Tipperary Castles and Abbeys, Round Towers, Danish and Irish Earthworks, Caves, Gold, Bronze and Brass Ornaments, Bronze Trumpet, &c - Book of County Tipperary, 1889

About “The Book of County Tipperary,” 1889

George Henry Bassett produced 7 Irish county directories in the 1880s: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Kilkenny, Louth, Tipperary and Wexford. Each provides useful history of the respective counties as well as lists of office holders, farmers, traders, and other residents of the individual cities, towns and villages.

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The directories are naturally an invaluable resource for those tracing family history. The Book of County Tipperary is the first of these to be made available on libraryireland.com, with its own search page. However, there are a few points to bear in mind.

  1. This online version is designed primarily as a genealogical research tool and therefore the numerous advertisements in the original book, many full page, and quite a few illustrated, have been excluded.
  2. The text has been proofed with due care, but with large bodies of text typographical errors are inevitably bound to occur.
  3. Be aware that there were often inconsistencies in spelling surnames in the 19th century and also that many forenames are abbreviated in Bassett’s directories.

With respect to the last point, surnames which today begin with the “Mc” prefix, for example, were often formerly spelt as “M‘,”. For a list of some of the more common forename abbreviations used in the directory, see Forename Abbreviations.

To enjoy the rich variety of advertisements, confirm accuracy of the entries, or have a printed record of a family member, obtain an original or facsimile copy of The Book of County Tipperary.

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Ruins of castles, and fortified mansions are numerous throughout the county. Of those that were built before the English occupation the finest and most perfect specimen belongs to Lady Margaret Charteris, and is situated on the verge of the river Suir, at Cahir. The first castle ordered to be erected after the British connection, was Ardfinnan, 1185. That in its handsomely restored state, belongs to Mr. J. K. Prendergast, J.P. The second castle built by order of Prince John, was at Tipperary. Not a vestige of it remains. All the other castles in the county were built by the Butlers, and the rest of the favored persons who received grants of land and required them for protection against native hostilities. In the descriptions of the different towns and villages references are made to the abbeys. The most extensive and interesting of the ruins are those at Holycross, Athassel, and Cahir. Two of the ancient round towers continue in a good state of preservation. One stands on the Rock of Cashel, the other near the ruined gable of the old Church of St. Cronan, at Roscrea. As to the original uses of these curious structures, an opinion more or less cannot, be of much value, considering that they have been a fruitful source for contending opinions among many generations of antiquaries. Giraldus Cambrensis, a writer who came to have a look at Ireland in 1185, refers to them as “Ecclesiastical towers, which in style, or fashion peculiar to the country, are narrow, high, and round.” Ledwich thinks Cambrensis saw the Irish building them. Peter Walsh writing in 1684, strongly urged the belief upon his readers that the Danes had built the round towers to serve for look-out posts, and that after they were repulsed, the Christian Irish turned them into belfries. Down to his day they were called clochtheachs, belfries or bell-towers, by the Irish. The largest of the ancient Irish bells, examples of which maybe seen in the museum of the Royal Irish Academy, were small enough to have been rung in such towers.

For a long time before and after the conversion of the Irish to Christianity, they were accustomed to live in woods and bogs. As their numbers increased they began to feel the need of greater protection in their encampments, against wild beasts and tribal hostilities. This was secured by the earthen forts, which were really entrenched villages, with secret chambers and passages from one to another. Down to the sixteenth century there were natives who lived in this way during the winter, and removed to the mountains in summer with their flocks and herds. The chambers were chiefly formed of large upright stones, roofed with rough flags. The forts and raths are also known as mounts, moats, duns, lisés, and cashels. The names of the townlands all through Tipperary are suggestive of the present or former existence of such dwellings. Here are a few, Rathronan, Tannersrath, Lisnatubrid, Dundrum, etc. The Danes built a great many raths in this county, the remains of which are quite extensive.

The most interesting of the natural caves are in the parish of Templetenny. They are described in the sketch of the town and district of Cahir. Ornaments of gold, silver, brass, and bronze have turned up in many places. A golden fibula, which it is considered must originally have weighed ten ounces, was discovered, 1859, near Keeper Hill, by some peasants. Unable to arrive at a fairer mode of sharing the prize equally, they sawed it across. One part was sold to a Dublin jeweller for its bullion value. The discs were battered off and one used to make a ferule for a walking-stick. At the time when Tara was in its glory as the residence of the monarch of Ireland, golden diadems were worn by the great dames. One of these beautiful ornaments, now in the Royal Irish Academy collection, was found in 1836 lying on the gravel, four feet under the surface of the bog, on the lands of Borrisnoe to the east of Bunduff mountain, barony of Ikerrin. It weighs a little over four ounces, measures ten and a half inches across the widest portion, five inches in the clear of the open part, is three and a half inches deep at the top, and three inches at each extremity. The plate is thin, and the ornamentation formed by four plain elevated narrow ribs, between each of which is an embossed fillet, consisting of two rows of raised studs with three coils of rope-work between them. Above the line where the end of the plate passes into the boss the joinings are made by wire and thread stitches. The wire is gold and the thread woollen. There is no trace of soldering, a fact which indicates that this art was not known to the maker.

The boss, ten inches in diameter, with a portion of a fluted diadem, attached by gold twist, was found in the bog of Cullen in 1749. The “finds” of gold objects in this bog began in 1731, and continued until 1771. These included an egg-shaped piece weighing over four ounces, a plate of beaten gold eight inches in diameter, “lapping up in the form of a triangle,” and enclosing three ingots, which it was said could not have weighed less than one pound; a thin plate of gold eighteen pennyweights and fifteen grains; a gold cup, almost in the form of a wine glass, with a hollow handle, and a capacity for a small “thimbleful,” twenty-one pennyweights and twelve grains; a tube as thick as the stem of a clay tobacco-pipe, one ounce, seven pennyweights and twenty grains; a thin plate fourteen inches long, and about a quarter of an inch broad; about thirteen pennyweights; a second plate of same kind, one ounce and five pennyweights; a plate ten inches in diameter, with a gold twist in the centre “sewed in and out;” a plate of gold sold to a pedlar for £2 12s. without weighing; a piece of solid metal eleven pennyweights and sixteen grains; three rings and an egg-shaped solid piece not weighed; a plate attached to a sword, weighing over three ounces; a plate beautifully chased and engraved, supposed to be part of a crown, one ounce, twenty pennyweights and sixteen grains; a hollow piece in the form of the point of a scabbard, one ounce, twenty-three pennyweights and seventeen grains; a vessel, like a chalice, holding almost a pint, chased and engraved, ten ounces twelve pennyweights and twenty-three grains; two thin leaves, folded in each other, weighing a guinea and a half; a piece in the form of a scollop-shell, weighing fourteen guineas and a half; two pieces, three ounces, nine pennyweights and twenty-one grains; a piece one ounce and seven grains; a thin plate and chain sold for £2 7s.; a thin plate, with five small square ingots, two ounces, four pennyweights and three grains; seven small ingots sold for £6 5s.; a solid piece one ounce and three grains; a handful of pieces “not much thicker than a straw,” and about a quarter of an inch long, weighing over two ounces; a thin plate over two and a half ounces; a piece, six inches long, like the pipe of a trumpet, hollow in the middle, three ounces, fifteen pennyweights and twenty-one grains. A wooden image, afterward used as a gate-post, was dug out of the bog at the same time, and it was believed by the Rev. Mr. Armstrong, who reported upon the “finds,” that the plates of gold were hung from pegs distributed over it. A great many objects in brass and bronze were with the gold. The finders were nearly all poor and sold what luck had given them to gentlemen of the neighbourhood, to passing pedlars, and to jewellers at Limerick.

In 1692 a gold crown, weighing five ounces, was found in a bog near the Devil’s Bit Mountain. The ornamentation consisted of embossed circles and straight lines, “some parallel and others arranged in angles of the chevron pattern, like those seen on some of the terra cotta urns of Pagan times.” The Comerford family had possession of it for some time, and it was ultimately taken to France. A beautifully chased and engraved gold crown was found near Shronell about the year 1797. It weighed over one pound. In the centre there was a place for a precious stone. Mr. William Power, a silversmith of Limerick, became the purchaser. Before he understood the real value he had broken it up for rings and toys.

An object of great interest composed of iron and brass, inlaid with gold and silver, was found in the hollow of a tree many years ago in the district of Borrisoleigh. It is known as the Barnaan-cuilan, and slightly resembles a mitre, but is believed to have been the top of a censer belonging to St. Cuilen.

A beautiful bronze brooch, dug up at Roscrea, was purchased by the Royal Irish Academy some years ago for £8 2s. 2d. The pin is eleven inches long, and the hoop five inches across the centre. A curious bronze armorial crest is also on view in the Academy. It is four and a half inches long, and two and a half inches at greatest width, and was dug out of an ancient grave at Roscrea. The same town has contributed to the Academy collection the branch of a bronze trumpet about four feet long.

I wish here to express my hearty thanks to Major R. McEniry, and to Mr. J. J. MacSweeney, of the Royal Irish Academy. I am indebted to these gentlemen for many acts of courtesy.

Book of County Tipperary

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