Clonmel before and since the English Connection - 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, 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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Clonmel originally formed part of the territory of the Southern Decies, which, according to Keating, stretched from the Suir southward to the sea. The Decies were princes of the posterity of Fiacha Suidhe, and lived in a palace, the site of which is included in the demesne of Marlfield, less than two miles, Irish, from Clonmel. Very little is known as to the rise and progress of the town prior to the twelfth century. A charter to the inhabitants, granted by James I. in 1609, ascribes the foundation to the English, but historians are of opinion that it had an existence before the Danes first landed in Ireland, 794. The name is derived from Cluain meala, meadow of honey, the description given by the natives to the fertile valley here when it was only a pasturage for flocks and herds.

Clonmel seems to have been identified with the English Government of the County Tipperary from the twelfth century. The descendants of Theobald Walter, appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by Henry II., had much to do with its growth and prosperity at various periods down to the time of Charles II., when James, Duke of Ormonde, greatest of their number, reached the zenith of power and influence.

In the reign of Edward I.—1272–1307—the first charter of incorporation was granted. Edward II. gave it a charter with increased powers, and Edward III. gave a charter to James Butler, whom he had created Earl of Ormonde in 1328. Charters were also given by James I., James II., and William III. King William’s charter simply confirmed the provisions of the charter of James I. As a walled town, “surrounded with towers, castles and fortresses,” Clonmel, according to this charter, had “performed laudable services” for many “Kings of England against rebels, robbers, and republican enemies.” In Smith’s Annals reference is made to the surrender of the town to the Earl of Kildare, Lord Deputy of Ireland, in 1516. The siege was an outcome of the long-existing feud between the powerful houses of Kildare and Ormonde. Gerald, eighth Earl, by a family alliance, endeavored to restore harmony, but the truce was of short duration, and the enmity springing up afresh, was continued until, in the reign of Henry VIII., the Kildares were swept away.

From the war of the Catholic Confederation, 1641, to the beheading of Charles I., Clonmel was garrisoned for the King, acting under the directions of James, Earl of Ormonde, then in command of the English forces. When Charles II. was proclaimed King, in 1649, it gave in its adhesion to him. In the new order of things the enemies of 1641 became allies against the power of the Puritan Parliament. The last act of Owen Roe O’Neill, who died from poison, 6th November, 1649, was to direct his nephew, Hugh O’Neill, to march to Munster and form a junction with the forces of the Earl of Ormonde against the common enemy. He arrived at Clonmel in time for the siege of Oliver Cromwell, and it is recorded that the resistance here was the most stubborn of any that had been encountered in the nine months’ campaign of the victorious general. O’Neill had brought the remnant of his uncle’s army, about 1,200 all told, to reinforce the royal garrison. It is estimated that fully 2,000 of the Cromwellians were killed in the first attempt to gain an entry into the town. For two months the defence was maintained. All hope of relief having been exhausted, the garrison got away to Waterford unobserved. Thereupon the inhabitants surrendered on conditions which were considered honorable, and which were kept by the Cromwellians notwithstanding the circumstances.

A garrison was maintained for the Commonwealth until its waning power under Richard Cromwell revived the energies of the Royalists. The restoration of Charles II., May 23rd, 1660, found it in possession of his friends.

During the revolution, 1688–90, Clonmel was held for James II. Six weeks after the defeat at the Boyne, it surrendered to the forces of William III.

William Smith O’Brien and other leaders of the rebellion of 1848, were tried by a special Commission, opened at Clonmel, September 21st, of that year. See page 21.