Tipplers in Thurles, can now toast the county’s most famous son-poet, novelist, journalist and unrepentant Fenian, Charles J Kickham, in a very unique and historic setting.
For former Lismore hurler and retired Detective Garda, Pat Lineen, is now inviting the public to visit a mini-museum and 19th Century oratory in the family Kickham House hostelry known as ‘Skehans’, in Liberty Square, Thurles, where CJ Kickham (1828-1882) lay in repose overnight, following his death on August 22nd, 1882, in Blackrock, County Dublin.
Other members of the Lineen household are Pat’s wife Teresa, and son, Jack and daughters, Kate and Rose. It took five hours for the Kickham funeral to make its way from Blackrock to Kingsbridge (now Heuston Station), whence the coffin was brought by train to Thurles. After Kickham’s death, it was intended that his Remains would be brought in the funeral cortege from Dublin to Mullinahone in South Tipperary, and would rest overnight in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles. But because of Kickham’s IRB links, no doubt, permission was not granted to allow his coffin into the Cathedral.
However, the problem was solved when his coffin was brought to the premises in liberty Square, Thurles, of Thomas Kirwan, a local landowner. This premise was later to become ‘Skehans’ hostelry in Liberty Square. ”It was an admirable gesture by the Kirwan family”, said Thurles local historian, John J. Hassett, who says that Kickham’s reputation has, indeed, grown since those days when he captured so well the vocabularly of the plain people of Ireland.
The old style historic Kirwan house had its own oratory, complete with altar, where a priest would regularly celebrate Mass in other centuries in the Main Hall of the Great House. This oratory is still intact on the premises and proving to be a popular attraction with the many educational, tourist and literary folks and researchers who visit Kickham House. So, there Kickham lay in repose on Sunday, August 27th, 1882. Dr. Croke was reputedly away at the time of the funeral in Thurles and Fr. Cantwell refused to allow the coffin remain overnight in the Cathedral. It’s also believed that later Dr. Croke said that had he been present things would have been handled differently.
A huge crowd had assembled in Thurles, when the cortege left Kirwans’ at 11.30am on the following day for the funeral service in Mullinahone at the foot of Sliabh na mBan, a mountain which was to lend it’s name to the Tipperary “anthem”, written by Kickham. Kickham’s writings included novels,“Knocknagow”, “Sally Kavanagh”,” For The Old Land” and “The Eagle of Garryroe”. The some 40 poems and ballads he wrote included “The Irish Peasant Girl” ,”Rory Of The Hill” and “The Maid Of Sliabh na mBan.”
The Skehan family traded on the Liberty Square premises and consolidated the business over a sixty year period from 1936 until the premises was acquired by the Lineen family who refurbished it. But the original mosaic floor, which has been there since the Kickham funeral ‘wake’, has been preserved and extended to most of the ground floor, using tiles manufactured by the original suppliers decades ago.
Full story in this week’s Tipperary Star.