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TRALEE, a borough, assize, sea-port, market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of TRUGHENACKMY, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 58¼ miles (W. N. W.) from Cork, and 151 (S. W. by W.) from Dublin; containing 11,021 inhabitants, of which number 9568 are in the town. Its ancient name, Traleigh, "the strand of the Leigh," is derived from its situation near the point at which the river Leigh discharges itself into the broad sandy bay of Tralee;this river, though apparently so insignificant as to be covered over during its course through the town, is occasionally so much swelled by the winter torrents from the mountains as to cause much inconvenience and at times damage to the inhabitants. The first historical notice of the town is the foundation of a Dominican monastery, in 1213, by John Fitz-Thomas, of the Geraldine family, who having been slain with his son Maurice and many of his followers in the battle at Callan against McCarthy More, was interred in it. In 1325, Maurice Fitz-Maurice, fourth lord of Kerry, slew Dermot McCarthy in the presence of the judge of assize, for which act he was severely punished. In 1576, the great Earl of Desmond, who claimed the privilege that his palatinate should not be amenable to the jurisdiction of the King's judges, having in vain endeavoured to prevent Sir Wm. Drury, then Lord-Justice, from holding the assizes at Tralee, invited him to his castle, where he met him attended by a large body of his followers. The Lord-Justice seeing them advancing towards him in military order, suspected treachery and ordered his attendants to charge them, upon which Desmond and his men fled with the greatest precipitation, leaving his countess to explain the cause of the alarm. In 1579, Sir Henry Davels, who had been sent by the Lord-Deputy to summon the Earl of Desmond to join him with his forces against the Spaniards, who had landed at Smerwick, on his return from this mission was assassinated at Tralee by Sir John Desmond, a relation of the earl. In 1600, Sir Chas. Wilmot here routed a party of the Irish with considerable slaughter. At the breaking out of the war of 1641 all the English families in and about Tralee took shelter in the castle belonging to Sir Edw. Denny, to whom it had been granted after the death of the Earl of Desmond and the forfeiture of his property; and Sir Edward assembled all his tenants for its defence, but being ordered away on another duty he left the newcomers to their own resources, which they exerted so effectually that they kept the besiegers at bay for six months, until, being worn out with fatigue and hunger, and discouraged by the death of their governor, Sir Thomas Harris, they surrendered. The town was soon after destroyed and the surrounding country wasted by the Irish, on the approach of Lord Inehiquin, to prevent, him from making it his head-quarters. It was treated in a similar manner in 1691, on the approach of King William's forces.

The town, which, with the surrounding district, is the property of Sir Edw. Denny, contained, in 1831, 1354 houses: it is situated near the foot of a range of mountains and about a mile and a half from the bay of the same name, on a site so low as to be occasionally flooded when high spring tides meet the mountain torrents. It consists of an irregular main street, upwards of a mile long, having several streets branching laterally from it on each side: the streets, which are kept in repair by county presentments, are partially paved and flagged, but not lighted; a proposal made to remedy these defects and to procure the inhabitants a full supply of water, under the provisions of the act of the 9th of Geo. IV., c. 82, was rejected by a public meeting convened in 1832, and the town is now provided with water from pumps fitted up by subscription during the prevalence of the cholera. It has been much improved within the last few years by the erection of several good houses and the formation of a new street, named Denny-street, formed on the site of the ancient castle of the Earl of Desmond, at the western extremity of which is the entrance to the castle demesne, which has been lately much improved, and forms a delightful promenade open to the public. The county club and newsroom is in this street, and there are two other reading and news-rooms, called the Chamber of Commerce and the Constitutional Club. Races are held at the spa in July or August, and an annual regatta in the bay has been lately established. The barracks, at Ballymullen, about half a mile from the town, and capable of accommodating 17 officers, and 456 non-commissioned officers and privates, and 6 horses, with an hospital for 30 patients, form a substantial building, erected in 1810 at an expense of £20,000: they stand in an enclosed area of about 15½ acres. Near the barracks is the brewery of Mr. Bender, also the distillery of Messrs. Newell and Grant, which manufactures upwards of 70,000 gallons of whiskey annually. The extensive ale and porter brewery of Messrs. Cox and Tidmarsh, producing about 2300 tierces annually, and another on a less extensive scale, are situated in the town. The markets, which are held on Tuesday and Saturday, are abundantly supplied with meat and vegetables, and with fish from the bays of Dingle and Tralee; there are no regular market-places, and the dealings are carried on in the public streets, to the great inconvenience of the inhabitants: the provost acts as clerk of the market, in examining the weights and measures and in correcting abuses and deciding disputes; market jurors are sworn at quarter sessions. The town has an extensive retail trade, Fairs are held on May 3rd, Aug. 4th and 5th, Oct. 9th and 10th, Nov. 7th and 8th, and Dec. 13th. There are branches of the Bank of Ireland and of the Provincial and National Banks in the town. About 15 years since the export of grain was confined to two or three small cargoes annually; there is now a considerable export, which is increasing every year; the chief articles are wheat and oats, the barley being mostly purchased for home consumption: butter is also exported, but not to its former extent: coal and timber are the chief articles imported. The improvements in the trade, commerce, and general appearance of Tralee have been very considerable of late years, and are rapidly progressing notwithstanding the inconvenience arising from the extreme shallowness of the water in the river, which prevents the approach of vessels exceeding 50 or 60 tons nearer than Blennerville, about 1½ mile distant, and obliges large vessels to lie at the Samphire islands, off Fenit point, a distance of about five miles. To remedy this defect, a local act of the 9th of Geo. IV., c. 118, was procured, creating a corporate board of commissioners for the purpose of constructing a navigable canal adequate to bring up large vessels to the town. The canal, which is now in progress, commences at Croompane-Rockard, near the west end of the town, where there is a basin 400 feet by 150, on the north side of which is to be a quay faced with hewn stone: the canal, which proceeds thence to the Blackrock, beyond Blennerville, is to be 74 feet wide and 15 feet deep: the estimated expense is £24,000. When finished, vessels of 300 tons burden will be enabled to discharge at the quay. The canal commissioners are empowered to impose certain dues on the imports and exports, and on vessels coming into the port; these dues, in 1834, amounted to £600. The amount of the excise duties of the district, for the year 1835, was £11,265. 9. 6. The town is the head station of the coast-guard district and residence of the inspecting commander: it comprises the stations of Castlegregory, Kilfinura, Ballyheigue, the Cashen river, and Beale. It is also a chief constabulary police station.

The town was incorporated by a charter of the 10th of Jas. I., under the name of "the Provost, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Tralee; "to consist of a provost, 12 burgesses and a commonalty. The provost, elected annually, is hereby appointed clerk of the market, justice of the peace for the county of Kerry, and judge of a borough court of record. The burgesses are elected for life: the charter declares all the inhabitants of the borough freemen, together with such others as the provost and free burgesses admit; but as the freedom gives no privilege but that of exemption from tolls, it has never been claimed as of right. The charter grants to the borough the right of returning two members to parliament, and vests the election in the provost and burgesses: the borough was disfranchised at the Union, but by the act of the 2nd of Win. IV., cap. 88, it is empowered to return one member, to be elected by the £10 householders, with a restoration of their former right of voting to the burgesses, provided they be resident in the borough or within seven miles of it. The borough is not co-extensive with the parish, but comprises a portion of the country round the town, to the extent of about seven miles in circumference. The new electoral boundary, including part of the parish of Ratass, in which are the county gaol and the barracks, comprises an area of 534 statute acres, the limits of which are particularly described in the Appendix: the provost is the returning officer. He also presides at a court of record, held every Thursday, for personal actions not exceeding five marks, Irish. The assizes for the county of Kerry are held at Tralee; and general sessions of the peace four times in the year: petty sessions are held every Tuesday. The county courthouse, erected near the eastern end of Denny-street, at an expense of £14,000, is an edifice of great elegance: its front presents a Grecian portico approached by a noble flight of steps and surmounted with a fine pediment: the main building, which is circular, has the criminal court of justice on the one side and the civil on the other, separated by the judges' and other chambers in the centre of the building: the county offices are in the rear. The county gaol, situated near the barracks, is a large and substantial building on the radiating principle, consisting of an octangular centre containing the governor's apartments, from which project two lateral wings and one rearward containing wards for the male prisoners; in the front are two detached buildings for female prisoners and debtors, and in the rear another of semicircular form for a chapel: it affords accommodations, with separate beds, for 209 prisoners, and has a treadmill.

The parish contains 4393½ statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: it is intersected by the small rivers Ballymullen and Leigh, which unite just before they fall into the strait or haven at the western entrance of the town. The soil is in general of superior quality, and chiefly in tillage; the system of agriculture is gradually improving: it contains some mountain pasture and shallow bog. Limestone and black marble are found 4 N within its limits: the materials with which the new courthouse was constructed were chiefly raised from a quarry of fine limestone near the castle green, which has been since filled up and planted. Sea-weed from Tralee bay is in general use for manure. The principal gentlemen's seats in the vicinity are Ballyseedy, the finely planted demesne of Arth. Blennerhasset, Esq., now occupied by Sir Edw. Denny, Bart.; Oak Park, the residence of John Bateman, Esq., situated in grounds well wooded with oak, among which are some trees of singular size and beauty, and open to the public; Belmont, of the Rev. A. B. Rowan; Ballard House, of Fras. Crosbie, Esq.; Spring Lodge, of F. J. Martelli, Esq.; Lower Cannon, of J. Eagar, Esq.; Magh, of W. Seely, Esq.; Chute Hall, of W. Chute, Esq.; Spring Hill, of Capt. Chute; Arbella, of Fras. Peet, Esq.; Plover Hill, of Geo. Gun, Esq.; and Frogmore Lodge, of the Rev. Barry Denny. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and in the patronage of Sir Edw. Denny: the tithes amount to £408. 7. 7. The glebehouse is a large and commodious building adjoining the church; the glebe comprises 11a. 0r. 29p. The church, which was enlarged in 1819 by aid of a loan of £2450 from the late Board of First Fruits, and more recently enlarged and thoroughly repaired by a fund raised by subscription and the sale of the pews, is a large and handsome structure with a square tower surmounted with pinnacles. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the greater part of the parishes of Annagh, Clogherbrien, and Ratass: the chapel is a spacious and handsome edifice, the entrance to which from the High-street is through a fine avenue bordered with trees. A convent for nuns of the order of the Presentation, established about 12 years since, has a small chapel attached to it. There are places of worship for Calvinistic Independents and Wesleyan Methodists. A school, under the superintendence of the incumbent, was built about 12 years since by aid of a grant of £140 from the Lord-Lieutenant's fund, and shortly after its erection was placed in connection with the trustees of Erasmus Smith's charity, who allow the master a fixed salary of £20 per ann. and a contingent gratuity of £10: there is also a school for females, formerly in connection with the London Hibernian Society, held under the same roof; the salary of the mistress is paid by subscriptions, which average £30 per ann.: the building can accommodate 80 children of each sex, and both schools are under the superintendence of the Protestant clergyman. A male school in connection with the Board of National Education is held in a large edifice, consisting of an upper and lower apartment, each extending the whole length, of the building, and togetheraffording accommodation for about 800 children. A female free school is connected with the convent of the Presentation, by the nuns of which the children are instructed in the elements of useful literature and in lace-making and needle-work: it is partly supported by a grant from the same Board. There are five private schools: the number of children instructed in all these schools is about 830. There is also a Sunday school in the town. The county infirmary, with a dispensary attached, has been established here. The county fever hospital, a substantial modern building, forming three sides of a quadrangle, and capable of accommodating 200 patients, is situated in a spacious area in the vicinity. There is also a temporary asylum for the reception of lunatics previously to their transmission to the district lunatic asylum at Limerick. Two asylums for the aged and impotent poor are supported respectively by the Protestant and Catholic inhabitants. A neat row of six almshouses, affording accommodation to 36 poor widows, was built in 1832 by Dr. McEniry, P.P., at an expense of £600: the widows are selected by the parish priest. The interest of £1000 Irish, bequeathed by Miss Tuomy, of Tralee, who died about 30 years since, is distributed by the parish priest among the poor, generally at Christmas. The only relics of the ancient abbey are some sculptured ornaments which have been built into the front of the R. C. chapel and of the adjoining school-house. At Ballybeggan are the remains of a castle, and at the northern outlet are some slight vestiges of the castle of Mac Aliistrom or Ellistrom. On the northern shore of the bay, about three miles from the town, is a celebrated chalybeate spring, which has given the name of Spa to a small watering-place that is described under its own head.

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