Why North Tipperary: A History Lesson

Brian Boru, King of Munster

Brian Boru, King of Munster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a short than usual post this week, I’m going to have a quick look at how the County of Tipperary has got it’s name and furthermore maybe understand why there is a distinction between North Tipperary and South Tipperary. Hey, it must be the Celts in us to always be on the lookout for a bit of rivalry.

Anyway, my research tells me that before the devastating Norman invasion (from which most of our surnames are derived from, although history does state that the Normans became more Irish than the Irish themselves), well anyway, before the Norman invasion, the county of Tipperary was even divided back then, into the old North Munster kingdom of Thomond (includes parts of Clare and North Limerick), and the South Munster kingdom of Desmond. Now there were two clans that dominated this part of the country and these were the O’Brien’s and the McCarthy’s and it seems that Tipperary was where their endless battles would take place. This was, of course, until McCarthy’s were kicked out into Cork and so the McCarthy name became connected to Cork. The O’Brien’s though ruled supreme, with their most famous monarch being Brian Boru, the founder of the O’Brien dynasty and the High King of Ireland (Reigned: 1002 – 1014, , 1,000 year anniversary early next year, sure now there’s another reason to visit North Tipperary: site of original dominions). Now every Irish schoolboy and schoolgirl has heard of Brian Boru, but even if you haven’t, why not pay Brian Boru’s church, or his birthplace in Kincora, a visit at the border of North Tipperary and Clare at Ballina/Killaloe.

The Rock of Cashel.

The Rock of Cashel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking moreso at this regal history of Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel, which is situated in the centre of the county, was the seat of the kings of Munster, but then the Normans arrived and decided to stay for a bit. On their arrival, the south of the county was granted to Philip de Worchester, while most of the north of the county was granted to Theobald Walter, whose family became the Butler’s or appointed servants to the King and so the Butler name was theirs. The Butlers were originally strong in the Nenagh area and indeed Nenagh castle was built by them. They became the Earls of Ormond and were a very strong voice in Irish affairs for three centuries.

Gramscis cousin 11:14, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

Gramscis cousin 11:14, 12 July 2006 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The county of Tipperary was created and named after the small town of the same name in 1328 and some names that are connected to this great Irish county are the surnames Ryan, Maher, O’Meara, Gleeson, Hogan, O’Dwyer, Quirke, Macken, Moloney, Tracey, Kelly and of course O’Brien and O’Kennedy. In fact a good note of that last one, because another strong clan on the North Tipperary region and in fact the Nenagh area were the O’Kennedy’s, who would have been the ancestors of the late President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy. And that’s not all when it comes to US presidents, there is also Ronald Reagan, who visited his ancestral home of Ballyporeen as President and also the existing President Barak, who of course hails from Moneygal, which is situated on the border of North Tipperary and Offaly and is just 13 miles from Nenagh town.

Now how about those for a number of reasons to visit North Tipperary. ‘The Well of Ara’, or Tipperary as we all know it today, is so packed with history, and we’re connected to our fair share of leaders through the ages, that all you need to do is take a deep breath and  taste it in the air. See y’all next time!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

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Friday Facts

More Silent Film FactsI love silent film facts and I’ve found another minefield of them at the WordPress belonging to Fremont Libraries. Here’s some crackers, so do enjoy:

Rudolph ValentinoThe star of Rex Ingram‘s classic, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse, was Rudolph Valentino, of which was a fact that was previously covered on this Blogsite. However, what I didn’t know was that his christening name was ‘Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaelo Pierre Filibert di Valentina d’Antonguolla Guglielmi’. Now that’s a mouthful alright, but of course he was more well-known as ‘The Great Lover’. As we all know, Valentino died at a young age: 31 and his funeral was a spectacle of massive proportions. But here’s an interesting fact. Seemingly, legend has it that a mysterious Lady in Black still brings flowers to his grave every year on the anniversary of his death. Rumour has it that the current lady in black is not the original, but the identities of any of these Ladies in Black over the past 90 odd years has never been conclusively determined.

John BarrymoreOne of the great silent film actors of the day, John Barrymore was known “the Great Profile”. John was reluctant to enter the family-acting business. He actually wanted to be an artist and studied art in England to achieve that goal. He was a cartoonist for the New York Evening Journal. John Barrymore is known mostly for his portrayal of Hamlet and for his roles in movies like Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1920), Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Twentieth Century (1934), and Don Juan (1926), the first feature length movie to use a Vitaphone soundtrack.

Tom MixThomas Hezikiah Mix was one of the most famous of the silent film cowboys. He was well remembered for conducting his own stunts, for his lavish lifestyle, and what is claimed on the Wilkipedia website as the somewhat embroidered story of his past. One incident of his legacy states that when an injury caused football player John Wayne to drop out of USC, Mix helped him get a job moving props in the back lot of Fox Studios. Like his fellow actor, Ronald Reagan, John Wayne was hugely influenced by Tom Mix, and their acting styles as cowboys were said to be based on the silent film great.

Lillian GishBack during the silent-era, Lillian Gish was known as the ‘Iron Horse of Hollywood’, and although she appeared as a fragile creature on-screen, nothing could be further from the truth in reality. When she was four, she joined a traveling acting company to help support her family. At some stage, Mary Pickford introduced her, and her sister Dorothy, to D. W. Griffith. And so, another silent film legend began!

Theda BaraTheda Bara‘s (Theodosia Goodman) on-screen character was identified the world over as that of a ‘Vamp’. Her character was that of a wicked woman of exotic sexual appeal, who lured men into her web, only to ruin them. Although this image truly suited her character, much of her image and purported biography were created by the studio. It was popular during the silent-era to promote an actress as mysterious, with an exotic background. Bara was promoted by the studio with a massive publicity campaign, billing her as the Egyptian-born daughter of a French actress and an Italian sculptor. It was claimed that she had spent her early years in the Sahara Desert under the shadow of the Sphinx, before moving to France to become a stage actress. The truth of the matter was that Theda Bara had never been to Egypt or to France. She was called the Serpent of the Nile and she was encouraged to discuss mysticism and the occult when she was being interviewed. It is regarded by film historians that it was at this point that the birth of two Hollywood phenomena can be traced back to: the studio publicity department and the press agent, and so the great giant of Hollywood public relations was born.

PS: Don’t forget to click on the links for more info! See y’all next week.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

 

 

Why Nenagh – Film & Television Connections

Mystery PersonThere are many talented people associated with Nenagh town and it’s environs and none moreso than in the area of film and television. In fact, there are people living are connected to the vicinity of North Tipperary itself that would surprise you. This week I’m going to take a look at some of these world famous names, because you’d never know who’d you meet along any of Nenagh’s historic streets.

Rex IngramSo why not start with the big man himself. Reginald Ingram Montgomery Hitchcock, later to become known as Rex Ingram, was born in Rathmines in Dublin. As a young man his family moved to North Tipperary, whereby his father was employed as a verger in the Borrisokane Church of Ireland and also the Nenagh Church of Ireland. He lived for approximately eighteen months in Nenagh and it was here where he viewed his first moving picture. That was in 1901 at a traveling circus. The experience obviously stuck with him, because as we all know, Rex went on to become one of the great pioneers of Hollywood in the silent era. A plaque in his honour was erected in the town at the house where he lived amongst us by the Nenagh Silent Film Festival Committee in February 2013. He died on July 21st 1950, which was 63 years ago this very week.

MartinSheenYou see, there’s more than one president connected to North Tipperary (see President Barack Obama of Moneygall, which is on the border of County Tipperary and County Offaly and is just 12 miles from Nenagh town) and also (President Ronald Reagan of Ballyporeen, County Tipperary). The world renowned Hollywood actor and star of The West Wing, Martin Sheen, has very strong connections to North Tipperary. His family roots are from the Borrisokane area, which is just ten miles from Nenagh town, and it was from here where his mother emigrated to the United States. Martin is a proud son of North Tipperary and is a regular visitor to the area.

Patrick BerginHere’s another famous Hollywood actor who lives within our midst here in North Tipperary. Patrick Bergin lives in a castle that is situated near Cloughjordan and this town-land is just a ten minute drive from Nenagh town. Patrick has plenty of form as an actor including Sleeping with the Enemy, in which he wouldn’t leave poor Julia Roberts alone, and of course Robin Hood along with a number of very impressive titles. He is regularly seen in Nenagh town and other North Tipperary parishes.

Charlie Sheen

And then there’s Charlie! Charlie Sheen, son of aforementioned Martin Sheen has, through his father and then of course his grand-mother, strong connections to the North Tipperary locality. Martin is very well known as a major Hollywood actor and American television star. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’ll never know who you might meet around about Nenagh-way.

Emilio EstevezNow I couldn’t leave it at that about the Sheen clan. There’s also Martin‘s other son Emilio. He may have taken the name his father was christened with, but like his brother and of course his father, there is still North Tipperary blood running through his veins. Another major Hollywood connection for North Tipperary. Emilio has a wonderful career in his own right with some wonderful productions behind him like Young Guns, St Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club to name just a few. He also has a career as a director, screenwriter and a producer.

Johnny DeppNow Johnny Depp hasn’t being able to find roots to North Tipperary as of yet, that I know of, but he was reported to be in the Toomevara (village 5 miles from Nenagh town) graveyard searching for his roots a couple of years back. But Johnny is no stranger to Nenagh town and the North Tipperary countryside. He’s a very close friend of Shane MacGowan, who is from and lives a few miles from Nenagh and he’s a regular visitor to the area. We’ll just have to dig a little deeper and I’m sure before long we’ll find his true Irish roots in the heartland of North Tipperary. (More on Shane McGowan next week)

George ClooneyThere are quite a number of other connections to the world of film and television and this is something we are very proud about. To name just a few more, there’s George Clooney who has been reported to have visited North Tipperary in the recent past in search of his own roots. Then there’s Brigie de Courcy (Executive Producer of Fair City and formally Producer on Eastenders), who is married to Nenagh man Kevin McGee (Award-Winning Playwright, Director, Producer, Irish television script-writer). And there is Kevin’s brother Noel, who is also an Irish television script-writer. There are countless others and if you want to remind me of them please leave a comment in the Comment box below. Next week I’ll take a look at some famous names throughout history who have called Nenagh town their home.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee