Relatives and neighboursfrom the Lackamore area at the Nenagh launch of 'My Renehan Family History'. Photograph: Bridget Delaney

New family history book tells stories from Arra of old

A book exploring family history in the Arra townsland of Curraghmore was launched in Nenagh last weekend.


Compiled by Dublin based Mary Renehan and Martin Coffey, this meticulously researched book delves into many facets of rural life in Tipperary. Reaching back as far as Cromwellian times, it encompasses everything from evictions to the dangers of working in the slate quarries above Portroe.


It is in the main an account of Mary Renehan's family roots, which are “deeply embedded” in Curraghmore. Though her grandfather James Renehan was her last ancestor to live in the area, Mary has always maintained a deep affinity and pride of her past.


“My family have lived and worked in this region for generations,” she writes. “They were always a hardworking, no nonsense, God fearing people. They lived through some of the greatest times in the annals of Irish history.


“These were hard times and nothing came easy or free. The Renehans, like many families in rural Ireland, worked together, pulled together and were often forced to emigrate together. In these times, death was a spectre that haunted most cottages and farmhouses, taking away young children without warning and leaving broken-hearted parents to suffer in their own silence.”


Martin, a retired teacher, says the subject matter of the book can be viewed as “a nucleus of the entire country” in the times it deals with. Bulked up with plenty of photographs, its pages contain many stories that will be of fascination to the local area, among them a nineteenth century account of the burning of a Protestant orphanage in which 16 children died, their bodies buried at Kilmastulla. The incident was not reported in the newspapers of the time.


There are also several accounts of evictions in the area and the efforts locals would go to in attempting to thwart the aggressors. These ranged from paying off neighbours' debts to setting fire to bales of hay.


“Eviction was a constant threat to many rural families and communities throughout Ireland and the townsland of Curraghmore in County Tipperary was no different,” Mary says. “It too had its share of evictions but many of the neighbours from this area stood shoulder to shoulder in their fight against this form of injustice.”


A retired employee of the Guinness factory in Dublin, Mary's interest in her family history was inspired by Rita Bonfiled, her father's cousin. She began working on the book while undergoing treatment for breast cancer and says she found the research a “therapeutic” experience.


The book was compiled with the help of local historians such as Kevin Griffin from Ballina and Michael Joy of Curragh, Portroe. The McKeogh family from Lackamore are also thanked in the book, as are the staff at Nenagh Heritage Centre, the late Chrissie Gleeson and his wife Mary and son John. John O'Brien and his sisters Sr Mary Genevieve and Sr Marie Terese, as well as Seamus and Veronica Willis from Garrykennedy, are also acknowledged, while, the Nenagh Guardian archive was extensively used.


Titled 'My Renehan Family History: Curraghmore, County Tipperary', the book is now available in local book shops, priced €20. It can also be purchased from the publisher, Choice Publishing.