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Rare Unseen Pictures Which Relate To Tipperary

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” Quote attributed to Bertrand Russell.

It was on 21st January 1919 that two Irish born Roman Catholic RIC constables, James Alec McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell, were escorting a horse drawn cart containing gelignite from the Tipperary town Military Barracks to the local Soloheadbeg Quarry, a distance of 7.7km or just 10 minutes modern day driving time apart. The driver of the cart was James Godfrey, accompanied by Patrick Flynn, the latter a County Council employee.

Constable McDonnell, a native of Belmullet, Co. Mayo and father of seven children, together with comrade Constable O’Connell, latter a native of Coachford, County Cork and unmarried, were both guarding this cargo of explosives.

James McDonnell & Anastasia (Doyle) (Sepia Pic) - His son Christopher McDonnell & Bridget (McGrath) (Black & White Pic) Pictures courtesy Sweeney Family

James McDonnell & Anastasia (Doyle) (Sepia Pic) – His son Christopher McDonnell & Bridget (McGrath) (Black & White Pic)
Pictures come courtesy of the Sweeney family.

History records that possibly up to eight armed and masked men, members of the then Irish Volunteers from the South Tipperary Brigade, which included their leader Séamus Robinson, Sean Tracy, Dan Breen, Sean Hogan, Tadgh Crowe, Patrick Dwyer, Michael Ryan, and Patrick McCormack opened fire on the Constables, killing both men. Volunteer GHQ had not sanctioned this ambush.

The driver and County Council worker were left unharmed. In the pocket of Constable McDonnell’s uniform were 30 electric detonators which remained undiscovered by their assailants. Hogan with Treacy and Breen drove the cart together with the explosives away from the scene. Eye witnesses later saw the cart being driven at high speed in the direction of Dundrum village, County Tipperary, and indeed the horse and cart minus its contents were later found abandoned at Allen Creamery near Dundrum, by the District Inspector of Clonmel Poer O’Shee.

The picture directly above shows; Back Row: - Bonnie, Alden & Doug Rohrer from Texas. Front Row:- Aileen Sweeneyher husband Roy With their Children Neil Eoin & Blaine with museum guide Stewart Willoughby.

The picture directly above shows; Back Row: – Bonnie, Alden & Doug Rohrer from Texas. Front Row:- Aileen Sweeney (Left), her husband Roy (Right), with their children Neil, Eoin & Blaine, &  St Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles, guide Stewart Willoughby.

A major historic event took place in St Mary’s Famine Museum in June of this year 2013, which truly should have demanded a far wider audience. It was the visit by Mrs Aileen Sweeney, latter the great granddaughter of James Alec McDonnell, the first victim of the War of Independence against England, together with her immediate family.  Picture above shows McDonnell’s great, great grandson holding the gun, a Colt 45, which killed his great, great grandfather and possible the gun which fired the first shot which began the War of Independence, eventually leading to brother fighting brother, in an ensuing civil war.

Continue reading Rare Unseen Pictures Which Relate To Tipperary


Tipperary Lands On Its Feet Again

Surprise, surprise, Iarnród Éireann (God Bless Them) has discontinued the early morning train service previously operating on the Limerick to Ballybrophy line, as part of their new timetable, despite the government having agreed to boost the funding of our public transport system by an extra €36 million last year, stating then that the extra cash boost was necessary to ensure public transport services remained operational.

Use It or Lose It

This 5.05am Limerick-Dublin service, which stopped in Nenagh at 06.04am, Cloughjordan at 06.23am and Roscrea at 06.43am, has now been terminated together with the 16.05pm Limerick to Ballybrophy and 18.20pm Ballybrophy to Limerick via Nenagh services. This move by Irish Rail now reduces the number of Nenagh to Dublin via Ballybrophy train alternatives, to just two services each way per day.

Local campaigners had called on all would-be commuters to “Use It or Lose It,” when the early morning service was first introduced in March of last year, however the service, which  according to Irish Rail cost some €1,000 per day to operate, failed, (due to commuters failing to get out of bed at 4.00am,) to attract sufficient users and has now therefore been withdrawn. Local campaigners blame unacceptable delays and an unworkable timetable, which set impracticable targets, as the main reasons for this failure & thus termination of the service.

“Gateways to Ireland,” Continue To Benefit From Tipperary Taxes

A €3.7m funding package has been announced to improve transport links in and around Galway city. This funding will be spent on walking, cycling and public transport links for the city’s commuters. North Tipperary Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly states that €1m will be spent on a redesign of the city’s train station with a pedestrian link to the coach station. Bus and cycle lane demand will be now assessed and the possibility of developing a “Greenway,” will also be fully examined.

Remember the recently introduced Leap Card or integrated ticket system solely for Dublin based commuters & which cost at least €55 million of taxpayers money to produce?  Surprise, surprise again, Dublin children can now travel for free on the LUAS at weekends during February, March and April of this year, it has been announced yesterday. This latest generous offer, which has just been announced by the National Transport Authority and LUAS management, allows adults with valid tickets to bring up to two children under the age of 16 on this tramway with them. We are told that this new initiative is one of a number of transport fare initiatives being rolled out for Dublin during 2013.

This initiative will also of course apply to LUAS lines here in Thurles, oh yes, pardon me, I forgot, we do not have a tram service in Thurles as yet, cancelled mainly due to our eleven year delay in being granted a ring road. It will possibly come as a shock to the National Transport Authority, LUAS management and Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly, but University Students countrywide have been riding your LUAS, Rail & Buses for free, since Stephenson built his “Rocket,” way back in 1829.

One other item of good news announced last week however, much to the delight of Tipperary Septic Tank owners & taxpayers, was the welcome revelation that some of our rural contributions to State coffers are to be spent on a €20 million make-over for Dublin’s National Gallery of Ireland. The tendering process will start presently and it is hoped to begin refurbishment work during this summer, with a view to having all the work completed in time for the 1916 centenary.

Of course “this 1916 rising centenary crack,” has little to do with Co Tipperary, well except of course for at least three of the total seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation all having strong Tipperary links. I remind you of Thomas McDonagh who was born in Cloughjordan Tipperary. Latter a poet, playwright, teacher, soldier and signatory of the 1916 Proclamation, which proclaimed our now now new IMF Republic. He then had moved to Dublin to study, and was the first teacher on the staff at St. Enda’s, the school he helped to found, with another signatory Patrick Pearse. Then of course there was the mother of Thomas Clarke, latter the person most responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising. His mother was Mary Clarke (Maiden-name Palmer,) from Clogheen, Tipperary. Next there was James Connolly, another signatory who founded the Irish Labour Party in Clonmel Tipperary in 1912. Then there was Dan Breen born in Grange, Donohill County Tipperary, and his Soloheadbeg incident which was the first opening act of the same Irish War of Independence. Ah sure I could go on and on, but enough said. Just watch out, my friends, the big “1916 Centenary Party,” will be financed & held exclusively in An Pháil. One hopes that those participating in 2016 will not be spat on by a Dublin populace, as were those forced to surrender in 1916.

As you can gather from the above facts, none of the “Dublin Subsidises,” & “Fiscal Transfers,” gifted from our urban capitol, to Tipperary’s rural red-neck backwaters, (as recently highlighted and bitterly resented by Olivia Mitchell TD,) has yet to arrived here to Co Tipperary.

Sure maybe Olivia Mitchell TD is correct in her predictions, same transfer of funding from urban to rural areas would appear grossly unfair and God forbid could even become a permanent danger to future urban / rural social cohesion.

All joking aside, rural Ireland is being forgotten, the urban man is getting the oyster, while the rural red-neck must make do with the shell.


Death Of Oonagh Swift (Nee Ryan)

Oonagh Swift (1929 – 2012)

With the exception of the Irish Times & a small paragraph in the Sunday Independent newspapers, other media services failed miserably to report or even notice her passing. Looking to our future, one is sadly reminded of the lines of that great anti-war ballad written by Eric Bogle, “And the band plays Waltzing Matilda, and the old men still answer the call, but year after year, their numbers get fewer, someday, no one will march there at all.”  I am of course referring to the death of Oonagh Swift, whose spirit moved on recently at her home in the Algarve, at the fine old age of 83 years.

Oonagh Swift, who was born May 13th, 1929 and who died on October 25th, 2012, was a cultured, charismatic Irish figure whose life was steeped in the arts and in literature and who embraced so many other nationalities. One feels that her life perhaps should have received at least some larger recognition here in Ireland and particularly in South Tipperary.

Born in Dublin, Oonagh was the third youngest of eight children born to Séamus Ryan and Agnes Ryan, (née Harding,) from Tipperary.  She was christened initially Agnes Mary, but from an early age her family chose to adopt the name Oonagh, latter the Gaelic variation of Agnes.

Her parents were both Irish Republican activists during the War of Independence. Her father, a successful businessman, active supporter of the old IRA, & also a Fianna Fáil Senator, during the leadership of Éamon de Valera, helping to found the Party.

Oonagh’s father, Séamus Ryan was born in 1895 in Kilfeacle, Co Tipperary and while early in his life he had been a supporter of the moderate Irish nationalist John Redmond, strong emotions and deep family convictions soon made him increasingly sympathetic and eventually committed to the Irish Republican cause.

Séamus would eventually marry Agnes Harding a native of Solohead, Co Tipperary in 1918. In that same year they both would open a shop in Parnell Street, in Dublin. This business would be the first of 33 outlets for this company, which they now named “The Monument Creameries,” named after the famous monument erected to the Irish nationalist, Charles Stewart Parnell and which was located close to their shop premises. Séamus Ryan and his wife Agnes reared eight children, many of whom made significant contributions to the Arts, stage & screen and to Irish public life.

Oonagh’s sister Kathleen Ryan (1922–1985) was an international motion picture actress. Regarded as one of Ireland’s most beautiful women, she was the model for one of Louis le Brocquy’s striking portraits, “Girl in White,” which he painted in 1941 and later entered in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA,) exhibition of that year. The portrait, an oil on canvas, can be seen today in the Ulster Museum collection. She later died in Dublin from lung disease, aged just 63 and is buried with her parents, in the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, in Dublin.

Kathleen starred with such screen stars as Dirk Bogarde in ‘The Sins of Esther Waters,’ and with James Mason, Cyril Cusack, Robert Beatty, and Dan O’Herlihy in “The Odd Man Out.” She also starred in other well known films such as ‘Captain Boycott,’ (1947), ‘Christopher Columbus,’ (1949), ‘Give Us This Day,’ (1949), and ‘Captain Lightfoot,’ (1955).

Continue reading Death Of Oonagh Swift (Nee Ryan)


Bleeding Statues At Templemore Near Thurles Tipperary

A new forty minute programme entitled, “Deora Dé,” (God’s Tears,) is to get its first screening on TG4 tomorrow night (Wednesday,) at 9.30pm.

The story being told will relate to Templemore, Co Tipperary and a rather strange happening, which began in the late summer of 1920, when one Jimmy Walsh claimed he saw blood coming from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary, at his home in Curraheen, Gortagarry, here in north Tipperary.

Bleeding statues in a yard beside Dwan’s shop in Templemore.
Picture courtesy St.Mary’s Famine & War Museum, Thurles, Co Tipperary.

Amongst those interviewed for the making of this TV documentary were renowned local factual historian, Monsignor Dr. Maurice Dooley from Loughmore, Eamonn de Staffort (Silvermines based historian), Deuglán Breathnach (Templemore historian), and Nenagh resident Seamus Leahy, (Son of Jimmy Leahy, then local IRA commander in this North Tipperary area during the period of this event.)

Summer Of 1920 Templemore Tipperary.

For those not familiar with the happenings of this period in Templemore, first we need to understand the events of five days previously. The night was the 16th of August, the year, as already stated, was 1920. Ireland was then in the throes of its ‘War of Independence,’ against England. Some members of the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, then barracked in Templemore, decided to carry out reprisals against the local population. Their decision followed the killing of a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC ) District Inspector, William Harding Wilson by the IRA.

(History Lovers Please Note: D.I. Wilson, was a member of the Methodist church and hailed originally from Ballycumber, Co Offaly.  Following his death he was buried at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland Cemetery, Templemore, Thurles, Co Tipperary.)

Crown forces broke from barracks and burnt the market house to the ground, after soaking it with petrol, which was stolen from a nearby garage. Town’s people fled in panic or peeped, in terror, from behind their shuttered windows as two shops were burned to the ground, while armed men fired off their rifles indiscriminately. The glass in every window for over 600 yds, which had not been already heavily shuttered, was smashed by this indiscriminate rifle fire.

The reprisals were reported as having begun around 10.30 pm, when most of the town’s residents had retired to bed. The noise, made by the studded boots of some thirty to forty soldiers, was heard coming up from the direction of the barracks. They broke into Morkin’s pub & grocery premises first, claiming to be Black and Tans. While there, they looted a quantity of whisky, which they drank in the main street. They then targeted Michael Kelly’s public house, taking more spirits, which they again consumed, before setting the same premises on fire.

Fogarty’s drapery premises were entered next, by breaking its plate-glass windows. Much of the stock was removed & thrown into the river. Some of the men dressed themselves in ladies’ blouses and other drapery goods and danced up and down the town’s street.

Now riotously intoxicated, a bicycle shop was set on fire, then a jewellery store was raided where, in particular, alarm clocks were taken and set off. One soldier proved himself to be an expert stage performer, demonstrating his ragtime musicianship on a stolen mandolin. Handkerchiefs, previously stolen from Fogarty’s drapery premises, were now worn as masks, as the drunken men turned their attention to intimidating residential houses in the immediate vicinity, including persons involved holding and attending a wake. (Traditionally in Ireland, a wake takes place in the house of a deceased person, when the body of that deceased person is still present.)

It was three hours later before the drunken Crown Forces grew weary of their attempts at intimidation and returned to barracks.

Supernatural Manifestations – Bleeding Statues – A Holy Well – Cures

James (Jimmy) Walsh

Five days later an unusual phenomena was reported in the Templemore area.  The strange episode started when a teenager James (Jimmy) Walsh claimed he saw blood coming from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary at his home at Curraheen, near the village of Gortagarry.  Jimmy, a farm labourer, also reported that a Holy Well had appeared in the earthen floor of his bedroom at his home. Although thousands of pilgrims, including a Dublin publican took away quantities, water from this unknown source continued to flow unexplained. It was reported by the Tipperary Star newspaper that Walsh had experienced Marian apparitions that “After the outburst on Monday night some of the statues from which blood had been oozing were taken by Walsh to Templemore and it is believed that it was this that saved the town from destruction,” five days previous,

Following growing daily reports in the press, word began to spread quickly. Considerable crowds now began to gather in front of the big house with the shop sign ” T. Dwan, Builder, Contractor, Newsagent.” It was here that the miraculous bleeding images belonging to Jimmy Walsh were stored. At around 9.00am a ground-floor window of Dwan’s premises would open a few inches and pilgrims, kneeling on spread handkerchiefs on the muddy ground, could get just a glimpse of three, one foot high, statues on a flower covered table. Capped heads were quickly uncovered and rosaries and crucifixes instantly appeared.

Empty houses were now filled up as temporary hostels, as pilgrims by the hundreds and then thousands began arriving not only from all over the 32 counties of Ireland, but also from the United States, England, Scotland, France, South Africa, Bombay & India. Marvellous cures were being reported as trains rushing from Dublin, motor cars, lorries, charabancs (Latter derives from the French ‘char-à-bancs,’ – carriage with benches, or horse drawn or early motorised buses), bicyclists, jaunting cars, donkey carts, walkers as well as wheelbarrows carrying cripples flooded into the area. Came also the stretcher cases, the babes in arms, the invalids in wheelchairs, the mentally ill, the blind persons, the deformed and outside the cottage at Curraheen a pile of discarded crutches grew bigger. Such road traffic had never been observed previously here in Tipperary, even for the popular horse races held in Thurles some 14.8 km (Nine miles) away. At its height, some 15,000 pilgrims per day were now reported as descending on the town.

Continue reading Bleeding Statues At Templemore Near Thurles Tipperary


Thurles Sarsfields 0-14 Drom And Inch 0-5

Thurles Sarsfields         Pic courtesy John O'Loughlin

Thurles Sarsfields - Pic courtesy John O'Loughlin

Thurles Sarsfields netted their 30th Tipperary SHC title with a comprehensive 0-14 to 0-5 win over Drom & Inch before an attendance of almost 10,000 spectators at Semple Stadium.

Thurles Sarsfields blazed a trail in the opening quarter as two points each from Johnny Enright and Pa Bourke along with an Alan Kennedy score saw them race into a 0-5 to 0-0 lead by the 11th minute.

The Sars were hugely dominant in the opening stages  as Drom & Inch struggled to make an impression eventually opening their account in the 13th minute thanks to  Johnny Ryan.

The Sars kept up their momentum by scoring three of the next five points to hold a well deserved 0-9 to 0-3 at half-time.

Drom and Inch constantly struggled for possession throughout and Pa Bourke continued to be deadly accurate from open play while Enright and substitute ‘Redser’ O’Grady also made their presence felt.

Sarsfields showed a great  hunger throughout play and although Drom and Inch closed the gap to six points with five minutes remaining they were unable to find the necessary scores required.

Final Score: Thurles Sarsfields 0-14  Drom And Inch 0-5

Sarsfield Captain Johnny Enright accepted the Dan Breen Cup from Tipperary GAA Chairman Barry O’Brien, and full-back Padraic Maher was rightly confirmed as the Man-of-the-Match.

Thurles will now face Cork champions Newtownshandrum in the Munster Club SHC quarter-final on November 1.

Thurles Sarsfields Team: P McCormack; M Cahill, P Maher, K O’Gorman; B O’Dwyer, L Cahill, S Lillis; A Kennedy (0-2), M Gleeson; P Bourke (0-4, 0-2f), S Ryan, D Maher; R Ruth (0-1), L Corbett, J Enright (0-5, 0-1f).

Subs Involved: D Kennedy for Ryan (16 mins), R O’Grady (0-2) for Ruth (47), J Lawlor for L Cahill (60), D O’Dwyer for A Kennedy (62), M Collins for O’Gorman (63).

Drom & Inch Team: D Young; Martin Butler; E Costello, M Costello; D Kennedy, P Stapleton, Michael Butler; J Woodlock, S Butler; E Woodlock, S Callanan (0-2, 0-1f), J Kennedy (0-1); D Butler, M Long, Johnny Ryan (0-2, 0-1f).

Subs Involved: E Buckley for Stapleton (27 mins), D Ryan for Long (31), M Ryan for E Woodlock (44), D Collins for D Ryan (53), James Ryan for J Woodlock (65).