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Welcome to another James Connolly Branch Post. This time I’m going to do something different and have a look at how confusing it can be to tour around Nenagh for a visitor, but as the Nenagh saying goes: ‘Nenagh, it’s a strangers paradise!’ You’ve heard of the classic U2 tune Where the Streets have no name? Well how about the Streets with more than one name? That’s what you’ll find in Nenagh town, where all sorts of arguments can be started about why you live in Silver Street, while your next door neighbour lives in Connolly Street. As far as I know, you see the streets in Nenagh were changed after Ireland gained it’s independence back in 1922, however, not all of the name changes stuck and so the confusion began. But then it was decided in 1966 to have some sort of local vote to finally and officially name these streets. In the aftermath of this the official names were erected on the street corners, but alas, the supporters of the losing names still refused to obey the will of the majority, so to this day most streets in Nenagh have more than one name that it is known by.
Silver Street is one of the four roadways that are connected to the Market Cross in the centre of the town. As far as I can gather it was called Silver Road before Irish Independence since it was the road out of the town that led to the Silvermines Village and the Silver Mines. Then after independence the street was named after the great patriot James Connolly and so was called Connolly Street. This name didn’t stick for some people who preferred to leave it at the original name. Then in 1966, on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, there was a local vote to decide the issue. From what I can gather, Connolly Street won out, but the supporters of the original name wouldn’t agree, and began calling it Silver Street. Although there was a sign erected by the local Authority that officially named the street Connolly Street, it appears Silver Street has won through. Mind you, there is a large number of locals who still refer to the street as Connolly Street, so now you know if you go looking for Silver Street and you think you are lost because a local says you’re on Connolly Street you know you’re at the right spot.
Leading directly from Silver/Connolly Street at the far side of the Market Cross is the main street in Nenagh town, so I suppose this street has actually three names. You see, as well as being known as the Main Street, this street is also named as Castle Street, after I suppose the local Nenagh Castle, and also Pearse Street, after the 1916 Easter Rising leader, Patrick Pearse. This street is well known as a great shopping street with a number of high quality boutiques etc.
Another street that is one of the four connected to the Market Cross, Kenyon Street was named after the Irish patriot Father Kenyon, while it also has the name Barrack Street. The old Garda Barracks used to situated on this street, so this is probably why it got the name Barrack Street. There is as much chance to hear this street being called either name, although the sign erected on the end of the street is Kenyon Street. This is now a very attractive street that has a number of different and high quality businesses, including boutiques, McCarney Antiques, the Peppermill Restaurant and Country Choice, which of course is run by the famous food guru Peter Ward.
Mitchell Street or Queen Street is the last of the four streets that is connected to the Market Cross. To this day, again it is a case that both names are widely used. This is the street that Sonny O’Neill, the man who shot Michael Collins, lived until the day he died.
Another street with two names is Peter Street, which is also known as Kickham Street. This street leads up towards the Nenagh Court House, the famous Rocky O’Sullivan’s Bar is on the right side, the Nenagh Arts Centre is also on the right, while the local Garda Station is on the left. Right in the centre at the top of the street is a small area called Banba Square. There is currently a statue to Christ the King at this spot, while there are also a number of marble engravings in memory to a number of people.
Another street that has three different names is the road out of Nenagh towards Dublin. For that reason it’s called Dublin Road by a lot of people. This roadway is also called McDonagh Street after the Easter RIsing patriot Thomas McDonagh, who was from the village of Cloughjordan, which could be reached by traveling out the Dublin Road. Another name for this roadway was Spout Road, because of a spout that was situated on the way out of the town.
There are a number of other streets in the town that have more than one name including
1. William Street – Fintan-Lawlor Street
2. Bulfin Crescent – James Connolly Park
3. Pound Street – Sarsfield Street
4. Limerick Road – Clare Street
There are probably quite a number of others that I can’t can’t think of right now, so if anyone likes to remind me of any, please let me know through. I hope you enjoyed this, and I hope you check out another post soon, when I’ll be looking at some of the histories of Trade Unions in Nenagh.
The Starry Plough of course was the flag of the Irish Citizen’s Army and it stands to reason then that it was flown high during the 1916 Easter Rising, so I’ve decided to look for mentioning of it in the histories surrounding the Rising. In the military archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines, there is a record of a statement given by one Frank Thornton of Booterstown, Dublin.
As is stated in his statement, Frank Thornton mentions that during the Insurrection he received a request from his commander-in-chief, James Connolly, to erect “The Plough and the Stars” on the Imperial Hotel alongside the Tricolour already flying there. He immediately agreed, and only succeeded after great difficulty as it had to be erected under fire: “but up it went – “The Plough and the Stars” -and there it stayed, altho’ only the front wall of the building remained after the fight had concluded.”
According to his statement, Frank Thornton also says that the men under his command were composed of Citizen Army and 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade. He states that his orders were to hold the Imperial Hotel, which was over Clery’s, and right opposite the G.P.O. ,and some neighbouring buildings, until they were blown down by shell fire or burned down. The order concluded: “The British must not occupy these buildings”. Mr Thornton also said that they held those buildings until the walls were falling around them from shells and fires caused by incendiary bombs.
Reading more of Frank Thornton’s statement it quickly becomes clear that this 1916 Rising veteran was a very colourful character who was present at a number of famous instances during the years preceding and after the 1916 Rising. These events have become legendary in Irish history including the funeral of Donovan Rossa, the Lockout, the Howth Gun-running, Volunteer training and smuggling, he was a prisoner in Kilmainham, Mountjoy and Dartmoor after the Rising, he attended the Ashe Funeral, and he also mentions the plan for the rescue of Séan Treacy.
One incident that stands out involves the town of Nenagh and Toomevara. In his statement he said that prior to the 1916 Rising he received permission to take a Walking Tour of the South of Ireland. His statement reads that: “About the middle of January  I got permission to go on a walking tour to the south of Ireland with Sean Hickey. We had strict instructions, however, that we must report at different headquarters on our line of march. We set off on a Tuesday morning with the intention of averaging about 20 odd. miles a day, and all went well until we came to Toomevara in Co. Tipperary. Here the police took a very keen interest in our movements and we were very closely questioned. My name was Frank Drennan and the other man, Sean O’Neill. The police however, were not satisfied with our explanation and we were taken to the barracks, but after about an hour and a half we were released. We informed the police that we were walking to Cork. We started off from Toomevara with the police cycling slowly behind us, and on arrival at Dublin Road, Nenagh, we decided that we would have a meal. We went into what is commonly known down the country, or was at that time, as an “eating house”. After having our meal, we decided to take a chance and ask the good woman of the house if she could assist us by getting us out the back way. We didn’t know this women at all, but as the police were sitting on the window sills of the house opposite, we pointed them out to her and, like many another good Irish woman, she immediately rose to the occasion and arranged with her neighbour in the next street to let us over her garden wall and out through the front door. We left the R.I.C. men still waiting outside while we walked on to Limerick. That was a memorable walk, because we continued walking all night and arrived in Limerick at about 4 o’clock in the morning. Not wanting to draw attention to ourselves, we slipped in the back way on to the station and slept on the seats of the railway station until it was time to ramble down town.”
Frank Thornton’s complete statement can be viewed by clicking this Link!
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