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|Historical Guide to Clogheen
(Copyright Edmund O’Riordan)
Ed O’Riordan 1996)
Little town of Clogheen in
South West Tipperary’s Galtee-Vee-Valley owes its name to the Gaelic
‘Cloichin an Mhargaid’ (Little Market Stone). If we are to believe the
translation of historian - and former Clogheen Parish Priest - Fr.
Everard, it could also mean the Stone market place. An impressive cut
limestone rock which stands in the grounds of the local Saint Mary’s
National School is said to be the very market stone which gave the town
its name, and on which, long ago, traders and farmers at market signified
their acceptance of a deal by striking it with their blackthorn sticks.
Historical Guide to Clogheen
Sometime between 2000BC and 500BC when wolves still roamed the country
and Ireland was, to a great extent, still covered by forest, Bronze Age
people found the area around Clogheen hospitable
enough and fertile enough to establish a settlement there. In August 1982,
archaeological excavations on the Cork-Dublin gas pipeline discovered the
remains of a Bronze Age village type settlement in the townland of
Croughatoor, about a mile north of Clogheen on
the Cahir road. Further evidence of Bronze Age people’s use of the area
can be seen in the number of cairns or burial places on the top of the
Knockmealdown Mountains, most notably the cairn on the summit of
Knockshanahullion, just south of the town. A mapped walk available at http://www.clogheen.net/see-do/walks/
takes you to this summit. A Bronze Age axe head which was found in recent
times at Carrigmore townland, two miles west of Clogheen, can be seen in
the Tipperary County Museum in Clonmel. Rose Cleary, a local
archaeologist, based at University College Cork, suggests that it was
these Bronze Age people who cleared the valley of the forests which would
have covered all of Ireland at one time.
Following the defeat of the Danes at the Battle of Clontarf in
Dublin in 1014, there followed a long period of political and social
instability in Ireland as the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, has also
been slain at Clontarf. In the 12th century, the Anglo-Normans invaded
Ireland and during the next few centuries they consolidated their position
by building castles in most areas of the country. In the immediate
vicinity of Clogheen, castles were erected at Castlegrace (DeBirmingham),
Ballyboy (Earl of Desmond) and Shanrahan (Earl of Desmond). The ruins of
Castlegrace castle are still fairly extensive, but sadly, very little
remains of Ballyboy castle. In Shanrahan, the castle which was built in
1453, is now only recognisable by a solitary, ivy covered tower. Ownership
of the two latter castles had passed to Sir Richard Everard by the
beginning of the 17th century, and Shanrahan was described by Fr. Everard
as “a favourite residence of Sir Richard”.
tar which rises in the Galtee Mountains and joins the River Suir at
Newcastle, forms not only a townland boundary between Clogheen Market
and Ballyboy West but is also the geographical dividing line between the
parishes of Clogheen/Burncourt and Ballylooby/Duhill. In the 16th century,
it was the bridge over this river, at the lower end of Clogheen’s Main
Street, that gave its name to the original settlement here: Droichead
Abhann Tear ‘Bridge of the River Tar’ ( Prof. Wm. J. Smith). A glance
under the arches here shows that the original bridge was only half the
width of the present structure. It is not possible to determine with any
precision just when the name ‘Droichead Abhann Tear’ gave way to the
modern name of Clogheen. However we do know for certain that this was the
name being used in the early 17th century. In 1643, Sir Richard Boyle, the
Earl of Cork, recorded in his diary:
Unfortunately, the Census of Ireland
taken in the year 1659, does not list the names of the inhabitants of the
various parishes and towns. It does, however, tell us that the parish of
Shanraheene, now parish of Clogheen, contained 376 people, (presumably
only landholders were recorded) and that 361 of those were Irish.
‘Clogheenmackett’ (undoubtedly Clogheen Market ) had a population of
82, and 78 of those were Irish.
Another useful record from those
years is the Hearth Money Records.
Hearth Money was a tax of two shillings (Sh) which was levied on all
fireplaces and the following is the listing for Clogheen compiled in 1666:
The removal by decree of the fairs
and markets from Clogheen to
Castlegrace in the immediate post-Cromwellian period must have curtailed
the development of the town for same years, but at some time in the years
following, the fairs and markets were restored and development was once
again under way.
Firstly, the landlords and huge graziers became even greedier than
heretofore and began to enclose the commonages. Secondly, the
Whiteboys or Levellers became very active in the area. This secret
organisation was the only form of justice available to the poor.
They had absolutely no recourse to the judicial system. They had no
knowledge of it, and they could not afford to take on the landlords in
costly legal battles. Even if they could have gone to court, they
would have found the people whom they considered to be their enemies
sitting on the bench. It is inevitable that desperate people will resort
to desperate measures, and so the Whiteboys became a means of vengeance
and a crude form of justice. Undoubtedly, they operated by bullying
and intimidating even their own people, and the so-called justice they
administered was possibly as cruel as that which they sought to redress.
They levelled ditches and fences, burned crops, injured animals, terrified
the tithe-proctors (collectors) with threats, and sometimes carried those
threats into effect, and forced people to join them and swear a secret
Thirdly, in this trio of events, was the fact that Fr. Nicholas
Sheehy was appointed Parish Priest of Shanrahan -Ballysheehan
-Templetenny. It was evident from the outset that here indeed was a
champion of the downtrodden and oppressed who were his parishioners, and
he quickly became a marked man.
The ruling class were terrified of a French invasion of Ireland,
and locally, they believed or pretended to believe, that Fr. Sheehy who
had been educated on the continent, was a link between the French and the
Whiteboys. They maintained that there was an ongoing conspiracy in
which the Whiteboys were being funded in an attempt to destabilise the
country in advance of this feared invasion. They decided on a course
of action, and Fr. Sheehy was to be the target of that action.
In an article about Fr. Sheehy, Exshaw's Magazine noted at the time
that he was a man 'with a passionate sense of justice'. and it was this
passion that caused him to openly take part in the levelling of a wall at
Drumlummin, a neighbouring townland. He had also offered resistance
to a tithe proctor, named Dobbin, in Ballyporeen, who had tried to collect
five shillings for every Catholic marriage.
This was the opportunity that his enemies had been waiting for, and
he was now charged with high treason. He was also charged with
assaulting one John Bridge, (described as a local halfwit), who had been
suspected of stealing a chalice from Carraigavisteal church.
Fr. Sheehy had to go into hiding and was obliged to spend his days
in the O'Callaghan family burial vault in Shanrahan cemetery. At
night he crept out and was given food and shelter by the Griffith family
who lived in a farmyard beside the cemetery.
The Griffiths were a well-known Protestant family and they could
never have known that their actions would be applauded by a classroom of
Catholic schoolboys almost two hundred years later, and that by their
action, they had passed on a valuable lesson in Christian fellowship to
those same boys.
Finally Fr. Sheehy
decided to surrender, and he sent word to landlord Mr. O’Callaghan, whom
he trusted, that he would do so on the condition that he would be tried in
Dublin as he was aware that he would not get a fair hearing in nearby
Clonmel, the seat of the enemies. O’
Callaghan arranged for him to be sent to Dublin, and in th trial that
followed, in spite of all the false witnesses that were presented to the
court, he was acquitted on all charges.
Some of the witnesses used against him were people of little
character: a horse thief who was awaiting trial, a prostitute who had been
admonished by Fr. Sheehy, and others who were ready to perjure themselves
for small reward. John Bridge
did not give evidence as he was nowhere to be found, and as the ‘not
guilty’ verdict was brought in, the gentlemen from South Tipperary who
had attended the court had the luckless priest arrested on a charge of
His worst fears were now to be realised, and he was brought back to
Clonmel for trial. The same
witnesses who had been discredited in Dublin were produced in Clonmel to
give evidence against him.
The result of the trial was a forgone conclusion and having been
found guilty of murder, even though no body had ever been found, Fr.
Nicholas Sheehy, Parish priest of Shanrahan/ Ballysheehan/ Burncourt, was
executed on the scaffold on the street in Clonmel on the 15th
March 1766 alongside Ned Meehan of Grange who had been prosecuted on the
same charges. Fr. Sheehy’s body was dragged through the streets of
Clonmel after execution. His
head was then severed from his body and stuck on a spike over Clonmel jail
as a warning to all those who would dare challenge the ruling class.
His body was taken by his sister and interred in Shanrahan
cemetery, Clogheen. Twenty
years later, his parishioners were given permission to remove the
blackened head from over the jail and it was buried in the grave at
The night before he was executed, Fr. Sheehy wrote a letter in
which he said that he had been told under the sacred seal of the
confessional, the names of the two men who had murdered Bridge, but he
could not use this information to save himself owing to the manner in
which he had received it.
Three of Fr. Sheehy’s co-defendants:
Edmund Sheehy (his cousin), James Buxton of Kilcoran and James
Farrell, were convicted on the same evidence and hanged in front of their
families square in Clogheen in that same year, 1766.
The Celtic cross which stands in the grounds of St. Mary's Catholic
Church was erected to the memory of Clogheen's martyred priest in 1870. It
was intended that the cross be erected over his grave but the military
were called out to prevent it. Some years later, the white marble plaque
on the side of his tomb and the railing which surrounds the tomb were
There was a great tradition in the parish for many years that the
clay from Fr. Sheehy's grave was a cure for many ills, and emigrants,
before leaving Clogheen, would come here and take a little of the clay
from inside the tiny door on the tomb, and bring it with them to their new
homes in England, America or Australia.
The name of Fr. Sheehy is still very much revered and honoured in
the parish of Clogheen/Burncourt. This is illustrated by the fact that the
parish Gaelic football and hurling club proudly bears his name. The local
G.A.A. playing field is also named after him as is the modern housing
estate near Mountain View road: Fr. Sheehy Terrace. It is fitting that
this estate should bear the name of Fr. Sheehy as he would undoubtedly
have said Mass in the little thatched chapel which once stood on this
The neat little housing crescent
at the western end of the town, opposite the Post Office is called Lios
Mhuire. It was on this site
that Clogheen’s Cavalry
Barracks was built into 1769 in response to the level of Whiteboy activity
in the area during those years. This
was one of the first British Cavalry Barracks built in Ireland and was at
one time an important depot for the south of Ireland.
The ground which was being farmed by a Mr. Butler, was leased from
Cornelius O'Callaghan, the local landlord at a rent of one peppercorn per
year. In a dispute in the 1830s with Clogheen's Parish Priest, Fr. Casey,
concerning a wall abutting the perimeter wall of the barracks, it was
discovered that the landlord had inadvertently forgotten to sign the
lease. Threatened legal action
against the priest have to be withdrawn. The barracks had in those early
years accommodation for 56 men, and stables for 60 horses.
Prior to the building of the Barracks Clogheen was occupied by a
unit of soldiers under the earl of Drogheda.
These soldiers would have been quartered on the local inhabitants.
At one time, the famous Irish horse Regiment was stationed at this
barracks. In 1858, No.1 Company of the South Tipperary Artillery moved
from Cahir to Clogheen as a result of over crowding in Cahir.
On the closing of the barracks in 1922, it was evacuated by a
battery of the royal Field Artillery.
The keys were handed to a local man. Mr.
Maher. B efore the
anticipated arrival of the newly formed Irish Government’s forces, the
barracks were burned down by the anti treaty forces.
(Old I.R.A) The ruined
barracks building was finally demolished to make way for the new houses in
the early 1950’s. The
perimeter wall of the barracks can still be seen encompassing Lios Mhuire,
a reminder of the 153 year British military
presence in the town. The
upper part of Clogheen’s Main Street is still known as Barrack Hill.
Today, Clogheen has a Garda
Barracks manned by one garda. It operates as a substation of Cahir. At one
time the town had three resident Gardai and one sergeant. Prior to the
establishment of the Garda Siochana, Ireland's police force was known as
the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). In
1836, Thomas Drummond formed the Irish Constabulary to replace an earlier
but disorganised police force. Police barracks were established all over
Ireland. Almost three quarters of the rank and file members of this force
were Catholic while all of the officers were Protestant. It was a strict
rule that members of the force could not serve in their own area.
house, on the west side of Keatings' public house on Main Street was
Clogheen's RIC. station. The original barred windows can still be seen on
the ground floor. (This building subsequently served as a bank.)
Contemporary writers regarded the Irish Constabulary as being
closer to a military body than a police force. Alexander
Somerville, writing in 1852, said, “ They have belts and pouches, ball
cartridges in their pouches, short guns called carbines, bayonets,
pistols, and swords". Later in the century, L. Paul Dubois described
the isolated rural barracks as being blockhouses with iron doors, more
like forts than police stations.
Within a few miles of Clogheen, three locations still carry the
name 'Mountain Barracks'. One on the Kilworth road out of Ballyporeen, one
at Gortacullen on the Clogheen-Newcastle road, and, perhaps the one most
familiar to Clogheen people, the site on the road over the Knockmealdowns,
just where the road forks for Lismore or Cappoquin. These outposts were
established to provide protection for the great numbers of flour carts travelling those roads as well as the Bianconi mail and
passenger coaches which operated throughout the greater part of Ireland.
The Mountain Barracks also served to control the lives of the rural
population of Ireland. The
RIC did not acquire the appellation 'Royal' until some years after their
After the RIC was disbanded in the 1920s, local people went to the
Mountain Barracks on the Knockmealdowns and took it apart stone by stone.
This was caused by a mixture of antipathy
towards the RIC and also the possibility of getting some good building
stone. Even though the rank and file members of the Irish Constabulary
were Irish and Catholic, the force had come to be seen as agents of the
Crown rather than an impartial police force. The Royal Irish Constabulary
also had barracks at Tubrid, Burncourt, Kilcoran and Knocklofty.
The four houses on the east side of Careys' Pharmacy occupy the
site of Clogheen's Bridewell. Bridewells were houses of correction or
prisons for minor offenders.
Partly out of a necessity to be
prepared for a French invasion and partly from an aspiration towards
independence from England, the Irish Volunteer movement was formed in the
latter half of the 1770s. Initially their ranks were occupied by
Protestants only, as Catholics were still restricted from holding arms.
There was no national uniform for the Volunteers and the various companies
seemed to vie with each other in their attempts at sartorial splendour. In
his History of Clonmel, Canon E.
Burke describes the Clogheen Troop of Horse, formed on the 6th January,
The uniform was scarlet, faced light blue, edged silver lace, white
buttons, silver epaulets, white jackets edged red. The furniture was goat
skin turned red:
Fitzgerald had a few favourite methods of making 'discoveries'. Any
peasants who were suspected of being members of the rebels, or of having
knowledge of them could expect to be dragged through the streets behind a
cart or flogged or both. Fitzgerald had great faith in the information
acquired in this way. Sir John Moore, who held a commission in the British
army, once witnessed the High Sheriff engaged in his favourite pursuit in
Clogheen. An innkeeper of good character was tied up and being flogged by
Fitzgerald's men in an effort to extract information. The man, Jeremiah
McGrath, was tied to a ladder for the duration of the flogging while the
local people were compelled to line the streets with their hats off to
witness the spectacle. McGrath had no information to give Fitzgerald, but
on being informed that he would be flogged to death if he did not give
such information, he invented a name.
The floggings went on all
afternoon and Fitzgerald claimed that he had flogged the truth out of a
great many respectable persons that day.
outside the Globe Inn (Eddie O’Riordan Jnr.)
Clogheen is proud of its past
glories, and we often delve into the past to regale visitors with tales of
its once busy fairs, thriving markets, and the seven flour mills that once
provided economic stability to the area. Sadly, all these fairs, markets
and mills are now only part of our past.
There is a history of milling in the locality going back to
medieval times, and in the 1654 Civil Survey of Ireland the following is
recorded for Castlegrace, two miles east of the town:
the said lands stands a large stone house, (and) a little castle, both
covered with thatch,and two turrets within a bawne whereof the said house,
castle, and turrets are all lately rebuilt at the chardge of the
Commonwealth, likewise some thatcht houses, cabbins, and a grist mill,
which Mill was
built by Capt. Thornehill, and the best part of the houses and cabbins by
his Tennts. upon the said lands. This land hath the accommodation of the
River Ountearr runinge by it."
The Civil Survey also refers to 'a tucking mill' (cloth) and a
grist mill' (coarse flour) at Rehill, and a 'grist mill' at Ballysheehan.
Both of these townlands are just a few miles north of Clogheen.
However, it was in the late 18th century that the mills, for which
Clogheen was once famous, commenced construction. In 1784, Thomas Vowell,
the adjutant of the Clogheen Volunteers, had purchased from one Daniel
Keefe, the Garter Inn and lands at Coole(ville), in Clogheen. Here Vowell
built a mill, and in 1794, he sold it to Samuel Grubb. a merchant from
Clonmel. Over the next several decades the Grubb family built further
flour mills at Cooleville, Clashleigh, Castlegrace and Flemingstown.
They also built a brewery at Clashleigh, and the little roadway which
leads down to the old mill ruins opposite the Catholic Church is still
known as Brewery Lane. Fennells,
who owned a mill at Rehill, purchased the Manor mill near the Duag Bridge
on Convent road from Murrays in the 1840s and later extended it.
Wades had a mill at Mt. Anglesbey.
It is suggested locally that this townland owes its name to its onetime
owner, the Earl of Anglesey, who received land in the area during the
Water power for the mills was derived from the Rivers Tar and Duag
and for Mount Anglesbey and the Manor mill at Glenleigh from the
Glounliagh stream. The last mill was constructed in 1832. The 1840
Ordnance Map shows that there was a small mill at Rearoe, two miles west
of the town, at that time
The Napoleonic wars, at the beginning of the
19th century, and the rapidly increasing population in the industrial
regions of England, created a huge market for Ireland's agricultural
produce. The mills provided both a ready market for the wheat grown in the
surrounding farmland and employment for great numbers of labourers.
Farming at the time was very labour intensive and consequently it, too,
provided a great deal of seasonal employment for the ever increasing rural
population. However, with the continuing trend of sub-division of farms
that was prevalent in the country, the demand for labour on these smaller
agricultural holdings gradually diminished. Samuel Lewis noted in the 1846
Parliamentary Gazette, that in Clogheen:
large trade in agricultural produce is carried on,
chiefly for exportation, and more than 80,000 barrels of wheat are annually
purchased in its market and in the neighbourhood. which is made into flour
of very superior quality and sent by land to Clonmel, whence it is
conveyed down the (River) Suir: For this purpose there are seven flour
mills in the town and neighbourhood, which are worked by fourteen
water-wheels. There is also an extensive brewery."
Slater's directory of the same year, 1846, was able to report that:
'The corn-mills of Messrs. Grubb are very extensive, employing great power
and a considerable number of hands. "
A document in the National Archives in Dublin records the
dimensions of the mill-wheel at Samuel Grubb's mill in Clogheen in 1847:
Diameter of wheel--16 feet. Number of buckets--32. Breadth of buckets--5
feet. Fall of water--13 feet. Revolutions per minute--8.
19th century, the River Suir was navigable from Clonmel to Waterford. The
barges which conveyed the flour down-river discharged their cargo onto the
Waterford quayside, or directly onto the ships which conveyed the flour to
England. However, not all the flour was exported through Waterford.
Youghal in County Cork, was at that time a busy port. It was to facilitate
the horse drawn flour carts journeying over the Knockmealdown mountains on
their way to Lismore and Youghal that the present Vee road was constructed
early in the 19th century. During the Great Famine of 1845-50 the mills
had to be guarded from attack by the starving populace. They did in fact
come under attack in 1846. (See chapter on Famine)
of Clogheen as a great milling centre began during and just after the
Great Famine. During the Peel administration in England (1841- 1846) the
Corn Laws were repealed. These were laws which imposed prohibitive
tarriffs on corn imports to Great Britain of
which Ireland was then a part. The great wheat growing areas of North
America were fast developing and becoming accessible by rail, and cheap
American wheat and corn eventually began to flood across the Atlantic
destabilising the prices heretofore ensured to Irish millers. In Ireland,
the newly established rail network, by excluding Clogheen from its routes,
also contributed to the mills' demise.
It had been expected that the rail line from Dublin to Cork would
pass through Clogheen, a route that would have made sense geographically.
Whether from lack of political influence or financial clout, the planned
rail connection to Clogheen never happened, and over the next several
years, the mills, now isolated, found that transportation costs and
competition from imports were all too much. Professor Wm. J. Smyth has
noted from records in the National Archives, the following description of
Grubb's flour mill at Flemingstown in 1870:
" The work done in this
mill in 1852 was 4,970 barrels. and in 1865. 1,115 barrels. Little or
nothing has been done since 1868, with only one pair of stones working for
two days a week on an average in these times. Some buildings are in ruins
and others much dilapidated. Indian Corn is now only ground in it and
wheat grain must be supplied from the Dublin market. It is nine miles from
the nearest railway station ."
By 1880 all but one of the flour mills had closed down. Before the
end of the century, flour milling had ceased in Clogheen. For some years
one of the mills was converted to the manufacture of woollens, and
Lonergans' Woolen Mill had a reputation for blankets, tweeds and serges of
Fairs And Markets
Two different sites in Clogheen
are pointed out as the location of the town's once busy market-house. Both
are correct. The 1840 Ordnance Survey map shows that the site now occupied
by Carey's Pharmacy on Main Street and Corbett's lumber yard directly
behind the pharmacy was the site of the market house and shambles. Here
weekly markets for butter, eggs, potatoes, and other foodstuffs gave life
to the town on two days of each week. Buyers from many urban areas
travelled several miles to purchase the butter at these markets. The
shambles at the rear was an area where stalls were erected from which
traders sold meat and other products.
In the late 1880s, the market house was destroyed by fire, and a
building at the site of the garage in the Square was converted to a market
house. This building was Clogheen's original court-house but had been
abandoned in favour of the new court-house in the early 1800s. During the
Great Famine, that same building had been used to house paupers when the
local workhouse was unable to accommodate the numbers seeking relief.
Before the advent of the Irish Farmers' Cooperative movement and
the subsequent organisation of cattle marts, cattle and pigs were sold on
'Fair- day' in designated towns around the country. Clogheen was one such
Throughout the countryside on fair-day, before the cock crowed or
the sun cast the first rays of early morning light, the farmers and their
labourers would have rounded up the few cattle they had to sell and begun
driving them along the road to the Clogheen fair. In the apparent
confusion of hundreds of cattle milling together on the streets, some sort
of order reigned, and all day long deals were done with much spitting
on palms prior to handshakes amid vociferous encouragement from the
Cattle sold and a few outstanding bills paid in the local stores,
the farmers headed for home. For some, the serious business was just
beginning, and their next port of call was one of the dozen or so local
public houses where vast amounts of whiskey, and porter from large timber
barrels were consumed. Songs were sung with old friends; old scores were
settled in fist fights, and new friends were made in the smoky bars lit by
oillamps while the publicans used butter-boxes to hold the day's takings.
The following day, the streets had to be cleared of the inevitable
mess from the fair, broken windows repaired, money counted and stories
told. Stragglers from the fair who had been too inebriated to find their
way home the previous night, nursed their sore heads with a 'hair of the
dog that bit them'! Another Fair- day was over. Sadly a day came when
Clogheen saw its last fair.
The absence of the railway was again to have an effect on the
economic well being of the town, and in 1889, George Henry Bassett, in his
' Book of County Tipperary , noted the following for Clogheen:
“ The houses of Clogheen for the most part, are well built, and
many of those devoted to business are tastefully fitted. and heavily
stocked with merchandise. The district contains a considerable amount of
good land. and in favourable times the farmers are well to do.
Oats and potatoes are the principal crops raised. Dairying is
carried on to a large extent. Every Saturday a market is held for butter
and eggs, but it is small in comparison to what it was some years ago. The
market-house was destroyed by fire, and has not been rebuilt. A fair is
held on the third Monday of every month for pigs. The cattle fairs, once
first rate, failed through competition of those held at Clonmel, Cahir and
Mitchelstown. Influences of a similar nature affected the prosperity of
the weekly market. Within forty years, four flour mills were worked with
success in the town and neighbourhood. Now only one is kept going. Fifty
years ago Clogheen had a brewery, but it likewise failed.
Nearly a hundred years ago a silvermine was worked profitably at
Castlegrace. Why it was abandoned does not appear. The Knockmealdown
mountains are supposed to be rich in iron ore. At present Woolens are
manufactured here on a modest scale, by Mr. Michael Lonergan. The industry
was begun by his late father some twenty years since, and has a promising
One of the most tangible links
that we in Ireland have with the past is the prolific number of old
churches scattered throughout the length and breadth of the country, some
currently in use, others in a state of ruin. In the immediate vicinity of
Clogheen there are a number of such ruins. Medieval church remains can be
seen in the cemeteries at Shanrahan, Castlegrace/Tullaghorton,
Ballysheehan, and Whitechurch. All dating from around the 15th century,
they fell into gradual decline following the suppression of monasteries
after the Reformation, and after the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity had
been passed in the middle of the 16th century. The church in Shanrahan was
rebuilt and used as a Protestant church at a later date. The square tower
from this later church is now a dominant feature of the cemetery. It was
here in Shanrahan that St. Cathaldus had his monastic settlement in the
7th century. (See chapter on St. Cathaldus on page 73)
The church ruin at Ballysheehan was at one time the parish church
of Ballysheehan. This ancient parish is now united with Shanrahan under
the name Clogheen/Burncourt. Ballysheehan was more anciently known as
Kilmolash and according to the Civil Survey of 1654, it boasted a Chapel
St. Mary's Church, Clogheen
It was a feature of life in
Ireland during the last few centuries that Protestant service was held in
a 'church' while the Catholics attended the 'chapel'. Despite thc Penal
Laws which were enacted in the 1690s, as a means of ensuring that there
could could be no more Catholic rebellion, a thatched chapel was built
in Clogheen in 1740. Chapel Lane ( Mountain View) owes its name to this
chapel. From 1740 until the 1830s, this was the place of worship for
Clogheen's Catholics. Prior to that, a Catholic church was in use inside
the walls of what later became Shanbally estate. Logataggart
has been pointed out as being the site of this early church. The Gaelic
word 'Lag' describes a natural hollow in the geographical terrain while
'Sagart' is the Gaelic for a Priest.
Following a fire in the Clogheen thatched chapel in the 1830s
during the pastorship of Fr. Matthias Casey, a decision was made to erect
a new Roman Catholic Church at Main Street. This decision reflected the
growing influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland following the Relief
Act of 1793 and the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 for which Daniel
O'Connell is famous.
The limestone for the new church was hewn from the adjacent quarry,
much to the chagrin of the Military authorities who found that the east
gateway of the barracks was made redundant by the quarrying of the stone.
That gateway, now blocked up, can still be seen on the old barracks wall,
behind and to the north of the Crucifixion scene in the church grounds.
Fr. Casey was so proud of his new church that he often boasted that it was
unsurpassed by anything outside Rome.
The continuing development of the Catholic church in Ireland,
however, with the resultant increase in the size of congregations,
necessitated the building of an even larger church in 1864. Fr. John
O'Gorman was the Parish Priest at the time. This is the present St. Mary's
Catholic church on Main Street which was built from limestone from
McCarthy's quarry at Garrymore - two miles from the village. The cost
of this handsome Gothic edifice was £2,662. Father Shanahan, who was the
Administrator of the parish in 1858, collected £1,700 towards the
building fund on the Australian gold-fields. Lord Lismore, the local
landlord, donated £100.
The Parochial house was erected in
the early 1890s.
St. Kieran's Catholic church at
Duhill in the neighbouring parish of Ballylooby /Duhill is well worth a
visit as it contains two stained glass windows by the famed artist in that
medium, Harry Clarke.
The Catholic church in
Burncourt was erected in 1952. This church replaced the 1810 cruciform
church on the same site which had been extensively restored in 1874 during
the pastorship of Rev. Thomas Finn.
A small silver chalice, now in
safe keeping in the parish, dates from 1638. It was a gift to the parish
from Lucas Everard and his wife Eliza Daniel on their wedding day in that
old wooden altar from the little thatched chapel of 1740 is still in
existence. And can be seen in the modern church.
The damage from the fateful fire is evident to this day. A few
statues from that chapel are also preserved.
St. Paul’s Church Of Ireland
The Protestant Church of St. Paul
was built in 1845-46.
In 1847, Rev. Wm. Frazer was the Protestant chaplain to Clogheen
Union workhouse, and Fr. Kelly, the Parish Priest, was the Catholic
chaplain to the same institution. Both men served on the Relief Committe
that was established in Clogheen during the Great Famine.
It was in this church, St. Paul's, that a British Army soldier
named James Clarke, who was serving locally as a bombardier in the Royal
Artillery, married Mary Palmer of Clogheen on May 21st, 1877. They were
the parents of Thomas Clarke, one of the signatories of the 1916
Proclamation who was executed after that rising.
Due to a sharp decrease in the size of its congregation, St. Paul's
closed as a Church of Ireland on March 14th 1976. At the final service, at
which Bishop John W. Armstrong officiated, many of the town's Catholic
community attended in a spirit of ecumenism with their Church of Ireland
neighbours. This gesture of friendship and sharing of the sadness at the
closing of the church was commented on by the presiding minister who said
that he was heartened by such a display of Christian fellowship,
particularly as he was about to take up an appointment in Belfast.
Following its closure as a church, the Church of Ireland
authorities donated the building to the People of Clogheen. Over the next
few years, the hard working community council converted it into the local
Community Centre which has proved to be a valuable asset to the town. The
tomb of the Taylor family, agents to Lord Lismore for several generations
can still be seen behind the old church.
Part of the remains of the
mediaeval parish church of Shanrahan can still be seen at the easternmost
end of the ruined church in Shanrahan cemetery. This has also been
suggested as the site of an ancient Abbey called St. Mary's but there is
no historical record of such an Abbey. The tower at the western end is
part is part of a later Protestant church. In 1666 Robert Thornhill of
Castlegrace was charged at a court in Clonmel with the destruction, by
force of arms, of the Church of All Saints in Shanrahan in 1657.
The townland of Rearoe, two miles west of Clogheen, is known
colloquially as Ronga, from the Gaelic word 'Rang', (pronounced 'roung'),
meaning 'school class'. While other hedge school sites would certainly
have existed, they are long forgotten, and so it is to Rearoe, or Ronga,
that we look for the earliest known school site in the area.
first identifiable school building in Clogheen is the old Parochial school
- older than and situated behind St. Paul's church. During the school's
first ten years in existence the ground in front of it, now occupied by
St. Paul's Church, was an open space. Also known as Shanrahan school, it
was built in 1838. It is doubtful if any Catholic children went there in
its early years. A number of 'pay-daily' schools were established in the
town over the following years, usually in the school-master's home.
Only those who could afford the few pence per week for the master
could afford to attend, and so these schools were in fact an early form of
In 1842, a school was established in the newly opened
Clogheen Union workhouse under the control of the National Board
of Education. Richard Burke was appointed as schoolmaster on a salary of
£15 per year, and Mary Nowlan was
appointed as first schoolmistress.
By all accounts, Burke was dedicated to his job and spared no
effort in setting up the workhouse school. Promotion soon followed, and he
became Clerk of the Union, and later still he obtained a higher position
in Waterford. While in Waterford he met and fell in love with a young
woman which was a bit unfortunate as he already had a wife in Clogheen! In
March, 1862, Richard Burke sent a package containing medicine laced with
strychnine to his ailing wife in Clogheen. She lived in one of the houses
now occupied by the Co-op store. Mrs. Burke took the medicine with fatal
consequences, but before she died she managed to alert one of her
neighbours as to the cause of her impending demise. Richard Burke's crime
was discovered and he was hanged on the 25th August, 1862.
The workhouse school was obviously only accessible to those
children whose parents were destitute in that institution. The poor
children who had so far managed to avoid the poorhouse were still denied
education. A letter to the Tipperary Vindicator newspaper in 1844, urged
that a National school should be built in Clogheen, saying:
"Nowhere are so many
children to be met with, so backward in literary requirement, nor no place
would they be tolerated to grow up and remain in so rude and uncultivated
a state of nature as they are here (in Clogheen), without some respectful
effort to have been made by at least a few humane, well disposed and
charitable persons to commence building an institution, to be conducted by
a Catholic, in which knowledge would be imparted that would dispel their
darkness and rescue them from their abject state of ignorance ...
stone plaque over the door of the building opposite St.Theresa's Hospital
shows that Clogheen had its National school by 1846.
In the 1930s, the old Parochial school behind St.Paul's was used as
a technical school.
In the early years of this century, the old National school closed
and was replaced by a Convent school run by the Sisters of Mercy and a
boys school on the Ballyporeen road a half mile west of the town. The
Sisters of Mercy had established a convent in the town in 1886, and in a
tradition that continues to this day, commenced nursing the sick and dying
and educating the children of the district.
The present St. Mary's National school was opened in 1980, and
replaced the Convent school and the old boysschool. A four teacher school,
it presently has 107 pupils on its roll-book. A well run modern school, it
boasts all the facilities necessary for the comfort of, as well as the
education of our children. It has had a considerable amount of success in
the Tidy Schools' competitions and its grounds are a credit to all those
charged with their care.
From Bassetts Book of Tipperary 1889
Visitors to Clogheen will be
surprised to learn that in spite of the fertility of the Valley and in
spite of the apparent affluence of the town in the middle of the
nineteenth century, it was nonetheless severely affected by the Great
Famine of 1845-50. With its seven mills and brewery and many assorted
shops and businesses, the casual observer could be forgiven for assuming
that Clogheen was set up to withstand the ravages of those dark years.
Just how badly it was affected can be shown by the fact that in a
famine exhibition at Cork University in October 1995, Clogheen/Burncourt
parish was chosen along with Skibbereen in County Cork to portray the
famine in Munster.
In October 1845, The Tipperary Free Press, a Clonmel based
newspaper, reported that they had investigated reports of widespread
failure of the potato crop and were saddened to say that the failure was
much more serious than they had at first thought. Somehow the poor managed
to struggle through the winter of 1845-46. After all, this was not the
first potato failure they had had to contend with. Neighbours who had 'a
bit put by' and local charities selling Indian meal at cost price, kept
the deaths to a minimum in those first months.
By spring of 1846, the true extent of the disaster began to be
realised. The landlords and gentry, clergy and business people of the area
held a meeting at Clogheen's courthouse in April and formed a Relief
Committee. This committee proceeded to divide the area around the town
into ten walks, and they visited each home in these walks. They selected
387 families, comprising 2,017 persons, as "fit objects for
relief." On the 18th April, The Tipperary Free Press reported that oatmeal and coarse flour
had been distributed to over 1,000 people in Clogheen during the week.
At the end of March, the Guardians of the workhouse were appealing
to the authorities in Dublin for funds, and they recorded in their minute
book (Tipperary County Library
Archives) that no contractors had tendered for the supply of potatoes
to the house. Consequently they would have to feed the paupers on meal and
bread. The destitution in the surrounding countryside was now so great
that the starving poor tried to take matters into their own hands. Convoys
of flour carts over half a mile long left Clogheen and Cahir each day
under military escort. They could no longer travel alone as they were
constantly coming under attack when unprotected. Lord Lismore had written
to Dublin Castle asking that extra military be sent to Clogheen as the
flour carts travelling the Clogheen to Lismore road had come under attack.
The mills were also besieged by a 'tumultuous body of people who advanced
on the town blowing horns'. The attacks on the mills were repulsed,
however, as the police had been tipped off and were waiting for the mob. (Outrage
Papers, National Archives)
Relief works were underway by summer, and the most important famine
relief project in the Clogheen area was the building of the present road
to Cahir. This road is still referred to as the 'New Line'. All over the
country, hundreds of thousands of people , the majority of them starving,
clamoured to get on to the various relief works. A system of piece-work
was introduced to reward those who were doing the most work, but this had
the most appalling consequences for the operation of the country's entire
relief-work system. Men in ragged clothes, near to starving, poured onto
the works with their wretched wives and children, in an effort to earn
more than the few pence per day that they themselves were capable of
After a few months the entire system became inoperable and
eventually closed down. Many people died while building the 'New Line' ,
and it is believed locally that they were buried in the ditches on either
side of the road. The Vee road over the Knockmealdown mountains was
upgraded during the Famine, and the walls on either side of that road were
built as part of famine relief.
January 1847 saw soup kitchens
being opened in all areas of the country that were fortunate enough to
have Relief Committees. Clogheen's soup-kitchen was established in
December 1846 by the Quaker family of Grubb. The charitable works carried
out for the poor of Ireland during the Great Famine by the Quakers or
Society of Friends is only now being acknowledged. Mrs Grubb's letter to
the Relief Commissioners in Dublin in Jan 1847 is preserved in the
National Archives in Dublin. In it she wrote:
" ... no persons with
common feelings could withstand the solicitations of the starving wretches
imploring them for relief which they cannot give. Disease in the rural
districts is making rapid strides, where grass, bran, and donkeys, we
hear, are resorted to for food."
Mrs. Grubb went on to request aid
under the grant system that had been advertised for setting up
food-kitchens. Dublin's reply was that as the Clogheen ladies'
soup-kitchen had not been officially set up by the Relief Committee, they
could not be grant aided. After much correspondence, aid was finally
granted to Clogheen.
The following month, Robert Davis, of the Society of Friends,
visited this area and recorded his findings. At Ballyboy near Clogheen he
" Active measures in
progress for the daily distribution of prepared food to the distressed
people around, and here I may say literally that actual famine first met
my view. There was no mistaking the shrunken looks and sharpened features
of the poor creatures, who were slowly and with tottering steps assembling
to partake of the accustomed bounty. Sheer destitution marked their
attenuated countenances too legibly to admit of a doubt that it was all a
sad reality ... From Ballyboy I next went to Clogheen, and visited the
soup, or rather porridge, establishment there, it was at full work and
appears to be well attended to. From Clogheen we proceeded to the village
of Burncourt, situated at the foot of the Galtee Mountains, a locality
where destitution abounds to a fearful degree ... deaths from actual
starvation were becoming of daily occurence; whilst the corpses were
buried in some instances at night, and without coffins. "
The Tipperary Free Press reported
on a similar visit by one of their correspondents in the same month:
"I have just returned from
having visited ten townlands (in the Vee-Valley), and a more distressing
duty I never I think performed. Although I knew great destitution
prevailed, yet I had no idea that the wretched people were at all so bad.
In many instances, I had to speak to them while they lay on a little dirty
straw, which they use for beds, they not being able from exhaustion to get
up to speak to me. People who were in good health four or five months ago,
I found were dead, and I was assured by the Sergeant of Police, that their
deaths were caused by starvation. In short, sore famine is in the
By the end of 1847, the workhouse in Clogheen was so overcrowded
that extra accomodation had to be found for the numbers seeking relief
there. Several extra buildings around Clogheen were leased including the
old court house at the Square, Clogheen, and at Tincurry, on the Galty
mountains outside Cahir, a disused factory was converted into an auxiliary
workhouse, to house 400 children.
A unique letter from one of the
unfortunate paupers who was obliged by destitution to seek refuge in
Clogheen workhouse with his family during those years, describes the
" ... the exterior is
grand and inviting, but the interior is a scene of tyranny, cruelty, and
inhumanity, which is destructive to human life. The portion of the food
and drink given to each person daily is not sufficient for one meal...some
are gluttonously fed, and many are perished by lingering hunger. ... I
have seen from six to twelve children dead daily. On the 23 March or
thereabouts I have seen sixteen dead together, fourteen of whom were
helpless children. I have seen fathers and mothers who could not find
their children dead or alive ... " (Board
of Guardian Minute Books, Tipperary County Library Archives)
Perhaps the most telling documents from those years are those which
contain the census figures (unfortunately for researchers, no names.) for
the years 1841 and 1851. The population of the valley had fallen in those
ten years from 43,932 to 32,903. The number of houses had fallen from
7,034 to 5,133, reflecting the huge number of evictions which took place
during those years. The population of the town of Clogheen had fallen from
2,049 to 1,562. That figure did not take into account the 1,322 inmates in
the local workhouse. Tincurry held over 500. Together, starvation,
emigration and death from fever had swept twenty five per cent of the
population from the Valley.
OF INTEREST FROM CLOGHEENS LATER YEARS
Beside Corbett's hardware store on
Main Street, in the house with the coloured brick window surrounds, a
story unfolded in the early 1900s which deserves retelling here.
In the year 1866, Father Tracy of
Stradbally in County Waterford had organised a raffle to help pay off the
debt on his new church. Mrs. Collins, who lived in the above mentioned
house, sold a book of tickets for Fr. Tracy, and by way of thanks he sent
her an unwanted prize from the raffle. It was a painting, later described
as being of .. a man with a clean shaven, broad, kindly intelligent face,
wearing a furred cape over a black velvet jacket and something resembling
a Lord Mayor's chain." Mrs. Collins hung it in the parlour of her
home alongside black and white prints of Irish national figures.
Here it hung until one day in the early 1900s when Dr. Richard
Henebry, who occupied the chair of Celtology at Cork University at the
time, paid a visit to his cousins in Clogheen, the Collins family. While
waiting for a cup of tea to be made for him, he casually walked around the
room looking at the various paintings on the wall. His eyes fell on the
old picture and he immediately realised that it was a painting of Thomas
More painted in the early sixteenth century by Hans Holbein the younger.
At Dr. Henebry's suggestion the Holbein was sent to London where it
was sold at auction for seven hundred pounds. Mrs. Collins, the daughter
in law of the original owner, felt that she had come into a fortune. In
1918 the painting was resold to an American for forty thousand pounds.
More by Hans Holbein the younger
The Frick Collection
Today the Hans Holbein painting of
Thomas More hangs in the Frick Gallery in New York, and its value is
reported to be in millions of dollars.
For over three hundred years, art
lovers and experts throughout the world had searched for the Blessed
Thomas Moore painting by Holbein. It is not known how it came to be in
Ireland or who donated it to Fr. Tracy's raffle in Stradbally. What is
known is that for over fifty years the priceless portrait by Hans Holbein
the Younger hung unnoticed in Collins' house on Clogheen's Main Street.
That's the story that we in
Clogheen have been brought up with!! However, on a recent trip to New
York, an American lady with Clogheen connections visited the Frick Museum
in New York, saw the Thomas Moore painting and following a meeting with
one of the Museum's researchers, discovered that the provenance of the
Holbein in question makes it clear that the painting's whereabouts have
never been in question. It has never been to Clogheen!
at the facts of the story it would appear that there was a painting sold
from Collins' house in the early 1900s for seven hundred pounds. The
researcher at the Frick Museum suggests that it was probably one of many
copies of the Holbein that have come to light over the years. In 1918
somebody obviously saw a report that the Thomas More painting by Holbein
the Younger had been sold for £40,000 and assumed that it was the same
painting that had graced the walls of the Collins home for all those
Ryan And The Fairy Tree.
Of all the Irish
songs recorded by the celebrated Irish tenor Count John McCormack, perhaps
the best loved, in Ireland at any rate, is 'The Fairy Tree'. Katie Ryan
who lived just outside the village for most of her eighty seven years,
provided the inspiration for the author of this song, Temple Lane.
Temple Lane was the
pen-name of Isabel Leslie, daughter of the Rev. Canon Leslie, who at one
time ministered in St. Mary's Protestant Church in Clonmel, later at St.
Paul's Church of Ireland in Clogheen, and later still in Lismore where he
is buried. She took her name from the Temple lane that ran near her former
home in Clonmel.
What better way to
remember Katie Ryan than to reproduce the words of the famous song.
All night around the thorn
tree, the little people play,
They'll tell you dead men hung
Its black and bitter fruit,
To guard the buried treasure round
which it twines its root
They'll tell you Cromwell hung
But that could never be,
He'd be in dread like others to
touch the Fairy Tree.
But Katie Ryan who saw there in
some sweet dream she had,
The Blessed Son of Mary and all
his face was sad.
She dreamt she heard him say
Why should they be afraid? Why
should they be afraid? When
from a branch of thorn tree the
crown I wore was made.
By moonlight round the thorn tree
the little people play
And men and women passing will
turn their heads away.
But if your hearts a child's heart
and if your eyes are clean,
You'll never fear the thorn tree
that grows beyond Clogheen.
High up above the Vee road, on top
of the Sugarloaf peak on the Knockmealdown mountain range, a mound of
stones marks the site of one of the strangest burials ever to have taken
place in Ireland. Folklore has
a habit of confusing historical facts and we are happy to be able to offer
here a link to the correct information regarding Major Eeles - the man and
his burial place. http://www.vee.ie/page16.html
Just beyond the Vee hairpin, a few
hundred feet above the Lismore road out of Clogheen, stands a monument in
the shape of a beehive cairn that looks out over the Galty-Vee-Valley.
This well known landmark is the last resting place of Samuel Richard
Grubb, an estate and mill owner from Castlegrace, Clogheen. Mr. Grubb had
expressed a wish that he be buried overlooking his lands and estate at
Castlegrace and here at this spot on the side of the Sugarloaf was the
chosen site. Each year, many visitors to the Vee climb up to the monument
and are surprised to find that it bears an inscription, which simply
" Samuel Richard Grubb of
Castlegrace. Born 26th September, 1855; Died 6th September, 1921."
A couple of miles outside
Clogheen, in the lonely little churchyard of Tubrid in the parish of
Ballylooby and Duhill lies the grave of one of the most illustrious Gaelic
scholars that Ireland has ever produced. Dr. Geoffrey Keating (Seathrun
Ceitin] was born in the nearby townland of Burgess in 1570. Having trained
for and been ordained to the priesthood in Bordeaux he returned to his
native parish in 1610 and built the church in Tubrid from where he
ministered to his flock. Geoffrey Keating has been described as " the
greatest master and best model of Irish prose."
These were troublesome times in Ireland, but Fr. Keating seems to
have worked in peace for some years until for some reason he felt obliged
go on the run. He went into hiding in a cave in the Glen of Aherlow a few
miles from Cahir, and it was while here that he began to write his most
famous work (Foras Feasa an Eireann), a complete history of Ireland in
In 1650 Dr. Keating was killed by a Cromwellian soldier. He was
buried in the churchyard at Tubrid A handsome monument has been erected at
his birthplace in Burgess in recent times. It has been said of him that
his works will "always remain a standard of Irish at its best"
and that "it represents the current tongue of the Irish scholar,
writing when his native language possessed its full vigour."
To get to Tubrid, take the Clonmel road out of Clogheen. After two
miles, turn left at the pub at Castlegrace. One mile further on is Duhill
Church with the Harry Clarke stained glass windows. One mile further on
again is Tubrid Churchyard.
To get to the monument at Burgess it is best to take the Cahir road
out of Clogheen. Watch out for the signpost which is about two miles from
Man Killed At
Given that emigration has for
centuries been an integral part of Ireland's history, it is safe to assume
that many hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women from Clogheen and
district have, over the years, left their mark on various parts of the
world. One such man was William Hickey, a farmer's son from Lisfuncheon,
Clogheen, who emigrated to Boston towards the end of the Great Famine.
From the outset it appears (from his letters home which are still
preserved) that his life in the New World held all the excitement and
adventure that he could possibly have dreamed of as he was planning his
trip. Within days of leaving home an accident on board ship almost severed
his toes, but it seems he made a full recovery. In one of his early
letters he mentioned the fact that John Bourke from Tubrid was given two
hours before the ship sailed from Liverpool to remove his dead wife's body
on his back in order that she might be given a Christian burial. John
Bourke then returned to the ship and together with his two young children
set out for their new life in America.
One year after his arrival at his cousin's home in Commercial
Street, Boston, William wrote home to his parents requesting that the
return fare should be sent to him. Work was difficult to find and he had
been obliged to take up employment at a boot and shoe factory, a fact that
obviously displeased him. History does not relate whether or not he
received the money, but a few months later he was again writing to his
parents for money, this time to go to California, a journey he assured his
parents, that would take all of six weeks.
Again he was to change his
plans, and the next letter from William described his horror at finding
himself in Sheepscote Bridge in Maine "in the wilde woods of America
away from priest and chapel…I shed tears from my eyes in this letter for
you, thinking of you and being so lonesome here that I have no one that I
would spare a word to but savage Yankees, some of them who would sooner
see the devil than an Irishman."
He went on to say that he was
barely earning enough money to clothe himself, cutting down trees from
four in the morning till ten at night. He dreaded the oncoming winter when
he could expect to have to work in from six to fourteen feet of snow. He
resolved to go to St. Louis, where he felt sure that his cousin Father
Abram Ryan, the celebrated American poet, would fix him up with decent
William's final letter to his parents was written from New Orleans
in 1861. He was happy to be able to report that he was working in a very
respectable establishment, earning two dollars per day. He gave his
address as William Hickey, New Orleans, Louisiana.
On an August morning in 1866, Rev. Father James Hickey waited at
the gate of his brother's house in Lisfuncheon for the mail to be
delivered. He was anxiously waiting for word of his young cousin Johanna
Ryan, whom he had assisted in emigrating to America a few months
previously. The letter that arrived bearing a St. Louis postmark was from
Johanna's brother David, who had been awaiting his young sister's arrival.
The despair, sadness, and sorrow
with which Fr. James read that letter can hardly be imagined. A great many
of the passengers on the ship 'The England' had died from cholera during
her voyage, and great numbers after her arrival in quarantine in Halifax.
"and sad to relate poor
Johanna among the rest... Your nephew William Hickey was a brave hearted
young man, well liked by everyone in St. Louis, and at the breaking out oj
the war, he went to New Orleans where he joined the Confederate army, and
was killed at the Battle oj Shiloh holding the rank of lieutenant and was
acknowledged to be a brave intrepid commander."
William Hickey's Lisfuncheon Home
Wherever an unusual topographical
feature occurs in Ireland, one can be sure that there is a legend or two
accompanying it by way of explanation. Such a feature locally is the
ancient track across the Knockmealdown mountains known as Rian Bo Phadraig
(The track of St. Patrick's cow). The track in question is the unusual
topographical feature while the connection With St. Patrick's cow is the
The story goes as follows: St. Patrick's cow, accompanied by her
calf, was grazing contentedly on the banks of the River Tar. A cattle
thief from County Waterford came over the mountain and stole the calf and
made off with his prize for his home some twenty miles away. On
discovering her loss, the cow set off in pursuit and such was her fury
that she tore up the mountain side with her horns as she went. The
distraught animal pursued the rustler well into County Waterford until at
last she recovered her calf.
In 1903, the Rev. P. Power from Waterford first published the
results of his many years of investigation of the Rian. Using ancient
manuscripts and books and accounts of early saints' lives coupled with
thorough research on the ground, he gradually unravelled the great
Rian Bo Phadraig is in fact a 4th or 5th century roadway linking
the ancient ecclesiastical centres of Cashel in Co. Tipperary and Lismore
in Co. Waterford. Some historians maintain that the continuation of the
roadway from Lismore to Ardmore in the same county points to a link With
St. Declan of Ardmore who preached Christianity in the south of Ireland
before St. Patrick ever set foot here. However, Dr. Power has identified
a more direct link between Ardmore and Cashel via Newcastle at the eastern
end of the Knockmealdowns.
From interviews with the older members of the rural community who
lived along the route of the road Dr. Power identified many hundreds of
old Irish placenames which had not been recorded on the 1840 ordnance
survey maps. Using these names and his knowledge of the Irish language he
discovered many sites on the Rian which he regarded as positive evidence
of the road having been used by the holy men of Cashel and Lismore. Among
those sites was a well called Tobar Mochuda (Mochuda's well), on the north
side of the Knockmealdowns and the ruin of a small chapel close by.
Mochuda was the founder of Lismore.
At the time of Dr Power's research he was able, with difficulty in
places, to trace the Rian from Cashel to Lismore via Ardfinnan, Kildanoge,
and the summit of the Knockmealdowns. He expressed the opinion that the
ancient road had been preserved down through the centuries, even on
farmland, because of the reluctance of the farmers to interfere with the
holy road bearing the saint's name.
In this modern age of intensive farming, road widening, land
drainage and extensive afforestation, many stretches of Rian Bo Phadraig
are not clearly identifiable. However with the aid of Dr. Power's map,
available at the County Library in Thurles, it is now possible to retrace
the steps of the early saints of Ireland and St. Patrick's cow.
Whenever the destruction of
Shanbally Castle is mentioned in casual conversation in Clogheen, local
residents are seen to be visibly moved. While the anger in the voices will
have diminished over the years, the sadness remains. The shameful
demolition of that wonderful building in the late 1950s still causes
sentiments of disgust to be expressed that cannot be reprinted here.
Built in the early 1800s by the
landlord Cornelius O'Callaghan who had recently had the title of 'Lord
Lismore' bestowed on him, it would seem logical that the castle would have
been seen as a symbol of landlord oppression in the area and that its
destruction would have been welcomed by the locals. This, however, was not
Having, of necessity, accepted the inevitable landlord tenant
relationship that existed between them, the tenants on Lord Lismore's
35,000 acre estate appear to have borne little animosity towards the
O'Callaghan family who collected the rent from them each year. At first
this might seem surprising, in view of the fact that evictions did at
times take place on the estate, and considering that Lord Lismore had
called out the military to prevent the erection of a monument at the site
of Fr. Sheehy's tomb in 1870. However, it might be explained by the fact
that during the Great Famine of 1845-1850, Lord Lismore had shown
benevolence towards his tenants by reducing their rents and establishing a
soup kitchen at the gates of his castle. Contemporary writers described
Lord Lismore as one of Ireland's good landlords, and Clogheen had indeed
prospered under him.
The castle had been designed by the celebrated architect John Nash
who also designed the famous terraces that surround Regents Park in
London, and redesigned Buckingham Palace. Constructed of magnificently cut
limestone, the castle boasted twenty bedrooms, lavishly designed stucco
ceilings, splendid mahogany staircases and doors, marble fireplaces
throughout, and was set in one of the most picturesque parts of South
Tipperary. The setting was described in 'Lewis' Parliamentary Gazette' of
1846: “It is beautifully
situated on low ground, in the centre of the valley between the Galtee
mountains on the north and the Knockmealdown mountains on the south; and
it commands the most magnificent views of the slopes." One thousand
acres surrounding the building had been laid out in parkland and woods
which were further enhanced by the creation of an artificial lake. To add
to the sadness of the destruction of Shanbally castle, the chief example
of Nash's work in Ireland, Sir Cecil King Harmans' house in County
Roscommon had burned down a short time before the detonators and gelignite
had done their work in Clogheen.
In the 1950s the Shanbally estate had been purchased by the Irish
Land Commission and the land commendably distributed among Irish farmers.
Then followed one of those bizarre decisions for which officialdom
everywhere is well known. It was decided that as the roof was in a
dangerous condition, a fact disputed by lovers of the castle at the time,
ten thousand pounds were to be spent in its destruction. Over several
weeks, despite the outcry and protest from around the country, one
thousand and four hundred holes were drilled around the castle, eighteen
inches from the ground. The holes were then filled with explosive, and
following the huge explosion Shanbally Castle was converted into thousands
of tons of rubble.
It is no wonder that the people
who remember it wince when they are reminded of that wanton act of
official vandalism. Here, they will tell you, was Clogheen's Dromoland or
Ashford castle. Here, apart from our mountains, was Clogheen's great
tourist attraction with its consequent employment and ancillary business
opportunities. Even as a roofless ruin, Shanbally Castle should have been
allowed to stand as a monument to the man who built it, Cornelius
O'Callaghan - Lord Lismore, and indeed as a monument to the people whose
rent paid for its construction.
Cathaldus Of Shanrahan And Taranto.
South of Shanrahan cemetery stands
Knockshanahullion, a peak of the Knockmealdown mountain range. These
mountains were not always known as the Knockmealdowns but were more
anciently known as Slieve Cua or in English, Cua's mountain. They were
named after the legendary chieftain, Cua, who is reputed to have built his
fort either at the site of the present cemetery or in the immediate
vicinity of that place. This fort was known as RathCua or Cua's Fort.
Later on in time it became known simply as Rathan (the Fort) and as the
centuries progressed it became known as Shanrahan (Old Fort). What we now
know as the parish of Clogheen and Burncourt was, up to the last century,
together with the modern parish of Ballyporeen, known as the parish of
Shanrahan - Ballysheehan and Templetenny.
Following the arrival of St. Patrick, Holy men established small
monasteries throughout Ireland. In this area such Holy men are remembered
at Ardfinan (St. Finian}, Tubrid (St. Kieran). It is not surprising then,
to learn that in the seventh century a Holy man named Cathal, having
studied at the University of Lismore which was founded by St. Carthage,
made his way through the pass in the ancient SlieveCua mountains at the
western end of Knockshanahullion peak and arrived at Rathan where he
established his monastic settlement. He was appointed Bishop of the area
even though it must be remembered that in those early years of the
Christian Church this did not mean that he was in charge of a diocese.
After some years at Shanrahan, Cathal set out on a pilgrimage to
the Holy Land. On his return journey he was shipwrecked off the coast of
Southern Italy and on discovering that the people of the area had reverted
to paganism he resolved to stay amongst them in an effort to reconvert
them to Christianity .
Within a few years the people of Taranto in Southern Italy had
selected Saint Cataldo (in Latin, Cathaldus or Cataldus) as their Bishop.
Today the popularity of Saint Cathaldus in Southern Italy is equal to, if
not greater than, the popularity of St. Patrick in Ireland. Over one
hundred and fifty churches are dedicated to him in that country and the
Cathedral-Basilica in Taranto proudly bears his name. He is the Saint
Protector of Corato [Bari], of Gangi (Palermo) and of many other places. A
town in Sicily is called San Cataldo.
In 1071, during the reconstruction of the Basilica in Taranto, the
tomb of Cathaldus was discovered and opened. With his body was found a
gold cross bearing his name and the word Rathcau.
In 1963, Fr. Frank Mackin, a Jesuit priest from Boston, came to
Clogheen to research his family history. Following that visit, he went to
Taranto to research the life of the Irish Saint. He was amazed that there
was neither a statue nor a stained glass window commemorating the Irish
Saint in the Clogheen Church even though it was obvious from the writings
of the Historian Fr. Everard - Clogheen's Parish priest in the early years
of the twentieth century - and from local tradition, that Clogheen people
were aware of the historic link between Taranto and Shanrahan. He resolved
to do something about it. In 1986 the Mackin family of America, Ireland
and Australia installed a beautiful Stained Glass window in St. Mary's
Catholic Church, on Clogheen's Main Street. The window, on the west
wall of the church, depicts the life of St. Cathaldus in Shanrahan, his
journey to the Holy Land and his being shipwrecked off the coast of
Southern Italy. PHOTO
In 1996, an important delegation from Taranto in Italy, accompanied
by Signor Enzo Farinella from the Italian Embassy in Dublin representing
the Italian Ambassador, came to Clogheen to re-establish the historic link
between Shanrahan and Taranto. The delegation was formed by Mons. Dr.
Nicola Di Cornite, Vicar General and Archdeacon of the Metropolitan
Chapter of Taranto; Mons Marco Morone, Parish Priest of the
Basilica-Cathedral 'San Cataldo' and Don Cosimo Quaranta, secretary of the
During concelebrated mass on Sunday September 22,1996 Monsignor
Michael Olden gave the homily on the subject of Saint Cathaldus. Then Mons
Nicola Di Comite addressed the people of Clogheen and presented his
Lordship most Rev. Dr. William Lee, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore with a
gold replica of the Cross of St. Cathaldus.
At the time of writing, 1996, it is planned that a plaque be
erected at Shanrahan to commemorate the visit of the Italian delegation
and the link between Shanrahan in Clogheen and Taranto in Southern Italy.
In the Irish office of this great Saint (Gill and Son, Dublin) Die
viii, Martii, p. 18, we read:
"Cathaldus in loco hodie
Shanrahan nuncapato sedam suam eptscpales constituit".
(Cathaldus, in a place nowadays
called Shanrahan, established his Episcopal See).