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Corroded 100 Year-old Grenade Located In Tipperary.

A badly corroded 100 year-old grenade located near the monument at Solohead in South West Co. Tipperary was removed to a safe location where it was destroyed in a controlled explosion on Friday last, September 22nd, by the Irish Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

Corroded Mills Bomb’, a fully intact ‘Mills Bomb’ and their inventor English engineer Sir William Mills.

The corroded device located by Tipperary County Council staff carrying out road repairs, resembled an MK I time-fused fragmentation hand grenade, latter used during the early years of World War I.
The device, according to its original designer, was then the simplest, yet most fool-proof grenade ever manufactured and replaced the existing cast-iron canister, latter set on an 18-inch stick, which was dangerous to use because it often got caught on trench fronts, when lobbed.
However, the MK I was retired from active use before the war ended, and was replaced in 1918 with the improved Mk 2 grenade used through the period of World War II.

Known by a more popular name, the “Mills bomb”, this series of British hand grenades, were used by British and Imperial forces, having been designed by English engineer Sir William Mills, (24th April 1856 – 7th January 1932) who also gave us our aluminium golf clubs, known as Metallic Golfing Instrument Heads.
Some 75,000,000 of these World War I Mills Bomb grenades were manufactured, with their four-second time fuses, allowing the thrower to easily take cover before they exploded.

Numerous, similar devices are located every year here in Ireland, with one such grenade device located in the Rosemount area of Thurles, in February 2018.
On November 16th, 2017, two men, one from Cahir, Co. Tipperary and the other from Clonmel in Co. Tipperary, were arrested having in their possession two fragmentation grenades.
On the 14th of May 2020 a Mills bomb, dating back about 100 years was made safe by the Irish Army having been discovered at Harold’s Cross bridge in Dublin, while on Wednesday 6th of March 2015, a man located a grenade Mills bomb at his home while out gardening in Newtown Lawns, Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
Earlier on September 22nd, 2009, a World War II ‘Mills Bomb’ was found in Cahir, Co. Tipperary.
In 2016 in the small village of Aughrim in Co. Galway another such device was located, and on Tuesday May 21st 2013 a Mills Grenade was discovered by people digging at their home in Crosshaven, Co Cork.

Most of these devices were brought smuggled home by Irish men who had joined the British Army to fight enemies on the front during World War I, and retained for intended use during Ireland’s fight for Independence, in the years 1916-22. Unused they were hidden away in private sheds or buried, to be located by future generations.


“Murderous Mary” Hanged 106 Years Ago This Month.

It happened this month (on September 13th), 107 years ago, in 1916. Mary, also known as “Big Mary” and “Murderous Mary” was hanged after killing circus employee Mr Walter Red” Eldridge.

The Mary in question was a five-ton Asian elephant who was trained to performed at the Sparks World Famous Shows Circus and was hanged in the Erwin Rail Yard, in Steuben County, New York, United States.
Mr Eldridge was murdered by her some 9.5 hours away in Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee, while on his second day only, employed as her handler.

The hanging of “Murderous Mary”

The star of Sparks World Famous Shows had been “Big Mary”, latter a giant Asian elephant advertised By Charles Sparks on his circus posters as “The Largest Living Land Animal on Earth”.
Mary had been purchased by his Charles Sparks’ father in 1898, when she was four years old and Charles Sparks claimed she weighed over 5 tons and stood 3 inches taller than “Jumbo”, latter the star elephant of the rival Barnum and Bailey Circus. Crowds were enthralled as Mary performed tricks which included playing musical instruments; pitching a baseball and standing on her head.

On September 11th, 1916, a homeless man of whom little is known, named “Red” Eldridge, who had initially landed a part-time job as a transient hotel clerk, was hired as an unqualified elephant keeper by the Sparks circus.

Eldridge was killed by “Big Mary” the following evening. Earlier that day, Mr Eldridge had led the elephant parade, from the front, while riding on top of Mary’s back. Later, while being led to a watering ditch between shows by Eldridge, a witness to the murder, one Mr W. H. Coleman, would later recount that his handler had prodded “Big Mary” behind her ear with a hook, after she had reached down to nibble on a discarded watermelon rind. “Big Mary” suddenly appeared to go into a rage, snatching Eldridge with her trunk, before flinging him against a drink stand and then stepped on his head, crushing him.

Later, contemporary newspaper reports, would sensationally claim that “Big Mary” had “sunk her giant tusks entirely through the body of Mr Eldridge. The animal then trampled his dying form, as if seeking a murderous triumph, then with a sudden swing of her massive foot hurled his body into the crowd”. However, of course female Asian Elephants do not grow tusks and only some male Asian elephants have tusks. Most accounts agree that she calmed down afterwards and did not charge onlookers, who began chanting “Kill the elephant! Let’s kill it.”

As crowds screamed and ran for their lives, while a local blacksmith, Mr Hench Cox, tried to kill “Big Mary”, by firing five gun shots, but the bullets bounced off the thick hide of “Big Mary”.
Kingsport officials quickly apprehended the now injured animal and staked her outside the county jail, where onlookers again gathered.

Meanwhile, the leaders of several nearby towns threatened not to allow the circus to visit, if “Murderous Mary” was included in any further shows. In those days rogue elephants who injured or killed handlers could quietly have their names changed and sold to another circus.
The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to kill the wounded elephant in public.
On the following foggy and rainy day, September 13th, 1916, Mary was transported by rail to Unicoi County, Tennessee, where a crowd of over 2,500 people including most of the town’s children assembled in the Clinchfield Railroad yard. Clinchfield had huge, 100-ton derricks they used to unload lumber off their freight cars. Due to flooding Clinchfield refused to send a derrick car all the way to Kingsport, so Charlie Sparks moved his circus south to Clinchfield’s headquarters and repair facilities in Erwin, Tennessee.

In an effort to calm “Murderous Mary”, it was decided to have her walk to the derrick with the other elephant herd, trunk to tail, like they did most every day. When “Big Mary” reached the derrick, circus semi-skilled labourers quickly chained her legs to the rail to keep her still, while the other elephants were led out of sight to avoid observing the horrible event that was about to commence.
By now a silence had fallen across the large assembled crowd gathered, as one of the circus labourers threw the derrick’s chain around the neck of “Murderous Mary’, before fitting the end through a steel ring, before signalling the derrick operator to hoist her up.

The first attempt at hanging, with “Big Mary” struggling resulted in the chain snapping, causing her to fall and break her hip. Her screams sent dozens of adults and children fleeing in terror. Having fixed a second more heavy chain and with Mary now fighting less as the derrick hoisted her into the air it took just a few minutes for the severely wounded Asian elephant to die. The now deceased “Murderous Mary” was buried in a large pre-prepared hole beside the railway tracks, but not before having been examined by a veterinarian who determined that she had a severely infected tooth in the precise spot where Red Eldridge had prodded her with a hook.


Traditional Harvest Day Makes Long Awaited Return To Bunratty.

Co. Tipperary lovers of history take note.

Ireland’s agricultural heritage and the Fair Days of the 19th century will be brought to life when ‘Traditional Harvest Day’ returns for the first time since 2017 to Bunratty Folk Park on Sunday next September 17th.

Traditional threshing machine at work.

Rural Irish life and traditions from over a century ago will be showcased as part of the family day out, which will feature a display of vintage machinery and tractors, craft demonstrations, and dancers, musicians and performers from across the Banner County. (Co. Clare)

A traditional threshing machine will be put to work giving visitors an insight into how neighbours and friends once gathered during the harvest in the spirit of meitheal [Latter Irish word meaning ‘Group‘]. Enthusiasts will be on hand to speak about the evolution of the vintage farm machinery on display on the day, including tractors, and stationary engines. Visitors will also view a range of various ploughs, hay rakes, Root Cutter (Pulper), Turnip and a Mangel Seeder.

The public will be able to witness local craftspeople at work, including Michael Foudy, as he carries on the time-honoured tradition of basket making, Blacksmith Ger Treacy, Elizabeth O’Connor and Geraldine O’Sullivan who will demonstrating the ancient craft of wool spinning, using locally sourced wool, a practice first introduced by Neolithic farmers over 6000 years ago. Bunratty’s ‘Bean an Tí’s’ also will be on hand throughout the day to demonstrate the art of bread and butter making and with tasting opportunities for those who pay a visit to the Golden Vale and Loop Head Farmhouses.

As well as so much to see throughout the 26-acre site, there will be entertainment from Sean Nós Singer MacDara Ó Conaola, the Mary Liddy School of Music from Newmarket on Fergus, the Helen Hehir School of Dance, and resident musicians James Anglim and Michael Grogan, while resident Seanchaí Mike ‘Mickey Joe’ Flynn will regale stories of tales of bygone days and traditional ways from Corry’s Pub on the Village Street. At the Old Schoolhouse, located in the Village Street, the school master will be on duty to greet children and adults as they hand over their customary sod of turf for the tiny school room fire.

A range of native Irish and Heritage Breeds of animals will be located throughout the Folk Park paddocks on the day, including Irish Red Deer, Peacocks, Highland Cattle, Tamworth Pigs, goats, geese, bronze turkeys and the recently arrived Irish Wolfhounds Míde and Rian.

Ms Marie Brennan, (Events Manager at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park), commented, “We are delighted to bring back this event after a six-year hiatus and to give everyone, both young and old, a flavour of what life would have been like in Ireland during harvest time at the turn of the 19th century.
The essence of a Harvest Day was bringing communities together, to support, celebrate and toast the end of a good season,” she explained. “Threshing was backbreaking work, which started early in the mornings and continued until the end of the day with neighbours and friends, all gathering to help out. The machine, and all the activity about it, had a special attraction for children. Its moving belts, the noise from inside and the way it put out straw and oats, was as intriguing back then as the latest computer game is today.
We are looking forward to providing a true glimpse of life in rural 19th century Ireland and celebrating the immense sense of community and hospitality that existed during harvest time. Throughout the Folk Park, for example, there will be plenty of activities available to visitors just like during the fairs of old” added Ms. Brennan.

Visit www.bunrattycastle.ie for more on the Traditional Harvest Day. Normal admission rates apply.


Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears.

Annie Moore From Ireland

Ms Annie Moore (1874–1924), named in the song hereunder, was an Irish immigrant, and the first person in the United States to pass through federal immigrant inspection at the Ellis Island Station, in New York Harbour.
As the first person to pass inspection at this then newly opened facility, she was presented with an American $10 gold piece, by an American immigration official.

Annie had set sail from Co. Cork, Ireland, aboard the Guion Line steamship ‘Nevada’ in the year 1892. Her brothers, Anthony and Philip, who journeyed with her, were aged just 15 years and 12 years respectively.

Her parents, Matthew and Julia, had arrived in the United States 4 years earlier, in 1888, and were both residing at No. 32 Monroe Street, Manhattan, New York, USA.

Annie would go on to marry the son of a German Catholic immigrant, named as Joseph Augustus Schayer (1876–1960), latter a salesman at Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market, with whom she had possibly some eleven children.

She sadly died of heart failure on December 6th, in 1924, at just aged 50 years. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery, at Maspeth and Woodside, Queens, New York City, New York, USA.

Lyrics: Irish songwriter and novelist Brendan Graham.

Vocals: The distinctive Irish (Galway) singing voice of Sean Keane accompanied by the six time Grammy award winning traditional Irish folk band ‘The Chieftains’.

Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears

On the first day of January, eighteen ninety-two,
They opened Ellis Island and they let the people through.
And the first to cross the threshold of that Isle of hope and tears,
Was Annie Moore from Ireland, who was only fifteen years.

Isle of Hope, Isle of tears, Isle of freedom, Isle of fears,
But it’s not the Isle you left behind,
That Isle of hunger, Isle of pain I will never see again,
But the Isle of home is always on your mind.

Repeat Chorus
In a little bag she carried all her past and history,
And her dreams for the future in the Land of Liberty,
And courage is the passport, when your old world disappears,
But there’s no future in the past, when you’re fifteen years.

Repeat Chorus
When they closed down Ellis Island in Nineteen Forty-Three,
Seventeen million people, had come there for sanctuary,
And in springtime when I came here and I stepped onto it’s piers,
I thought of how it must have been, when you’re fifteen years.

Repeat Chorus



Urgent Action Needed To Avoid Damaging Historic Irish Stone Buildings.

The preservation of historic stone buildings across Ireland is under threat, unless urgent and efficient action is taken to develop standards of procurement, training and apprenticeships, a daylong conference taking place in County Clare tomorrow, will hear.

Frank McCormack, Founder and Director of Irish Natural Stone, pictured at his workshop in Boston, County Clare, with stone capitals to be used as part of the restoration and renovation project underway at The Four Courts in Dublin.

Conservation and heritage experts from academia, government, local government and the private sector will gather in Boston on Wednesday to discuss the need to improve the traditional skills which they say is required to prevent ongoing damage being caused to the country’s heritage buildings.

The inaugural National INStone Symposium is being hosted by Burren-based Irish Natural Stone (INStone), the company responsible for delivering the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City, the restoration of the Four Courts in Dublin, St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick, the O’Connell Monument in Ennis, the Irish Cultural and Learning Foundation in Phoenix (USA) and Hope House in Bath (UK).

Company founder Mr Frank McCormack said the event will highlight the urgent need to educate public bodies about bringing vernacular buildings and derelict housing back into use in “a proper and correct manner with sensitivity towards their heritage aspect, ensuring the use of natural materials.”

“All stakeholders involved in the preservation of our built heritage need to know and understand about what natural materials should be used and their appropriate application, whilst ensuring best conservation practice is adhered to and achieved. Unfortunately, we are at a concerning stage where there is a widening gap in traditional skills within the heritage sector,” he explained.

Mr. McCormack said traditional skills once commonly deployed in the conservation of old buildings were being lost and that intervention at the national level would be required to ensure that the heritage value of Ireland’s vernacular properties is not undermined.

The event features keynote addresses from a range of experts, including Dr. Patrick Wyse Jackson, Associate Professor of Geology and Curator of the Geological Museum at Trinity College Dublin (TCD); Barry O’Reilly of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage; Hugh Kavanagh, coordinator of the All-Ireland Heritage Skills Programme for the Prince’s Foundation; Dr. John Treacy of Clare County Council; and Alan Micklethwaite, a renowned stone carver with many years of experience in the conservation of historic monuments and sculpture.

“With a pressing need to preserve our built heritage and upgrade our building stock to modern-day comfort levels, all stakeholders involved need to understand traditional building methods and how we can incorporate suitable modern materials to achieve the required energy efficiency rating in the building,” explained Mr. McCormack.
He continued, “We need to close the gap in both traditional skills and the understanding of historic buildings. To achieve this, a standardised national quality rating and assessment process should be introduced so that local authorities and public bodies, most of whom will be participating in the symposium, present can better understand the process of properly conserving and restoring old buildings, from the methods of construction adopted to the appropriately specified materials. Furthermore, additional investment and support are required to ensure traditional skills and conservation training allows for the new generation of craftspeople to learn and hone our ancient skills, and aid in the preservation of our built heritage.”

Mr. McCormack, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) who has more than 50 years of experience working as a master stone mason; sculptor; businessman and entrepreneur in Ireland; across Europe and in the United States pointed to the need for a significant increase in the resources available under various government-funded schemes to refurbish Ireland’s old buildings.

“Schemes such as the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS), Historic Structures Fund (HSF), the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant and GLAS Traditional Farm Buildings Grants Scheme are very much welcomed, but a substantial increase in the support provided at local government level in conjunction with the training of those engaged in restoration and conservation work, is necessary if we are to maximise the numbers of successfully procured and finished products of older properties being brought back into use,” he added.

Among the topics being discussed at the conference will be ‘Understanding Carbon in the Built Environment’ by Peter Cox (FRSA) of Carrig Conservation; ‘Craftsmanship in Stone – CRAFTVALUE – IRC Advanced Laureate Project, by TCD’s Professor Christine Casey, Dr Andrew Tierney and Dr Melanie Hayes; ‘STONEBUILT IRELAND Research Project, by TCD’s Professor Patrick Wyse Jackson & Dr Louise Caulfield; ‘The ethics and ethos of Architectural Sculpture Conservation’ by leading restorative carver, Alan Micklethwaite; ‘FABTRADS – Moisture and Thermal Properties of a Range of Irish Stones and In-Situ U-Values of Stone walls’ by UCD’s Dr Rosanne Walker; ‘National Vernacular Strategy’ by Barry O’Reilly of the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage; ‘All-Ireland Heritage Skills Programme’ by Hugh Kavanagh of The Princes Foundation; and ‘Preservation of the Historical and Heritage Value of our Historical Burial Grounds and Graveyards’ by Dr John Treacy of Clare County Council’s Burial Grounds Division.

Other speakers include INStone’s Jamie Forde, MCIOB Building Surveyor, and also INStone’s Colin Grehan, Lead Sculptor who will provide a special presentation on ‘The Intricate Hand-Carving of the Replacement Four Courts Capitals’. An open questions and answers session will be chaired by Dr Brendan Dunford of Burrenbeo Trust at the close of the conference.

Visit www.irishnaturalstone.com for more on the first National INStone Symposium on Wednesday September 6th.