Templemore & Killea (Co. Tipperary / North)
Templemore (An Teampall Mór – “the big church”) (pop. 2300) is a well laid-out town, with elegant three storey Georgian houses and attractive traditional shopfronts. Long an important garrison and market hub, it is nowadays most famous nationally as the place where Garda Siochána police recruits have been trained since 1964.
Richmond Barracks, now The Garda Training College
The name Templemore was first recorded in 1570. Contrary to Lewis (1837) and others, there is nothing to indicate that the town or its castle ever had any connection with the Knights Templar.
The C5th AD prince of Connacht who built the large local fort subsequently known as Farran na Manna was commemorated in the ancient name of this area, Tuadh Corca Teine (“the territory of the tribe of Teine”), later Anglicised as Corkatenny, still in use in the early C16th.
The earliest recorded Christian missionary was a supposed companion of St Patrick named Saint Sheelan / Silean, recalled in the name of the local townland, Kiltillane (“Sheelan’s church”).
Not long after the Norman invasion, the territory fell under the control of the Butlers, later Earls of Ormond. The land they donated to St Thomas’ Abbey in Dublin was used for the construction of a large medieval monastery and the church that was to give the town its name.
The Butlers were also responsible for the erection c.1450 of the Black Castle, a Tower House variously leased to the Purcells of Loughmoe and Morrises of Knocka.
The Carden family from Cheshire acquired the property after the Williamite War, and played a very significant role in the district as principal landlords over the next 200 years.
The Cardens abandoned the Black Castle after a mid-C18th fire and constructed a new house nearby called The Priory; this was extended c.1860 (to plans by AW Pugin) into a magnificent 60-room mansion called The Abbey, venue for many Society gatherings at which members of the Ascendancy engaged in archery contests and similar fashionable pursuits.
Granted a baronetcy in 1783, Sir John Craven Carden (the first of several by that name) erected some of Templemore’s best buildings while laying out the town’s gracious Main Street and impressive central Market Square (locally reputed to be the widest in the British Isles).
Richmond Barracks, one of the largest in Ireland, was constructed at the height of the Peninsular War – hence local street names such as Wellington Mall, Talavera Place, Vimeiro Mall and Bussaco Street. Almost 100 different British Regiments served in Templemore between 1809 and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. Along with the economic benefits that accrued to the town from having a barracks in the locality, the army was also a major source of employment for young men from all over Ireland, and huge numbers enlisted.
At the outbreak of WWI over 2,300 German Prisoners of War were interned in four huge cages on the parade ground, complete with searchlights, barbed wire and sentry towers. Two of the PoWs who died while captive in Templemore were buried with full military honours in local cemeteries. The others were moved in spring 1915 to Lilford Mill in Lancashire.
After the Germans had departed, Richmond became a large training depot for Irish recruits joining the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Leinster Regiment and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Thousands of Irishmen were sent directly from Templemore to the trenches, and many did not return.
The War of Independence saw Richmond Barracks occupied by the 1st battalion of the Northamptonshire regiment, who in August 1920 joined the Black & Tans and Auxiliaries to burn down buildings in Templemore in reprisal for the killing of RIC District Inspector Wilson.
The violence was interrupted by the so-called Templemore Miracles, as rumours spread that a number of local holy statues had spontaneously begun to bleed, and the town became a centre of pilgrimage. The famous Tipperary IRA leader, Dan Breen (later a Fianna Fáil TD), said he always knew these ‘miracles’ were nonsense, but they did attract many sincere pilgrims at the time.
The following month another IRA ambush killed several soldiers, the pilgrims vanished and normal confrontations resumed. The Auxiliaries had commandeered The Abbey from the Carden family as a barracks, and when they left the IRA burnt down the mansion on the orders of Michael Collins.
In November 1921 a ceremony on the front square marked the handing over of Richmond Barracks to the new Irish Provisional Government, represented by Commandant Sean Scott O/C 2nd Battalion (mid.) Tipperary Brigade IRA. The British government signatory was Major Phibbs of the Northamptonshires (whose Regimental diary recorded that; “The Barracks was handed over to a motley force calling themselves the Irish Army“). Richmond was renamed to commemorate a local IRA Commander, Pierce McCan, who had died in Gloucester prison in 1919.
At he outbreak of the Civil War, McCan Barracks was held by anti-Treaty IRA volunteers. Free State soldiers were drafted into the town, and preparations made for an assault on the barracks to recapture it. The local Archbishop, Dr Harty, arranged a truce to allow the irregulars to vacate the premises, and the National Army took over.
Templemore’s lovely Town Park, a mainly wooded area with paved paths around a pretty artificial lake, is the former demesne of The Abbey; the old gatekeeper’s lodge stands at the Borrisoleigh Road entrance. The atmospheric ruins of the old Black Castle, monastic church and graveyard, conserved by the Cardens as fashionable conversation pieces, are still visible. The Park is the best reason to visit Templemore. (Photo by sbb960)
St Mary’s church (CoI) was built on land donated in 1789 by the first Sir John Craven Carden (who notoriously destroyed a humble mud chapel sed by the Roman Catholic tenantry by driving a herd of cattle over it). The beautifully restored clock tower is regularly floodlit.
The Town Hall was originally erected as a Market House in 1816; the upper floor was subsequently converted for administrative ends. The building was one of several torched by British forces in 1920, but has since been fully restored and (more recently) renovated for use by the Town Council.
The church of the Sacred Heart (RC) is a fine cruciform edifice built in the Gothic style in 1883 and recently renovated. The interior features several interesting stained glass and an altar made with both native Irish and Sicilian marble.
The Old Mill Building has had its Edwardian façade conserved and incorporated into an impressive modern Library.
Templemore railway station opened in 1848. It is on the Dublin – Cork Railway Line.
The local hurling and Gaelic football club is named after one of the GAA‘s founding fathers, Joseph Kevin Bracken, an ardent Fenian, whose startlingly different offspring, Brendan Bracken, a British Conservative MP and minister in Winston Churchill‘s UK government during WWII, was ennobled as Viscount Bracken. Both father and son were born in Templemore.
Killea (Cill Aodha – “the church on the hill”) is an old village, recorded in Papal taxation list for 1306 and 1437. The remains of a medieval church can be seen in the local graveyard.
St James church (RC), erected in 1832, is typical of the post-Emancipation era but for its remarkably elaborate crocketed marble reredos. The apostle supposedly buried in Santiago de Compostela was evidently regarded with great devotion locally; a local Holy Well dedicated to him was said to contain water with miraculous curative powers.
The Devil’s Bit (Barnane Éile) (478m / 1570ft) is the name of a mountain overlooking Killea, and also of the cluster of hills surrounding it. The mountain derives its English name from the gap in its silhouette, allegedly made when the Prince of Evil took a bite, breaing his teeth in the process, and subsequently spat out his mouthful as the Rock of Cashel (that the mountain is made of sandstone while the Rock is composed of limestone merely goes to show the diablical influence involved). The partially forested hillsides are frequented by jays and ravens. The huge cross at the summit dates from 1953. The claim that nine counties are visible from here is dubious, but on a clear day there are certainly terrific views ranging from the Slieve Bloom Mountains and Lough Derg to the Galty and Knockmealdown mountain ranges. (Photo by )
Carden’s Folly is a tower on the upper slopes of the Devil’s Bit, commanding great vistas of the Suir Valley and Co. Offaly. The structure was erected in the grounds of Barnane Castle, now in ruins. This was the residence of John ‘Woodcock‘ Rutter Carden JP, an unpopular landlord who got his nickname because ‘those who shot at him always missed‘. He became a national celebrity in middle age for his farcical 1854 attempt to abduct Elizabeth Arbuthnot, sister-in-law of George Gough of nearby Rathronan House, from her carriage on her way home from church. The absurd tale can be read here.