While the extended Devitt family of Cashel recently commemorated the hundredth anniversity of the death of their ancestor Michael Devitt at his resting place on the famous Rock, Councillor Tom Wood unearthed interesting information about the man referred to in the Nationalist of Wednesday, May 9th 1917 as, “a fine type of Tipperary man and one of Cashels worthiest sons.”
A resident of Lowergate Street and a renouned cattle dealer by profession, he was the first Chairman of the newly formed Urban Council in 1899 and held that post until his death in his seventieth year on May 4th 1917. In 1896 his wife Catherine, nee Duggan, whose family hailed from the Commons, Cashel, predeceased him at the age of forty three years leaving behind at their Lowergate Street residence seven children ranging in ages from between twenty three and three years.
Photo: Michael Devitt
Michael, a Home Rule supporter, contributed greatly to the civic life of his beloved Cashel. He also served on South Tipperary County Council for sixteen years and was actively involved in many committees including the County Agricultural Committee, Race Committee, Asylum Committee, Loan Fund Committee, the County Tipperary Infirmary Committee and the Town Tenants League. Councillor Wood also discovered that, prior to chairing the Town Council from its ground floor office in Cashels City Hall, Michael Devitt had served with his own grandfather, Dr. Thomas Wood, on the Town Commissioners, when, in recognising that the town was suffering from competition from nearby towns due to the lack of rail transport, they both engaged themselves with other concerned citizens in trying to secure rail transport from Cashel.
A highlight of Michael Devitts Chairmanship of the Town Council would have been the unveiling of the Fountain on Lowergate Square in 1904. Erected by the citizens of Cashel in recognition of the service given by Dean Kinane, 1887-1913, it marked the opening of the Goolds Cross to Cashel Branch Rail Line that same year. Among other developments of significance during his political career was the introduction of a safe, clean supply of drinking water for the citizens and the construction of some of the first local authority housing at Upper Green and Lowergate Square.
Along with being one of the best known southern cattle dealers, his involvement with the South of Ireland Cattle Trade Association brought him into direct contact with hundreds of oppressed tenant farmers and as one of the first members of the Cashel Branch of the Land League he was among their stalwart supporters.
On hearing of his death and in honour of a much respected and trusted citizen shutters were closed and blinds pulled on premises and homes throughout the town for the three days prior to his burial on the Rock when hundreds turned out from all over the county and country making his funeral one of the biggest in memory.
In a final tribute to a worthy Cashel man, the Nationalist correspondent wrote, “ He was a fine type of Tipperary man, one of Cashels worthiest sons and most sterling banner bearer. Deceased was as popular in the County Cork as he was at home. The most affective part of the vast assemblage that foregathered to do honour was the large place occupied by the very poorer elements. They were doing their quota of justice to the memory of one who ever rallied to their support and who never failed to succour them in their darkest hour.”