Famine and War Museum

Welcome to the website for St. Mary’s Church which is located in Thurles, Co.Tipperary, Ireland. This building also contains the Thurles Famine and War Museums

Brief History of this building

The Protestant Church of St. Mary’s in Thurles is the site of the official Pre-Reformation Church of Thurles. The original structure was built by the Normans, in the 13th century, to provide them with a separate and more exclusive place of worship.

Some time after the erection of St. Mary’s church, it, together with the native church and those of Rahealty, Shyan and Athnid were given into the custody of the Abbot of Abbington, head of the Cistercian monastery which had been founded by Theobald Butler. The Abbot became the Rector of these churches. He also received the associated glebelands and tithe revenues. As was the practice, the Abbot paid a vicar or vicars, appointed by the Archbishop of Cashel, to perform the spiritual duties of these local churches.

The newly built St. Mary’s church must have been modestly impressive, at least to the locals. The church had the usual tower feature in Cistercian/Norman religious buildings. Ownership passed back and forth during and after the Reformation, between Protestant and Catholic custodians. It was not securely in Protestant hands until after the Williamite Campaign – in fact, in 1690, the only place for Protestant worship in the town was an old waste house. Because of wars, the building was a ruin as early as 1615, according to the record of a visitation of such buildings requested by King James1st. of England.

St. Mary’s and its chapel of Our Lady were used for burials. Among those early burials we find that of the Rev. Dan Maher, C.C. Thurles, who made his will in 1666, directing that he be buried in some corner of the Blessed Virgin’s Chapel, near the parish church of Thurles, if that church had not been consecrated. If it had, then he desired to be buried where Father Donogh Houlihan was buried. This whole question of the Lady’s Chapel is confusing. It’s difficult to say whether it was a constituent part of, or simply near, St. Mary’s parish church. The reference here is that the church of St. Mary’s would have been ‘desecrated‘ by Protestant service and would need reconsecration or rededication to the Catholic requirements.

Such a ceremony took place in nearby Cashel during the Rebellion of 1641 before the Catholics returned to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the Rock of Cashel. Father Maher’s will seems to imply, therefore, that Father Houlihan was buried somewhere inside the St. Mary’s of that period (Fr. Houlihan was the last Prior of the Carmelites).

Following the Restoration of the Monarchy the Protestant church became the State Church of Ireland in January 1661. Prior to the middle of the eighteenth century the Protestant community must have re-roofed St. Mary’s. Their vestry books of 1746 state that the tower was in bad repair – in danger of falling in; some of it had earlier fallen on the roof of the adjoining church structure. A surviving etching shows the church to have been originally double-gabled.

Pococke, when he visited the town in 1752, mentions a Protestant church built on to the tower of an old church, the east part of which was an arch under that tower. He refers to a chapel east of the tower containing the Archer monument, a tomb still to be seen today. The site has been built on or reconstructed several times. The present modest structure was built in 1812.

The oldest visible monument in the graveyard is the Archer tomb which was erected to the memory of Edmund Archer, ‘Burgess of Thurles‘ and Lord of Rathfernagh, Galboola, Corbally and Kyllienane. There is a tradition that Archer was killed at Raheenrue near Drish bridge by the forces of Elizabeth. The tomb is alter-shaped with the following carvings; the figures of the Apostles, the Archer and Butler (or de la Poer) crests, a representation of the Crucifixion and on the upper slab, the figures of a Norman knight and his lady – representing Archer and his wife – not, as is locally believed, Adam and Eve.

The Grace monument north of the church is a block of masonry twelve feet high, attached to which is an alter-tomb surmounted by a plain slab with incised lettering and bearing the Grace and Purcell crests. This monument was erected in 1683 by John Grace in memory of his wife (nee Purcell) and a year later received his own remains.

Among the more recent headstones we find the names: John Carroll, Drish, died 1701 and his grandson, Pat Carroll of Moycarkey Castle who died in 1801 at the age of 98 years; John Nicholson, Turtulla, died 1784; Ignatius Brown, Ballycurrane, died 1783; Pat Nagle, Clongower, died 1789; John Harty, Thurles, died 1795; Denis O’Brien, Thurles, died 1786 (He was the ancestor of the O’Meara family of Ardfert and land-agent to the Mathews’ of Thurles & Thomastown); Val. Maher, Turtulla, died 1843; John Maher of Tullamaine Castle, died 1850. In a vault nearby are the remains of Dr. W. Maher of Thurles who died 1836, and his brother, Nicholas Maher, M.P., Turtulla, died 1871; Charles O’Keeffe murdered 1839; Tom Ryan, Thurles, died 1818; (Latter was known as the Distiller of Thurles and Rathmanna.) Tom Ryan, Rathmanna, died 1835 and John Ryan, Corbally who died in 1895.

There is a plain sandstone slab near the centre of the graveyard to the memory of Rev. Michael Fihan – 35 years P.P. of Thurles who died 176-, aged 71 years. Rev. Chas Greene, Doctor of the Sorbonne P.P. Thurles, died 1774, Nicholas Morris, P.P., Loughmore, died 1795; (Latter a horizontal slab to right of the church). Father Morris was a native of Thurles and was baptised in 1735 by the Rev. Michael Fihan. The most famous old bones buried in the Lady’s Chapel are those of the mother of the Duke of Ormond, Lady Elizabeth, Viscountess Thurles.

(A recent list of all identified grave markers is available but a review of the ‘Memorials of the Dead’  (published by The Association for the Preservation of Memorials for the Dead, Ireland, published during the years 1888 to 1934) might shed more light on grave-markers no longer legible.)

The church is still used by the Church of Ireland Community today as a place of worship. Current Rector: Rev Peter Massey Cole-Baker B.Sc B.Th. Telephone: (0504) 31175.

The Famine Museum

In 1995 the Thurles Church of Ireland community kindly donated one third of this building to create a Famine Museum to commemorate the many people who lost their lives through disease and starvation during the Great Famine in Ireland of 1845-1850.

The War Museum

In 1997 work began to restore a gallery which previously had existed in the building prior to 1812. On completion in 1999 this new space was allocated to exibiting our collection of war memorabelia which includes the famous and rare Armstrong Collection, presently on loan to this building.

97 thoughts on “Famine and War Museum

  1. admin Post author

    Hi Kathleen,
    Hereunder are the gravestone inscriptions at St Mary’s Church.

    Carrigan: In memory of Mary Ann Carrigan died 22nd June 1930 aged 58 years Her sister Anastasia Fanning died 4th Nov 1941 aged 73 years Patrick Fanning died 1st march 1916 aged 78 years Buried in this cemetary Give them eternal rest O Lord.

    Corcoran: Erected by Mrs Corcoran in memory of her father Henry Fanning died 20th Nov 1826 aged 40 years Also her beloved son Michael died May 26th 1866 aged 30 years

    Fanning: Sacred to the memory of Mr John Fanning of Thurles who departed this life the 2nd of December 1844 aged 42 years May he rest in peace Also to the memory of his brother Mr Patrick Fanning who departed this life the 8th April 1884 aged 80 years May he rest in peace [121]

    Fanning: Erected by Patrick Fanning in memory of his wife Mary Fanning alias Ryan who departed this life the 20th February in the year of Our Lord 1828 aged 50 years [123]

    Toohey: Erected by Wm Toohey of Grange in the parish of Holycross in memory of his wife Mary Fanning who depd this life Oct 16th 1839 aged 27 years Also her infant son [13]

    Fannin: Here lies the body of Richard Fannin died Dec 20th 1799 aged ___ also his wife Catherine Shanahan dept March 1st 1783(5) aged 67 years [14]

    Fannin: Here lies the body of Thos Fannin who depd March 10th 1820 aged 36 years May he rest in peace Amen Erected by his wife Honora Fannin als Ryan Grange Also are deposited the remains of the above Honora Ryan who died June 20th 1871 aged 80 years and their daughter Mary Fannin died July 16th 1827 aged 8 years [12]

    The numbers after each written inscription refer to Graveyard positioning.

    Hope this is of some help to you in your search.

    Best regards.

  2. Kathleen Fanning

    Hi George
    Thank you very much for gathering the list of Fanning graves and their inscriptions from St Marys. It will be a great help in my research.

  3. Maura Barrett

    From my current research into Tower Houses in Slieveardagh ~ Fannings lived in the Tower House (now in ruins) in Farranrory, near Ballingarry, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. This castle remained standing after Cromwell’s rampage. It is round.

  4. Dale Cheeseman

    I am looking for a Kathleen Fanning born June 1951, was born in Ireland and lived in England from 1970 and then the trail goes cold, any information would be great as I have some news for Kathleen which is very important.

    Please get in touch if anyone can help

  5. admin Post author

    Hi Dale,
    I have checked, the Kathleen Fanning on this site is not the lady you seek.
    Regards George

  6. Carol Roice

    My Gt.Grandfather’s brother, Thomas Carroll, erected a Memorial to their parents, Thomas & Johanna Carroll (d.1860 & 1895), and their brothers Daniel & John (d.1873 Meean Meer & 1873 Thurles). Thomas who erected the memorial, emigrated to New York c1870 & may have returned when Johanna died to do this. Would there be any sort of record held that would give a New York City address or other details? Our family have wondered for many years what happened to him and searches of US records only give p.o.b. as Ireland – and there are literally hundreds of them!
    Regards, Carol

  7. admin Post author

    Hi Carol
    Memorial reads:-
    “Erected by Thomas Carroll New York City USA to the memory of his father Thomas Carroll who departed this life 8th April 1860 aged 71 years Also his brother Daniel Carroll who died at Meeanmeer east India 11th Sept 1873 aged 29 years and his brother John Carroll who departed this life 5th Dec 1873 Also his mother Johanna Carroll who died April 29th 1895 aged 84 years”

    Note: Tomb Identity No138 – on RHS, inside the gate half way up as you face the Church Door.

    We regret we have no other information regarding Mr Carroll’s Address in USA, but we will inquire.
    Brother Daniel could have been at the Military Hospital possibly “Lock Hospital” in Meean Meer.

    He could have been with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who were stationed there around that time, and news of his death would have been sent to an address in Ireland. See Book link could help: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1843422387?ie=UTF8&tag=thurleinform-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1843422387“>Historical Records of the Seventh or Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
    Historical Records of the 79Th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1142396606?ie=UTF8&tag=thurleinform-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1142396606“>
    However both books would help with understanding Daniels Life style in India.

  8. Carol Roice

    Hi “Admin”,
    Thanks for such a prompt reply. I will follow up on the leads you have kindly given me. My Gt.grandfather James (Daniel’s younger brother), was stationed at Meean Meer at the time of Daniel’s death there. James was in the Worcestershire Regt. but they have no records of Daniel, only James, so perhaps Daniel was in the Fusiliers.

    To bother you again, can you point me in the right direction in finding out anything about their parents, Thomas & Johanna Carroll?

    Thanks for your help.
    Kind regards,


  9. Ann Mahon

    Good Evening,

    I will be visiting Ireland this summer (end of June) to conduct research regarding commemoration and memory of the Irish Famine. I was wondering how I could go about getting information about the creation, funding, design, etc of the Famine Musuem or if I could arrange to speak with someone?

    Thank you for your help
    Ann Mahon

  10. admin Post author

    Hi and Good Evening to you Ann,
    You can contact me directly by Telephone at 0504-21133 when you arrive in Ireland.
    However do give me due notice of when you intend to visit – thus ensuring that I am available to meet with you.

    Kindest regards,
    George Willoughby

  11. Maura Barrett

    Can you explain to me the Thurles link with the Britsih Royal Family? I remember something from a Plaque on teh floor in St Mary’s. Thanks a million.

  12. Kathleen Fanning

    Hi George
    I am wondering if you have my gggrandfather’s sister buried in St Marys graveyard. She was Sarah Sheehan nee Fanning and is buried with her husband John and other family members. She died in 1888. Any directions as to its location would be helpful.
    My sister is coming over to Ireland for a visit in May and I am hoping she can find the grave and take some photos.
    Could you also give me the address of St Marys? It is a Protestant church? and would she be able to visit the Famine & War Museums?
    Many thanks
    Kathleen Fanning

  13. admin Post author

    Hi Kathleen

    As requested

    Erected by Sarah Sheehan of Thurles in memory of her beloved husband John Sheehan who died 3rd August 1881 aged 66 years Also to the memory of their dearly beloved daughter Sarah Sheehan who died on the 31st May 1886 in the 24th year of her age sincerely regretted Here also are deposited the remains of the above Mrs Sarah Sheehan who died 10th Oct 1888 aged 72 years Also Mary Ellen Ryan nee O’Donnell died 21st Dec 1916 aged 34 years. Grave ref [161]

    Would she be able to visit the Famine & War Museums? – Yes

    Address of St Marys? – St Mary’s Lane Thurles,Co.Tipperary. Tel:- 0504-21133

  14. Elizabeth Cromar (nee Bradshaw)

    I am trying to find out more about my Father’s ancestor Asst.Surgeon William Bradshaw V.C(at Lucknow) . born Thurles 12th February 1830 died Thurles 9 March 1861 and I believe buried in your Graveyard. All the Bradshaw men seem to have been Doctors, as my Grandfather Robert Bradshaw,was. My G-G-Great father was Apothecary/Doctor around 1746 in Thurles.
    Would it be oossible to have a picture of his Grave? Is there a Memorial Window to him. in the Church? Is it a Military Graveyard?
    My son visited the Sunday before Easter, but could pnly take a photo of St. Mary’s as the Graveyard was padlocked.
    Any details would be gratefully received.
    Yours very truly Elizabeth Cromar.
    I live in Greenock, Scotland, where there is a large Irish community.

  15. Elizabeth Cromar (nee Bradshaw)

    Thank you, I know you will be very busy,just now, & shall be watching The Queen’s visit on Tuesday, on our BBC 2. Elizabeth,

  16. Elizabeth Cromar (nee Bradshaw)

    I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who has connections to the Bradshaw Family. I know there are still a few living in Eire or Carrick-on-Shannon, where some are buried. Regards, Elizabeth.

  17. Terry

    I’m seeking to see if my relative Michael Ryan, married to Mary (nee Neill) Ryan is buried in St. Mary’s graveyard. His son, Roger/Rody Ryan was baptised in October, 1795 in the Parish of Thurles. Please reply to my e-mail address – thanks!

  18. admin Post author

    Hi Terry
    We regret we cannot find any burial reference to your family in our records.
    (Your Mail address shows DNS Error: Domain name not found)

  19. Patrick Hayes

    George: Congratulations on the announcement of re-opening the museum. Your efforts there were certainly enlightening to my family history research and the community of Thurles should be proud to host this facility. Thanks for all your tireless efforts and enthusiasm.

  20. Elizabeth Cromar (nee Bradshaw)

    Hi! “Admin” My P.C. was ‘not responding’ for a few days! felt lost without it. Now, I have found out that my son Stephen did visit your Famine Museum, on Sunday 3rd April. but couldn’t view the Gravestones. as it was locked. Could you possible send me a list and inscriptions of Bradhsaw’s burials in your Churchyard. I believe there is a memorial window to Surg Lt. Wm Bradshaw V.C who is buried in your graveyard, in a church in Carrick-on-Shannon where some other Bradshaws are interred. I have yet to contact them. Elizabeth.

  21. admin Post author

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Graveyard is closed on Sundays due to anti social behaviour locally.
    However the gravestone is badly worn and photography would be of little benifit.

    Actual reading on Tombstone is as follows:-

    Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of Dorcas Bradshaw relict of the late George Bradshaw Esq of Corbally who departed this life at Thurles on the 11th Oct 1832 in the 77th year of her age Also the remains of Alicia Bradshaw widow of Dr Bradshaw who died at Thurles on the 30th of October 1852 aged 52 and of Willian Bradshaw V C late assistant surgeon 32nd light infantry who died 9th March 1861 Ellen Bradshaw who died 18th October 1856 George Bradshaw Esq M D who died the 14th Aug 1867 aged 68 years [Tomb Number 498]

    There is no window erected to his memory, however there are two plaques dedicated to the family’s memory within the Church building.
    Trusting this information is of some assistance.
    Best regards

  22. Jake Sanderson

    My name is Jake and I am completing a history day project on the Irish famine…I would like to speak to someone about the famine and its effects today. I would appreciate any information that you could send.
    Thank you

  23. county-maher

    Searching for County maybe Maher
    Michael County/Maher m Mary Ryan both came from Thurles Tipperary
    children settled in Geelong, Australia

  24. admin Post author

    Maher is a very common name in Tipperary.
    Information supplied is very little, however try website Hidden Tipperary
    Maher which is currently being constructed. See Graveyards.
    Do note that Maher is also spelt Meagher and Magher.

    Perhaps if you gave me more information I could further assist.

    Best regards.

  25. Pittman Family

    Greetings to you all over the water hope this mail finds you all well.
    Wonder if any of you kind folk could shed any light on The Pittman family that hailed from Thurles Tipperary ??? All I know is that my 4xG Grandfather Thomas Pittman was born in Thurles in 1789 & his brother Edward two years earlier in 1787.I know that they went out to India after signing upto join the British army in Dublin.I know nothing of the family & wondered if there was any gravestones with inscriptions of any Pittman family that you know of.Any info would be much appreciated
    Thanking you for your time & energies
    Mr Allsworth Redman.

  26. annamaria

    I’ll be in ireland in a few days. I would like to know, please, if the Sheela-na- gig is still on the wall, or is with you.
    I looked on Google Maps Street View looking Lloyds Pat’s Tyre and Batteries shop, but on the way to Horse and Jockey did not find it. Is this store visible from the street?
    Thanks you veru much

  27. admin Post author

    Hi Ann Marie,
    It is still behind Lyon’s Tyre and Battery situated on Slievenamon road opposite HQ nightclub.
    Tipperary political & community leaders care little about history and its value, I am sorry to relate.
    But some of us are trying to correct this, see http://www.hiddentipperary.com/
    Best regards,

  28. Robert Kelly

    I am looking for a g-g-g-gradmother Mary Power Cass who was born about 1780; Mary’s age on this marker would seem to preclude her, but her sister was born 28 years before so maybe the age for Mary is incorrect. Any chance the age could be interpreted as 70 or 80 instead?
    Also, I believe the Cass family was Catholic. What was the likelyhood of an interfaith marriage and then burial in a Protestant cemetery?
    Erected by Patrick Power in memory of his sister Bridget Guildea als Power died January the 6th 1825 aged 52 years Also his sister Mary Cass als Power died January 13th 1851 aged 40 years May they rest in peace Amen [86]”
    Thank you,

  29. admin Post author

    Hi Robert,
    For the most part there are very few cemeteries in Ireland designated to one particular faith. All religions beliefs are to be found in most cemeteries. St Mary’s is just such a cemetery with all denominations buried together including non denominational.
    I will check in case the age is incorrect as the tomb is weather beaten and may have been incorrectly read.
    However it could also indicate that Mary Cass may have been an illegitimate child of a young girl in the Power family, but brought up as a sister/daughter by her true grandmother to remove shame from the child and her true mother. This is often the case where you have age gaps. Irish Society was not very kind or understanding back then.
    Please leave this with me for a few days to research further. See also Link:- http://www.hiddentipperary.com/cemeteries-graveyards/grave-inscriptions-in-st-marys-churchyard/
    Regards George.

  30. Cheryl Anderson

    I, along with other relatives, am researching James McLoughlin and Elizabeth Cantwell. James came to Australia in 1862 under the name of Maritn Loughnane. However, I don’t know why he would change his name for the voyage. He did – if it was the same James McLoughlin – sign the Cormack peition as far as I can establish and I wonder if that might have had something to do with it but I guess after all this itme I can only guess.
    His wife Elizabeth came to Australia, with their daughter, Mary a couple of years later. Elizabeth was from Ballingarry and her parents were Patrick and Mary Cantwell. I have this idea that Patrick and Mary migrated with them, as there are Cantwells of that name who died in the same district where the family lived – Hunter Valley, NSW.
    The worst that happens is no-one knows. I went to Thurles over thirty years ago but couldn’t find out anything, though I didn’t know as much – I didn’t know he migrated under an alias, or a dfferent name to the one he is buried under. People were helpful _ I particularly remember the assitant or secretary at the church, from memory – who let me look through the birth records – and a taxi driver who tracked down another McLoughlin but he was from Kerry and did not seem to be related. I also knew less then, so just putting this out there on the off chance.

  31. Camille Harrigan


    I’m a Canadian student doing a project on the commemoration of the Great Famine and I wanted to ask if the museum is still functional, when can I visit and if you could give me more infos about the museum….


  32. admin Post author

    Hi Camille.
    Museum is still functional.
    You can visit anytime by phone appointment or as per information supplied here
    The museum contains rare original material pertaining to the Great Famine 1845 to 1850, including “The Minutes of the Thurles Famine Food Committee,” evidence of the Tithe war in Munster, A model of Thurles as it was in1846 (16ft x 8ft), Clothing and household goods of the period.
    Phone me on 050421133 for appointment or any further Info you may require.
    Best regards

  33. Aileen Sweeney

    Hi. I am doing some research on my great grandfather James McDonnell (RIC constable killed in the Soloheadbeg ambush). I found an image on Google of Dan Breen’s revolver and a button from James’ coat, which are on display at your museum. We hope to visit the Tipperary & Cork in June – is the museum still open? I am in tears looking at the image of the simple button from the coat of my great grandfather. I would like to see it. Aileen

  34. Mary Goldsbury

    We are visiting Thurles in August and would like to visit museum. My grandmother, Bridget Wade, born in 1860, 19th August, came from Rearcross which we will also visit. Do you have any information about the Wades?
    Do we need to contact you in order to visit museum or do you have set opening hours!
    Mary Goldsbury

  35. Anne Powter

    Congratulations on your site. I was just wandering around the Thurles site and found the Museum material. It was fun reading all the history. One day when I return to Ireland I’ll call in and find out about the Nesbitts and Fogartys.

  36. Jeanne Bridgwater

    We were just visiting Ireland 2 weeks ago. We were sent to look for the cemetery by my cousin who has researched our heritage and found out our great great great grandfather was buried there. She was told this in Tipperary. Anyways, your son just happen to be there, Stewart, and was extremely nice and informative. We loved the tour of the church and info about the famine. I am going to pass on your website to my cousin and she will contact you. This was one of the highlights of our trip. Thanks Stewart

  37. admin Post author

    Hi Jeanne,
    Thank you for your kind remarks and I trust you found the information sought on http://www.hiddentipperary.com/
    If you would like a photo of the discovered gravestone site please let me have your info again and we will endeavour to locate and forward.

    Kindest regards

  38. Tara Ryan

    Hi. My fathers family were the Ryan’s (Brogeens) of Thurles House. My grandparents and some of their relatives are buried in the cemetery and i was wondering if you had any information on thisRyan family or Thurles House which was located very near the church. Thank you.

  39. admin Post author

    Conor I do not believe so. Trust you have read The Great Hunger: Ireland: 1845-1849, by Cecil Woodham-Smith (Author). Same is in Thurles Library. Some information about Tipperary contained in that and same has a good index in the back pages.

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