Torrential rain and peals of thunder brought President Michael D Higgins’s first official visit to North Tipperary to a premature end last Wednesday.
President Higgins, who was in the town to open Nenagh Castle and Nenagh Community Garden, had almost reached the end of his speech when the heavens opened.
“I won’t delay you because I don’t want to be the cause of the ill-health of the Irish people,” he quipped as the crowds scattered while St Mary’s Primary School Marching Band played Slievenamon as the President departed under a phalanx of protective umbrellas in scenes similar to that which had marked Barack Obama’s visit in Moneygall one year ago.
In his opening remarks, the President thanked the “wonderfully talented” band, who had played Amhran na bhFiann after he arrived at Nenagh Castle to open a project that was begun over 40 years ago.
The band had played him into what’s known locally as “the castle field” following a rapturous reception from onlookers outside the site.
Following his introduction to the gathering by Minister of State for the OPW, Brian Hayes, President Higgins was taken to the first floor of the restored castle to see the work at first hand.
During his introduction, Minister Hayes recalled asking a local woman if it were five or seven counties that could be seen from the top of the castle: “What does it matter. You only want to see Tipperary,” she had replied.
Meanwhile, Nenagh Town Council has announced that the castle will remain open to the public over the next three weeks and people can go to the top to marvel at the views.
It is hoped that the castle will remain open full-time from August and tourism guides are being trained to staff the historic site.
The castle has already proved popular with locals with an estimated 1,000 people visiting it lsince it opened last Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Higgins officially opened Nenagh’s Community Garden at Cudville, a project that involves local community groups looking after allotments.
During his meet and greet session, he was presented with a framed poem by Drom National School pupil Rory O’Dwyer titled President Michael D.
Rory told the Tipperary Star that President Higgins told him his poem was “very nice”. High praise indeed from one of Ireland’s most respected poets.
The President was also presented with a bog oak hurley, crafted by John Spain from Rapla, Nenagh, by garden co-ordinator Gerry Coffey.
When Mr Coffey explained that the bog oak was 3,000 years old, President Higgins, a Galway man, replied: “That was probably the last time Tipperary were beaten.”
During his visit to North Tipperary, President Higgins opened the Alzheimer care centre in Ballina, and launched this year’s Convergence Festival at the eco-village in Cloughjordan.