Tommy Delaney1883

Tommy Delaney 1883

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Tommy Delaney

I was 14 years of age when Tommy Delaney my Godfather died and remember him very well living in the house where I live now.  I remember his stories and his gentle ways and the simple way of life he lived for a man who had seen such adventure. I am very proud of this man and so sorry now at my age when I think of all the questions that I could have asked him.

He was born in the year 1883 into a turbulent world of rapid change, political unrest, poor job opportunities and rampant emigration, Just 38 years after the great famine, the landlord and his agent were coming towards the end of an era. Tommy was one year old when the GAA was founded in Thurles. He was 8 years of age when Parnell fell from grace over the Kitty O’Shea scandal and the Irish Parliamentary Party split on this issue in 1891.

Tommy started his working life in Bill Murray’s of Crimblin.  Tommy’s aunt was married to Bill Murray and they had no family. Peg Dooley of Gurteen told me she remembered Tommy working there, it was a very strict regimen and after some years he decided to follow his brother Ger to South Africa.  They had an Uncle Ger Delaney who earlier went to Kimberley, South Africa, circa 1860 to a better life with the Diamond Mines opportunity for free land.  He possibly worked in the mines before opening a boarding house and a soft drinks company.  I myself remember seeing an advertisement picture at my grandfather’s house which read “DRINK DELANEYS GINGER ALE”.

Ger Delaney sponsored four of the young Sutton boys of Gurtnadumna in the mid 1890s to travel out and work for him in Kimberley.  Michael who was first to go in early 1890s – 4 to 6 weeks voyage, later joined by his brothers Ger, Tom & Joe.  They would have worked in DeBeers Mining Company.  They were all involved in the Boer War where Tom & Ger died from gangrene as result of wounds poorly treated.  Joe survived the war and is understood to have gone on to Australia.  Michael Sutton, the present day Suttons’ grandfather arrived home and bought Evans of Montore, St Patricks Day 1904.  Paddy Fogarty – Jim & Dermot’s grandfather –also spent some time in Kimberley, as did Bill Lewis of the Glen.

It was after the Boer War the Tommy Delaney went to South Africa.  He probably worked with his uncle Ger in the Ginger Ale business for a while but did work with DeBeers Consolidated Diamond Mining Company maybe up to 1914 when the main Kimberly Mine “The Big Hole” ceased working.  Tommy told me stories about working in the mine.  The Chinese and the black population were the most resented.  He saw two Chinese being killed by someone who dropped a spanner from a higher level, killing them both simultaneously.  Also some black workers had the habitual temptation to swallow a diamond if they came on one.  Those suspected of this would be put in a cage, given a fast acting laxative, and when the diamonds were recovered, God knows what other punishment these unfortunates received afterwards.  It had to be a very tough place to work in those times.  Tommy had a leather baton he brought home with him, which he used for protection.  .

Tommy was on the 1911 Rugby team Griqualand West, a club from Kimberley and one the South Africa’s oldest, known today simply as the Griquas and winners of the Currie Cup the equivalent of the Heineken Cup in Europe.  Gaelic Football would have been very strong in the Templemore/Clonakenny area at the turn of the last century, this might have contributed to his football skill.

He was the first and only Irishman to date to receive a Currie Cup medal which is a remarkable achievement.  

I do not know what year Tommy came home on holidays but I think it must have been around the 1920s.  It was on his journey back to South Africa that he got the news on the ship of the death of his brother Ger in a railway accident. He was unmarried. When Tommy arrived back in South Africa, he ended his working life with the Holy Faith Convent Nazareth Home Kimberley as a maintenance/handyman. 

Tommy came home to Ireland in 1948 to live with his widowed sister Mary Corby in the house which is my home today. He bought 22 acres of land from the widow Mulally, Oldcastle for £500.  Tommy outlived Mary Corby and her sister Bridge and so inherited their house and land in Clonakenny.  When Tommy got too old to take care of himself, he returned to the “home” house in Oldcastle where my grandfather Will, grandmother Nora and my aunt Nancy lived.  I remember my aunt Nancy and my grandmother nursing both my grandfather Will and my granduncle Tommy.  Tommy died on 2 July 1970 aged 87 in the home where he had started out in life and is buried in Clonakenny.

The 1901 census shows William, 55 years, and Catherine, 50, as the parents; Nora, 19 years, later married John Kirwan, Ballygrehy; Tommy, 18 years (my godfather), never married; Mary, 10 years, went on to marry Pat Corby, where I live today; Maggie, not on census, died young; Ger was not on census – possibly gone to South Africa to his uncle Ger. His uncle Ger died aged 73 years on 16 September 1915.  His wife Sarah aged 55 died 10 June 1907.  Catherine age 38 died 24 August 1898 from carbolic acid poisoning, a chemical used in the making of soft drinks.  Emma aged 26 died 19 October 1918.

There were four Delaney families who lived in Oldcastle. Ned Delaney’s where Davy Brereton now lives was where our branch of the family originated. Will Delaney’s where Michael and Nancy Ryan (Delaney) now live, in the old house down in farmyard. Further down that lane were Mick and John Delaney who were not married.

I want to thank Liam Doran who did the research on the Currie Cup victory with the Griquas Rugby Club.

Ml Sutton 17 Willowmere Drive, Thurles for all the information and research which he has done on his families connections with South Africa and the Boer War and their close connections with the Delaneys of Oldcastle.

I wish to thank Johny Sutton, Clashagad, Dunkerrin also for his help and knowledge on this subject.


Additional Information
Date of Birth 1st Jan 1883
Date of Death 1st Jul 1970



  • Hi, really interesting history. I am currently looking for my great granddad Daniel Delaney who married a kate/catherine in Tipperary. They had a few children one of which was my granddad Thomas Francis Delaney(Abt.1922) who moved to England and married May Jones in 1951. I know they lived near Nenagh Bridge at one point, straight down and turn right into a farmland. I don't suppose you have heard of them from your past research. I think Daniel was married in around 1918 and possibly had dogs following some records i could find. Please if you could offer any help in the right direction i would be very grateful. Thank you for reading, Liz :)


    Tuesday 17th July 2018 01:24PM

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