‘Marching into History’ – 60 years of the IFA recalled

Ardmayle Heritage Society and South Tipperary IFA came together to organise a weekend of events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the NFA/IFA in January 1955 and to pay a special tribute to the two South Tipperary Presidents of the organisations, T. J. Maher of Castlemoyle, Ardmayle and Joe Rea of Cahir who serve the farming community with distinction for many years.

Ardmayle Heritage Society and South Tipperary IFA came together to organise a weekend of events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the NFA/IFA in January 1955 and to pay a special tribute to the two South Tipperary Presidents of the organisations, T. J. Maher of Castlemoyle, Ardmayle and Joe Rea of Cahir who serve the farming community with distinction for many years.

Following a wreath laying on the grave of T. J. on Sunday morning by Pat Maher, Chairman, Ardmayle Heritage Society and Simon Ryan, Chairperson of South Tipperary IFA, took part in a symbolic march from Ardmayle graveyard to Boherlahan Church for T. J’s anniversary Mass. At the wreath laying, Deputy President, Tim O’Leary spoke of the importance of remembering the past as we plan to develop the opportunities for the future in farming. This was the final part of a weekend of celebration.

On Friday night 17th, a packed St. John’s Church (Ardmayle Heritage Centre) was addressed by Eddie Downey, President of the I.F.A and by the general secretary, Pat Smith. The President gave a very in-depth and insightful talk on the major milestones of the past 60 years of NFA/IFA. Pat Smith gave an overview of the upcoming launch of the history of the organisation. The evening was chaired by Simon Ryan, current chairperson of South Tipperary I.F.A. Both Betty Maher and Margaret Rea, the spouses of T. J. & Joe were present and very appreciative of the esteem with which their husbands were spoken.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the beautiful needlepoint banner made by the local ‘Stitchers’ craft group incorporating the logos of the IFA/NFA and a portrait of T. J. Maher. Many photographs of historic marches, blockades, meetings with government ministers, were on displayed. Saturday night, chaired by Pat Maher was a general forum discussion on T. J. Born in Castlemoyle, be became a national farmers’ leader, an avid supporter of all things local from GAA to heritage and played an active role in helping in the fund-raising to restore St. John’s Church and develop it as a fitting meeting place for the Ardmayle Heritage Society. The panel on Saturday night included Philip Ryan, retired principal, Boherlahan who spoke on growing up next door to T.J. He recalled T. J.’s ingenuity and mechanical brain which he used to great effect including supplying his home with electricity and how his renowned communication skills were honed in the early years through his participating on Macra na Feirme Debating and Public Speaking teams.

The final speaker was Willie Hayes, Historian, who spoke on the social and economic conditions in Rural Ireland during the 1940’s & 50’s.