Thursday, 28 February 2013

Franciscan Abbey, Nenagh

The last stop in Nenagh was the Franciscan Friary which is just a short distance from the castle and near the shopping centre in Abbey Street. Whilst there is some mention that the friary may have been founded by a Butler in the reign of Henry III,  Donal O'Kennedy, the bishop of Killaloe, who died in 1252, is more commonly recognised as the founder. Now this would have been unusual at the time, as traditionally it would have been the Norman settlers whom would invite the various religious orders to establish themselves in a particular area. In the 13th Century Theobald Fitzwalter was the Lord of the area so it would have been expected that he and not members of the local O’Kennedy clan would have founded the friary. Interestingly the Annals of Nenagh where written here  during the period 1336 to 1528 and there are copies of which still exist today.

 Nenagh became the chief house for the Irish friars and a provincial synod was held there in 1344. The O’Carroll’s are believed to have burned the town of Nenagh, including the friary, in 1548. The friars seem to have lived on until about 1587, after which no effort was made to set up a residence until 1632, when the Observants came. The friars were expelled and the friary suppressed during Cromwell’s incursions into Ireland, but they are believed to have soon returned. A community was still in residence in the early eighteenth century, but had broken up by 1766. There were still friars working as parish clergy in the area and Fr. Patrick Harty died there in 1817 as a quasi-curate. He was the last Franciscan of Nenagh. Over the doorway there is a carving of a figure wearing a 15th Century headdress. This was once thought to be part of an effigy, while the decoration it crowns formed part of an archway. The pieces were coupled together during the conservation work of 1929.

H.G. Leask wrote a comprehensive description of the Friary in 1937. He described the ruin as a simple, long rectangle, without any obvious division into nave and chancel. He recorded that the church has fine windows in the east gable, and eleven windows in the north wall of the choir. The Internal part of the abbey itself is not open to the public, but I believe that if you go down to the local tourist Office and ask nicely they will give you the key. Unfortunately when I was here the office was not open. That aside the abbey is kept in very good condition and is well worth a visit if you are in the area

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Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Spout, Nenagh

Another historical landmark to be found in Nenagh, is ‘The Spout’. The Spout which was a water relief project for the town in the 19th century during the famine can be found just past the Abbey Court Hotel. The waters of the spout are described as being “the best and purest in Nenagh” and it supplied the residents of the town with drinking water for at approx 200 years.

 During a famine of 1881, there was widespread failure of the potato crop due to blight, not just in the Nenagh area but across the entire Island. Now whilst this alone would not induce the horrific famine that occurred. The majority of crops grown in Ireland were used by the foreign rulers of the time for their own needs, thus only leaving potatoes which were the staple diet of the masses. So when the crop failed, the famine took a hold over the population. Relief committees were formed in Nenagh and an application was made for financial assistance to a group in London called the London Tavern Society. Aid was granted which allowed the local relief committee to employ men, women and boys to work on the construction of the spout.

 Along with the work carried out to supply water to the area a stone edifice and steps were constructed along with a plaque thanking the benefactors of the project. Whilst the spout continued to be a public water supply until 1936, it was then closed by the public health department whom claimed that the water was impure. The spout then fell into disrepair over time but was restored to its present day condition in 2007 by local volunteers and the town Council.

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Nenagh Castle, Tipperary

A recent family weekend away gave me an opportunity to get out with my camera, so with the buggy packed and my youngest son Dylan on board off we set to explore the town of Nenagh. Now from previous experience ruin hunting and little children do not always work out well, but then hey 'what trouble could happen exploring a town'???
Now from our hotel I could clearly make out the top of a tower and it was 'nt too hard to find but wouldn't you know the grounds were closed and didn't open until after lunch time. It was a Sunday morning and we were all heading home. So I had to resign myself to a couple of shots from a wall and through the main gate. Yet another site to add to my bucket list for a return visit. And one that I am looking forward to.
What clearly stands out is the 100 ft high Tower house that once served as the keep of Nenagh Castle, it is believed to be Nenaghs oldest building and was once surrounded by walls with a gatehouse and two defensive towers. Whilst the Keep looks to be in a good state of repair, only the remains of the gatehouse and a small tower remain.The Castle was completed in 1220 by Theobald Fitzwalter whose family went on to become the Earls of Ormond and it became the main seat of the Butler family.The walls at the base of the castle are "splayed", which gave the Castle protection from canon fire, and the subsequent curvature of the walls allowed missiles dropped from above to ricochet outwards upon would be assailants. Also found on the wall is a "machicolation". This is a stone platform that projects from the third floor, resulting in an overhang on top of attackers. The platform had a central opening, through which defenders dropped an array of missiles down directly on the heads of those below.

 Historically  in 1336,  a peace treaty was signed between James, the 1st Earl of Ormond, and a representative of the O'Kennedy family.Over 600 years later. The treaty was presented as a gift to John F. Kennedy during his state visit to Ireland in 1963, and it is now housed in the J.F.K Library in Massachusetts. As usual with many of these treaties between the Native clans and the foreign rulers, the O'Kennedy's would break the terms of the treaty by attaacking the castle and burning the town around 1347. They were assisted in their assault by the the O'Brien & O'Carroll clans
 During the course of the Confederate and Cromwellian Wars Nenagh Castle was seized on three separate occasions, until it was finally granted to Col. Daniel Abbot, along with extensive lands, in lieu of payment from Cromwell. The Butlers regained their family home after the Restoration in 1660. But during the Jacobite War Anthony O'Carroll took the Castle from James, the 2nd Duke, who supported William, and it was retaken in August 1690, by Ginkel. Two years later William ordered its demolition so that it would be "rendered indefensible in ill hands". The keep, however was only partly damaged. Further destruction was wrought in 1750, when a farmer called Newsome attempted to demolish the Castle, as the sparrows it housed were destroying his barley crop nearby.The battlements on top of the keep were rebuilt in 1861, and further conservation was undertaken in 1929. In 1985 the field around the Castle was developed as a small town park. The Office of Public works currently maintains the building. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area, just make sure to check the opening times before you go, lesson learned.

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Friday, 8 February 2013

Castledermot Cross Slabs & Hole Stones

The final stones of interest to be found at St. James churchyard are a number of Cross slabs and two Holed Stones. Whilst the origin, date and purpose of these stones are not really understood, chances are they were some form of monument used by our pre-Christian ancestors. Like many other traditions of the pre-Christian people their beliefs and customs were absorbed into the new belief system.

 So these special stones eventually ended up as grave markers over the course of time.  The first stone is probably "Swearing Stone", "Leac na Mionn" or the "Stone of the Oath", it may well have been used during ancient wedding ceremonies and or as  contract stone where by a contract was sealed by the shaking of hands through the hole, similar to the "Oath of Odin" in Viking culture. The second stone is quite different from the first in the fact that half the stone lies buried.

There are also a number of early Christian Cross slabs, One is a roughly cut cross shape whilst the other just has a plain double lined cross carved into one side. Both of these are located near the South High Cross. There are many of these stones to be found scattered the length and breadth of the country. Some may be easier to find than others.

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