Clonoulty Tipperary: Rugby, Queen Elisabeth II & Miss Macra Festival

The picturesque village of Clonoulty,Thurles, in Tipperary, is situated in the Golden Vale, latter the richest farm land in Europe. To the casual passing tourist it is just another Irish rural village, displaying very great civic pride, through its well kept appearance.
The village gains “National Prominence” each year when it, together with it’s sister village Rossmore, becomes host to the International Miss Macra Festival, latter which this year celebrates it’s 40th birthday. However tourists take note; there is more to the village of Clonoulty than meets the eye, as my tale will tell.

From a sporting perspective, this area has always been a hive of GAA activity and possibly therefore few are aware of its associations with past Rugby glory, its contribution to World leadership or even it’s British Royal Family connection.
Now with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II due to make her first State visit to Ireland, Thurles, her ancestral home and Clonoulty are both being focused on by Urban District Councillors and County Councillors, anxious to make a good impression and hoping to take full advantage of the much needed tourism that will be generated by Her Majesties visit. While we are aware of her Thurles connections, many may not be aware of the ‘Clonoulty Connection’.

The Clonoulty Connection
Detailed in the Census of 1911 the residents of Srahavarrella, now the home of Thomas Heffernan, in Clonoulty West, Tipperary are as follows:-

Pike William, (Church of Ireland Clergyman.) age 48, Husband and head of  the family and a native of  Co Mayo.
Harriett  Florence Pike (Maiden Name, Surridge.)  aged 34, Wife and a native of Dublin City.
Margaret Walker Pike, aged 8, a daughter, born in Co Kilkenny.
Andrew Hamilton  Pike, aged 7, a son born in  Co Kilkenny.
Theodore Ouseley Pike, aged 6, a son born in  Co Tipperary.
Robert Bonsall Pike, aged 5, a Son, born in Co Tipperary.
Victor Joseph Pike, aged 3, a Son, born in Co Tipperary.
Charlotte Florence Pike, aged 2, a Daughter, born in Co Tipperary.
John Surridge Pike, aged 1, a Son, born in Co Tipperary.

From this information we can glean the villages Irish Rugby Football connection, a world leader and even a British Royal Family connection.

Victor Joseph Pike
Victor Joseph Pike, born July 1, 1907, Clonoulty, Thurles and died February 25, 1986, in Salisbury aged 78 years and 239 days.
Played Rugby for Ireland between 1931-1934, including in the Five Nations at Twickenham, where he made his Ireland Test debuts on the 14th February 1931, in the position of Hooker.
The Irish Team that day were as follows: – SH-Mark Sugden (Capt), FB – Major Egan, W- Edward Lightfoot, C– Eugene Davy, C – Laurence McMahon,W- Joxer Arigho, FH-Paul Murray,  H-Victor Pike, N8-Hal Withers, L– Jimmy Farrell, N8– Jack Siggins, L– Jack Russell, F- Noel Murphy, N8– George Beamish, F- James Clinch. Match attendance on the day was 60,000

Victor Joseph Pike CBE CB, went on to become the Anglican Bishop of Sherborne,in the third quarter of the 20th century. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and ordained in 1930. His ministry began with a curacy at Dundrum, Dublin, after which he began a long spell as a Chaplain to the Forces, rising eventually to become Chaplain-General.

His Military précis reads:- The Reverend Canon Victor Joseph PIKE,C.B.E., Q.H.C., Chaplain-General to the Forces (53409), Royal Army Chaplains’ Department.  REGULAR ARMY RESERVE OF OFFICERS:  Ven. Archdeacon V. J. PIKE, C.B., C.B.E., D.D. (53409) Chapln. to the Forces 1st Cl. Having attained the age limit ceases to belong to the Res.of Offrs., 1st Jul. 1967, retaining the rank of Chapln. to the Forces 1st Cl.
After his death a trust was set up to assist in the education of sons and daughters of Protestant clergy.

Sir Theodore Pike
Victors brother, full name Sir Theodore Ouseley Pike, was born on August 2, 1904, Clonoulty, Thurles. He died December 27th, 1987, at Guildford, aged 83 years and 147 days.  Sir Theodore played rugby for both the Ireland and Great Britain XV’s in the position of Prop and was capped for Ireland 8 times.
Sir Theodore Pike played for Ireland v England at Twickenham, on the 12th February 1927, infront of a 45,000 packed crowd. The Irish Team on the day were as follows:- FB- William Crawford (Capt), W- Denis Cussen, C- George Stephenson, C- Frank Hewitt, W- Jim Ganly, FH– Eugene Davy, SH– Mark Sugden, P- Charles Hanrahan, H– Charles Payne, L– Jim McVicker, L– Jimmy Farrell, L- Hugh McVicker, P- Theodore Pike, N8-Norman Ross, H- William Browne.

Sir Theodore Pike later went on to become the Governor of Somaliland from Feb 1954 – 1959
Sir Theodore, as the Governor, was highly regarded as a genial Irishman, interested in rugby and livestock, and why not, after all he came from an area which prides itself on producing the best beef in the world. He is understood to have travelled round on trek, in the interior of Africa, with trucks filled with growing vegetables and two cows. The Somaliland natives knew and referred to him affectionatly as “Two Cows.”

Robert Bonsall Pike
Robert Bonsall Pike was born on 19 October 1905 and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was ordained in 1930 and began his career with a curacy at Drumcree Church. In recent times the church has become noted for the Orange Order service held annually on the Sunday before the 12th of July. The service, or more precisely the Orangemen’s parade both to and from the service and the reaction of the community on the Garvaghy Road, has been the catalyst for sectarian unrest between the Protestant paraders and the Catholic residents of the area for more than 200 years. He was then Curate-in-charge of Aghavilly and held incumbencies at Maryborough and Ballyfin. He later became Rural Dean of Aghade and then Dean of Ossory before his elevation to the Episcopate. He became Bishop of Meath from 1959 until his death on 27th December 1973, aged 68 years. His body is buried at St. Etchen’s Church, Killucan, Co. Westmeath.

Royal Family Connection
Bishop Victor Joseph Pike’s daughter, Caroline Mary Victoria Pike married Sir Simon Alexander Bowes-Lyon, son of Hon. Sir David Bowes-Lyon and Rachel Pauline Spender Clay, on 11 April 1966.  Sir Simon Alexander Bowes-Lyon KCVO was born on the 17th June 1932 and is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and was Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire from 1986 to 2007. He was created a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2005.  Sir Simon Bowes-Lyon, and Lady Caroline have four children; Rosemary born 1968, Fergus born 1970, David born 1973 and Andrew born 1979.

Perhaps the family could accompany Her Majesty on her future visit, after all the Countess of Wessex, Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones, wife of Prince Edward was warmly welcomed recently in Upperchurch, just a few miles over the road, when she attender the funeral of the Late Ned Ryan, latter a former close confidant of Princess Margaret.

Yes, folks this all began in the tiny picturesque village of Clonoulty, Thurles, Co.Tipperary, the real heart of ‘Hidden Ireland.’


4 comments to Clonoulty Tipperary: Rugby, Queen Elisabeth II & Miss Macra Festival

  • Nice video clip . Places I never saw before.

  • There is a lot of hidden history in Tipperary people have forgotten through time. We need to have an audit followed by a major sales drive.

  • Joan

    Fantastic video George, great to have this knowledge of history made public. It would be a great idea to hold a night showing coverage like this in Clonoulty before Miss Macra this year, or perhaps as an addition to the press conference with voice over. What do you think

  • Joan “Great Idea.” However give me a call on your return to the Premier County and I will reveal more, and would much value your input.

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