Retired Corporal John Corry who talks about his "Tipperary Life"
The Clonmel Junction Arts Festival 2020 which concluded on Sunday last, featured an ‘exhibition’ by local photographer, John D. Kelly, of images of the former Kickham Barracks in Clonmel, its buildings and some of the personnel who served there.
John’s brilliantly captured photos, which were shared online and also on the outside wall of the Barracks, refreshed memories of what was once such an integral part of the life of Clonmel stretching back over 230 years. Sadly the gates of the Barracks were locked for the last time in 2012.
One of the images featured in the exhibition is that of former Corporal John Corry (above), a well-known personality in Clonmel. John spent 39 years in the Irish Army stationed at Kickham Barracks. Since his retirement he voluntarily helps out daily in two local churches, and has also spent over ten years working in Moynihan’s Bar. John also has a very keen eye for sartorial elegance and admits to loving suits and style - being often referred to as Clonmel’s best-dressed gentleman.
What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend in Tipperary?
I have always loved the early morning even going back to the days when I was a soldier in Kickham Barracks, the discipline of being up early and getting things off to a good start every day. I suppose I am a spiritual person so the very first thing I like to do every morning is to thank God for the gift of a brand new day.
Five mornings a week I head to Hotel Minella at 6.20 am for a swim and then I get on with my church duties. Since I retired from the Army on February 26, 2012, I am in the fortunate position of having both good health and spare time and I use that to help out on a voluntary basis in both Ss Peter & Paul’s Church and in the Friary seven days a week.
Throw in to the mix a chance to meet people before and after Mass for a chat or even on the streets of the town. I am an outgoing person, the things I like are simple enough, but I love company and a chat and interaction with other people about the place always.
If I have the good health to do that any day, well that is perfect enough for me every time.
Who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary in your lifetime - and why?
I have loved music always and I love to sing. The people of Clonmel will know me from singing in the churches and I am the regular cantor at Ss. Peter & Paul’s Masses especially at weekends and on occasions of funerals, etc.
With that in mind, Frank Patterson is someone I have always greatly admired, and while I am originally a Clareman myself, I take pride being in Clonmel now for the past 47 years and that we can all call Frank Patterson our own, a Clonmelman and a Tipperaryman who achieved so much on the world stage. I remember his father used to work in the Army Barracks for a time when I was there, he was Barracks foreman.
I once had the honour myself of singing in the Sistine Chapel in Rome with a Franciscan pilgrimage from Clonmel, we were on our way to Assisi at the time.
I also liked the late Vincent Hanley, he was a very popular DJ in his day but sadly died way too young. He was before his time but in his short life he made a great contribution and left his mark and legacy.
And of course, Clonmel’s Tommy O’Brien and his “Good Evening Listeners” on the radio. I love classical musical and Tommy O’Brien always played his fair share.
What’s your first Tipperary memory?
I grew up in Ennistymon - but I am now a lot longer in Tipperary than I was in Clare where I spent my childhood. I arrived in Clonmel on February 26, 1973 having taken a train from Limerick where I received my initial army training. It was my very first time stepping foot in County Tipperary.
I walked into Clonmel town centre from the Railway Station and I remember going down (what I later learned) was Dowd’s Lane thinking that the Army Barracks was there. I eventually got to Kickhams Barracks, the door was opened to let me in and I never looked back after that day. I joined the 10th Platoon then and Clonmel and the Barracks became my home. I was a month short of 18 years of age then and I went on to give the next 39 years to the Army, all in Clonmel, bar a couple of overseas tours of duty with the United Nations.
Not too long after my arrival in Clonmel (in April) I was to meet my wife Martina - who sadly passed away four years ago - and we had a lovely family of two daughters and a son, and we also have five grandchildren.
I met Martina by the Quay, she was walking with another lady that day. And I met her again soon afterwards and I thought to myself that is the girl for me and she was.
What’s your favourite part of the county - and why?
Clonmel is my Number 1 as it has given me so much in so many ways since that first night I arrived here 47 years ago. I have grown to love it and the people and I have made so many friends over the years. But there are lots of places around that I enjoy visiting and getting away to for a bit of peace and quiet sometimes. I like to go out to Marlfield and St Patrick’s Well and take a trip up the hill over the town. While not exactly in County Tipperary, The Vee and Mount Melleray are other places I like to go on occasion, and of course, Holy Cross Abbey is always special.
I joined the Peaks Mountaineering Club for a few years - the late Dr Tom Heneghan introduced me - and I loved all the hill walking then. The scenery and the views we have so close to us on our doorstep are spectacular and sometimes we don’t fully appreciate them.
I am delighted also with the Blueway along the bank of the Suir and it is a great amenity for us here in south Tipperary but I have a little concern about it. Like many other people, I am not too sure about some of the behaviour of some cyclists on it. It can be ‘tricky and tight’ in places and I have my concerns if cyclists are going too fast on it.
The Blueway is there for everyone to enjoy and we should all be concerned for our own safety but also the safety of others.
What do you think gives Tipperary its unique identity?
The name itself, Tipperary, is famous the world over, much more so than most other counties.
But then of course, it is known as the ‘Home of Hurling’ and the GAA was founded in Thurles of course.
There is also Coolmore Stud which is recognised the world over for what it is for horseracing and bloodstock. They have made a mark on the world stage.
But Tipperary is a sports mad county too and names like John Doyle, Vincent O’Brien and hurler/ showjumper Larry Kiely (and ‘Iniscarra’) who was an officer in Kickham Barracks in my time have also added to Tipperary’s unique identity.
The people of Tipperary are known the world over as being friendly and welcoming and I experienced that at first hand from the very first day. I have made a world of friends since I first came and still have all those friendships many years later.
Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
I admire Clonmel author Michael Ahern who has written some great books on history particularly with a local flavour. I would meet Michael occasionally about the place.
John Ryan’s Christmas publication every year is also a great favourite in Clonmel and it gives a lot of people some great memories to browse through every year.
And Donal Wylde is another one whose great photographic books I have enjoyed - a former photographer with ‘The Nationalist’ and also camera man with RTE - and, of course, a good Clareman like myself.
And like everyone else who reads ‘The Nationalist’ I look forward to Peg Rossiters’s weekly column.
What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?
There is no doubt that today the biggest challenge facing the world is one thing, Covid-19. And until such time as it is sorted we will all have to adjust our lives as we attempt to stay safe.
No one has escaped throughout the world, not even in Ireland, but thankfully it isn’t as bad here as it is in other countries.
These are very difficult times for physical health but also for mental health and sometimes we forget the impact that the lockdown and the restrictions are having on people.
And businesses also are finding it so hard at the moment in trying to survive.
Credit to our Government, I think in difficult times they are doing a very good job.
I would also like to give great credit to the hospitals, the doctors, the nurses and all the staff - it is very important that we don’t forget the ordinary staff in hospitals who too have put their lives at risk also in looking after the sick at this very difficult time. They are all very committed professionals and they deserve great praise.
But we have to try and get back to normality as best we can without pushing it too quickly.
We all want our local businesses to do well, to support local employment and we should all support local businesses at every chance. I try to shop local as often as I can and always have. I bought my first ever suit, for my wedding, in O’Gorman’s in O’Connell Street. And it’s something we should all bear in mind. Tipperary people should support Tipperary businesses when we can.
And we should go and enjoy ourselves and support local restaurants and cafes and hotels too, but remember keep a safe distance while Covid-19 is still with us.
If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Tipperary, what would it be?
Illegal drugs are a huge problem in society today and the destruction they are causing to family life, to the lives of young people in particular, is very worrying.
I would like to see more education around the whole area of drugs to try and create an awareness with young people to understand the dangers of doing drugs and the long-term dire consequences of going down that road.
I would like to see more health facilities available so that people who find themselves heading down the wrong path can go and talk to professionals and get early attention.
I feel very sorry for young people who get into a bad spiral, seeing the damage it can do to them but also the problems it causes at home with all the family sucked in.
If we had more mental health centres, where young people could get professional attention early, it would greatly help a situation before it gets out of hand. There is no point people trying to hide their problems, parents trying to hide their childrens’ problems. Go and talk to someone, people are good, people want to help.