available.

In recent correspondence with this website Bill and his family have expressed what he describes as “a moving experience to observe at first hand his ancestors baptismal records from the Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles”.

Anyone with new information on Thurles Butler Family history can reach Bill & Sara by contacting us HERE on Thurles.Info.

Sioux Indian Chiefs Suspects In Thurles Murder

Rachel Willoughby, PRO St. Mary’s Graveyard Project, Thurles, reports.

New possible evidence uncovered in 177 year old murder investigation.

A single shot Percussion Pocket Pistol recently uncovered on the grounds of St Mary’s Churchyard, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, may have been the weapon used to shoot dead the opulent landholder, land agent, brewer and tanner, Charles O’Keeffe, (latter husband of Alicia O’Keeffe) in 1838.

This Percussion Pocket Pistol, possibly of French origin, is of the type then used for self-defence, during the percussion gun period 1800 to 1850. The then popular cheap pistol, whose real manufacturers today are not known, was discovered above ground under a pile of large stones. The stones, latter which were once part of a 17th century boundary wall, had collapsed sometime back during the 1940’s and from the positioning of this find and the pistols present condition; same is believed to have been at sometime concealed within the actual collapsed stone wall.

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Project worker Mr Michael Kenehan examines the ‘Pocket Percussion Cap Pistol’ found in Thurles, Graveyard.

Mr Charles O’Keeffe (1775 – 1838) a Roman Catholic, was shot dead at close range by a male assassin, then believed to have been dressed in women’s clothing, on October 23rd 1838, just a short distance from St Mary’s Church front gates, close to his then tannery business premises.   A ball, fired at close range from an assassin’s percussion cap pistol, entered Mr O’Keeffe left shoulder, wounding him to the extent that he died a short time later.

It is understood that Mr. O’Keeffe had greatly irritated local peasantry by ejecting tenants for non-payment of rent from lands which he either owned or was the acting agent, e.g. the Meagher Estate, (today Thurles Golf Club) and lands held at Rossmult, Drumbane, Co. Tipperary, mortgaged for £1000 to Thomas and James Lenigan on December 22nd 1821). 

Within 25 yards from where the pistol was recently located, on the south side of St Mary’s graveyard, lies today the grave of the same Mr Charles O’Keeffe. His weather worn raised flat gravestone bears his Coat of Arms and the inscription; “Sacred to the repose of Charles O’Keeffe Esq., his life, distinguished by Justice and Truth, was devoted to the virtues of Parent, Citizen and Man, his death 23rd October 1838 deprived the poor of a friend; society of a benefactor.”

Certainly on the day of the shooting, the crack of the percussion cap pistol would have drawn the immediate attention of the then residents on St. Mary’s Avenue. The assassin or assassins had only two exits of escape, which would have taken them either westward, unto a busy Main Street (today named Cathedral Street) or alternatively through St Mary’s Church grounds eastwards unto a little populated Lime Kiln Lane (today known as Ikerrin Road). In using the latter means of escape did the assassin hide the single shot percussion cap pistol in a cavity in the 12ft, interior 17th century stone wall which then surrounded the graveyard? Why would such a weapon from this period be present, hidden in a graveyard wall?

Regrettably percussion pistols don’t talk and it is doubtful that we will ever uncover the real truth.

Who was responsible for the death of Charles O’Keeffe on October 23rd 1838?

The murder rate in Tipperary during this period was almost three times the national average. Secret Irish agrarian organisations / societies such as “Whiteboys”, (Irish: Buachaillí Bána) were common here in Tipperary in the 18th and through most of the 19th century. Local grievances relating to land eviction often saw “Whiteboys” threaten, beat and assassinate Landlords’ land agents.  Lesser agrarian grievances were dealt with, by “Whiteboys”, through the sending of threatening letters, the severing of animals hamstring tendons where livestock were known to be the property of Landlords or the levelling of ditches that often closed off common grazing land. Male members of the “Whiteboys” were known to dress with women’s outer garments over their clothing; their faces blackened with burnt cork, in an effort to conceal their true identity.

While numerous surnames were associated with O’Keeffe’s murder, mostly based on named persons who had quietly left the Tipperary area bound for America and elsewhere immediately following his death, his assassin or assassins were never brought to justice. Remarkable credible evidence however emerges some 17 years later, from America in 1855.

A sub-tribe of the American Sioux Indian Nation, the Brule (French meaning ‘burnt’ or “Burnt Thighs Nation,”) tribe, then residing in South Dakota, went on the warpath. Prior to the arrival of new European settlers they had mostly led a peaceful existence, but now following a breakdown of relations between both, they soon became involved in ever frequent skirmishes. In 1855, in response to a Brule robbery which ended in the deaths of three white male settlers, a cavalry officer in the U.S. Army General William Selby Harney (August 22nd, 1800 – May 9th, 1889), known to the native Brule tribe as “White Whiskers Harney,” had led a reprisal expeditionary force against the tribe, killing 85 of their warriors and taking many more captive.

Brule braves aware that they were no match for future expeditionary armed force and following a pow wow, now pressed for peace. A peace summit was arranged between both sides to air existing grievances. Though not part of any negotiating team, among those present at these peace talks was an Irish-born priest, Fr. Joseph Trecy. While the conference was in progress, Fr. Trecy heard a voice calling to him from amongst the Brule ranks; “Brathair, an bhfuil Gaeilge agat?” ( Translation -“Brother, can you speak Irish?”).  Looking into the assembled Brule delegation, which were fully decked out in war-paint and deerskin clothing, Fr. Trecy, who had left Ireland in 1835 at the age of 11, recalled enough Irish to answer the Indians question, and when the call was once again repeated he replied, “Ta, cuid de” (Translation – “Yes, some.”). 

A Brule Indian Chief now stepped out from amongst the Indian delegation and shook the priest’s hand. The Irish-speaking Brule Indian Chief, he soon learned, was actually a Tipperary man who, along with one other companion, was wanted in the 1838 killing of an Irish landlord in Co. Tipperary. These two men had fled from Ireland disembarking at New York, but had been tracked by authorities all the way to Missouri. In an effort to elude their possible captors, they had moved quickly north west to South Dakota and befriended Brule warriors, learned their language and had taken Squaws (Female Indian Woman) as their wives from among their newly adopted tribe. These Irishmen were reported by Fr Trecy to be in need of ‘Spiritual Nourishment’ and before long Fr. Trecy had baptised and married a further 40 Indian families, into the Roman Catholic faith.

Perhaps it was the ‘Seal of the Confessional’, who knows for certain, but Fr. Trecy refused to disclose the identities of the men from Tipperary or the name of the man they had killed. Because of his discretion these Tipperary fugitives were able to escape prosecution and continue on with their lives in their new country of adoption.

Around this period there were three recorded cases of the killing of landlords in Co. Tipperary. In two instances men were tried and hanged for these crimes, although a persistent rumour at the time suggested that others involved might have escaped. However in the case of the shooting of Charles O’Keefe in Thurles, while arrests were made, no suspects were ever charged.

It is therefore credible, by the process of elimination, that the “Brule Indian Chiefs”, now members of the American Sioux Nation from Co. Tipperary, were the same men who shot Charles O’Keefe on October 23th 1838.

The pistol, which has been examined by Thurles Gardaí, has now been returned and is presently on display at St Mary’s Famine Museum in Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

Thurles – St Mary’s Graveyard Project Update

A project undertaken to reclaim / transform the old late 13th century St. Mary’s graveyard, begun last November (2014) here in Thurles, is progressing very satisfactory. The former part dump and weed infested “Gods Acre” is now 50% complete thanks to Tús operatives, Thurles Municipal District Council and the many local people who have undertaken to support this project.

With three car trailer loads of broken dishes, plastic and glass bottles, bicycle and electrical parts etc now removed, some interesting pieces of old Thurles history were also uncovered. These located surface artefacts included two badly decomposed 19th and 20th century hand guns, some interesting old bottles, a few 19th and 20th century coins and a hand-made, open fire, wire, fish griddle (Great Famine Period); this latter now fully restored by the ingenuity of Littleton resident Mr Michael Bannon.

The part proceeds of a local crime were also uncovered; hidden under a large stone, taking on the form of a 14 year old stolen purse, containing various credit type cards.  (In all cases the appropriate authorities were notified.)

Click HERE to view progress to date in High Definition.

Thurles – Undertaking A Visitor Attraction Project For Themselves

Of course the spring crop of Cherry blossom, Blue Bells, Three Cornered Leeks, Snowdrops and Lent Lilies have all departed for yet another year. So too now fading are the summer crop of Solomon Seal, Lily of the Valley, Primroses, Yellow Loosestrife and Lungworth. However the Common Poppy, Chinese Black Mondo Grass, White Foxgloves, Fleece Flower, Buddleia Bushes, Elephant Ears, African daisy, Marigolds and Feverfew all continue to grant late summer /autumn colour to this most historic of Tipperary graveyards.

The first gravelled footpath, one of four planned to guide visitors around this historic oasis, is also in place, joining the existing Thurles Memorial Garden.

To date this project has cost a minuscule €800.00 in financial funding for the massive work undertaken and a huge ‘Thank You’ must now go to all the volunteer supporters / advisor’s to this project and in particular to the Tús operatives and Thurles Municipal District Council (Administrator Michael Ryan).  A ‘Thank You’ also to Aileen O’Sullivan and family (U.S.A.) who handsomely contributed to the purchase of garden furniture, yet to be installed later this year in this area, (More details will appear regarding this installation later).

Of course if there are any Politicians out there who feel that funding should /can be made available to support / progress this ongoing project more speedily, perhaps they could let us know.

How can you the people of this community further assist in this new project?
(1) Do you have any “Overcrowded Perennials” in your garden drastically in need of thinning? Remember overcrowded perennials often have fewer and smaller flowers than their well-spaced and divided counterparts.

(2) Do you have relatives buried in St Mary’s Graveyard? Perhaps, finance permitting of course, you would like to take this opportunity to have the headstone cleaned, lettering repainted or a grave kerb added, replaced or repaired. Unable to undertake this work yourself, then talk to James Slattery, Tel 0504 – 22219, who specialises in dealing with ancient limestone headstones.

(3) Are you feeling generous? Why not make a small financial contribution to this worthwhile Thurles history / environmental conservation project. Your donation and full details of how your money was spent will be publicly acknowledged here on Thurles.Info in future regular news updates.

Note: Extreme care has been taken to ensure that this historic burial ground is respected in full, firstly, with regards to the rights of the living family members of those deceased, and secondly, in regard to the rules already put in place by the Heritage Council with regard to the Guidance for the Care, Conservation and Recording of Historic Graveyards.

Tipperary Twelfth In Favourite Domestic Holiday Destinations

TipperaryMapAccording to a survey taken by MyHome.ie, the kingdom of Co. Kerry is Ireland’s favourite domestic holiday destination. This is the third time in a row that Kerry has topped this particular poll with 24.5% of voters highlighting it as their favourite county for a break.

Co. Galway gallops home in second place, polling 17%, while Cork arrives in third place with 14% of the poll. While Wexford was the only other county to hit double digits; counties Clare, Donegal, Mayo, Dublin, Wicklow, Kilkenny and Waterford rounded off the remaining surveyed Top 10.

With more than 5,200 people taking part in this survey of Irish holidaymakers Co. Tipperary, which receives little or no tourism marketing budget share, received just 1% of the vote in this survey undertaken. While only a brief survey, nevertheless Tipperary did outrank counties Leitrim (0.8%), Louth (0.7%), Kildare & Meath (0.3%), Cavan & Offaly, Armagh, Laois, Fermanagh, Limerick and Westmeath (latter 7 counties all receiving 0.17%).

Dublin despite millions of Euro being spent from our national tourism budget annually, to attract attention, received just 3% of the vote in this same survey. Regrettably counties Carlow, Derry, Down, Longford, Roscommon, Monaghan and Tyrone failed to attract even one single vote.

While Tipperary is only in joint 12th position with Co Antrim, it is however easy to see why we fails to attract a better and indeed deserved percentage vote in this survey. We now invite our readers to view the website launched in September 2014, by the current Tipperary Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government Mr Alan Kelly.  Next click HERE to view “Top Sights within an hour of Lough Derg”. Do you see Thurles or any of its superb local attractions get a mention?  No, I regret to say, only attractions which have had large sums of government money pumped into them by the Bord of Works and National Monuments are highlighted and recommended, the nearest some 5 miles away.

Note also the Lough Derg website fails to shows Links. For those of you not familiar with website Link Building, same is the process of acquiring and sharing hyperlinks (Links) from other websites to your own, thus offering a way for all users to navigate between pages on the internet and in doing so grant surfers a greater overview of all that our Premier County has to offer the visitor. Latter linking failure appears to be part of present overall tourism policy, but to the detriment of our tourist economy nationally.

Hyperlinks (Links) are a number one essential on all tourism websites if we are to truly compete, network and sell online.

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