Thurles History – James Leahy Statement – Bureau of Military History

Over the past number of weeks a building on the south side of Liberty Square, Thurles, Co. Tipperary; last known as Griffin’s News agency and previously, during the 1920’s, Hickey’s pub, has now been demolished to make way for a new car-park entrance, in an effort to make Thurles town centre more pedestrianised.

The now demolished building did have some small, yet not insignificant history attached, which can be found when reading a statement from the Bureau of Military History, 1913-21 (Document No. W.S. 1454, File No. S.790), by witness James Leahy, Commandant, No. 2 (Mid) Tipperary Brigade, latter born in 1896 in the townsland of Tubberadora, Boherlahan, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

James Leahy Writes: [Signed 3rd July 1956]

“I returned to business in Thurles early in 1917, and then went to work for Michael (‘Mixey’) O’Connell, as he was popularly called. O’Connell was a prominent Sinn Feiner and Irish Volunteer and his house in later days became the headquarters of the Mid-Tipperary Brigade.

Five masked and armed policemen raided the house of Larry Hickey, publican, Main St., Thurles, when they found the owner in bed. Re was ordered out in his night attire and when he reached the head of the stairs, he was tripped and thrown downstairs by an R.I.C. man named Jackson.

In the fall, Hickey’s neck was broken and he was in great pain at the foot of the stairs, when Sergeant Enright, who was in charge of the raiders, shot him dead, to put an end to his agony. Hickey was a well known republican in Thurles, and a detailed account of his shooting was given to me during the truce period, by Sergeant Enright himself.

While the raid in Hickey’s was in progress, (Night of March 9th 1921) another party of masked policemen visited the home of the Loughnane family in Mitchell St., Thurles, and shot dead in bed William Loughnane. This man along with his father and three brothers were active members of the local I.R.A. company.

On the same night, the Barry homestead in Turtulla (Today Thurles Golf Club), a short distance from Thurles, was entered by R.I.C. men in disguise. They were looking for Denis Regan, a workman and a prominent I.R.A. man. He had hidden in a ‘couchette’ (Latter a box type bed usually found in a house close to an open fireplace, with a lid which closed during the day to become a useful bench or large seat), in the house and when the police could not find him, they ordered Michael Barry to come with them, as they were going to shoot him, instead of Regan.

Barry had no connection with the republican movement and Regan overheard remarks made by the raiders. Rather than see his employer suffer on his account, Regan left his hiding place and gave himself up. Barry was then released while Regan was led into the yard, where the police fired six or eight shots at him. Though very seriously wounded, he survived and is still hale and hearty. (In later years Denis Regan became the hearse driver for the undertaking firm of W. H. Ryan). He (Regan) was treated by his employer’s brother, Dr. Barry, who was then in practice in Thurles and was always ready to answer a call when needed by the I.R.A.

I got a dispatch from the brigade adjutant (1921) requesting me to meet him that night at Larry Hickey’s (Latter later to become Griffin’s Newsagents), in Thurles, as he had some urgent communications to send to G.H.Q. which he wished me to see and sign.

I went on to Thurles, armed with a revolver. My going off to meet the brigade adjutant very nearly led to my capture and death. I made my way into Larry Hickey’s as arranged and was waiting upstairs for my colleague to put in an appearance, when a scout, who was posted to watch out for enemy raiders, shouted through the letter box of the door that a force of R.I.C. were searching “Mixey” O’Connell’s house next door. I waited for a while, thinking that if they found nobody in O’Connell’s, the police might move off.

Word came after awhile that they had gone. Concluding that O’Connell’s place (next door) might now be safer than Hickey’s, I went out by the back door to get into O’Connell’s back yard. The wall separating the two yards was about 8-feet high and I had my breast just on the top of it when I heard the order “Hands up”. In the light which was shining on me I could see a figure sitting on top of the wall a few yards away from me. He was a guard whom they had left on the place. As I was leaving Hickey’s the scout, again reporting through the letter box, shouted that the main raiding party was returning. Apparently the man by whom I was now confronted was left to keep an eye on developments at the back. On being challenged I dropped back into Hickey’s and crouching as low as I could, I ran down under the shelter of the wall to the lower end of the yard.

The guard was firing after me. From the corner into which I had crouched I had a clear view of my opponent. I drew my revolver and fired four shots at him. He quickly disappeared from view. Without delaying, I seized my chance and from the yard, ran down the garden (Latter soon to become part of the new car park) and out into the Mall. I went on to Barry’s in Turtulla, where I stayed for the night.

On examining my overcoat, I found that it had been penetrated by shots several times during the brief encounter. Next day, I heard that the policeman involved was wounded by my return fire.”

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Littleton Co. Tipperary – World War II

One minute after Britain formally declared war against Germany, which took effect on September 3rd, 1939, a Blenheim IV of No. 139 Squadron took off to fly the first sortie of the war for the Royal Air Force. Same was a photo-reconnaissance operation. In the future these aircraft were to become involved in the defence of London and would serve with Coastal Command in anti-shipping, reconnaissance, and a variety of other roles, right up until 1942.

Pictures L-R (1) Laurence Slattery, Littleton Thurles, Co. Tipperary, pictured in a Berlin P.O.W hospital bed. (Celtic studies expert & Nazi propaganda radio broadcaster Dr. Hans Hartmann is to be seen standing on the left of his bed). Picture (2) Rare picture of Laurence Slattery after WW II, with a violin case under his arm. Picture (3) A Bristol Blenheim IV, which Laurence Slattery navigated. Picture (4) Today, the once home of Laurence (Larry) Slattery, and his father Michael Slattery (a National School Teacher), situated in the townsland of Ballymoreen, Littleton, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

The fighter version of the Blenheim IV aircraft normally carried four machine guns in the bomb bay, while the standard crew would comprise of a pilot; a navigator/bomb-aimer; and a wireless operator/gunner. The navigator would sit in the nose of the aircraft at a plotting table, situated just below the port side of the canopy.

On September 4th 1939, just one day later, Laurence (Known locally by the shortened name of Larry) Slattery, a native of Littleton, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, took off on a Bristol Blenheim IV. His aircraft was later shot down over the sea at Wilhemshaven, west of Hamburg, latter a coastal town in Lower Saxony, Germany, while attempting to drop leaflets; as confirmed by Irish Military Archives.

The aircraft’s pilot, Willie Murphy, a native of Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, died some days later from his injuries, whilst Larry Slattery survived, sustaining wounds which included a broken foot and a broken jaw, latter obtained when his face struck a machine gun-turret. The pilot, Murphy would become the first recorded British fatality of World War II, and Larry Slattery from Littleton village, would became the first British Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) to be captured by the Germans.

Slattery would also go on to become the longest detained British P.O.W of the entire War, not being finally freed until Allied troops reached his prisoner-of-war camp (stalag), in April of 1945. Slattery, on his return to Ireland, later recalled that his captors were somewhat reluctant to release him, as he was deemed an excellent interpreter, when being used to communicate with his fellow prisoners.

Having married he returned to Germany for a short time, where it is suggested that he acted as a translator during part of the Nuremburg Trials.

Nuremberg, in the German state of Bavaria, had been chosen as the site for the trials of twenty-two identified WW II Nazi (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) war criminals. During the years 1945 and 1946, Judges from all four of the Allied powers (Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States), presided over these trials.

Here in Nuremburg, twelve prominent Nazis were later sentenced to death, (Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher, Hermann Göring, and Martin Bormann (The latter, in absentia, as he had died previously on a bridge near Lehrter railway station, Lower Saxony, Germany). Most of these defendants had admitting to the crimes of which they stood accused, nevertheless claiming that they were simply followed the orders of more senior authority.

Larry who was well known locally in Thurles and surrounding areas had been in the employment of a Thurles building contractor, James Skehan, before enlisting in the Royal Air Force (R.A.F). A late evening radio broadcast received here in Ireland from Berlin, reported that an aircraft had been shot down while flying low and had crashed into the sea, resulting in the capture, amusingly enough, of one “Laurence Flattery”.

Dr. Hans Hartmann would later interviewed Larry Slattery, while he lay in a Berlin hospital. Dr. Hartmann had been a member of the Nazi party since 1933 and, during the war, broadcast radio messages from Berlin to Ireland, in the Irish language. He had studied Irish and Irish Folklore in University College Dublin between 1937 and 1939, as well as having spent time earlier, in 1930, researching, learning and recording the dialects of the local people of Connemara with his mentor Professor Ludwig Muhlhausen.

“Kathleen Mavourneen”

With the outbreak of war, both men now returned to Germany and from 1939 through to the final days of the conflict in 1945, Dr. Hartmann broadcast Nazi Radio propaganda in the Irish language, hailing Ireland’s magnificent victory over the British during the War of Independence. His last broadcast in 1945 ended with (possibly a lament for how the war had turned out – do play video above) Count John McCormack’s rendering of “Kathleen Mavourneen”, (Irish meaning – Kathleen My Beloved); latter singer an Irish artist used most often in Dr. Hartmann’s many previous radio broadcasts.

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100 Tipperary Photographs Featured On Dúchas Website

Some 100 images from around Co. Tipperary, including images from Thurles and Holycross, have now been uploaded to the recently launched and redesigned Dúchas (Translated into English meaning ‘Heritage’) Website. These images can be viewed and indeed downloaded from HERE.

Date: 1945. House Location: Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Photograph: Courtesy Caoimhín Ó Danachair. So who is the woman hiding behind the pillar to the left of the dwelling and where was the house once locally situated? Do you recognize it? We would love to know.

This digitized version of the National Folklore Photographic Collection was launched at the National Library by the Minister of State with responsibility for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Mr Joe McHugh.

This photographic collection remains the latest supplementary source to be uploaded to the Dúchas website, where, in all some 10,000 photographs having been digitized, catalogued and now made available to the Irish people and the Irish diaspora.

Possibly the largest number of the photographs featured, date from the early 20th century, taken by professional photographers and those working with the National Folklore Commission, and others.

Current surfers of the Dúchas website can be tracked to locations in the USA, Australia, Canada, and the British Isles, most anxious to trace and research local history and native folklore provided, from almost every parish in Ireland.

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Tipperary Village Wins Tidy Towns 2017 Competition.

Birdhill, Co. Tipperary, Tidy Towns Winners 2017 & Ireland’s Tidiest Village.

The village of Birdhill (Irish: Cnocán an Éin Fhinn, or the Hill of the Fair Bird) in North / West Co. Tipperary, has beaten off stiff competition, to be named overall winner of the Tidy Towns 2017 competition, (Sponsored by SuperValu) with 332 points.

Situated just off the N7 motorway, midway between Limerick city and Nenagh, and overlooking Lough Derg; Birdhill received a double accolade by also being named ‘Ireland’s Tidiest Village’.

SuperValu Managing Director Mr Martin Kelleher paid tribute to the winners and indeed all 870 other towns and villages and their communities who had entered the competition during the current year.

Birdhill’s Tidy Town’s Committee are no strangers to community awards, with the village previously named “Tidiest Village” in the Tidy Town’s Awards in recent years; e.g. 2006, 2007, 2008 and again in 2016. They also won a gold medal in the European Entente Florale competition back in 20o7.

Tidy Towns (Irish: Bailte Slachtmhara) is an annual competition held here in Ireland, first begun back in 1958, and organised through the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The overall aim of the competition is to honour the tidiest and most attractive cities, towns and villages throughout the ‘Emerald Isle’.

The Competition is judged during the summer months May – August, using independent adjudicators, who issue each town / community with a written report, latter highlighting positive advancement and offering future recommendations on how each area can further improve their immediate surroundings.

Representatives from Birdhill’s Tidy Towns Committee picked up their trophy and a cheque for €10,000 in Dublin this morning.

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Join Us During Heritage Week 2017 In Co. Tipperary

Trees
By Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918),
[Latter killed by sniper fire near Muercy Farm, beside the Ourcq River, near the village of Seringes-et-Nesles, in France during WW1]

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear a nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

One of the many events taking place in Co. Tipperary during Heritage Week will be an illustrative and informative talk by Author and historian Mr George Cunningham, entitled “Trees at Home and Abroad”.

The event will take place on Monday night next, August 21st, beginning 7:30pm9.00pm, courtesy of Tipperary County Council Library Service, in The Source building, Cathedral Street, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

Mr Cunningham will take his audience to such places as the redwoods and protected Bristlecone Pines Forest area, latter high in the White Mountains in Inyo County in eastern California, as well to many other such places here at home, which remain a ‘tree treasury’.

Mr Cunningham has had, and continues to strongly retain, a lifelong interest in trees; building up a significant tree library and travelled to many world-famous places adorned by trees and rich forests.

He is a director of ‘Crann(Translated from the Irish – ‘Tree’), formed in 1986; latter an organisation which it attempting to re-leaf Ireland. Crann is Ireland’s leading voluntary tree organisation dedicated to the promotion, protection and awareness of the importance of our trees, hedgerows and woodlands. It is a membership-based, non-profit registered charity, uniting people with a love of trees.

Admission to this Heritage Week event is free of charge.

You can find other events taking place throughout Co. Tipperary, during Heritage Week, by simply clicking HERE.

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