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10 historical facts about Tipperary


Author Debbie Blake takes us through 10 amazing historical facts about Tipperary. This beautiful landlocked County is part of the province of Munster with an intriguing rich history...


The last ‘witch’ to be burned in Ireland was Bridget Cleary from Tipperary, whose husband Michael believed that she had been abducted by fairies and replaced with a changeling. His superstitious belief in fairies was so strong that after torturing her, he doused her in lamp oil and set her alight, then buried her body in a shallow grave. Michael was convicted of the manslaughter of his wife and sentenced to twenty years penal servitude, after which he immigrated to Canada.


The Hayes Hotel in Thurles is synonymous as the founding place of the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA), where on 1 November 1884, Maurice Davin, Michael Cusack and five other founding members, formed the ‘Gaelic Association for the cultivation and preservation of national pastimes.’ The new organisation set standardised rules in Irish sports and ensured that athletics were more accessible to the masses, not just the gentry and aristocracy. Since its foundation 134 years ago, the GAA has gained worldwide membership.


Ireland’s first and only borstal institution was established in Clonmel, Tipperary. The borstal, which detained male juveniles between the ages of 16 to 21 years old, also provided the boys with continued support following their release, from The Borstal Association of Ireland, who provided help and advice in finding employment. This aftercare proved to be extremely successful as only a small number of boys relapsed back into crime after their release.


The first ‘British’ serviceman to be taken prisoner by the Germans in World War II, was RAF pilot Laurence Slattery from Thurles, Tipperary. His plane was shot down near Wilhelmshaven, the day after war was declared on Germany. He became the longest serving prisoner of war of World War II, spending a total of five years and eight months as a POW in Germany.


The famous song It’s a Long Way to Tipperary was written in 1912, by music hall entertainer and composer, Jack Judge, after he bet his friends five shillings that he would write a song in twenty-four hours to be performed at The Grand Theatre in Stalybridge, Cheshire. He evidently won the bet and sang the song himself at the performance in the theatre the following evening. The song became known worldwide as a definitive song of the Great War in 1914.


The artificial floating harbours or ‘Mulberries’ as they were code named, that were used to swiftly land the troops on the French shores during the D-day landings in World War II, were an idea devised by a Tipperary man named John Desmond Bernal, a pioneer in x-ray crystallography and scientific advisor to Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations. He also researched and mapped the beaches to identify suitable landing sites for the allied tanks.


An assassination plot against King William III (William of Orange) was foiled in 1696, when Irish Jacobite, Thomas Prendergast a native of Tipperary, informed the Earl of Portland of the assassin’s plans. Although another informer had already approached the king, it was Thomas’s word that he trusted and so the conspirators’ plans were thwarted and the men were arrested.


In 1795, Thomas Lefroy, an absentee landlord and judge in Nenagh, Tipperary, enjoyed a whirlwind romance with Jane Austen the famous novelist, who was a close friend of Thomas’s aunt who lived in Hampshire. It was thought that they might marry, but they parted after four weeks, and the following year Thomas became engaged to his future wife, Mary Paul.


Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond and cousin to Queen Elizabeth I, built an Elizabethan manor house extension onto his castle at Carrick-on-Suir during the 16th century for the queen, as a suitable place to stay when she visited Ireland. But sadly, despite Elizabeth’s intentions to visit her cousin’s lavish house, she was unable to travel to Ireland due to ill health and never got to see it


The first casualty of the American Civil War was Daniel Hough, a native of Tipperary. Daniel, a private in the US Army, managed to survive the Battle of Fort Sumter at the start of the Civil War in 1861, but was killed afterwards when a cannon discharged prematurely during the 100-gun salute following the surrender to the Confederate Army.  

By Debbie Blake

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