Borrisoleigh & Ileigh (Co.Tipperary / North)
Borrisoleigh (Buirios Ó Luigheach) (Pop. 1200) is a small town on the River Camoge, probably best known as the home of Tipperary Natural Mineral Water.
Borrisoleigh’s Vintage Tractor Run is held every September (Photo – www.borrisoleigh.ie)
The town features some good examples of Georgian architecture, attractive traditional shopfronts, several good pubs and at least one decent restarant (Sheehan’s on Main Street).
A C15th castle erected by the De Burgo clan, now in ruins, formed the nucleus of the urban settlement.
The town’s most unusual landmark is a striking pair of old red sandstone houses. A slab inserted into the gable of one is inscribed “Richard Burke and Ellis Hurley, 1643“.
Borroleigh has bitter memories of the Great Famine, when hundreds died and absentee landowner Lord Portarlington did little to help his starving tenants beyond giving money to the Poor Relief Committee after attending a banquet in the local Temperance Hall.
The parish church of the Sacred Heart (RC), designed by Walter G Doolin in 1892, is notable for the fine craftsmanship of its stone carvings, its highly ornate interior, stained glass windows by Joshua Clarke and a replica of the Glankeen Bell Shrine.
Although both Borrisoleigh and the surrounding barony of Ileigh derive their names from the Ui Luighdeach clan who controlled the area in ancient times, and comprise a single parish, the local Borris-Ileigh GAA Club is not alone in stressing their separate, albeit complementary, identities.
Ileagh church (RC), erected in the townland of Lismakeeve in 1826, is an attractive cruciform edifice, typical of the modest places of worhip built in the pre-Emancipation era. Built to replace an earlier structure constructed in 1758, it features several interesting stone plaques and stained glass windows. (Photo by S Grieves, Australia)
Glenkeen / Glankeen Abbey was founded in the C7th AD by Saint Cualan / Culanus, the brother of King-bishop Cormac of Cashel and one of the most famous holy men of his era.
It has been suggested that this was the venue for the important Synod of Rathbrasil in 1111, at which the assembled prelates revolutionised the Irish “Celtic” Church by establishing a Diocesan system and specifying the precise boundaries of the Sees.
The Glankeen Bell Shrine (Photo – British Museum)
The Glankeen Bell, aka the Béarnan Cuileáin / St Cualan’s Bell, a late C7th / early C8th AD iron hand bell encased in a richly ornamented early C12th brass shrine, was found hidden in a tree trunk in Kilcuilawn in the late C18th and now resides in the British Museum in London.
The shrine is decorated in the Irish version of the Viking Ringerike style, with an inlaid silver and niello strip similar to those on the Clonmacnoise Crozier and the Lough Derg Sword. It is quite likely that all three pieces came from the same workshop, and possible that they were made either for use at or in commemoration of the Synod. For many years it was used to detect false oaths; liars swearing by it risked having their heads reversed, A replica is kept in the parish church of Borrisoleigh.
Although nothing remains of the original monastic foundation, the ivy-covered medieval ruins of Glenkeen church stand in an atmospheric hillside graveyard containing an interesting C17th table tomb inscribed to the memory of a member of the De Burgh family.
Tipperary Mountain Trekking Centre at Rusheen is a riding school that specialises in off-road excursions through the unspoilt local hill country, lasting from 1 to 7 hours or longer according to ability and taste.
Significant people born in the area include the Roman Catholic missionary bishops Joseph Shanahan (d.1943) of Nigeria and Thomas Quinlan (d.1970) of Korea.
Borrisoleigh hit the headlines in 2012 when Padraig O’Shea, the manager of St Joseph’s College in the town, unrepentant after the national Children’s Ombudsman ruled that he had discriminated against a pregnant teenager by refusing to allow her to continue her education on the grounds of “moral integrity”, was named on a list of defaulters by the Revenue Commissioners and charged unpaid taxes, interest and fines totalling close to €1,000,000.
Templederry (Co. Tipperary / West)
Templederry (Teampail Doire – “the church of the oakwood”) is a lovely little village set in peaceful countryside close to Cooneen Hill and the Ballincurra Hills. This area has several sites of archaeological and historical interest, and is great for walking and cycling.
Templederry was a stopover on The O’Sullivan Beara‘s famous Long Walk from West Cork to Leitrim in the winter of 1602.
Castle Otway, standing on a hill on the ouskirts of the village, dominated the countryside for miles around. The crumbling ruins are said to be haunted. (Photo – www.otway.com)
The Castle is said to have been built on the site of a monastery. The square keep was originally an O’Fogarty stronghold known as Clonoghan Castle, extended (presumably) by the Butlers of Ormond. The Manor House was probably added in the early C18th, and displays both Queen Anne and Georgian architectural influences.
The property was acquired in 1665 by Col. John Otway (d.1694), a Cromwellian soldier who had fought at the Battle of Baggotrath (and later – conveniently – favoured the Restoration of King Charles II). His descendants remained in residence until the early C20th, and included several notable Royal Navy officers. Their memory is held in low regard locally; they are generally recalled as particularly strict, ruthless and often cruel landlords.
The castle was long the home of the Otway Harp, an ornate late C16th instrument ocasionally on display in the Long Room of the Library at Trinity College, Dublin.
The Castle and house were destroyed by fire in 1922, almost certainly torched by the IRA or local Republican sympathisers.
Several members of the family had already emigrated to Australia, and others followed suit, but some remained in the area, including the great TCD medievalist Annette Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven (d.1989).
The Protestant church (CoI) is an attractive sandstone edifice dating from 1828, architect unknown. The interior is full of memorials to the Otway family; many are entombed in the crypt, accessed by a massive creaking door. The atmospheric churchyard contains several interesting graves, including a few well preserved early C18th stones.
The church of the Immaculate Conception (RC), built in 1877, is a fine example of a Gothic Revival edifice, with a very elaborate interior.
Fr John Kenyon (d. 1869) was the local parish priest, and is buried in the grounds of the church. Long regarded as an eccentric, he was associated with the Young Ireland Movement, and after the disastrous Cabbage Patch Rebellion of 1848 he became a hermit in the local hills for the rest of his life, little knowing that the local GAA club would be named after him.