On a day of glorious sunshine on Saturday 19th, a day that will live long in memory, took place beneath the shadow of the old ruined monastery, in famous Glenkeen graveyard. Under the guidance of John Flannery of Ormond Historical Society and John Connors of TiDR (Tipperary in the Decade of Revolution), a history tour, spanning the period of the assimilation of the Gaelic chieftains and the Norman ascendency with the treaty between the O’Dwyers and DeBurgo, right up until modern times, took place.
Beginning around midday, with the recitation of a welcoming poem composed by Derry Bourke, this was followed by the blessing of the new information board, by Fr Gerard Hennessey PP. John Flannery commenced the historic part of the programme with a talk on Thomas Burke, step father of W.T. Cosgrave and father of Frank, one of the first fatal casualties of the 1916 and also father of Joan, who went on to become a famous opera singer. In total, twenty three different monuments were visited and those buried beneath them spoken about.
A group of local dramatists, under the stewardship of Paul Boyle, conducted four separate pieces of pageantry. The first was a re enactment of a fiery speech delivered outside the chapel in Borrisoleigh after Sunday Mass in the course of the 1934 local government campaign. The significance of the piece was the divide between the rate payers and labourers, which was a huge issue of that time. The next piece was about the public meeting held in Borrisoleigh in December of 1938 that was convened to discuss the proposed closing of the Glenkeen graveyard. The acting did truly reflect the scale of anger that the proposal created in the neighbourhood, when it was threatened, among other things, “that the guns would be taken down from the thatch and out of their hiding places”.
The third re-enactment centred on a woman, Georgina Bennett, who visits the graveyard in 1949, seeking the burial place of her parents and family. In conversation with two county council workers there, she tells the story of the demise of her family. The drama continues with her being taken back thirty years, to 1919. This sees Miss Bennett in Westminster Guildhall. There she is giving evidence for the defence in the court martial of an Australian army chaplain, Fr Thomas O’Donnell.
The final piece of drama saw Hannah Bracken, wife of JK Bracken, chair a rather fractious meeting of Templemore UDC. JK Bracken, is loud in defence of his under-siege wife and also in defence of his business interests.
Sean Hogan, historian, from Puckane, gave an excellent talk on the life of Seamus Burke TD of Rockforest and his role in the governments of the early years of the state. Orla Ryan was on hand to read various excerpts from newspaper archives and Paudie Bourke supplied the music with his bagpipes.
It is our sincere hope many will come and visit this special place, this microcosm of Irish history that has links to every generation going back well before 1501, the earliest year where a written reference is to be found in relation to it. Come and view the scenery of the beautiful valley that surrounds the ancient monastery and stand where soldiers of wars, Fenians of old, priests from the past, politicians – local and national, rest alongside the most ordinary and colourful of characters from the old parish of Glenkeen.