Knowles: Fethard, its Abbey, etc.

Pdf Knowles, J.A. Fethard, its abbey, etc. Dublin: James Duffy & Co., 1903.
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Fethard: Its Abbey, Etc. by Rev. J. A Knowles, an Augustinian priest, tells the story of the town of Fethard and its Augustinian Friary from their Norman origins until the turn of the 20th century.

Prior to the Norman conquest of the 12th century, the barony of Middle Third was part of the territory of the Eoghanacht, a collection of Gaelic tribes centred around Cashel. that included the MacCarthy, O'Sullivan, O'Callaghan, O'Donoughue and other septs.The walled medieval Norman village of Fethard or Fiodh Ard, meaning "high wood," was founded about 1200 on a low hill where there might have been an earlier Christian church. Fethard was a planned settlement with regular streets, a market place, church and graveyard with a Norman settler population supported by the surrounding agricultural land.

The site is believed to have been chosen by the Welsh Norman noble William de Braose. He is alleged to have helped John Lackland murder the heir to the English throne, Arthur of Brittany, in order to be crowned King John of England. Subsequently William fell out of favour with King John over an overdue debt and fled to France leaving his family to die in captivity. The incident contributed to a rebellion by feudal Norman barons who forced King John to sign the historic Magna Carta.

In 1215 the village came under the control of the Archdiocese of Cashel and remained part of their estates until the 16th century English Protestant Reformation. The town prospered during the 13th century from the trade in silk, wine skins, sea-fish, coal, nails, timbers and salt, was given burrough status and had its own charter. In the 14th century the Augustinian Friary was built but it was dissolved and left in ruins after the 16th century Reformation.

In the early 17th century Sir John Everard, a Catholic who managed to remain in favour with the Protestant Crown secured Fethard's second charter endowing freedoms and liberties that attracted more trade and commerce to the village. Fethard survived the Confederate Wars and the Cromwellian invasion of the mid 17th century submitted initially to the army of the Catholic Lord Inchiquin, Murrough O'Brien and later to the Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell.

Fethard declined in the 18th century and the Everard family sold their properties to a wine merchant named Barton who replaced their old mansion with a new dwelling that in turn became a military barracks. In the 19th century the medieval walls and gates were removed. The Great Irish Potato Famine between 1845 and 1852 devastated the Tipperary region with thousands dying of starvation and disease or emigrating to the New World. A local famine relief scheme was set up requiring starving people to work on road construction in return for food. In 1848 Michael Donehy, a native of Brookhill near Fethard, took part in the abortive Young Irelander uprising in Ballingarry.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the Fenian Movement, the Land League and the Irish Parliamentary Party took part in a sustained campaign for land reform. By the early 20th century when Dr. Knowles' book was published most Irish tenants had bought out the local Anglo-Irish Protestant landlords and their nationalist focus shifted toward Irish Home Rule. Fethard became the scene of fighting during the Irish War of Independence 1919-1922 and later was part of the brief 'Munster Republic' before Free State forces defeated anti-Treaty republicans in the Irish Civil War 1922-1923.

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