About Us

Stewart Willoughby

St Mary’s Famine and War Museum

In 1995 the Thurles Church of Ireland community kindly donated one third of St Mary’s Church to create a Famine Museum to commemorate the many Irish people who lost their lives through disease and starvation during the Great Famine in Ireland of 1845-1849.
The Famine and War museums are designed to be as informative and interesting as possible.

The Museum Site Features:

The church is the burial place of Lady Elizabeth Matthew, Viscountess of Thurles  and Progenitor to the present heir to the British Throne.


The museums features a beautifully designed stone doorway inlayed into the original entrance.


The oldest visible monument in the graveyard is the Archer tomb which was erected to the memory of Edmond 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 feet resting on dogs – figures representing Archer and his wife – and not, as is locally believed, Adam and Eve.


Locally referred to as Daniel O’Connell’s Sugar Bowl. This bowl was used by “The Liberator” (Born Aug 6th.1775 Co.Kerry -Died May 15th 1847 Genoa, Italy) at a banquet given in his honour by Nicholas V.Maher M.P. in 1829 at his home (Now home to Thurles Golf Club). It was presented, as a souvenir of this historic event, to the Maher’s housekeeper. The housekeeper, Thurles woman, Mrs Anto Tobin (nee Butler), was, herself, a devoted supporter of O’Connell. This bowl presently holds ‘pride of place’ in St.Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles, having been presented to the museum by a relative, Miss Alice Smith, Stradavher, Thurles, Co Tipperary, with the wish that it be enjoyed by lovers of local Thurles history.


71 thoughts on “About Us

  1. Sally Wade

    Hello, I wonder if you could help me with a querie about the history of the St Mary’s church Thurles. My Gt. Gt. Gt. Grandparents John & Catherine Leatham are buried in the church yard there in 1860 & 1875 respectively. They were catholics and I was just wondering if it is to correct to think that they were buried there then. In other words was the church catholic or protestant at that time. I would really appreciate your email reply as I am doing to family tree research from Australia. Thanking you. Sally Wade.

  2. George Willoughby

    Head stone exists and reads as follows.
    To the memory of John Leatham who died 9th December 1860 aged 61 years And of his wife Catherine who died 11th December 1871 aged 78 years Erected by their son in law Patrick Minogue Thurles. Also his two children Joseph and Catherine Minogue who died young and his son John died May 30th 1874 aged 13 years [517]

  3. Elizabeth Kearns

    I am so terribly sorry to read that your Famine Museum may have to shut because of levels of vandalism. It is the mindless destruction of our heritage which really makes me angry – what has gone so very wrong with us Irish that we have so many (mainly young – but not all) people who do not see or respect the value of our national heritage and the work of those “unsung heros” who preserve it.

    Would there be any way of getting a grant towards the repairs (even though some is irreplaceable) from the Heritage Council ?

    Again – my condolences to you, and all those involved.

  4. admin Post author

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Finance is not my immediate problem. My worry is regarding the destruction of irreplaceable exhibits, should those involved in this vandalism ever gain access to the interior of the building. Quite a few exhibits are on lone, and insurance has now become difficult.
    I thank you for taking the time to express you support and share your corcerns.

    Best regards

  5. Kevin Kirwan

    Hi George,

    Someone recently left a framed papal (Benedict XV I think) blessing/indulgence dating from c1920 on my doorstep.

    It mentions a David and Richard Kirwan (not likely to be relations of mine as I’m not from town originally)

    From the 1911 census it appears there were four brothers who owned/worked in a drapers shop where the Permanent Tsb now is in Liberty Square, Thurles

    The census states that they were unmarried.

    Do you know if there are any relations I could pass it onto or would you be interested in it?


    Kevin Kirwan

  6. admin Post author

    Hi Kevin,
    Sounds interesting.
    There are a few Kirwans buried in St. Mary’s cemetary, however stones are well worn.

    Here lies the body of Judith Kirwan als Carroll who died Oct the 4th 1800 aged 75 years May her soul rest in peace Amen [Gravestone 210]

    Here lies the _________ Mary Kirwan _______________ who departed this ______
    March 1849 ag__ [Gravestone 197]

    Here lieth the body of Mary Kirwan alias Gleeson who died Nov 1st 1824 aged 54 years Also her daughter Judith Kirwan who died April 10 ____ aged 24 years May_________ [Gravestone 207

    In loving memory of our dear mother and father Mary Kirwan died 2nd April 1895 aged 53 William Kirwan died 2nd April 1907 aged 64 years Also in loving memory of Bridget Britton who died 12th Jan 1882 aged 40 And Mary Ann Kirwan wife of John Kirwan who died 25th August 1902 aged 29 years The above John Kirwan died 26th March 1927 aged 50 years [Gravestone 509]

    Here lies the body of Wm Kirwan who died March 23rd 1806 aged 51 years Also his nephew James Quinn Rossestown who died April 1st 1864 aged 27 years May they rest in peace Amen [Grave Number 208]

    David and Richard are possibly buried in St Patricks Cemetary since St, Marys closed in 1949.
    Thanks for your communication.

    Regards George

  7. Kevin Kirwan

    Thanks for the quick reply.

    I think I have found the years of death for the four brothers, (based on ages in 1911 census and info found on familysearch.org Ireland Civil Registrations 1845-1958)

    In 1911 Edward was 59, died in 1918 aged 69

    In 1911 Patrick was 63, died in 1919 aged 72

    In 1911 Richard was 66, died in 1921 aged 76

    In 1911 David was 60, died in 1938 aged 88

    They were Roman Catholic would they still have been buried in St Mary’s?

    Patrick and Edward had obviously died before the papal blessing was issued, which explains why only two names appear.

  8. admin Post author

    Hi Kevin,
    It is possible I suppose, however no record in the form of tombstone or inscription.
    They could also have been buried in the graveyard behind ‘Lambs Flats’ – opposite railway station. A call to Thurles Parish Centre opposite the Cathedral might assist.

  9. Camille Harrigan

    I’m wondering if your Famine Museum is still open? You had some troubles last year!

  10. admin Post author

    Thank you for your enquiry.
    Our Famine area has re-opened. Our War area however will not re-open until next year.
    Security funding is, as always, a major factor when vandalism is ever present.

  11. Mags English

    My-self and my family visited. I was very impressed with the guided tour from a very pleasant man, who was very helpful look forward to seeing the war part next year. Blessings:))

  12. Chris Armitage

    Do you have an Adam Tristram buried in your cemetery? He was my great great grandfather, and records have him married in your church in the 1860’s. There is a family story that he was a Church of Ireland clergyman – others say he was a schoolteacher. Do you have any information re the above? He had a son, Samuel Herbert Tristram, my great grandfather, born in Thurles – any information on him? Thank you in anticipation.

  13. admin Post author

    Chris. Only records I have on an Adam Tristram (Protestant) is he was a wandering School teacher who married Margret Murray (Possibly Margaret). I understand they had two sons born around 1844/45, Thomas and Samuel Herbert born in Kilmuckridge, Gorey, Co Wexford and a third son born May 8th -Horatio – born in Dingle, Co Kerry in 1851. The couple used the double barrelled name Murray-Tristram which suggests that Margaret was an only child or daughter. A single reference to Adam Tristram in Thurles, Tipperary in 1863 describes him as a teacher and widower. It would appear that he married again possibly one Mary Ann Budds, on 12 Feb 1863, while resident in Thurles.
    Try communicating with the R.C.B. Library in Dublin, who now control old Thurles Church records. Note there is also a protestant church in Kilmuckridge.

  14. Eileen Irvine

    Hi, Stewart, You were kind enough to give us a tour of your museum last week, and we found it very interesting and well explained. I hope that you can continue with the good work in keeping our history alive. I took a couple of photos of you and my husband in the graveyard which holds many interesting graves. I have told a lot of people about your warm welcome and enthusiasm for keeping this great little museum open. Long may it continue, and we hope to see you again.

  15. admin Post author

    Glad you enjoyed your visit. It was lovely to meet you, and thank you for your kind comments.
    Regards to all,

  16. admin Post author

    Thank you for your kind comments, and look forward to you visiting again next year.
    Best regards,

  17. admin Post author

    Hi Gavin,
    Admission to the museum is just €2 per person and same will be open from 10.00pm to 4.00pm each day Monday to Friday May 1st until September 30th.

    Famine Lectures are provided, free of charge, for pre-booked larger groups visiting this most enjoyable of Tipperary visitor attractions.

    Note Special Arrangement: Arrangements can be made, if requested in advance, anytime during the year for those wishing to visit the museum outside of normal seasonal opening hours, (All year round) by contacting Tel: 0504-21133.

  18. Hazel Fullbrook

    I am interested in my Gt Gt Grandmother’s marriage which I believe took place in your church 4th September 1852. Her name was Ann Bieble (Bible) and she was married to Thomas Dewdney. I have her father as Arthur Bieble. Would you have any more information in your records about her family.
    I would be very grateful for any assistance; thankyou.

  19. Courtney

    Hello, I am from the U.S so I can’t actually visit this museum but I am doing a paper for my college english class and my topic is the Irish potato famine. Is there any way I could be able to do an interview through email or anything like that since I have to have a primary source? That would be fantastic!

  20. Maura Fogarty

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your museum history and interesting comments.I visited the cemetery many years ago with a relative searching for a Harney ancestor but it was unsuccessful. I would like a copy of the headstones details particularily of a Matthew Harney,William or Richard. Was it a requirement to register a buriel at St. Mary’s parish in 1867-1890 or indeed in the 18th cen.c1780? I would appreciate a reply.

  21. admin Post author

    Maura, It was a requirement to register buriels at St. Mary’s parish in 1867-1890 and indeed in the 18th cen.circa 1780. Due to penal laws very few headstones were erected in the mid 18th century, although a register of burials was kept. Obviously if the interned person was Roman Catholic, records would be held by the RC Church authorities.
    To view details and gravestone inscriptions of all burials in St Mary’s please go to our new tourist website at link http://www.hiddentipperary.com/cemeteries-graveyards/grave-inscriptions-in-st-marys-churchyard/
    I am pleased you enjoyed your trip to St.Mary’s museum.

  22. Laura Ford

    Hi I was wondering if you could help me with a family history question? I have a record of Michael Maher and Charlotte Chalke marrying on oct/nov/dec 1907 in Thurles. I was told they were Catholic but I have asked the Thurles Parish Centre and they have no record of this. I also noticed many Maher names buried at your church. Any help would be greatly appreciated as I live in New Zealand and it is very difficult to get information from here. If it helps they also had a daughter born in Thurles 1914 Margaret Maher.
    Thanks Laura

  23. admin Post author

    Hi Niamh,
    Admission to the museum is just €2 per person and same will be open from 10.00pm to 4.00pm each day Monday to Friday May 1st until September 30th.

    Famine Lectures are provided, free of charge, for pre-booked larger groups visiting this most enjoyable of Tipperary visitor attractions.

    Note Special Arrangement: Arrangements can be made, if requested in advance, anytime during the year for those wishing to visit the museum outside of normal seasonal opening hours, (All year round) by contacting Tel: 0504-21133.

  24. aaron

    Just wondering if you could post some pictures and give more info on the war museum

  25. admin Post author

    Hi Aaron,
    I regret to inform you that the war museum is currently undergoing reconstruction presently. As soon as artefacts and memorabilia held currently are reinstated to the museum, I will be in contact with you. Admin.

  26. Laurence

    Hi, My father left me an old land league document dating 1888 called a proclimation which refers to the banning of all meetings in the villages of Rearcross and Kilcommon of tennants against the landlords. I would like some advice on how best to preserve it and i wouldn’t mind showing it to someone who can copy it for other peoples research or put it on display somewhere for a while.

  27. carole sutherland

    I have been researching my mothers family. I have a WILLIAM KIRWAN .. born at Thurples( spelt on grave) Ireland 8.1.1840 Death at Melbourne, Australia 5.4.1878… What is a mystery is that he is buried in the same grave as…John Patrick Mullins who died 16.10.1928 and John’s wife Ellen Breen who died 16.10.1928. They all came from Ireland. There is a connection with the Mullins & Sheridans …. Bridget Mullins from Limerick, married a Joseph Sheridan from Dublin. and they are buried beside William Kirwan. I see that a Kevin Kirwan has made comments on this site maybe he could shed some light on is mystery???
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.Thanks Carole.

  28. admin Post author

    We have passed your email address directly to Mr Kirwan and requested him to contact you.
    Please do let us know how you get on.

  29. Deborah Leatham

    I have been researching my Father’s side of the family tree. I am so glad that I found your site as John Leatham and Catherine Ryan are my Great Great Great Great Grandparents, I think I have the Greats right). I’m from Australia so this site is a great find for me. Would you have any information that I could use as I can’t seem to get any further back then John and Catherine, please email me if you have.
    Thank you….Deborah Leatham.

  30. admin Post author

    “To the memory of John Leatham who died 9th December 1860 aged 61 years. And of his wife Catherine who died 11th December 1871 aged 78 years. Erected by their son in law Patrick Minogue Thurles. Also his two children Joseph and Catherine Minogue who died young and his son John died May 30th 1874 aged 13 years.” [517]

    See http://www.hiddentipperary.com/cemeteries-graveyards/grave-inscriptions-in-st-marys-churchyard/
    Best regards’

  31. Heather Jennings

    Hi there! I came across your website and I have been researching my Johnson family for the last 6 years. In particular a house or Lodge called Dromleigh House. I located such a place near Galboola called Dromleigh House. I was wondering if you have heard of such a place off of the R639 it’s road is very narrow with gates and a plaque of some sort on it hopefully “Dromleigh House” Any info would be great if you or anyone else knows of this house. My fathers’ middle name was Dromleigh and his family was from Briown, Tipperary area. His fathers’ name was Harry Alcock Johnson.
    Thanking you in advance Heather

  32. admin Post author

    Hi Heather,
    RE:- Harry Alcock Johnson
    Quick search reveals:-
    Littleton 1901:- Alcock Sarah
    Littleton 1848:-1864:- Alcock John
    Littleton 1911:- Alcock Sarah, Alcock John Thos, Alcock Thos Wm.
    I need more info. I have instigated further local inquiries. Regards George

  33. Emily Fullen & Autumn Jeria

    Hello, we are doing a History Fair Project and we choose the Irish potato famine as our topic. We wanted to know if you could email us back some information that could guide us in the right direction for our project. If you could it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Emily & Autumn

  34. Heather Jennings

    Hi George I wasn’t notified of your email in Nov. regarding Dromleigh Lodge! You asked for more details. I did find a Dromleigh House near Gaboola on the google earth site. The family goes back to the 1700’s in Ireland. what type of details do you need??

  35. Alan Fraser

    A few years ago Tom Burnell from the War & Famine Museum sent me some photos of the communion plate and service medals of a relative of mine, the Rev. John Charles Le Pelly Hatten, who was an Army Chaplain in France in WW1. Tom had bought these on eBay. Since then I have found out a lot more information about his branch of the Hatten family, but no photographs. Do you know if there are any photographs in the lot Tom bought?

  36. Michelle OCallaghan

    Hello, I was hoping to visit the Famine Museum, on Monday, September 30th. Will it be open and if so, what are the visiting hours? Thank you.

  37. admin Post author

    Hi Michelle,
    Famine Museum will be open on Monday, September 30th next between 10:00am & 4:30pm.
    If you are a large group please advise. We look forward to your visit.

    Regards George

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