Launch of Fethard History Book
Below is the address delivered by author, Michael O'Donnell, at the official launch of his book, 'Fethard, County Tipperary, 1200-2000', in the Abymill Theatre, Fethard, on Saturday 21st August 2010.
Photographed at the launch of Michael O'Donnell's book 'Fethard, Co. Tipperary 1200-2000' are L to R: Terry Cunningham (Chairman Fethard Historical Society), Michael O'Donnell (author), Kitty O'Donnell, Dr. Willie Nolan (Geography Publications) and Tony Newport who officially launched the book.
Speech by the Author
I wish to begin by thanking all of you who came here tonight to witness the launch of my history of Fethard. No event can be fully a success without a good attendance of people. This turn-out tonight gives encouragement to all who were involved in the production of this new book and to the chairman and members of the Fethard Historical Society who have organised tonight's wonderful event. However, on the merits or otherwise of the text I have nothing to say. But I would like you to take notice of the design of the book and of its very fine dust-jacket; a creation that would grace any bookshelf.
For all of that the book is not unique. Others have walked along the path that I have strolled. Just one hundred years ago Father John Knowles with the help of his friend Father O'Leary wrote and published a history of Fethard which is still valid today. Hardly bigger than a pocket-book it was beautifully printed and bound. Copies of it can still be picked up at book fairs. A few years ago an important work was published by the Royal Irish Academy and written by Dr. Tadhg O'Keeffe. This was a part of the Academy's Town Atlas series, and was a work of considerable scholarship. The Fethard publication, so early in the series, was quite a boost for the town; it was No. 13, and so was well ahead of what might be considered to be more important towns. Earlier in his career Dr. O'Keeffe carried an archaeological survey of Fethard which he privately published in a very nice format. For anybody with an interest in medieval Fethard those two compositions are of great interest. But Dr. O'Keeffe followed those two up with a guide to medieval Fethard which was published by the Fethard Historical Society and designed and illustrated most elegantly by Joe Kenny.
Previous to these other booklets on Fethard had been published. The late Dean Christopher Lee wrote and published, in the mid 1960s, a fine short essay on the Catholic parish church and the Everard family in Fethard. This will be remembered for its stylish writing and pleasing front cover which had a colour reproduction of the old Fethard statue of God the Father. Another priest who wrote and had published a booklet on Fethard was Father Tom Butler, an Augustinian priest. His work, which dealt with the history of the Augustinians, was one of a series. This was a learned and well-researched composition on the friars. On the cover he had an illustration of the Black Madonna, an ancient statue which was found among the friary ruins in the early part of the twentieth century.
But Holy Trinity Church of Ireland church has not been neglected. The late Mrs. Olivia Hughes wrote and published an account of it which she wove into a general account of Fethard's past. And Dean Robert MacCarthy of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, also wrote a pamphlet on the church. However, while the Protestant community in Fethard and their church have had a place in the general histories on Protestantism in south Tipperary, there has been no specific and well-researched history of the local congregation. A congregation that, to the best of my knowledge is now almost gone. Perhaps someday somebody will take up the task in a manner similar to that which the late Father Tom Butler undertook for his community.
And last but not least by any means there is Jimmy McInerney's booklet on the Patrician Brothers. An account that is now especially important as all the Brothers are gone from Fethard. And more to our immediate interest the house records are also gone from the town. The last I heard of them they were with the Patrician community in Galway. As the Brothers grow old, die off, and are not renewed what will happen to those records. For that reason, apart from any other, Jimmy's booklet is a valuable document. His booklet also highlights the fact that no such work has been undertaken on the Presentation Sisters. Yes, they have been the subject of general articles on the Order in the Tipperary Historical Journal, but we don't have an exclusive work that could stand beside Jimmy's.
And I feel the need to comment that all of the above works, apart from Jimmy McInerney's, hark back to medieval Fethard. Almost no research has been embarked on for the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In those times people lived here, they reared their families, they endured great sorrows and hardships. They and their town should not be left in historical limbo; as they have been, apart from a few pieces in the Fethard Newsletter. In what I have written in this history being launched tonight, I have attempted to shed some light, however dim it is, on those centuries.
While such a history can be written in isolation, it cannot be researched and published in seclusion. A debt is due to many people; and, sadly, in such a work of long gestation the names of many are forgotten. I should like to begin by thanking Tony for agreeing to launch this book of mine. I was delighted when he agreed to accept the task, and to my mind he is the most appropriate person to perform it. Week in week out he had been writing history. By that I mean that the Fethard notes that he contributed to The Nationalist will one day be the fundamental of a history of modern Fethard. Perhaps the column was often the result of sweat, blood and tears, but 1 for one am glad that he did such an excellent weekly job.
I owe also a debt of thanks to Terry for taking on the chore of being master of ceremonies; and to him and to the Fethard Historical Society for making this launch memorable. Terry has for long been a driving force and an able organiser locally, and a great asset to Fethard life. The event that we have here tonight is due to his 'can-do' attitude. Thank you, Terry. And I would like to get in a quick work of thanks at this point to Dóirín Saurus. She it was, a few years ago, who suggested that it was time I got down to writing a history instead of everlastingly seeking more information. My thanks are also due to the other members of the Historical Society for working hard to make tonight a success.
I don't know if I can find adequate words in which to express my gratitude to Joe Kenny. The bulk of the illustrations in this book are Joe's; each a compliment to his artistic abilities. As always his help was given unstintingly. Indeed, it has to be strongly emphasised that no work on Fethard or its past can be produced without the help of Joe. I still have the hope that one day I will hold in my hands a pictorial history of Fethard compiled from Joe's photographs and those of his gifted Kenrick ancestor. That is a hope that will remain with me. And in those few stumbling words I'm also trying to say thanks to Joe for the many forms of assistance he has given me over the past years. I am in his debt.
The charming book that you see here tonight is the result of the work of Professor Willie Nolan. He very kindly agreed to accept the responsibility of formatting and designing the history into the package that is available tonight. Through his publishing house, Geography Publications, he has a wide knowledge of the publishing business, and so Fethard people, and I must say myself, should be proud of the fact that so busy a man, and he has a wide range of commitments, would turn his attention to the history of a small town. I have to highlight the fact that because the book bears the imprint of his publishing house its scholarly value will have increased. I can only crave that the text will measure up to the high standards of his other published books. I would like to add here that Willie and I have a family connection. His twin brother married my first cousin. Sadly, Nellie died two years ago.
As I said earlier this book has been long in development that by now I have forgotten who gave me snippets of information. And many, like Joe Kenney, did. Librarians in Thurles and in Dublin have been especially helpful. I'm told that Mary Darmody (herself a Fethard woman) is here tonight from the Thurles Library headquarters. Mary's help, so freely given, has been invaluable to me. I owe an especial mention to Liam O Duibhir from Clonmel. He always had the kind and encouraging word; he also helped me by giving me convenient access to a library of manuscripts. I thank him sincerely for all he had done.
I'll end by mentioning the wonderful support I received from my wife Kitty and my children. Over years they endured dull history walks, dull lectures, and having to stand before heaps of ancient stones. The children escaped into marriage and their own families, Kitty is still stuck with it. And as Kitty knows, that this book has seen the light of day is due in an enormous way to her.
I finally end on the note of expectation that the book will sell and that it will add to the sum of knowledge on Fethard. Thank you all.