New book adds to unique collection of Clonmel’s remarkable history

Michael Heverin

Michael Heverin

Clonmel was unique among Irish towns for the large number of outstanding writers of history about the town itself, a new book launch was told last Friday night.

The latest addition to the growing volume of writings on Clonmel is Michael Ahern’s ‘Threads in a Clonmel Tapestry’ launched in the County Museum by another noted writer and columnist in The Nationalist, Margaret Rossiter.

She remarked that when she was a child, Burke’s History of Clonmel was the only source of such material, and was like gold dust to those interested in local history, but now there was a wonderful collection that was unmatched anywhere else in the country.

She mentioned Michael Ahern himself, Sidney Watson, Sean O’Donnell, Eamonn Lonergan, Pat Holland, Carmel Quinlan, Maria Luddy, Angela Burke and Liam O Duibhir.

“Along with the work of the Tipperary Historical Journal, we now have a well stocked shelf in the library on the history of Clonmel that is surely unique”, she said.

Author Michael Ahern in turn paid glowing tribute to Margaret. He said her weekly column in this newspaper had won her the respect and admiration of all her fellow townsmen who share her deep and passionate understanding of Clonmel.

“She is indeed a treasure”, he said to prolonged applause.

Of the contents of his own book, Mr Ahern said it contained stories on scoundrels and villians as well as heroes and statesmen and was given a contemporary resonance with a feature on a rogue banker.

Clonmel’s bankers was one of the topics touched on by Margaret in summation on the book - two banks had got into difficulties in the 1800s with one selling off land and assets to pay its creditors and the other showing no such compassion and leaving its creditors penniless and destitute.

She was also intriguied by the account of John Butler of the Ormonde family, a prominent churchman who left the church to get married and have an heir. His wish was never realised and in later years he made a contribution to the church for the education of priests.

His generosity is remembered with a special room in Maynooth College and when Pope John Paul 11 visited the college during his Irish visit and was told of Butler’s chequered career in the church, he immediately absolved him of blame with a special blessing.

Another huge section of interest in the book was the report on Clonmel men who went off to fight in France in World War One - for the cause of small nations, as they believed.

Huge crowds on the streets cheered them off - telling them to bring home a Hun’s helmet - but instead they returned to isolation and exclusion.

Other Clonmel men went to fight in the Spanish Civil War and died among the olive trees. Margaret said it was hard today to imagine their fervour and passion and their enthusiastic departure, most to fight on the nationalist side but some on the republican side as well.

Another war with a strong resonance in Clonmel is the Cromwelliam war and that has left a huge legacy on the town.

The aftermath of that period had a profound influence on the development of the modern town, with a significant role played by descendants from that period. This was an area that needed to be researched fully and was certainly the subject for another book, she remarked.

Margaret said that launching a book sounded a little like launching a ship and breaking a bottle of champagne on it. “I won’t do that but I will give it a gentle push into the market and to what I’m certain will be a very appreciative audience.

“Michael has certainly done some service for Clonmel”.

Tributes were also paid by South Tipperary County Council chairman John Crosse who echoed Margaret’s remarks on the high level of literary talent in Clonmel and South Tipperary.

“We are very fortunate in that and I thank Michael for the wonderful legacy he and others are leaving us with their writings”, Cllr Crosse said.