Speakers & Topics

We have a great range of speakers and topics lined up for the Gleeson Clan Gathering 2016. Our speakers come from the far corners of the world, emphasising the global reach of the larger Gleeson family and reflecting how emigration has created such a widespread Irish diaspora. The talks and subsequent discussions will highlight the stories of Gleesons far and wide and give us a real insight into how the name evolved and spread across the world as well as some of the illustrious people who have born the name Gleeson.

Dermot F Gleeson Memorial Lecture: Dermot F. Gleeson – Historian, Jurist and Family Man
Danny Grace, Historian and Author
Friday 19.30

The Earldom of Ormond (in green above)
(click to enlarge)
"Dermot F. Gleeson of Nenagh was a pioneer of Tipperary local history. His classic works were The Last Lords of Ormond (1938) and A History of the Diocese of Killaloe (1962). He also contributed dozens and dozens of articles to learned journals and the popular press on a wide variety of aspects of local history. He was also a hard-working District Justice, in fact he was among the first batch of District Justices appointed in the new Irish Free State in 1922. The talk will examine his life and times and his contribution to the local history of his native Tipperary."

Danny Grace has written and spoken extensively on the history of Tipperary. His major works are Portrait of a Parish: Monsea and Killodiernan (1996), The Great Famine in Nenagh Poor Law Union, Co. Tipperary (2000) and Kiladangan GAA Club, A Centenary History (2015). He is a regular contributor to the Tipperary Historical Journal and other local publications. He also writes a series of popular historical artices under the title “Glimpses of the Past” for the Nenagh Guardian newspaper.

Setting the scene: The Gleesons in historical context
Michael G Gleeson, Ireland & Maurice Gleeson, UK
Saturday 9.10

Albert Durer’s famous illustration of Irish soldiers, 1521 AD
(click to enlarge)
"The Gleeson "clan" is thought to have originated in Cork but its stronghold is most definitely North Tipperary. Early records in the ancient annals suggest they were a sept of the Ui Meic Caille which in turn was a sept of the Ui Liatháin. Several other families sprang from this same origin, including the O'Donegan's and the O'Dwyer's among others. The Gleeson surname (and its many variants) is scattered among some of the rarer genealogical sources from the 1200's onwards and becomes more frequent towards the end of the 1500's and into the 1600's. This presentation will examine the evidence for the Gleeson name in these rare sources and explore what these tell us about the Gleeson's in this early historical context."

Michael Gerald Gleeson, Chairman of Gleeson Gathering 2016 and has been an enthusiastic genealogist for many years. His mother's family - also Gleeson - hails from Tineranna in the Silvermines Parish, and is considered to have a lineage going back at least 700 years in this ancient O’Glysane territory. Michael's father's family lived in the parish of Lisboney, near Nenagh.

Maurice Gleeson, a psychiatrist and pharmaceutical physician by day and a genetic genealogist by night, is administrator for the Gleason/Gleeson, Spearin, Farrell, Irish Caribbean DNA and WW1 Missing Legacy projects. He has organised the DNA Lectures for "Genetic Genealogy Ireland" in Dublin and "Who Do You Think You Are" in the UK since 2012, as well as given talks all over Ireland and internationally. His YouTube videos on genetic genealogy are very popular and he was voted "Genetic Genealogist of the Year 2015” by the SurnameDNA Journal.

Irish Chain Migration to New Zealand
Nora Gleeson O’Meara, Ireland
Saturday 9.30

"Irish Chain Migration to New Zealand was prevalent from the mid to late nineteenth century. My lecture will focus on the profile of the Irish emigrant to New Zealand. Certain characteristics and patterns have been identified by various historians. It will outline the conditions in Ireland which forced the emigrant to seek a new life overseas. The lecture will illustrate the outward passage and the conditions of the long voyage to New Zealand and give a glimpse of how the Irish emigrants settled in their new homeland. Most Irish people have experienced chain migration within their own family."

Nora Gleeson O’Meara is a professional Genealogist working with the North Tipperary Genealogy Centre for the last 28 years. She has a Masters Degree in History of the Family obtained from the University of Limerick. She has undertaken several local studies and published a number of articles in local publications.

Contact Details:
North Tipperary Genealogy Centre,
The Governor’s House,
Kickham Street,
Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.
Phone: +353 67 33850
Email: tipperarynorthgenealogy@eircom.net
Website: www.rootsireland.ie

Estate Records: Rentals as a family history source
James G Ryan, Ireland
Saturday 10.10

Rentals are the private records of landlords and their agents on renting of properties. It includes a range of different types of records including payment books, leases. The talk explored the nature and range of rentals, their historical background and evolution during the 1600s to 1900; the type of information contained, and how they can be found. Rentals are particularly important in Ireland where land ownership (during the 18th and most of the 19th century) was only for a small minority, and tenancy was the norm for the vast majority of the population. The process of managing these tenancies, produced a hugely variable range of documents. Almost all contain, at the very least, the names of tenants, the location of their properties and the dates of their tenancies. A proportion contains other useful information. They can therefore be useful in locating individuals within Ireland.

Dr. James Ryan is a writer and publisher who has been active in Irish genealogy for the past 25 years. His book ‘Irish Records’ has been a standard guide since its publication. His research interests have included church records, which resulted in his editing and publication of ‘Irish Church Records’ which provides the background to the creation and survival of these records. In recent times he has been researching Rentals (i.e. records of tenant agreements and rent payments). He has lectured and taught extensively, and has given presentations to over thirty genealogy societies, mainly in the USA. He was also a professional family history researcher for many years, but in recent years has concentrated on lecturing and publishing. He writes a blog for the In-Depth Genealogist (theindepthgenealogist.com) and also contributes articles for their magazine.

Fr Francis Gleeson, Chaplain to the Royal Munster Fusiliers
Noelle Dowling, Ireland
Saturday 11.30

The Last General Absolution of the Munsters 
at Rue du Bois by Fortunino Matania
depicting Gleeson (mounted, centre) on the eve 
of the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915.
"Father Francis Gleeson (28 May 1884 – 26 June 1959) was an Irish Roman Catholic priest who served as a British Army chaplain during Irelands' involvement in the First World War. Educated at seminaries near Dublin, Gleeson was ordained in 1910 and worked at a home for the blind before volunteering for service upon the outbreak of war. Commissioned into the Army Chaplains' Department and attached to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers he served with them at the First Battle of Ypres. During this battle Gleeson is said to have taken command of the battalion after all the officers were incapacitated by the enemy. He was highly regarded by his men for tending to the wounded under fire, visiting the frontline trenches, and bringing gifts.

On 8 May 1915, on the eve of the Battle of Aubers Ridge, Gleeson addressed the assembled battalion at a roadside shrine and gave the general absolution. The battalion suffered heavily in the battle and when paraded again afterwards only 200 men were assembled. Gleeson's absolution was the subject of a painting by Fortunino Matania that was made at the request of the widow of the battalion's commanding officer. At the end of his year's service in 1915 Gleeson returned to Dublin and became a curate but rejoined the army as a Chaplain in 1917 and remained for a further two years. After the war he returned once more to Ireland, becoming a priest at churches near to Dublin and being elected canon of the Metropolitan Chapter of the Archdiocese of Dublin before his death on 26 June 1959."
From Wikipedia

Noelle Dowling, a native of Tralee, Co. Kerry, is the archivist for the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. She previously worked for the Irish Christian Brothers in the Allen Library and with Dublin City Council archives. She holds an MA from UCC and HDip in Archival Studies from UCD. 

Noelle is actively involved in promoting the long-term preservation and access to church archives both in Ireland and abroad. She is the current Chairperson of the Association for Church Archives Ireland.  

The DNA of the Gleeson 'Clan'
Maurice Gleeson, UK
Saturday 12.00

The Gleason/Gleeson DNA Project has been running for the past 8 years and has collected the Y-DNA signatures of over 90 men with the surname Gleeson or one of its many variants. From this, it is possible to cluster men with the Gleason/Gleeson surname into 4 distinct genetic groups or “lineages”. The first group can be traced back to a named ancestor from England in 1609, the next two groups are Irish (with origins in North Tipperary & Clare respectively) and the last group is an American group of indeterminate origin. Recent work combining STR and SNP markers has allowed Dr Gleeson to construct a "family tree" for the North Tipperary Gleesons which goes back to about 1200AD. Dr Gleeson will discuss the current status of the project, what DNA has told us about the Gleeson surname thus far, and where the research will lead us in the next 5-10 years. In addition, discounted DNA testing will be available on Friday afternoon and Saturday evening after dinner.

Maurice Gleeson, a psychiatrist and pharmaceutical physician by day and a genetic genealogist by night, is administrator for the Gleason/Gleeson, Spearin, Farrell, Irish Caribbean DNA and WW1 Missing Legacy projects. He has organised the DNA Lectures for "Genetic Genealogy Ireland" in Dublin and "Who Do You Think You Are" in the UK since 2012, as well as given talks all over Ireland and internationally. His YouTube videos on genetic genealogy are very popular and he was voted "Genetic Genealogist of the Year 2015” by the SurnameDNA Journal.

Evelyn Gleeson and the Dun Emer Guild
Beatrice Kelly, Ireland
Saturday 14.00

The Dun Emer Press, c.1903
"This presentation will give an overview of Evelyn Gleeson’s career and the Dun Emer Guild, illustrated with photographs and illustrations of the work of the Guild. It will look at the context and influences behind the establishment of the Dun Emer Guild with Lily and Lolly Yeats, from the William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement to the revival of interest in the “Celtic” past in Ireland. 

Device of the Dun Emer Press 
(designed by Elinor Monsell)
The work of the Guild subsequent to the parting of ways with the Yeats sisters will also be outlined and an attempt to assess its impact. The work of the Guild is featured prominently in the “The Arts and Crafts Movement: Making it Irish” at the McMullen Museum in Boston (February – June 2016). The presentation is a collaborative effort between Beatrice Kelly and her father, Patrick Kelly."

Beatrice Kelly is a great, great niece of Evelyn Gleeson and grew up in Dublin surrounded by stories and objects of the Dun Emer Guild. She has worked in the heritage sector since 1992 in Ireland and at a European level. At present she works in An Chomhairle Oidhreachta, the Heritage Council as Head of Policy and Research. Beatrice Kelly is presenting on behalf of her father, Patrick Kelly, and herself. 

‘Battle Axe’ Gleasonian, Fenianism and the Papal Wars
Kitty Barry & John Peters, Ireland
Saturday 14.30
Source: New York Red Book (1897)

"This talk will discuss the lives of the Gleeson brothers from Borrissoleigh, three of whom became officers in the United States and one who was the last Mayor of Long Island. In particular the lives of John and Patrick 'Battle Axe' Gleason will be discussed which includes time in the Papal Brigade, US army, the Fenian movement and careers in politics and business."

John Peters is a native of Co.Tipperary. He is a secondary school teacher of History and English. He has recently completed a masters in education including a dissertation on autistic students. He has also completed a masters in International Relations researching Slobodan Milsoveic and the Yugoslavian war of the 1990's. He is presenting on behalf of his grandmother Catherine (Kitty) Barry who has completed extensive research on the Gleeson family. 

Dr Edward M Gleeson of Kilcolman/Athlone
Michael G Gleeson, Ireland
Saturday 15.00

"Dr Edward M Gleeson, born at Kilcolman, Nenagh in 1815, was the son of Michael Gleeson and Margaret Molony. A medical doctor, qualified in surgery and dentistry in London, Dr Edward Gleeson was also an industrialist and founder of Athlone woolen mills employing up to 400 people, a Justice of the Peace, and a man of vision with ideas of harnessing the Shannon River as a source of electrical power. He was deeply interested in everything Irish, antiquities, language, music. Dr Gleeson died in 1895 leaving €250,000 in his will. His daughter was Evelyn Gleeson."

Michael Gerald Gleeson, Chairman of Gleeson Gathering 2016 and has been an enthusiastic genealogist for many years. His mother's family - also Gleeson - hails from Tineranna in the Silvermines Parish, and is considered to have a lineage going back at least 700 years in this ancient O’Glysane territory. Michael's father's family lived in the parish of Lisboney, near Nenagh.

The Gleesons of Gowran and the Eureka Stockade
Brian E. Gleeson, Australia
Saturday 16.00

Eureka Stockade Riot. J. B. Henderson (1854) watercolour
"Seven Gleeson brothers emigrated from Gowran, Kilkenny to Australia in chain formation between 1848 and 1853. Their parents, Edward Gleeson snr. and Mary Lyons followed when aged in their mid-60s. Edward senior, who lived to the ripe age of 94 years, had participated in the 1798 Irish Rebellion, using a pike presumably made by his father, John Gleeson, a blacksmith. This Gleeson branch does not appear to have been indigenous to Gowran, and finding their antecedents remains an important quest for Brian."

Brian Edmund Gleeson is a genealogist from Melbourne, Australia. He is a past Councillor, including Secretary, of the Genealogical Society of Victoria. Extensive research over several decades culminated in Brian’s acclaimed seminal work, A Gleeson Butler Story - from Kilkenny Ireland to Port Phillip Australia (2009, 483 pp). Brian is a 1957 "Brownlow Medallist" (award for "best and fairest" Australian Rules Footballer) and has appeared on TV, radio, and in news press, as well as acting as a Keynote Speaker, on behalf of the Genealogical Society of Victoria.

From Ballyhiskey Tipperary to Canada: The Gleeson/Stapleton family
Mike Stapleton, Canada
Saturday 16.30

"Amid the rising toll of Famine deaths, Margaret Gleeson and her husband James Stapleton emigrated from the townland of Ballyhiskey in Burgesbeg Parish in 1847 or 1848. With their ten children they sought refuge in Canada. Oral history indicates that the family arrived in two groups, however their son Matthew’s obituary records that the entire family left Ireland on 19 March 1847, arriving at Hamilton, Canada West (Ontario) on 24 May 1847. Their first landing in Canada was at the infamous quarantine station at Grosse Îsle where medical examinations were given to new immigrants prior to disembarking at the Port of Québec. The family sought passage on a local Steam Ship to take them down the St Lawrence River to first Montréal, then Kingston, finally ending their journey at Hamilton at the head of Lake Ontario. This paper also explores their further migration to Petrolia/Enniskillen, from where their North American story would continue."

Michael Patrick Stapleton is a highly experienced genealogical researcher and a member of the Middlesex County (Ontario), Ontario Genealogical and Irish Genealogical Research Societies. For more than two decades he has conducted extensive research on the Irish Stapletons (everywhere) and Gleesons from Nenagh/Silvermines area.

Justice for Harry Gleeson at last
Sean Delaney & Kevin Gleeson, Ireland
Saturday 20.00

Harry Gleeson was the first man to get a posthumous pardon in Ireland. He was hanged in 1941 for the murder of his neighbour Mary McCarthy. At the time, he was managing the farm of his uncle (John Caesar). The murdered woman, known locally as Moll Carthy, was infamous in south Tipperary. She and her six children (by different fathers) lived in a rundown cottage at Marlhill, near New Inn, and she got her water supply from a pump on her neighbour John Caesar’s farm. When Harry found her body lying in a field on a wintry November morning in 1940, the police charged him with her murder.

"Seán MacBride was junior counsel to James Nolan-Whelan in defending Harry Gleeson, and later claimed his opposition to the death penalty was prompted by his certainty that Gleeson was innocent. The Farcical Trial of Harry Gleeson, privately published by Gleeson's friend Bill O'Connor in the 1980s, maintained that Gleeson was framed. The book spurred historian and lawyer Marcus Bourke to write Murder at Marlhill, published in 1993, which offered evidence of Gleeson's innocence. Cathal O'Shannon presented a documentary on RTÉ in 1995 based on Bourke's book. The Justice for Harry Gleeson Group was established locally to gather evidence and campaign, and it later contacted the Irish Innocence Project, the Innocence Network's Irish affiliate at Griffith College Dublin. In 2013 the Irish Innocence Project sent its file to the Department of Justice and Equality. Minister Alan Shatter sent it to Máire Whelan, the Attorney General, who got senior counsel Shane Murphy to review it. Deficiencies in the case were noted:
  • medical evidence suggested the death was probably on 21 November, when Gleeson had an alibi, whereas the prosecution exaggerated the likelihood that it was on 20 November
  • failure to call John Ceasar or his wife Brigid as witnesses
  • the Garda stage-managed a confrontation between Gleeson and two of the McCarthy children to reflect badly on him
  • failure to introduce the local shotgun register in evidence

Murphy reported that the conviction was based on "unconvincing circumstantial evidence" and recommended a pardon. On 1 April 2015, Shatter's successor as minister, Frances Fitzgerald, announced that the government would direct the President of Ireland to exercise his right to pardon under Article 13.6 of the Constitution of Ireland. President Michael D. Higgins formally signed the pardon order on 19 December 2015. This was presented to Gleeson's family at a ceremony on 13 January 2016."
from Wikipedia

Sean Delaney, founder & Leader of the J.F.H.G.G

In 2012 Sean, a retired official with South Eastern Cattle Breeding Society decided he would do “something” to clear the name of Harry Gleeson. Sean’s mother, Norah Gleeson was Harry’s cousin and it was from her that Sean first heard the tragic story of Harry Gleeson as a young boy. As no concerted effort was ever made to do this Sean founded the J.F.H.G.G who’s names are as follows, Tom Gleeson (Harry’s nephew) and Kevin Gleeson (grand-nephew), Pat Fitzgerald who’s wife bears the Caesar name, Jack Caesar (grand-nephew of John Caesar Harry’s Uncle), Emma Timoney (grand-daughter of J.J. Timoney, Harry’s solicitor), Timmy and Ollie Delaney brothers of Sean and Sean’s wife Mary. The group relentlessly pursued its aim as expressed in its mission statement which in turn has it’s origins in Harry’s now famous last request to Sean MacBride his counsel only hours before his hanging – “I rely on you then to clear my name”. 

The discovery of the Irish Innocence Project by Mary Delaney was crucial and following a lengthy telephone conversation between Sean and David Langwallner of the Irish Innocence Project, Mr. Langwallner agreed to meet the group. The IIP thereafter were the legal representatives of the Group.

Sean says “I believe the faith that befell Harry Gleeson is arguably the greatest miscarriage of justice ever presided over by the Free State and how unfortunate that those who’s role it is to ensure a fair trial for all citizens conspired to deny that right to Harry. Evil prospered as the good remained silent and even the very pillars of the community lost their voice”. 

Kevin Gleeson, grand-nephew of Harry Gleeson and member of the J.F.H.G.G

Kevin Gleeson, a secondary school teacher who amazingly was born and raised in the very house and farm at Galbertstown, Holycross as was Harry. The Gleeson family still continue to reside and farm this land. 

Kevin’s first memories of Harry’s sad story date back to when he was 11 or 12 years of age. Although Kevin clearly remembers the story he also recalls that it was seldom spoken of such was the hurt, burden and tragedy of it all. When Kevin became aware of the formation of the JFHGG he was an immediate volunteer.

Kevin says “I always longed for the day when somebody somewhere might meaningfully take up the case for justice for Harry Gleeson. When my father Tom Gleeson (Harry’s nephew) informed me what Sean Delaney was doing my immediate reaction just like Dad was to put my shoulder to the wheel.”

This talk will be followed by a book-signing by Kieran Fagan, author of The Framing of Harry Gleeson. This is a compelling account of how and why he was framed and who the guilty parties were.

"Where do the ideas for books come from? This one started in Dún Laoghaire on a summer afternoon in 2009. I was early for an X-ray in St Michael’s hospital, and I was killing time in a second-hand bookshop. Some words on the back of a slim paperback caught my eye.

“I rely on you then to clear my name. I have no confession to make only that I didn’t do it. That is all. I will pray for you and be with if I can whenever you [his defence lawyers] are fighting and battling for justice.”

The speaker was Harry Gleeson, talking to his counsel Seán MacBride on Tuesday, April 22nd, 1941, the day before he was hanged for the murder of his neighbour Moll Carthy.


Fairly soon I knew who had murdered Moll. And I had a good idea why. But how they got away with it, that was the mystery. That goes back to the state of the nation barely 20 years after independence: untrained and poorly-led gardaí; the presence of respected former IRA members in every community – people who could and would take the law into their own hands when the official channels failed to work, as they clearly had when Moll was allowed to practice the oldest profession with impunity."

Kieran Fagan, Irish Times, Tuesday April 21st, 2015

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