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A Part of History

May 11, 2008

Family Photo

corey says…Today, I was a part of history. I had heard about something going on in the Tipperary village of Loughmore (lock-mor) where they asked anyone attending to wear turn-of-the-century clothing or black. This caught my attention.

The village was celebrating a very important Tipperary tale, the 150th anniversary of the Cormack brothers’ hanging.

In 1858, they were convicted of murder and not only did they insist they were innocent.

However, the evidence, which was later found to be fabricated by the police, was damning. They were hung outside Nenagh Gaol (Jail) on May 11, 1858.

Later, a man confessed to the murder, and the entire trial was labeled a miscarriage of justice…and held up as an example of how the Catholics of the day were discriminated against by the police, politicians and the justice system.

In 1910, 2,357 local residents signed a petition pleading for their release…including the jurors from their trial.the brothers’ innocence. That year their innocencewas officially recognized and their bodies were returned to their hometown to be buried in the cemetery there.

According to a special cable to the New York Times (displayed at the end of this post), the procession was “headed by fifty clergy, a procession of about 10,000 persons, 600 jaunting cars, and 20 bands of music…All shops were shut/blinds were drawn and everyone was dressed in black or wore crepe armlets tied with green ribbon. Many old persons sobbed as the hearses passed.”

Today is the 150th anniversary of their death, and the little village of Loughmore staged an enormous pageant to celebrate the day the bodies were returned home after resting on the grounds of Nenagh Gaol.

When I arrived, I parked in the field as directed and walked passed the cemetery into the village. Cars weren’t allowed through town, so everyone was on foot, old-fashioned bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. It was quite exciting to watch as the crowd began to gather. Everyone was in the spirit, and it truly felt like the “old days” were alive and well.

I had some time, so I wandered around. There is a large castle and an abandoned mill along the river, as well as a few pubs, a church, community centre and several houses.

The wail of the bagpipes could be heard first, even before the procession was visible. Then they appeared down the road coming around a corner. Lead by bagpipers and drummers; then followed by two men carrying a banner stating, “Pray for the Martyrs;” then dignitaries on foot and in antique cars and jaunting cars; then the ornate, horse-drawn hearses; then a parade of wagons and jaunting cars; and finally, a long line of mourners.

I stayed back and watched the procession grow as it collected onlookers as it worked its way to the church. By the time I reached the top of the hill, the town centre was packed with people.

Then suddenly, behind me there was another wail of bagpipes. An entire band appeared in the distance and slowly approached the church, bookending the procession. Their unexpected appearance and mournful sound, put a dramatic exclamation point to the end of the procession.

The coffins were removed from the hearses and carried into the church for a full Latin Mass, just as in 1910. For the homily, the priest eulogized the Cormack’s and talked about the period in which they lived.

Once the police had their sights set on the Cormack’s, there was no hope. According to the homily, witness statements were forced and bribed…including a 12-year-old girl who was imprisoned from October to December in attempt to get her to state that she overhead a confession.

The church was filled with people and chairs were set up outside. However, most people made themselves comfortable among the tombstones. A sound system was set up outside, so everyone was able to follow along.

Toward the end of mass, a woman appeared with two trays of sandwiches, which were quickly distributed. Then, as if it were the story of the loaves and fishes, more trays appeared. Then a two groups circled the crowd with cups and a bucket of water. The Irish sun got brighter as the day went on, and the water was a welcome sight.

After Mass, the caskets were taken into the mausoleum and the original speeches from 1910 were reenacted. Afterwards, in the spot were the crowds had gathered, there was food cart selling hotdogs and hamburgers…and near the pub, there was an entire stage with musicians getting ready for an evening of entertainment. It was a full-on celebration now.

I have to say, this was one event I was pleased to be a part of. It was clear how important this bit of history was to the people in the area, and the organization of the event was impeccable.

I saw one other group of Americans in the crowd, and it was fun to see how they took in the experience. They stayed back and observed and clearly enjoyed what they saw. I think they were quite surprised when the sandwiches were passed around…which would be an unfamiliar custom to most Americans, as the help-yourself buffet-style is more common in the States.

I didn’t stop to talk to the group, but I was very happy they took time out of their holiday to experience a local event. It just goes to show what kind of activities you might find by asking a local or reading a local paper.

At the pageant, I spotted my friend Jim from Upperchurch standing along the wall. We chatted a bit. He told me Liza, another American with a home in the area, had her shed broken into. They took her strimmer (weed-whacker). We both agreed it was good they only went off with that, but that it was horrible to have the place messed with.

I updated him about me and Liam and Tony, and let him know Tony would probably be bringing his parents to the session Jim has at his home each Thursday…that is another local experience few tourists will ever catch.

On the way home, I stopped by Tony’s and got some work done on his website

On my way home, I met up with one of the neighbors. Then a little further on, I met up with another. Then ahead of me another neighbor was taking his horse and carriage out for a ride. The horse was ornery though and was giving him quite a bit of grief.

I slowed passed him, and about ten minutes later, I saw him pass by the house. The horse seemed to straighten out.

Original Article On the Cormack's in the New York Times

Photos from the Cormack Pageant
Other Photos from This Week

My Ireland Expense Report

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2008 7:33 PM

    Dear Corey,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful event with us, Corey. It shows how wandering around Ireland can lead to the most unexpected and memorable experiences. Thank you also for sharing your encounters with the hares, the cuckoo and the renovations at Nenagh Castle. In just your small section of Tipperary, there is so much going on and so much to be savored and enjoyed. I don’t know how you get any work done at all!
    Keep on Blogging!

  2. May 20, 2008 12:44 PM

    Hi Corey,
    I’m currently uploading some information to a blog page dedicated to the Cormack Brothers pageant and I was delighted when I stumbled across your account of your experience.
    Would it be ok to add a link to this post from our blog and possibly quote some of the above in the blog itself?
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us,

  3. May 20, 2008 3:04 PM


    You’re welcome to link to and use any of my photos or accounts from the day. It was truly a great experience, and I feel blessed for having been a part of it.

  4. February 12, 2009 7:21 PM


    I was wondering if anyone had songs written about the Cormack’s

    I have an interest in this as a song was past down through my family regarding the event.

    I was not aware of the commemoration as I would have loved to have gone.

  5. February 13, 2009 9:51 AM


    I don’t have additional information, but Therese might be able to help you. Her blog is at

  6. NANCY MURPHY permalink
    December 27, 2009 11:10 AM

    Your info on Cormack Brothers is not quite accurate.

    The large number you state petitioned for their release relates to a post execution meeting.

    see my book on the GUILTY OR INNOCENT? The Cormack Brothers –trial, execution & exhumation

    Nancy Murphy
    local historian

    • Mary Kulka permalink
      May 22, 2010 6:57 AM

      Hello Nancy.

      I am so aware of all the great work you have done an admire you . I knew you at St Mary’s Convent back in the early 50s. I did visit The Heritage Centre must be back in the mid 70s and i was impressed. I knew your brother also but just as a now household name. Thank you for your hard but rewarding work

  7. December 27, 2009 1:23 PM

    Thanks for the correction, Nancy. Hopefully, the updated article is more accurate.

  8. Mary Kulka permalink
    May 20, 2012 3:09 PM

    It is always interesting to read again this sad part of our Tipperary history. I recall my mother, Molly Keyes (nee Maher) talking about this tragic event. My mother was born in Ballincur between Nenagh and Silvermines. My father was born in Curreeney. God rest their souls. I actually went to St Mary’s Secondary school which was originally the local prison and where the Mc Cormack Brothers were hanged. Like a great many Irish boys and girls I left my native Cloughjordan and went to Liverpool. There I trained to be a nurse. Some years later I moved to Highgate, North London. I met my Polish husband, Jozef (Joe) in The Round Tower, an Irish dance hall, in 1959 and we married in 1960. That makes us 52 years married. We have 2 daughters and 3 Grandchildren. I have often talked about The McCormack Brothers sad deaths RIP. We visited their burial place in Loughmore a few times and somewhere amongst our albums we have photos taken at the graves. With the help of Nancy Murphy’s book and articles as above this important piece of History will continue to be remembered by future generations. I am writing this from Cyprus (Paphos) where we live for almost Five years now.

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