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Nenagh, Munster, Ireland

Nenagh Heritage Guide

Stroll around an historical town with a fascinating past and some mesmerising stories.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.0 miles / 1.6 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
 
Overview: Nenagh is a market town with a long and proud history; nearly every street salutes an Irish patriot in its name and other greats from O'Connell to De Valera were frequent visitors on the way to their constituencies. It's a colourful past that deserves to be heard and with this innovative audio app, we are delighted to have Councillor Kevin Whelan as our audio guide along the way.

Nenagh is the administrative capital of North Tipperary with a population of around 8,000 people. The town is easily accessed off the M7 Dublin-Limerick motorway. It's a town with a long tradition of trading and today is an excellent place for shopping, offering a wide variety to the discerning visitor.

The streetscape is dominated by the impressive round keep of Nenagh Castle, which rises high above the roofline onto Kickham and Pearse streets. Often referred to as the Keep, the castle rises 100 feet high and forms a landmark property in the town. This fortification was built by the great Butler family around 1200. Nenagh Castle was the ancestral home of the Butler family until 1385 when they moved their ancestral residence to Gowran in county Kilkenny. A few years later in 1391, they once more moved the seat of the family to Kilkenny Castle.

The history of Nenagh town is inextricably linked to the O'Kennedy's, who were the Gaelic chieftains of the local region, then known as Ormond. This family was responsible for the construction of the Franciscan Friary around 1250, the ruins of which can still be seen at the bottom of Friar street.

To those venturing beyond the town, the pretty shoreline villages of Terryglass, Ballinderry, Dromineer, Garrykennedy, Portroe and Ballina/Killaloe are only a short drive from Nenagh. these villages located near to the shoreline of Lough Derg offer the visitor an opportunity to discover the beautiful and captivating countryside of North Tipperary.


Tips: Nenagh's weather can be changeable so make sure you bring an umbrella and rain gear. Good comfortable sturdy footwear will serve you well, especially when making your way up the steps of the Castle Round. Like all our tours, this is best enjoyed at your leisure with plenty of time to savour the atmosphere & the redolence of history that abounds in such a town.

MULTIMEDIA APP
If you're reading this via the Trip Advisor page, you may wish to click on this link: - http://www.everytrail.com/guide/nenagh-heritage-guide which allows you to view this as a multimedia app with video, audio, text and pictures - enjoy it as it should be with all of these additions. To listen to the audio on your computer, you will need Adobe Flash Player: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

MAKING THE MOST OF THE APP
We highly recommend you download the EveryTrail PRO upgraded app to properly enjoy this Nenagh Heritage Guide.The EveryTrail PRO app allows for offline access - a one off payment of €3.59 that ensures you have access to the maps and audio when you need it out arond town. EveryTrail PRO can be downloaded onto iPhone or Android devices. That money goes to EveryTrail PRO's makers, not us - our guide is free.

The contents of this guide were collated, recorded and edited by the navigatour™ GPS service of Headland New Media Limited for Shannon Region Trails. The guide is offered subject to acceptance of the navigatour™ Licence Agreement, which is linked on the right hand column of this page.

THANKS: Kevin Whelan, Lisa McGee, Caoimin O'Brien, Virginia O'Dowd and the writings of Nancy and Donal Murphy which are gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks to Ruairi Deane of Shannon Development for commissioning this project together with its sister project, the Nenagh Medieval Food Tour.

Points of Interest

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Tourist Office

Formerly the Presbyterian church, the tourist office is conveniently located in the town centre across from both the Arts Centre and a stone's throw away from Nenagh Castle.

With usefull information on things to see and do in and around Nenagh, ensure you pay a visit to the office, just off from Banba square. Open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am to 5.30pm during the Summer months. Contact 06731610

Our audio tour guide, Kevin Whelan, looks at what is outside the tourist office and also tells us about some notable 'firsts' for the market town.

What with the castle being so close by - turn right coming out of the tourist office, we suggest you go see it as the next point of interest before returning here to continue the tour.
Audio
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Introduction to Nenagh
Landmark
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Nenagh Castle

The impressive remains of an Anglo-norman castle built by the Butler family around 1200 including the circular keep and the twin-towered gatehouse can still be seen to this day.

The Keep has recently been reopened by President Michael D. Higgins in Summer 2012. A study of the chronology of its chequered history and the coat of arms of the leading families of Ormond in the 13th century are worth a look. A winding staircase bring you to the top of the Keep for commanding views of the town and its environs.

'In 1760 we are told that one Solomon Newsome, 'a stern old Puritan' resided at Bachelor's Walk - the old street between the castle to the east and of the 13th century Inquisition - and tha the owned the barley field on the other side the Castle where St. Mary's of the Rosary was built by Dean White. The sparrows in the ivy clinging to the castle ruin were damaging Solomon Newsome's barley and also preventing him, with their chatter, from sleeping in the summer's dawn, thus adding insult to injury. Solomon therefore bought a barrel of gunpowder and attempted to do with one fell stroke what five and a half centuries of Irish history had faile dto accomplish. The explosion, however, only made a hole in the wall of the Donjon still to be seen, and referred to by John O'Donovan in his Ordinance Survey Letters as a 'huge chasm'.

Quoted from Nenagh Castle and Manor, Dermot F. Gleeson
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Castle
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Arts Centre

Nenagh Arts Centre had been the Town Hall built in 1889 on the site of the old turf market. It's come along way from those turf days having been newly refurbished in 2010 with state of the art theatre offers a wide programme of entertainment events, i.e. films, plays, music and children’s theatre etc.

Banba Square
Tel: +353 067 34900
E-mail: manager@nenagharts.com
Website: www.nenagharts.com
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Arts Centre
Information
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Maps of Area

Get your bearings with the help of the map of the area on Banba Square. There's also a map for the Sli na Slainte local walk to the left on the blue signage. There's further signage beside the nearby electronic toilet behind the Arts Centre. Kevin tells us a bit more about this historic square in the audio piece.
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Banba Square
Landmark
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Monument

The monument in the centre of Banba Square represents Christ the King and is a memorial to those killed between the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War ending in 1923. It replaced 'Jamesy' who had been on the plinth from 1932 until 1955, a figure regarded with great affection and mirth, but seen as not representative of the Volunteer he was supposed to be. We hear more about local memorials and about Jamesy in our two audio pieces.
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Monument
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Nenagh monuments
Building
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Courthouse

Having become an Assizes town in 1838 with the birth of a new county in the form of Tipperary North Riding, Nenagh courthouse was built around 1843 and was designed by John B. Keane (no, not the playwright!) forming part of a complex of judicial buildings including Nenagh Gaol and the Governor's House along with the monumental gateway into the Gaol.
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Courthouse
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Sporting heroes

The sporting achievements of the town are remembered in front of Nenagh Courthouse where bronze sculptures have been erected to several Olympic champions with Nenagh connections including Bob Tisdall who won the 400m hurdles in Los Angeles in 1932, Johnny Hayes ran in the London marathon of 1908 and Matt McGrath who threw the hammer in Stockholm in 1912.
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Sports stars
Building
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Gaol and Heritage Centre

A beautifully proportioned octagonal-shaped three-storey basement building that was the former prison governor's house, which was built around 1840. The approach up to the building is accessed through a monumental gateway which faces onto St. Mary's Roman Catholic church. Today the building is used s the centre of the North Tipperary Genealogy and Heritage Services. It offers the following attractions: -

- The Goal Model;a model of the the full gaol complex with supporting story.
- The School Room; a hands on recreated old time school.
- The Shop/Pub; a recreated bar and grocery presided over by a stern bar lady.
- The Gallery; formerly the Gaol Chapel, this space now holds rotating art, craft and photographic exhibitions.
- Museum of Rural Life; a selection from the centre's O'Brien Toomevara collection including domestic furniture, utensils and farm implements.
- The Dairy; a hands on exhibition of a variety of butter making utensils.
- The Kitchen; the building's original kitchen with unique oven, hotplate and hot water cauldron.
- The Forge; a hands on exhibition of a variety of implents used for the old craft of blacksmithing.
- The gatehouse; the condemned cells, the execution area and the story of the Cormac Brothers, mistakenly executed on the 11th of May 1858 leaving a deep impression on the locality.

The trap went quickly from their feet and dreadful was the fall,
And all who saw the dismal sight shed tears both one and all,
The thunder still continued, with both lightning and rain,
And here as well as Nenagh, many trembled at the same.

Lamentation on the Two Cormacks in the J.D. White collection, T.C.D

Telephone 067033850
Open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5pm.
Saturday 10am to 5pm (May to September)
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Heritage Centre
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McCormack Brothers
Building
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St. Mary of the Rosary Roman Catholic church

A fine church designed by Walter Doolin and built in 1896. It is an excellent example of large scale Gothic Revival architecture of the late nineteenth century in Ireland. inside the church are some stained glass windows from the Harry Clarke studio.

Note the sign at the back of the church, which subtly encapsulates Irish wit - we'll let you inspect it for yourself to see what we mean. Carry on through the gates and turn right onto Church Road for the nearby Church of Ireland on this side of the street.

Talking of Irish wit, our audio piece comes from Joe Starr, one of the town's great raconteurs, of whom we'll be hearing more from later.
Audio
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Records
Building
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St. Mary's Church of Ireland

A Gothic revival church that was built around 1865 with some stained glass windows from the Harry Clarke studios. In the porch note the roll of honour of those of the parish who died in the Great Ward ('their name liveth evermore').

From here we'll be making on way down the street to the elegant streetscape of Georgian Summerhill. Straight ahead with of you is a house with steps, one of the oldest houses in town which belonged to Dan Morrissey, a Minister for Justice some seven and a half centuries after Geoffrey, the first Morrisey, was Chief Justicar of Ireland.

In our audio piece, we're introduced to a local resident who has taken to the town in a big way, the dynamic Lisa McGee.
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Nenaghgal
Building
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The Dev connection

Turning left onto Summerhill, note the street width and beautifully proportioned windows, the ornamented doorways and fanlights (no two are exactly the same) the basements for servants, the archways leading to cobbled yards and stables, the boot scraper and riding stone.

The building on the lefthand side of the street called DeValera Court was formerly the Carmel hotel, Eamon de Valera's home from home on his trips between Dublin and his constituency of Clare over a long political career. Coincidentally, his official biographer, Thomas P.O'Neill spent his boyhood holidays at his mother's house first doors on.
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The Battle of the Breeches

Anyone looking for a good old fashioned Irish pub will do well to find better than Powell's Bar. It may be in new hands, but the atmosphere and layout has been restored to it best.

Across the road is the Christian Brothers school and some forty paces on from here is the Military Barracks where a Private Burns of the North Tipperary Militia fired a shot at the wicket gate and killed Private Curley of the 41st Regiment in July 1856, sparking off what was known as The Battle of the Breeches. This whimsical title somewhat soften the nightmare event so of this mutiny of the militia against an order to return their uniforms in view of impending disbandment and amid rumours that the Government had been supplemental to the regular arm depleted in involvement in the Crimean War.

The ensuing confrontation lasted barely 36 hours and much of it consisted of militia parading with a band, firing in the air and shouting. but it brought 2000 troops into town, many billetted on private houses. there were several more deaths before the end of it and Burns was transported for life and eight others for four to ten years by the subsequent courtmartial.

It is estimated that some two thirds of all foot regiment of the British Army were stationed here between 1833 and 1922. 'It's long way to Tipperary', the favourite tune of the British Army during World War I wasn't just a paean to an unknown county in Ireland, but would have been a place many of them knew first hand.

From here, let's enjoy the walk back along the Georgian splendour of Summerhill.
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Battle of the Breeches
Building
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Nenagh Guardian

No. 13 is where the Nenagh Guardian is located. The Guardian is a weekly local newspaper that circulates in North Tipperary, Ireland. The newspaper is based in Nenagh, County Tipperary but is printed by the Limerick Leader in Limerick. The title incorporates two previous local papers the Tipperary Vindicator and the Nenagh News.

Next door at No. 12 is where the paper's first editor, John O'Shea, died in 1896, supposedly in his eighty eighth year...'when asked on his death bed how old he was he replied with a slight twinkle that he had no distinct recollection of being born'.

On the theme of writing, Kevin tells us some interesting correspondence his late father had with some well-known writers.
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Writers
Building
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Pearse Street

Formerly Castle street, Pearse street has many houses of stone with a lively pattern of pitched roof tops, shops with residences over them - characteristic of the Irish market town - many still with traditional fronts bearing family names in fine lettering on strong dignified timber or gilded behind glass.

To the left is Thomas McDonagh street, named after the Cloughjordan-born poet, playwright and executed signatory of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Further along this road is The Spout, a spring at the end of the street which was once the town's sole water supply.

An event on nearby Kickham street remains a great source of pride for the sports-made people of Nenagh. In the offices of Michael Gleeson, Solicitor, back in 1885, the rules of the Gaelic Athletic Association or GAA were drafted. Together with the GAA's founder, Michael Cusack and Carrick-on-Suir athletes, Maurice and Pat Davin, these men put shape on what has become the most beloved of Irish national bodies.

In our audio piece, Nenaghgal Lisa tells us about another famous incident that happened not too far from the town in the last year or so.
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Famous visitor to the area
Building
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The Lecture Hall

Note the imposing door on The Lecture Hall just before O'Rahilly Street. Built in 1869 with Rev. Chester as the driving force for the young Men's Christian and Literary Association who had been meeting previously in the Courthouse. Below O'Rahilly street is the former North Tipperary Club which became Dun Mhuire, Gaelic League headquarter in 1958 - one building embodying a full swing of the pendulum from unionism to nationalism.

You'll be crossing the road and making your way towards the Franciscan friary down Friar Street after this.
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The Lecture Hall
Landmark
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Franciscan Abbey

The ruins of this large Franciscan friary that was built before 1252 under the patronage of the O'Kennedy's and was the head house of the Irish province of the Franciscan order. In our audio piece, we hear from local archaeologist, Dr. Caomin O'Brien talking about the Friary and pilgrims.

Over the entrance is a 15th century carved head probably of the virgin Mary. The very first chronicle of local happenings was written here by Friar Galfridus O'Hagan - the Annals of Nenagh, transcripts of which can be found in Trinity College, Dublin.

'The church is a simple long rectangle, lacking any apparent division into nave and chancel...Its most noticeable features are: the fine windows in the east gable wall, three in number, and the group of eleven evenly spaced in the north wall of the choir. These narrow windows are as is usual fairly widely splayed inwards and present to the interior with their rear arches a continuous arcade. The Nenagh group is remarkable in being made up of eleven windows (the eastern one is built up). Six, seven, eight or nine are the most unusual numbers found. Each of the Nenagh lights is a little less than 2 feet in width'. H.G. Leask, The Franciscan Friary, Nenagh, Molua, 1937/8.

We'll be carrying on to the right along the rest of Abbey street going under an arch that comes onto Kenyon street.
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Friary
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Kenyon Street

Kenyon street is a great street to enjoy food, be it in one of its grocers, craft butchers or from the likes of Peter Ward's famous County Choice shop. There's a great piece about how people used to eat on nearby Silver Street from 1850 in the Nenagh Guardian: -

'Two houses in Silver Street were eating houses and in those days it was the fashion to have three legged pot standing jut inside the door over a hole in which there were some live coals, and thus the soup and meat were kept warm, ready for the customers who for a certain sum, were allowed al the meat they could bring up by the prod of a big three grained flesh fork that stood in the pot.' Down Silver Street, Nenagh Guardian, 1850
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Kenyon street
Building
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Church Tower


18th century bell-tower which was built onto an earlier church medieval church in 1760 as stated on the date stone that is still visible high up on the east face of the bell tower. This was the site of the Protestant church until it was abandoned when the congregation moved to their new church around 1865.

Kenyon street victualler, Peter Ward, talks wine to Kevin in our audio piece.
Audio
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Wine talk
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Sonny O'Neill

Above Talbot's Shop lived a man who carried with him possibly Ireland's biggest secret for many years - one in fact he took to the grave. Our guide, Kevin Whelan, tells us the fascinating story of Mr. Sonny O'Neill and his pivotal role in modern Irish history.
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Sonny O'Neill
Building
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Starr's drapery

Starr's is a shop that is sadly in decline in Ireland. Here you can get everything from flags to ponchos, shirt to slacks and best of all, a bit of banter from its staff. It's a proper old-fashioned drapery with the most eloquent proprietor in town. Hear for yourself in out audio piece: Kevin give us some background in one piece and we hear the great Joe talking to a customer on her way to the Ecumenical Mass in Croke Park in 2012.
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Starr's
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Joe Starr makes a sale
Building
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Sarsfield Steet/Emmet Place

It's here that our guide Kevin Whelan grew up and played - in the audio piece, he tell us about those days with his customary verve. On the corner of Emmet Place in DK Travel, Kevin tells us about one local boy made good who made it big in politics.
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Michael O'Kennedy
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Pound street
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Hanly's Place

Hanly's Place is one of the older parts of town that once had rows of small cottages for the poor. Today, it isn't just a thoroughfare, but houses a busy bistro and is home to the Nenagh Players, a highly regarded troupe of amateur thespians.
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Cottages
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Players
Junction
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Onto Ashe Street

We leave you with our guide, Kevin, telling us about his recollection of fair days along this stretch when he was growing up.

By walking up Hanly's Place, we came onto Ashe Road and turn right. You'll possibly recognise the Courthouse on your left and certainly the iconic Keep in front of you. With that, you'll have completed the tour and will be back on Banba Square where you started. We hope you have enjoyed the sights and sounds of Nenagh's past and have a wonderful time exploring the rest of Tipperary and the Shannon region.

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Fair days
Building
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Old Rialto cinema

The old Rialto cinema is where our guide, Kevin Whelan, recalls some halcyon days when people still thronged to the the cinemas on their push bikes and where the odd spot of 'courting' used to take place.
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Rialto
Pictures in this guide taken by: navigatourist, ShannonRegionTrails

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