Cashel Bids for 2013 Famine Commemoration

CASHEL could be at the centre of poignant national commemorations next year, if a bid put to Cashel Town Councillors at this month’s meeting comes to fruition.

CASHEL could be at the centre of poignant national commemorations next year, if a bid put to Cashel Town Councillors at this month’s meeting comes to fruition.

South Tipperary Heritage Officer Labhaoise McKenna told the Chamber that the County Council and the Cashel Heritage Forum - a local community group set up to organise the event - would like to propose Cashel as the site for the National Famine Commemoration, due to take place in May next year.

The formal state ceremony may include a visit from the President, Ambassadors from different countries, and be followed by a local community event involving local public representatives, community and cultural groups.

A week-long programme of locally organised events would take place in the run up to the main ceremony, with plays, lectures, walks, musicals and choral recitals, and readings. Cashel has a strong association with the Famine, explained Ms McKenna. “There are at least eight key sites in the area which have direct connections with the famine. The Rock of Cashel is an iconic feature due its imposing location in the South Tipperary landscape and its ecclesiastical history; however, Cashel also has poignant associations with famine times as can be seen in place names such as Bóthar na Marbh and Bóthar Bocht. During the famine years Cashel’s population was much greater, and the town suffered greatly. In view of this history, the people of Cashel are keen to commemorate the great famine in 2013.”

Councillors were told that during the famine, Cashel accommodated many famine victims from surrounding townslands. Local Historian Martin Bob O’Dwyer, curator of the Cashel Folk Village and a member of the Cashel Heritage Forum is currently writing a book on the Cashel Famine Union - the body set up at the time to help deal with the massive influx of the starving and ill.

“As part of the Cashel Union - The Cashel Workhouse, now St Patrick’s Hospital, was a centre for famine victims where they were either accommodated or dispersed through the town to auxiliary houses,” continued Ms McKenna. “When people died they were buried either at the graveyard in the grounds of the Workhouse or brought to St Mark’s Graveyard to the south of the town on the Clonmel Road, which is now regularly maintained and where an annual mass is hosted every August. It is recorded that up to 1,000 people who died during the famine are buried here. Bóthar na Marbh is the path to the Rock of Cashel where more people were buried, this is still in regular use by visitors and locals alike. Bóthar Bocht is the path from the town westwards that the destitute were forced to walk to get to Castleleake House located to the west of Cashel town.”

The Cashel Heritage Forum has been set up to bid for this prestigious event. Committee members include:Joanne O’Brien who is an archaeologist and co-organiser of the Rathnadrinna Archaeology project, Cashel Walled Towns Day Committee; Sean Laffey, Chairperson of the Cashel Chamber of Commerce, Cashel walled Towns; Geraldine Laffey, assistant Events co-ordinator of the Cashel EU Charters, Cashel Walled Towns committee; Olivia Quinlan, Manager Cashel Heritage & Development Trust Ltd, Events co-ordinator, Cashel EU Charter 2011; Martin Bob O’Dwyer, Cashel Folk Village; Mick O’Droma, archaeologist and Cashel Walled towns Day co-ordinator; Labhaoise McKenna, Heritage Officer South Tipperary Co.Co; Mary Guinan Darmody, Tipperary Local Studies Librarian, South Tipperary Heritage Forum; Cashel Town Council.

A submission to put Cashel forward as the site for the event must be submitted by October 5th, with a notification of the successful applicant by late December.