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Thurles, Co. Tipperary’s Yett.

Bridge Castle or the Butler Tower House in Thurles, which overlooks the river Suir has dominated the Thurles, Co. Tipperary skyline since as early as 1453, built possibly by the Norman invader McRickard Butler.

Tower houses are often called castles, and despite their characteristic compact size, they remain formidable habitations, with little or no clear distinction, one from the other.

While the Butler tower house is often referred to as Barry’s Castle, [Following a major error made by an Ordinance Survey officer, latter involved in changing the names of certain Thurles streets and lanes and operating on behalf of the then existing Thurles Urban District Council ], as part of its construction, a “Yett”; latter a gate or grille, made of wrought iron bars was used for defensive purposes on the castle’s north side, at ground level.

A ‘yett’ and a small fragment of the original east/ west arched gateway still exists on Thurles Butler Tower House, Co. Tipperary.

The word yett comes from the Old English and Scots word for a “gate”. Unlike a portcullis, [latter a strong, heavy grating that could be lowered or raised down along grooves on each side of a large entrance/gateway, on a castle, using mechanical means]; the yetts are hinged, as in the manner of a traditional gate or door, and secured by bolts or by long bars drawn out from the wall across the gateway.
The yett would be often placed behind a wooden door, providing additional security, should the outer door be set on fire, and no doubt also insured that the temperature of the interior remained warmer.

This Butler castle in Thurles, which is actually a medieval tower house, is quite similar to many others erected across Ireland, during the early to middle of the 15th century, designed to control; collect tolls and if necessary, defend various similar river crossings against attack, using small garrisons of armed soldiers, housed on site.

You will note that a small fragment of the original east/ west arched gateway of the walled town, still protrudes today, (On right of above picture) attached to the north wall of this building.
The existing small, pointed, arch doorway, framing the yett, also exists on the north wall, (See left side of picture) , constructed to grant immediate access from the tower, to those guarding this river crossing.

Records show that the building was once leased by; “Thomas, Lord Viscount Thurles, by deed grants to Richard Power, Donat O’Haly and Rd. Wale, all that castle called Bridge Castle with its appurtenances, parcel of the Manor and Lands of Thurles, for 21 years at £5 per annum and one swine, one sheep and three capons.”

(Note: A capon is a rooster that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh, for eating purposes.)

Existing financial records show that a yett constructed in 1568 by a local smithy in Scotland, weighed 34 stone, 3 lb, and cost £34-3s-9d, together with three bolls meal (420 lb), (One Boll equal to 140lbs avoirdupois, or 63.5029kg); one ‘stane’ of butter (‘Stane’ – a Scottish word for stone equal to 14 lbs or 6.35 kg), and one ‘stane’ of cheese”.

Since those we elect to local government, care little for Thurles history, please do take the time to examine the Thurles yett, as same may soon be replaced by cement blocks or the tower house removed altogether like the Great Famine Double Ditch.


History Of Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses, and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

The nursery rhyme ‘Humpty Dumpty’, sung hereunder, is possibly one the best known versifications, memorised early on during the lives of our children.

So who or what was this ‘Humpty Dumpty’?

Humpty Dumpty was in fact believed to be a large cannon gun, used during the English Civil Wars or ‘Great Rebellion’ (1642 – 1651), between supporters of the monarchy of Charles I and his son and successor, Charles II, who waged war against opposing factions in each of the aforementioned monarch’s kingdoms, including Parliamentarians in England, Covenanters in Scotland, and Confederates here in Ireland.

Note: Two days previously, Prince Charles of Wales was proclaimed King Charles III of England at a ceremony at St. James’s Palace; latter a residence of Kings and Queens of England for over 300 years, until the reign of Queen Victoria, and up to yesterday, at least, provided the official London residence of Charles, former Prince of Wales and his wife, the former Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Rosemary Shand, now Queen Consort.

The fighting during these English Civil Wars made up, in total, three wars, with the first happening between 1642 and 1646; the second during 1648, and the third between 1650 and 1651.

During the 11 week siege of Colchester (13 Jun 1648 – 27 Aug 1648), the Parliamentarians (Roundheads) forced the Royalist army (Cavaliers) to retreat behind the walls of Colchester town; latter situated in the county of Essex, in southeast England. Here, adjacent to this town’s outer wall, was the fortified Church of St. Mary.
A large cannon called ‘Humpty Dumpty’ was hauled up into the church tower, and a fat Royalist, called One-Eyed Jack Thompson, took charge; latter causing mayhem by firing at the Parliamentarian attackers outside the perimeter wall surrounding the town.
Meanwhile, a series of shots from Parliamentary cannon aimed at this tower, succeeded in destroying the area beneath ‘Humpty Dumpty’; causing the cannon to collapse to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, “all the King’s men” attempted to haul up ‘Humpty Dumpty’ to another section of the wall.
However, because ‘Humpty Dumpty’ was so heavy “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”. This failure contributed to the fall of the strategically important town of Colchester to the Parliamentarian army.


Tipperary’s “Vicar Of Hell”.

For a relatively small almost landlocked realm; Co. Tipperary has had a long and close historical association with the British Royal Family; going back in this instant, described hereunder, to the late 15th century.

Sir Francis Bryan “Vicar Of Hell”.

Sir Francis Bryan was born on June 1st 1490, in Buckinghamshire, England; the son of Sir Thomas Bryan, latter who made his career at court, where he was an ‘Esquire of the Body’ (or personal attendant and courtier) to Henry VII and Henry VIII, and vice-chamberlain to Queen Catherine of Aragon and his later to be wife, Margaret Bourchier, mother of Sir Francis Bryan.

Sir Francis Bryan was regarded as a distinguished Diplomat, Soldier, Sailor, Cipher, Man of letters, and Poet. However, he also had a lifelong reputation as a witty person who pursued sexual depravity, and was rumoured to be an accomplice in the extramarital affairs of King Henry VIII; latter best known for his six marriages and for separating the Church of England from the then existing papal authority.
Indeed King Henry trusted Sir Francis sufficiently to send him to Rome to discuss the annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, with then Pope Clement VII. Here one of Bryan’s non-conforming methods of diplomacy included sleeping with a prostitute in Rome, to find out what the pope’s views were with regard to King Henry’s marriage issues. Despite the diplomatic ability of Sir Francis, Pope Clement refused to annul Henry’s marriage.

Sir Francis first came to court at a young age, together with his brother-in-law Nicholas Carew, joining the Privy Chamber during the reign of King Henry VIII. Both were well known for their avoidance of moderation and excessive indulgences, especially in alcohol use. However, they held much influence with King Henry and were rewarded for their friendship with a number of public offices, by the king; e.g. “Master of the Toils” (1518–48), “Constable of Castles” at Hertford, Harlech and Wallingford, (1518–36), “Cipherer of the Household” (1520), “Gentleman of the Privy Chamber” one year later in 1521 and “Esquire of the Body” by 1522 [latter post a personal attendant and courtier to the King of England.]
Sir Francis Bryan also sat in the English Parliament, as a Member for Buckinghamshire, certainly in the parliaments of 1539, 1542 and 1545.

In 1519, Bryan and Sir Edward Neville disgraced themselves during a diplomatic mission to Paris, having been found throwing eggs and stones at poor smallholders and labourers of lower social status. Correspondence sent by him, in or about this period, requests that Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle, the Captain of Calais, (then in English hands), should find Bryan a ‘soft bed and a young woman’.

On returning from France back to England both men behaved as French men in their eating and drinking habits and also in their newly found fashion attire.
Under the Eltham Ordinance (named after Eltham Palace) of January 1526; [latter was a failed attempted reform of the English court of Henry VIII by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey], they were removed from the Privy Chamber on the grounds that ‘after their appetite’ they ‘governed the King’.

About the same time, in or about 1526, Sir Francis lost an eye in a Jousting Tournament at Greenwich, forcing him to wear an eyepatch for the rest of his life.

In 1528, following the death of Sir William Carey, [latter was married to Mary Boleyn, sister of King Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn, a known mistress of King Henry VIII], a vacancy occurred once again within the Privy Chamber, and Bryan returned, aided possibly through the influence of his half cousin Anne Boleyn, latter commonly then referred to as “the king’s whore” or the “naughty paike [prostitute]”.

Later, King Henry XIII would accuse Anne Boleyn of adultery, incest, and high treason and would commute Anne’s death sentence from being burnt alive at the stake, to being beheaded, and rather than have a queen beheaded with the common executioners axe, he brought an expert swordsman from Saint-Omer in France, to perform her execution.

It was Thomas Cromwell who first coined Sir Francis Bryan’s nickname, “Vicar Of Hell”, in his letter to the Bishop of Winchester [referring to his total abandonment of his half cousin Anne Boleyn].
Later Thomas Cromwell was also himself beheaded on the orders of King Henry VIII and following Cromwell’s execution, Sir Francis Bryan became vice-admiral of the fleet, and later, during the reign of Edward VI, Lord Justice of Ireland.

In his private life in March of 1522, Sir Francis Bryan had married Philippa Spice, (1492 – 1548), only daughter of Humphrey Spice of Black Notley, Essex, latter the former wealthy widow of Sir John Fortescue of Ponsbourne, in March 1522.
After her death the same year, on August 1st 1548, Sir Francis Bryan married Lady Joan Fitzgerald, the widow of James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond, ( James the Lame, – leg wound received at the siege of Thérouanne in 1513); former already the mother of seven sons.

After 1534 James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond had been created Viscount Thurles. Twelve years later on October 17th 1546, he was in London with many of his household. They were invited to dine at Ely Palace in Holborn, where he was poisoned along with his steward, James Whyte, and 16 of his household. He died nine days later, on October 28th, leaving Lady Joan Fitzgerald a widow in her thirties. His poisoning was believed to have been brought about as a result of a previous heated argument with the quarrelsome and unpopular, Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Anthony St Leger, latter also a favourite of King Henry VIII.

The marriage by Sir Francis Bryan to Lady Joan is believed to have been a political manoeuvre to prevent Lady Joan from marrying her cousin, the 15th Earl of Desmond. However, their union was believed to have been not the happiest of relationships.
After Bryan’s death in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, on February 2nd 1550, aged 60; Lady Joan Fitzgerald-Bryan did eventually marry Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond in 1551, with latter groom being many years her junior.

Despite Bryan’s expressed desire to be buried in Co. Waterford, his body was interred in Old St. Mary’s Churchyard, Clonmel, County Tipperary, latter the jewel in the crown of today’s Clonmel historic sites.
Alas, today the oldest headstone that is readable in the graveyard, dates only back to 1625 and no known portrait of Sir Francis Bryan, or his poetic verse is known to exist.


“The Good Old Way” Or “Down To The River To Pray”

This song hereunder, beautifully sung by Alison Krauss, was often sung by victims of slavery and contained coded messages with regards their attempts to escape.

When the enslaved people escaped, they would walk in the “river” because the water covered their scent from bounty-hunters’ dogs and slave catchers.

Similarly, the words “starry crown” possibly refers to those attempting to escape, to remember to navigate by using the stars.

The words “Good Lord, show me the way” is most likely a prayer for God’s guidance in their efforts to find an escape route, commonly known as the “Underground Railroad.”

The “Underground Railroad” referred too above, was an established network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the 19th century and used by enslaved African Americans to enable their escape into northern free states or Canada.
Regarded as the Father of the “Underground Railroad “; William Still helped hundreds of slaves to escape often hiding them in his home in Philadelphia.
Others unaware of this network of escape routes, would escape independently of the “Underground Railroad”, to take up residence in the swamplands of Virginia and North Carolina, having escaped their cruel enslavement.

A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp.
By Author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

“Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds,
His path was rugged and sore,
Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds,
Through many a fen, where the serpent feeds, and man never trod before.
And, when on the earth he sunk to sleep,
If slumber his eyelids knew,
He lay where the deadly vine doth weep
Its venomous tears, that nightly steep
The flesh with blistering dew.”

The International Labour Organization estimates that, by their definitions, over 40 million people are in some form of slavery tonight.

“The Good Old Way” or “Down To The River To Pray”.

As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way,
O sisters, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down,
O sisters, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the robe and crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O brothers, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down,
Come on, brothers, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the starry crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O fathers, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down,
O fathers, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the robe and crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O mothers, let’s go down,
Come on down, don’t you wanna go down?
Come on, mothers, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the starry crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.
O sinners, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sinners, let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.
As I went down in the river to pray,
Studying about that good ol’ way,
And who shall wear the robe and crown,
Good Lord, show me the way.



“My Dearest Kitty” Love Letters.

100 years ago, as the Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, Michael Collins assisted in leading the Anglo Irish Treaty negotiations, he was also negotiating a new and long distance personal relationship with Kitty Kiernan.

Eight months ago and over the course of 11 episodes, through Kitty and Michael’s correspondence, containing some 300 letters and telegrams, we learn at first hand, [Courtesy of Cork County Council Commemorations Committee], the story of their evolving relationship, in conjunction with the then also evolving story of the Anglo Irish Treaty negotiations, both here and in London.

Episode 1. begins HERE; however we have chosen to publish episodes 11 (‘My Dearest Kitty…’ Finale), hereunder to highlight our point of debate.

It was Major General Piaras Beaslaí, who wrote the first full-length biography of Michael Collins, published in 1926, which was first to suggest that the “Big Fellow” or “Long Fellow” had little or no time for the fairer sex.

Major Beaslaí wrote, “He preferred the company of young men, and never paid any attention to the girls belonging to the Branch, not even to the sisters and friends of his male companions”.
Beaslaí makes no mention of Kitty Kiernan in the biography, nor that Collins was then engaged to be married at the time of his death, in 1922.

Collins had proposed to Ms Kitty Kiernan in the ‘Grand Hotel’, Greystones, County Wicklow, later to be renamed ‘La Touche Hotel’, where I began hotel management training in 1969.

Same hotel, which had initially opened in 1894 and closed in 2004, is now a striking luxurious residential development known as “La Touche Cove”. (But where now is Room 27, then rumoured as used by Collins?)

There was only one floral tribute permitted on the flag-covered coffin of Michael Collins; a single white peace lily from Ms Kitty Kiernan.

Frank O’Connor’s biography of Michael Collins, in 1937, also failed to mention Ms Kitty Kiernan, and essentially ignored the latter’s interaction with other females.

Twenty one years later in 1958, Rex Taylor also failed to mention Ms Kitty Kiernan in his biography.

Many women over that troubled period in Irieland had worked with Collins.
So why was Moya O’Connor, (later wife of solicitor Compton Llewelyn Davies); Lily Mernin (cousin of said biographer Piaras Beaslaí); Nancy O’Brien; Susan Mason; Patricia Hoey and our own Bridget Fitzpatrick (latter Thurles executive and courier for Richard Mulcahy and Michael Collins); Susan Killeen (secretary who worked with him in London); Eileen McGrane, Lady Edith Londonderry, and Hazel Lavery, totally ignored in various writings.

Indeed all these women worked with Collins as either trusted secretaries; incriminating document holders; providers of invaluable information or simply friends; thus these biographers exposed Collins to suspicions of being gay or misogynistic.

Close friend Moya O’Connor is noted, in 1942, as having stated “His friends who wrote about him have distorted him as much or more than his enemies”.

The Collins and Kiernan correspondence must surely now shed a completely different complexion on the private lives of both these young lovers.