Carlow Town History

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

CARLOW, an incorporated borough, market, and post-town, and a parish, in the barony and county of CARLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 18 ¼ miles (N. E.) from Kilkenny, and 39 ¼ (S. W. by S.) from Dublin; containing 9597 inhabitants, of which number, 9114 are in the borough. This town, called, till within a comparatively recent period, Catherlough, or Catherlagh, is supposed to have derived that name, signifying in the Irish language " the city on the lake," from its proximity to a large sheet of water which formerly existed here. The erection of the castle has been variously attributed to Eva, daughter of Dermot Mac Murrough; to Isabel, daughter of Strongbow, and to King John; but with more probability to Hugh de Lacy, about the year 1180. In the reign of Edward II., the castle belonged to the crown, and was made the head-quarters of the seneschalship of the counties of Carlow and Kildare, instituted on account of the disturbed state of those districts. About the year 1361, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, established the exchequer of the kingdom at this place, and expended £500 in fortifying the town with walls, of which at present there is not a vestige. James Fitzgerald, brother of the Earl of Kildare, seized the castle in 1494; but it was soon afterwards invested by the lord-deputy, Sir Edward Poynings, to whom, after a siege of ten days, it was surrendered.

In 1534 it was taken by Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, during his insurrection; and in 1577 the town was assaulted by Rory Oge O'More. James I. granted the manor to Donogh, Earl of Thomond, whom he also made constable of the castle. In 1641, the whole county was overrun by the insurgents, and the castle of Carlow was invested by a strong party and reduced to great extremity; a number of Protestants had taken refuge within its walls, and the garrison was about to surrender, when it was relieved by a detachment of the Earl of Ormonde's forces under the command of Sir Patrick Wemys. On his approach the insurgents raised the siege, and, after burning the town, took flight, but 50 of them were killed in the pursuit. This place was constantly exposed to the assaults of the insurgents; and the castle, after sustaining a siege for nearly a month, ultimately surrendered in May, 1647. It was, in 1650, closely invested by Ireton and the republican army; and after a severe cannonade which greatly injured the castle, the garrison surrendered on conditions to Sir Hardress Waller, whom Ireton had left to conduct the siege.

After the battle of the Boyne, in 1690, William III. led his army southward through this town; and during the disturbances of 1798, it was assaulted by the insurgents on the morning of the 25th of May. The garrison, consisting partly of regular troops and partly of yeomanry, amounting in the whole to 450, repulsed the assailants, though 2000 in number, with the loss of 600 of their men, on which occasion they were obliged to burn several of the houses, in order to compel the insurgents to abandon them.

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