Historical description of county Tipperary, Ireland

TIPPERARY, (County of), an inland county of the province of MUNSTER, bounded on the east by the King's and Queen's counties, and that of Kilkenny; on the south, by that of Waterford; on the west, by those of Cork, Limerick, and Clare, from which latter it is separated by the Shannon and Lough Derg, and on the north, by that of Galway and King's county. It extends from 52° 12' to 53° 9' N. Lat., and from , 7° 20' to 8° 26' W. Lon.; comprising an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 1,013,173 statute acres, of which 819,698 consist of cultivated land, 182,147 of bog, mountain, and unimproved waste, and 11,328 are covered with water. The population, in 1821, was 346,896; and in 1831, 402,363.

The inhabitants of this portion of the island are designated by Ptolemy the Coriondi. Ængus McNafrach, King of Munster in the fifth century, is said to have enlarged the territory of the powerful tribe of the Desii, occupying the present county of Waterford, by the addition of the southern part of Tipperary, then forming a district called Magh Femin, but afterwards designated Desie Thuasgeart or North Desie, to distinguish it from the more southern lands of the same sept. According to Vallancey, the chiefs of Magh Femin, whose principal residence was on the rock of Cashel, obtained the name of Hy dun na moi, or "the chiefs of the hill of the plain," rendered by corruption O'Donnohue, and from them descended the Mac Carthies. The Desii maintained a separate sovereignty until overpowered by the first English invaders, against whom, however, they carried on a sanguinary and protracted struggle. The families then holding superior rank were those of O'Fogarty, occupying the territory about Thurles, anciently called Hy Fogarta; O'Brien, possessing the tract bordering on the Shannon, below Lough Derg, called Aradh Cliach, and forming the present barony of Owney and Arra; and O'Kennedy, who held Muscraighe Thire, now the baronies of Upper and Lower Ormond. The names of several other small districts have also been preserved, such as Corca Eathrach, including the country around Holy Cross and Cashel, forming a considerable part of Goulin, or the Golden Vale; Eoganacht, a territory and sept to the north of tbis, around Thurles; and Hy-Kerrin still further north. Ormond, the name of the northern part of the county, signifies East Munster.

The first English army that penetrated into this part of the island was led in person by Hen. II., who, in 1172, advanced from Waterford, and on the banks of the Suir received the submissions of the surrounding chieftains of the south; but on his return these submissions were for the most part retracted, and hostilities with the English commenced by the march of Earl Strongbow with an army to Cashel, where he reviewed his troops, and having received information of the strength and posture of the enemy, sent to Dublin, for the aid of the Ostmen forces enlisted in the English service there. When this auxiliary force had advanced as for as Thurles, it was suddenly attacked by O'Brien of Thomond so successfully, that their four principal leaders and 400 men were slain; upon which Strongbow made a precipitate retreat to Waterford. Afterwards Prince John, to secure the southern part of the county in subjection to the English authority, ordered the erection of castles at Ardfinnan and Tipperary. The next great struggle originated in an attempt made by Daniel O'Brien, of Thomond, to dispossess the English of this tract of country, for which purpose he levied a considerable force, and the contending parties having met at Thurles, a battle ensued in which the English were discomfited. But this did not put an end to the contest; the English still continued to ravage the territories of O'Brien, and to increase the number of their castles, which they gradually extended towards the Shannon.

When the territory had been in a great measure reduced, Hen. II. granted the whole of its lay possessions to Theobald Walter, who accompanied prince John to Ireland, in 1185, and was constituted "Chief Butler" of Ireland, a dignity made hereditary in his family, and from which it derives its name. Tipperary was one of the counties erected into shire ground by King John, in 1210. In 1315, Edmund, the fifth chief Butler of Ireland, received a grant of the return of all writs in his cantreds of Orman, Hyogarty, and Hyocaroyl; and his son and successor, James, was created Earl of Ormonde in 1328. Edw. III. granted to this nobleman's son, James, who had married Eleanor Bohun, grand-daughter of Edw. I., for the better support of the name and honour of Earl of Ormonde, and in consideration of his valuable services, and of the consanguinity existing between him and his majesty, the regality, fees, and all other liberties in the county of Tipperary, and also the prisage of wines in Ireland. The royal liberty thus established in the county continued until the commencement of the last century, having, through the power, talents and loyalty of the family, been preserved long after the other royal liberties in Ireland had ceased to exist. The lands of the church being exempt from the palatine jurisdiction, formed considerable tracts within the limits of the county, in which the king's writs and ordinary jurisdiction had free course; these lands, in contradistinction to the county palatine, were designated the Cross of Tipperary, had their own sheriffs, and sent separate members to the Irish parliament. From a representation of this parliament, in 1430, it appears, that the greater part of the county was then subject to "Irish enemies, or English rebels," meaning by the latter name such as, under the loose authority of the age, lived in the old native fashion, in contempt of the King's authority or the English law; but the Butler family and the archbishops of Cashel were at a subsequent period firm in their allegiance to Hen. VII., in opposition to the attempts of Lambert Simnel. In the reign of Hen VIII., ordinances for the government of this and other western counties, in which English law had been long disregarded, were committed for execution to the Earl of Ormonde. In the 28th of the same reign, much of the possessions and privileges of the earldom vested in the king, by his marriage with Anne Boleyn, while such portions as were settled in tail male, including the prisage of wines, passed to the eldest heir male of the family, Sir Pierce Butler, created Earl of Ossory, and commonly styled Lord Ormonde, and in 1537, the same king confirmed to this nobleman all the lordships and manors anciently belonging to the family, in this and other counties.

In 1632, James, commonly styled "the great Duke of Ormonde," succeeded to the possessions of his family; and in the subsequent civil commotions, in which he acted so important a part, this county suffered very severely. In 1642, almost every fort and castle was captured by the Irish, and nearly all the relations of the earl were at once involved in the insurrection. In 1647, it suffered from the military ravages of Lord Inchiquin, who took Cahir and Cashel, and ravaged the whole county. After the fall of Clonmel in 1650, a great portion of the forfeited lands of the rebels was divided amongst the parliamentarian adventurers, and subsequently confirmed to them by the act of settlement after the Restoration. James, Duke of Ormonde, obtained confirmation of all his ancient paternal property by several patents and statutes of Chas. II., and the royalties and liberties thereby granted were extended over the county at large, including the Cross of Tipperary, and were confirmed by act of parliament in the 14th and 15th of the same king. James, grandson of the Great Duke, was impeached on the accession of Geo, I., and, fleeing to France, was attainted of high treason by an act of the British parliament, and his estates confiscated; and by an act of the Irish parliament, in the 2nd of Geo. I., all the liberties, regalities, franchises, courts of law and equity, jurisdictions, rights, power and authorities, granted by the letters patent and acts of parliament above mentioned, were for ever extinguished, and the rolls and records thereof, consisting of the pleadings in the conrt palatine of Tipperary from 1662 to 1714 and leases of lands from the Duke during the same period, were deposited chiefty in the Rolls Office of Chancery in Ireland, and a few in the office of the Chirographer of the Common Pleas. However, by an English statute in 1721, his brother, the Earl of Arran, was enabled to purchase the estates, and after his Grace's death without issue, succeeded as heir and representative of the Butlers of Ireland. From this nobleman's time until the year 1791, the ancient honours of the house of Ormonde remained dormant; but in that year John Butler, Esq., of the castle of Kilkenny, was restored to the earldoms of Ormond and Ossory, Viscounty of Thurles, &c.; no statute of restoration being deemed necessary on the occasion, as the title had not been attainted by an act of the Irish parliament. The present Marquess of Ormonde still retains the honorary office of Chief Butler, but the profits of the butlerage and prisage were purchased from the family for £216,000, under the 46th, 50th, and 51st of Geo. III., and vested in the Crown for the benefit of the public.

Transcribed from Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840