Modern History

From around 1760, when people thought about Tipperary, the violence of its inhabitants was what came to mind.  A name attached to people from Tipperary was ‘stone-throwers’ because of their skill with that projectile. An increasing population needed access to land to grow potatoes. Motivated by this and other grievances, large numbers banded together to assert popular values.  These gangs had a variety of names: Rightboys, Defenders, Rockites, Caravats but the general name was Whiteboys because of the white shirts they wore, with blackened faces, during their rallies and attacks.  In some instances, thousands gathered and attacked landlords and their agents, farmers, clergymen; any figures of authority representing or imposing  policies perceived as unfair.

From the 19th century, Tipperary was to the forefront of the struggle to redefine the relationship with Britain.  When in 1848, William Smith O’Brien led an abortive rebellion, it was mainly played out around a farmhouse near Ballingarry, close to the Kilkenny border.  Shortly afterwards, O’Brien was arrested at Thurles railway station.  A few decades later,  in March 1867, during the Fenian unrest, there was another failed rebellion at Ballyhurst, just outside Tipperary town.  The leader was Thomas F Bourke, who as a child had emigrated with his family from Fethard to the United States.  After fighting in that country’s civil war, he returned to Ireland to take part in the rebellion. Tipperary was also at the centre of the struggle for the rights of tenants.  In 1889, tenants in Tipperary town left their property and decided to build a ‘New Tipperary’ as a protest against their landlord A.H. Smith-Barry. 

In the early 20th century, the Soloheadbeg ambush on 21 January 1919, led by Sean Treacy, triggered the War of Independence.

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