INTERVIEW

My Tipperary Life with John Butler of the Bookworm Thurles

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My Tipperary Life with John Butler of the Bookworm Thurles

I was born and reared in Thurles and educated in Thurles CBS. I studied Commerce in University College Dublin and worked in marketing and sales with a number of companies before returning to Thurles in 1993 when I opened Bookworm Bookshop, initially located on Westgate before moving to the current location on Liberty Square in 2000.

What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend in Tipperary?

Apart from spending quality time with my family my idea of the perfect weekend in Tipperary is a Munster Final weekend in Thurles with Tipp playing old rivals Cork. There is something unique about the Munster Final atmosphere especially when the sun shines and Cork come to town.

The Cork supporters have always been the noisiest, most colourful and biggest spending of all the counties that come to Thurles and many make a weekend of it, arriving early on Saturday to get into the spirit of the weekend. They fill the pubs early on the Sunday morning and the sing songs are legendary. It’s been a long time since Cork were at their peak, but when they are in a Munster Final playing Tipp, form goes out the window and the match rarely disappoints!

Who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary in your lifetime - and why?

I don’t think I could pick any one person who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary. Many Tipperary people make huge contributions to this county in many different fields, but I think it is the ones who do so on a voluntary basis for no personal gain are the ones I admire most. So many people give freely of their skills and time, whether helping young people or in areas like the arts, culture, music, drama and sport to name but a few. These people hugely enhance the quality of life for everyone in our county.

One person I’d like to mention specifically for his contribution to Tipperary’s history and culture is Willie Hayes. Willie was the inspiration and driving force behind the restoration of Holy Cross Abbey when he served as a priest in the parish in the 60's and 70's.

It was a mammoth undertaking which the whole community supported, and the restored Abbey is surely one of Tipperary’s jewels. Willie celebrates his 90th birthday next month-happy birthday Willie!

What's your first Tipperary memory?

We had a bakery on Croke Street and one of my earliest memories is accompanying the van driver Johnny Muldowney on his rounds delivering bread to shops and pubs in Drombane and Upperchurch. I’m not sure why the memory is so clear, but maybe it was the red lemonade and crisps I was treated to along the way ( in Mary Ryan Peelers I think). The smell of a van full of freshly baked pan loaf bread is something I’ll never forget either!

What's your favourite part of the county - and why?

Apart from my hometown, I think my favourite part of Tipperary is along the lakeshore at Lough Derg. It is a beautiful area and there are so many hidden little harbours along the lake that have been improved greatly in recent years with much better amenities for activities like water sports, swimming, boating, cycling and walking. Lough Derg is Tipp’s best kept secret!

What do you think gives Tipperary its unique identity?

I think Tipperary’s unique identity is seen through its people, its landscape and its history. Tipperary people have great pride in the county and are very welcoming and friendly in a very understated though genuine way.

The landscape is as varied as you could wish for with rivers and lakes, majestic mountain ranges, rolling hills and beautiful farmland. The county’s rich history is visible everywhere with many ancient ruins and Castles and of course spectacular national monuments such as the Rock of Cashel and Cahir Castle.

Do you have a favourite local writer or author?

As a bookseller I’m very aware of the amazing variety and quality of Tipperary’s writers. We have a very vibrant local writing and publishing scene and while this is mainly concerned with local history, fiction, poetry and children’s books are also well represented.

Local historical and community groups and historians such as Des Marnane, Willie Nolan, George Cunningham, Willie Hayes and Sean Hogan have produced books of exceptional quality.

Mark O Sullivan from Thurles wrote a number of hugely popular children’s books as has Julian Gough from Nenagh. Donal Ryan is an acclaimed novelist whose book ‘The Spinning Heart’ is already a modern Irish classic.

Two poets I really admire are Michael Coady from Carrick on Suir and the late Dennis O Driscoll from Thurles.

What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?

For now, of course the biggest challenge facing the county is Covid 19 and how the county gets back to work while staying safe at the same time.

Tipperary has a huge number of small independent businesses like my own and getting them all back open and trading fully is going to be exceedingly difficult due to the safety and distancing procedures that are necessary. I do believe that business owners are up to the challenge and will re-open in a safe and responsible way. Now more than ever we need the support of our local communities to survive.

If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Tipperary, what would it be?

I would love to see the problem of illegal dumping, flytipping and littering of our countryside completely eliminated.