These pages describe ByRoute 5 between Cashel & Environs (Co. Tipperary / South) and Kilgarvan (Co. Kerry /Southwest).
Golden // Kilfeacle (Co. Tipperary / Southwest)
Golden (An Gabhailín) (pop. 350), formerly known as Goldenbridge, is divided in two by the River Suir. The river is spanned by the eponymous bridge, originally erected in 1179 by William Fitz-Aldhelm de Burgho, who also built the castle on the island in the middle, now in ruins, site of a memorial sculptured bust of Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916), locally born poet and 1916 Easter Rising leader.
Athassel Priory, once the largest medieval abbey in Ireland, was built on an island in the River Suir, now a field. It was founded for the Augustinians in 1192 by William Fitz-Aldhelm de Burgho; who is buried here. (Photo by Kevin Lawyer)
Athassel flourished over many years as a centre of both spiritual and political importance, serving as a diplomatic forum for meetings and talks between rival clans and interests. The Abbot was a Peer of the Irish Parliament.The priory was burned several times by disgruntled lords and chieftains, along with the thriving town outside it, of which nothing now remains.
Following King Henry VIII’s 1540 Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Abbey passed into the possession of the Butlers of Ormond, who neglected it for several centuries, and is now in the care of the OPW.
The majestic ruins extend over four acres. The Abbey was well defended by a surrounding wall and gatehouse, complete with portcullis, which was accessed by a bridge. Not much is left of what must have been a hugely impressive cloister, but the refectory, parlour, sacristy, chapter house and infirmary can be clearly discerned.
The huge church, dedicated to St Edmund, King and Martyr, was altered several times between 1200 and 1500. The nave, long roofless and used as a cemetery, used to have two vaulted aisles supported by columns; the two transepts had two side chapels each, and all around the walls are groups of tall, slender lancet windows. The square tower in the centre of the crossing is more Cistercian than Augustinian in style. In the south wall of the chancel there was a late C13th tomb with the figures of Norman knights on it, now removed for display on the Rock of Cashel. Entrance to the choir is gained through a splendid C13th doorway, which was originally richly decorated with marble moulding. Interior decoration of the church elsewhere is quite plain, however, in comparison to more elaborate contemporary local buildings such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Dominic’s Abbey in Cashel and Holycross Abbey near Thurles.
Thomastown Castle, built in the C17th and enlarged in neo-Gothic style about 1812, was part of the extensive estates in County Tipperary and Wales of the Mathew family, headed by the Earls of Landaff (Llandaff near Glamorgan in Wales). The castle fell into disrepair during the C19th and the park, which once had a large French style garden, now forms part of a forestation scheme.
Thomastown Cross is the site of a statue of FatherTheobald Mathew, OFM (Cap), the “Apostle of Temperance”, born in Thomastown Castle in 1790. He founded the Teetotal Abstinence Society in 1838, the statue raised in his honour in 1938 to mark the centenary is a very visible landmark from far and wide.
(The Society enrolled some three million members. Inspired by the atmosphere of mass meetings, more than half the total adult population of Ireland voluntarily took The Pledge never to drinl alcohol again. However, quite a few subsequently became ether addicts instead).
The Jibbet Cross (Hanging Tree) was where three men were hanged in 1815 for the murder of a Justice of the Peace; their remains were left hanging under guard for two years. Below this cross there is a Monument to two men shot by Free State troops in the Civil War. Yet another local man died as a result of injuries received from the Black & Tans during the War of Independence.
Séamus Ryan, born in Kilfeacle, opened the Monument Creamery on Dublin’s Parnell Street in 1918. and the business developed to include a chain of over 30 restaurants and shops specialising in dairy products. Seamus was a member of the Irish Senate at his death in 1933. His widow Agnes (née Harding) carried on and indeed expanded the business. Their daughter was Kathleen Ryan, the Hollywood actress who starred in many movies in the 1940s and 1950s, while her brother John Ryan wrote Remembering How we Stood, a memoir of bohemian Dublin in the 1950s.
Kilfeacle is not far from Dundrum on ByRoute 6.
Bansha (Co. Tipperary / Southwest)
Bansha (An Bainseach – “Grassy Spot”) (pop. 900) a village in the old barony of Clanwilliam, is scenically situated beside the River Ara at the eastern end of the Slievenamuck Hills.
Bansha is co-extensive with the pre-Reformation parish of Templeneiry, of which the townland name of Templenahurney is thought to be a corruption.
The modern Roman Catholic parish of Bansha & Kilmoyler (united in 1858) comprises the whole of the two Civil Parishes of Templeneiry (including the townland of Kilmoyer) and Clonbullogue, and also parts of Killardry, Relickmurry & Athassel, Kilshane and Cordangan.
Bansha was for many years a small compact village comprising Main Street, Barrack Street, Banner’s Lane (named for Rev. Benjamin Holford Banner, an Anglican rector of Templeneiry) and Cooke’s Lane (named after a member of the Cooke family of Cordangan Manor).
Bansha railway station, a stop on the Waterford – Limerick line, was opened in 1852 and finally closed in 1963. The Station Road linking it with the creameries at Tankerstown and Rossaderehid (also long closed) used to be the scene of great activity as trains were loaded with local produce for distribution in the cities.
Bansha and the surrounding area saw heavy fighting during the Civil War between Free State forces and local republicans.
Canon John Hayes (1887 – 1957), appointed parish priest of Bansha & Kilmoyler in 1946, was the 1937 founder of the community development organisation Muintir na Tíre, and his energetic initiatives earned Bansha national fame as The Model Parish. Bansha Rural Industries Ltd. enjoyed some success producing preservatives for the Irish domestic market. His funeral in Bansha was attended by leaders of Church and State.
While Bansha’s economy still relies primarily on agriculture, mainly dairy farming and horse breeding, many local residents work in the larger towns nearby.
Templeneiry parish church (CoI), known to have been in use from 1718 and distiguished by an imposing spire erected in 1814, has been made available over the years for Roman Catholic services, but is now closed for worship due to a dwindling Anglican congregation, although it is still used for community purposes (currently a computer training centre), while the churchyard remains open for burials by the old Protestant families of the area.
The parish church of the Annunciation (RC) was completed in 1812.
Toureen, the site of a monastic settlement founded by Saint Becán / Pecaun (d. 689 AD), features a ruined medieval church, carved stones and a well (presumably Holy).
The McCarthy Reagh family of Springhouse
Denis McCarthy Reagh, Chief of the McCarthy Reagh family of Carbery, built a mansion in the late C17th at Springhouse, where he owned 9,000 acres (36 km²), then considered the largest cultivated farm in Ireland, if not all of Europe, and a safe haven for priests on the run from persecution. It is recorded that in 1713 one Donough McCarthy was consecrated Bishop of Cork & Cloyne in “Villa Domus Fontis“.
The Penal Laws forced his grandson Denis into exile in France, and he died in 1761 at Argenton, Berry. His son Justin McCarthy (1744–1811) settled in Toulouse, where he cultivated the fine arts and put together one of the finest libraries in France, rivalling the royal collection at Paris, and was ennobled by King Louis XVI as Count of Toulouse in 1776. His son Nicholas Tuite MacCarthy, known as the Abbe de Levignac after one of the Count’s properties, was a famous Jesuit preacher. The family townhouse is now a bank. The last Count of Toulouse, Nicholas McCarthy Reagh, died in 1906.
A branch of the family lived at Coolavunga (Cúil an Mhongáin), the medieval name for the townland of Barnlough, near Bansha, within living memory; one member, James McCarthy Reagh, wrote The Haunted Village, a poem still occasionally recited by older folk in the area. Another Catherine MacCarthy from Kilmoyler survived the 1912 sinking of the Titanic.
The McCarthys of Springhouse had a Banshee called Clíodhna, who made an appearance in Thomas Crofton Croker‘s Fairy Tales and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825). The family vault is discreetly located in the old graveyard at Bansha village, inside the wall at the junction of the valley road leading to the Glen of Aherlow.
Darby O’Ryan (1777 – 1855) was a Bansha-born poet whose most famous composition was The Peeler and the Goat, a satirical ballad sung across Ireland and taken worldwide by emigrants. Copies of his Tipperary Minstrelsy are to be found in the RIA, the NMI and the British Museum. Ryan’s burial place in the old graveyard in Bansha is marked by a stone cross carved with a a rope and anchor, suggestive of a maritime connection that did not exist.
Bansha Castle, originally a medieval Tower House, had a large Georgian extension added c.1760, and was considerably remodelled c.1830 and again c.1900. The home of the O’Brien Butlers in the C18th, and owned by the O’Ryan throughout the C19th, it is set in beautiful grounds.
The castle was acquired c.1900 by the British Government for General Sir William Francis Butler (1838 – 1910). Born a few miles distant at Suirville in Ballyslatteen, he had served with distinction in Canada, India, Egypt, the Sudan and other parts of Africa, including participation in the Ashanti wars and the Zulu War under General Wolseley; his views on colonialism were regarded with suspicion, as he wrote sympathetically about the natives in many of the outposts he had known. In 1898 he had been made commander-in-chief of the British Army in South Africa, where he was also High Commissioner for a short period, but was forced to retire at the time of the Boer War, for which he was (probably unfairly) blamed. On moving into Bansha Castle, he demolished the early tower, added a new one (with the crest of the Butlers of Ormond) and re-roofed the whole house, minus crenelations.
His wife was Elizabeth (née Thompson) (1846–1933), a well known Battle Artist, one of whose Crimean War paintings hangs in Buckingham Palace. In 1922, during the Civil War, she and four grandchildren were once trapped indoors by fighting in the surrounding fields; some weeks later, when the house was occupied by the IRA, Lady Butler walked out in great indignation, leaving everything behind, and never returned. Her son, a British Army colonel, later retrieved her paintings, one of which is said to have a bullet hole in it dating from this time.
(Lady Butler is buried at Stamullen graveyard in County Meath, just up the road from the home of her youngest daughter, Eileen, Viscountess Gormanston, two of whose three sons were killed in WWII).
Bansha Castle then became the property of Mr.Tom Givens, retired Chief of Police in Shanghai, and was unoccupied from the early fifties until 1975, when a major fire caused considerable damage, and the house was closed for a number of years.
Renovated and restored by John and Teresa Russell, it was run until recently as a B&B / Guesthouse, and is now available for luxurious self-catering holiday rental.
Bansha House, a lovely ivy-clad Georgian farmhouse attached to a 100-acre Equestrian Centre & racehorse stud, is a B&B / Guesthouse hosted by Mrs. Mary Marnane, whose cooking is highly recommended; the farm’s Primrose Cottage is also available for self-catering rental.
Lismacue House (1813), designed by William Robertson, is a classic Georgian country house with a few delicate Gothic touches, set on a beautiful 200-acre parkland demesne and approached by an avenue of limes planted c.1760.
The estate, bought in 1704 by William Barker, has been occupied for over 300 years by his direct descendants, including the current owner, Kate Nicholson. She and her husband Jim are keen member of the local Scarteen Hunt, aka the Black & Tans. They run the house as an upmarket B&B / Guesthouse during the summer months, and also rent it out as self-catering accomodation (with chef).
Kilshane House, designed by Hargreaves & Andersen, was completed in 1822 was the Lowe family, distillers of Wyse whiskey, on the former Springhouse estate (traces of the McCarthy Reagh family’s mansion can still be seen near the lake on the grounds). Restored over a number of years, it is now a splendid luxury Guesthouse with a glorious conservatory and over 50 bedrooms in the main house and various converted estate buildings, attached to a major Equestrian Centre specialising in dressage, eventing and show jumping, run by Vitaliy Halstyan.
The Bansha Agricultural Show is held annually and in recent years, the social scene has been augmented by a festival week in late August.
Bansha is between Caher on ByRoute 4 and Tipperary Town on ByRoute 6.