Why North Tipperary – Famous Musicians

Rainy Night in Soho

Rainy Night in Soho (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello again all; welcome back to Why North Tipperary – our weekly look at why it would be a good idea to pay North Tipperary a visit, if you want to do some traveling. This week I’m going to look at some of the world famous musicians who are connected to North Tipperary. You’ll also be able to view one of the major hits connected to each musician, so do enjoy.

Brendan Graham is a very successful Irish novelist and he is also a well renowned songwriter, with the composition of two of Ireland’s winning Eurovision tunes: Rock n’ Roll Kids and The Voice, but his most famous song is You Raise me Up, for which he wrote the lyrics for Rolf Lovland. He was born in 1945 and grew up in Nenagh town.

Shane MacGowan is one of the greatest contemporary song-writers of the 1980s right through to the 90’s and noughties.and his music is world famous with some of his more famous tracks including Fairytale of New York, A Rainy Night in Soho, Summer in Siam and The Sunnyside of the Street. Shane was born in London, but spent his youth in his mother’s family home in Carney, which is just outside of Nenagh. He regularly visits Nenagh each year, as he has a dwelling just outside of the town, so you are very likely to bump into an Irish musical legend  at anytime down in old Nenagh town.

Frank Patterson was an internationally renowned Irish tenor, who was born in Clonmel on October 5th 1938, however, he lived for a time in Borrisoleigh. Frank, who was known as Ireland’s Golden Tenor, is said to have followed in the tradition of famous Irish singers like Count John McCormack and Josef Locke. Frank Patterson passed away June 10th 2000, but his voice lives on – one example in the above Youtube video is of his version of Danny Boy in the film Miller’s Crossing.

Thurles woman Una Theresa Imogene Healy is an Irish singer-songwriter and musician who is best known as a member of the world famous girl group The Saturdays. The group have enjoyed eight top ten hits and have three top ten album hits. Theresa is married to the England rugby union player, Ben Foden.

Boy George was born George Alan O’Dowd in Kent on June 14th 1961, however, his parents, Jeremiah and Dinah O’Dowd, were form Thurles, County Tipperary. Boy George, who formed his own group called Culture Club, was part of the English New Romanticism movement, which emerged in the early mid-1980s.

John Francis Waller, who was born in 1810 and died in 1894, was an Irish poet and editor and also a writer of popular songs. Some of his more famous tunes include Cushla Ma Chree, The Spinning Wheel and Song of Glass. He was born at Limerick, but lived for a long time in Borrisokane.

John McCormack, Irish tenor

John McCormack, Irish tenor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so you have it. A short piece this week, but how many of these world famous musicians did you know had such strong roots to North Tipperary? If anyone can direct me to others, please feel free to drop me a line. Till next week then.

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Why Nenagh – Famous Connections

Welcome to this week’s version of Why Nenagh, our look at different reasons to come to Nenagh and the North Tipperary area. Last week I looked at different famous film and television characters who have connections to the Nenagh and North Tipperary area. This week I am going to look at some other people who have connections to Nenagh.

Shane MacGowanShane MacGowan

First up is one of the greatest contemporary song-writers of the 1980s right through to the 90’s and noughties. Shane MacGowan and his music is world famous with some of his more famous tracks including Fairytale of New York, A Rainy Night in Soho, Summer in Siam and The Sunnyside of the Street. Shane was born in London, but spent his youth in his mother’s family home in Carney, which is just outside of Nenagh. He regularly visits Nenagh each year, as he has a dwelling just outside of the town, so you are very likely to bump into an Irish musical legend  at anytime down in old Nenagh town.

NPG D9303; John Toler, 1st Earl of Norbury after Unknown artistJohn Toler (1st Earl of Norbury)

Well you have your good characters and bad characters that are connected to any town or parish and Nenagh is no different, so lets have a look at John Toler, the ‘Hanging Judge’. John Toler, the 1st Earl of Norbury, was born on the 3rd December in 1745 in Beechwood, Nenagh. He went onto become one of the most hated figures in power in Ireland during the late seventeen hundreds and the early eighteen hundreds. He was appointed Chief Justice of Ireland in 1800 and his most famous trial was that of Irish nationalist leader and patriot Robert Emmet. Norbury interrupted and abused Emmet throughout the trial before sentencing him to death. Throughout the 27 years he held the post of Chief Justice he was known to joke even when the life of a human being was hanging in the balance; this resulted in Norbury becoming known as ‘The Hanging Judge’. Throughout his life Norbury had a strong belief in the Protestant ascendancy and he had a number of run-ins with the Irish Catholic Leadership, including Daniel O’Connell on several occasions, and also the British establishment after the Napoleonic Wars, when they there was a new aim of establishing a better relationship with the Catholic majority. Norbury died at 85 years in 1831 and was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Mary Street, Dublin.

J. D. BernalJ. D. Bernal

John Desmond Bernal, who was born at Brookwatson Nenagh on May 10th 1901, was one of the foremost scientists of the twentieth century. He was a controversial figure because of his communist beliefs and connections, but the work he produced throughout his lifetime as a scientist is hugely impressive. He is considered a pioneer of X-ray crystallography in molecular biology. In 1924 he determined the structure of graphite and he also did work on the crystal structure of bronze. His strength was in analysis as much as experimental method, and his mathematical and practical treatment of determining crystal structure was widely studied. Later on, he worked for the British War Ministry during World War II, where his main contribution to the Normandy Landings was the detailed mapping of the beaches. After assisting in the preparations for D-Day with work on the structure of the proposed landing sites as well as the bocage countryside beyond, Bernal landed at Normandy on the afternoon of D-Day +1 in the uniform of an instructor-Lieutenant RN to record the effectiveness of the plans. During his lifetime, Bernal was awarded the Royal Medal (1945), Guthrie Lecture (1947), the Stalin Peace Prize (1953), Grotius Gold Medal (1959), the Bakerian Lecture (1962) and he was a Fellow of the Royal Society. John Desmond Bernal died on the 15th September 1971, aged 70 years, and is buried in Battersea Cemetery, Morden, in a grave that is unmarked.

Sonny O'NeillSonny O’Neill’s Headstone

Denis ‘Sonny’ O’Neill wasn’t born in Nenagh town or outside it, but he lived most of his life in a town that became a protector and an adopted home for an individual who actually changed Irish history. So who was Sonny O’Neill? Well, he’s none other than the person who shot the Irish patriot and Leader Michael Collins. The story goes that the anti-treaty forces had set up an ambush at Béal na Bláth on August 22nd 1922 to assassinate Collins. The ambush squad consisted of Tom Hales, Jim Hurley, Dan Holland, Tom Kelleher, Sonny O’Neill, Paddy Walsh, John O’Callaghan, Sonny Donovan, Bill Desmond and Dan Corcoran. Seemingly the squad had decided to disperse and were clearing the road as well as diffusing a roadside bomb, when the convey of vehicles that included Michael Collins came upon them. A gun battle ensued and as the anti-treaty forces retreated, a shot rang out from O’Neill’s weapon that entered Collins forehead and blasted a hole at the back of his head. Michael Collins was dead and Sonny was soon on the run. He eventually made it to North Tipperary and before long he took lodgings in Queens/Mitchell Street in Nenagh town, where he remained for the remainder of his life. His secret was kept safe by those that knew who he was in the town and he was even one of the founding fathers of the Fianna Fail party in North Tipperary. Sonny O’Neill is buried in Tyone Cemetery, Nenagh.

Donal RyanDonal Ryan (Author: The Spinning Heart)

Donal Ryan’s debut novel The Spinning Heart was nominated on the Man-Booker Prize Long-List for 2013. An amazing achievement for a debut novelist, he has being quoted to have said he received approximately 50 rejections from publishers, before he eventually found a publisher who were willing to back him. Ryan’s publisher Transworld Book (Doubleday) tweeted that it was “thrilled” that his “stunning debut” had been longlisted. Donal is a born and bred Nenagh man.

JFK

Not a bad collection that we have linked to the town. Of course there is an actual connection to President John F. Kennedy also. You see back in the Norman times, before they decided they wanted to build the Nenagh castle and plant their own knights here, the land around Nenagh was O’Kennedy country and remained so for several centuries after the Norman conquest. So you see, although John F. Kennedy’s family roots may have been linked to Wexford, his ancient clan’s roots are here in Nenagh and North Tipperary. In fact the ancient treaty that was presented to President Kennedy on a visit to Ireland in 1962 and is now housed in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts was signed between the invading Normans and the Kennedy’s in Nenagh Castle. More next week when I will have a look at festivals that are connected to the area.

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