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'A Promise Kept': Why it took 90 years to engrave a death date on a Tipperary man's grave

The first of a four-part documentary is due to air at 11am on Tipp Mid West Radio tomorrow.

Thomas O'Dea's grave in Rosegreen Cemetery, Co. Tipperary
Thomas O'Dea's grave in Rosegreen Cemetery, Co. Tipperary
Image: Tom Hurley

A NEW RADIO documentary is set to examine the life of a Fenian man from Tipperary and why his date of death wasn’t engraved into his tombstone until 90 years after his passing. 

A short time before he died in 1923, an elderly man, Thomas O’Dea, had a Celtic cross erected in Rosegreen Cemetery inscribed with his name and where he came from. 

He then entrusted his neighbours and friends to add his date of death when the time came. 

This promise was fulfilled but not until 90 years after his passing in 2013. 

The cross now reads: “This cross marks the burial place of Thomas O’Dea, Ballydoyle, died 9th July 1923 aged 83 – Patriot & Fenian.” 

Many of the details concerning O’Dea’s life have faded over time, but this documentary explores local knowledge and the records now available to investigate why his tombstone wasn’t engraved, along with various incidents that took place in Co Tipperary which might have shaped his outlook politically. 

Light will be shed on his family, friendships and some of the hardships he experienced in his personal life, before revealing possible explanations for the nine-decade delay in carrying out his final request. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the documentary said there were various possibilities as to why the tombstone wasn’t engraved following his death. 

“One possibility is that it could have been down to the Civil War. There was a lot of division at the time politically and maybe the people who promised to do it might have taken an alternative side,” he said. 

“Another possibility is that the people he asked to do it might have emigrated and gone to America after the Civil War. Another possibility as well is that he had no one left in the family to put it on.” 

The four-part documentary – A Promise Kept – will be aired over four consecutive Mondays just after the 11am news on Tipp Mid West Radio, beginning tomorrow. The programmes will also be streamed live here

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