The Foot and Mouth Outbreak in Tipperary in 1941

County Tipperary Supplement, The Examiner, March 13, 2001


The following letter, which appeared in The Tipperary Star' on May 31, 1941 gives some insight into the deeply distressing experience the outbreak of Foot and Mouth had on the people of Ballingarry in that year. 'If I live to be very old it will never leave my mind, the horror of this infection in our parish, to see beautiful cows going out in all their health, giving us bucketfuls of milk and then - I used to cry morning and evening the week they were shot. You have no idea how attached people are to cows and little calves. Dry stock and pigs do not appeal so much to our feelings. To make it harder for us we never had better yearlings. There are people worse off than us, poor farmers starting the world with young families.' There was more in that vein.
The outbreak reached its peak in South Tipperary in May. On the 24th of the month it was reported that there were forty-one cases in the seven-day period. John Vaughan of Mullinahone remembers how they were wiped out. All their thirty-six stock, plus some pigs and four sheep were put down. The army came in with picks and shovels and dug a trench at the side of a field. They made a ramp down into it and the larger cattle were driven down, where they were shot. The smaller animals were shot beside the trench and thrown in. All were covered with lime and the trench filled in.

In the letter mentioned above the writer continues: The soldiers are very considerate. They hate the job but know that it is for the country's good, and they have got to do it. Some of them are very affected when they are shooting the cattle.'

The first outbreak was reported in Derry in January and the disease quickly spread across the border into Donegal. The next report was Abbeyleix and then Dublin was hit. In early February two cattle delivered to the fair in Birkenhead were found to have it and, when traced, were found to have been purchased in the fair at Birr. In the middle of February the Government issued an order forbidding fairs and markets in ten counties, including North and South Tipperary because of their proximity to Birr.

Although no outbreaks were confirmed in the county, the Government issued a standstill order in North Tipperary towards the end of the month. It prohibited the movement of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and forbade the movement along the public highways of milch cows even for the purpose of milking. This was to create great difficulties and much non-compliance.

The first outbreak in Tipperary was announced about the middle of March and a second, on the farm of Thomas L. Vincent, Riverstown, was reported a week later. No more outbreaks were reported and there was a rumour of the easing of restrictions early in April. In fact it was reported on April 12 that the North Tipperary Agriculture Committee complained they were not getting a fair crack of the whip in the movement of cattle. A licence scheme had been introduced but it forbade the sending of cattle to Limerick, Cork and Kerry, which were the regular outlets for stock from Tipperary.

The main news during April was the issuing of summonses for breaches of the regulations. A number of cases were heard at Templemore, Urlingford and Borrisileigh. Most of then concerned people driving their cows home to be milked. More were summoned for allowing their cattle to wander. On April 26 it was reported there were many cases up for consideration in Roscrea and as many as eighty-five in Nenagh court.

Racing and the public sale of horses had been banned as early as March. The North Tipperary County Council wrote a letter to the Minister for Agriculture in April calling for greater restrictions on many sporting events which hadn't been cancelled. The Minister replied that he didn't want to interfere with people's enjoyment but it was up to the council to make representations to the promoters of events.

After the lull came the storm. The arrival of May brought disaster to the county. In the second week there were eleven outbreaks, ten in Ballingarry and one in Mullinahone. Creameries and schools were closed. We get the first mention of the cancellation of G.A.A. matches. All games schedules for Littleton, Moyne and Carrick-on-Suir for May 18 were called off. Interestingly, the first editorial on the disease in the Tipperary Star appeared the same week. Between May 17 and 24 Ballingarry was stricken with forty-one outbreaks. Many of the animals had been fed infected milk. There was a possibility that one hundred and seventy-four farms would be infected and over two thousand cattle destroyed.

There was a meeting of the county board of the G.A.A. on May 20 and it was decided to stop all county matches. No teams were to leave the county. There was a request to the Munster Council to postpone the Waterford-Tipperary senior hurling championship game. On May 31 fourteen more cases were reported.

The game, a first round tie, scheduled for Thurles on June 1, was postponed and eventually played on the last Sunday in July. Tipperary won by 4-7 to 3-4. They were to play Cork in the Munster semi-final at Limerick on August 17 but the match was called off the previous Monday by order of the Department of Agriculture. Tipperary, and other counties affected by the disease, wanted the G.A.A. to put back the All-Ireland hurling final, but Central Council would not agree. The council ruled that teams be nominated and if a nominated team won the All-Ireland that team would be awarded the 1941 championship.

The Munster Council decided that Cork and Limerick should play off for the right to represent the province in the All-Ireland. It was also agreed that the winners would play Tipperary later in the Munster final. Limerick had already qualified for the final as a result of victory over Clare. Cork easily won and qualified for the All-Ireland final. In Leinster Dublin were nominated because Kilkenny, their opponents in the Leinster final, were also barred because of the extent of the disease in the county. Dublin defeated Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final at Roscrea on September 14 by two points.

The All-Ireland was played at Croke Park on September 28, As the date suggests the final was already four weeks late. Cork had an easy victory, winning by 5-11 to 0-6. The delayed Munster final was eventually played at Limerick on October 26 and Tipperary had a convincing victory over the All-Ireland champions by 5-4 to 2-5. Dublin won the delayed Leinster final against Kilkenny by 2-8 to 1-8 on the first Sunday of October.

In minor hurling Cork and Tipperary qualified for the Munster final but Cork were nominated for the All-Ireland semi­final because Tipperary couldn't travel because of the travel ban. Cork went on to win the All-Ireland and they won the delayed Munster final when they defeated Tipperary by 4-6 to 3-3 on the same day as the delayed senior final. In senior football Tipperary were forced to withdraw after defeating Waterford in the first round.

The county championships were also delayed by the outbreak of the disease. Castleiney-Loughmore won the mid football final on November 23 and Arravale Rovers won the south on December 7. In the county semi-final on March 29, 1942 Arravale Rovers defeated a West Selection by 5-5 to 0-4. The final was played on April 12, 1942 and Arravale Rovers beat Castleiney-Loughmore by 3-4 to 1-0 at Golden.

The senior hurling championship wasn't as badly delayed. In fact the north final was played at Borrisokane on August 24 with Roscrea victorious over Kilruane. Killenaule automatically became south champions because their opponents failed to field teams. Boherlahan won the mid on October 5 and Eire Og won the west two weeks later. Boherlahan defeated Roscrea in the county semi-final on October 19 and Eire Og defeated Killenaule on November 16. The final was played at Thurles on November 30 with victory going to Boherlahan by 2-2 to 0-6 for Eire Og. It was Boherlahan's last county senior hurling title until 1996.

In all there were an estimated five-hundred and sixty cases of the disease in ten counties over eight months. Foot and Mouth resulted in the enforced slaughter of over nineteen thousand cattle and five thousand sheep during the outbreak.