Carrick on Suir

The town's name can be traced to the presence of a rocky island which served as the foundation for the town that is today known as Carrick on Suir. The river divides Carrick on Suir, meaning "rock", with Carrickbeg to the south and Carrickmore to the north. At one time the town was developed and controlled by the Danes, who used the settlement as an inland base. Its foundation as a Norman town may be traced back to 1247; the year Matthew FitzGriffin was granted permission to hold a fair there. His family's influence resulted in the settlement being named Carrimagriffin, and it was not until the 18th Century that the name Carrick on Suir became popular.

Establishment of Carrick's Ormond Dynasty

Like other towns in the county, the development of Carrick on Suir owed much to the Butler family that gained control of the region during the 14th Century. Having already built a castle in the town in 1309, Edmond Butler was made Earl Carrick in 1315, a title that fell into disuse in 1328 when his son, James, became the 1st Earl of Ormond. It was James who founded the Franciscan Friary in Carrickbeg in 1336, whose first guardian, John Clyn, was one of the foremost annalists of the 14th Century.

"Black Tom"

Thomas, the 10th Earl, erected Ormond Castle in the 1560s, and the magnificence of the Tudor mansion seemed to reflect the fortunes of the Butlers, and the town, at this time. It was said that the castle was built specially for the proposed visit of Queen Elizabeth to the town, a visit that never materialised. "Black Tom", perhaps the greatest of the Butlers after Duke James, enjoyed a fascinating relationship with Elizabeth, who referred to him affectionately as her "black husband". The Queen, however, never made the trip to Carrick on Suir, or indeed the altar.

The Confederacy and Cromwell

The greatest honours won by the Butlers were secured by Black Tom's grandson James, the 12th Earl and, later, Duke of Ormond. He commanded the King's forces until 1649, during which time the town fell first to Inchiquin, and then to Cromwell. The latter conquest resulted in a massacre of the town's garrison, and Reynolds, Cromwell's colonel, spared only 70 Welshmen from the sword. Failing to recapture the town, James joined Charles II in France, only to return after the Restoration of 1660. Upon his return, the town prospered.

The Turbulent 1800s

The wool and brewing industries flourished during the 17th and 18th Centuries, and development of the waterways around the town, and the favourable tide, increased boat traffic. The Act of Union in 1801, however, hit Carrick on Suir hard and the 1800s saw the slow death of what had been a thriving wool industry. The depression continued into the post Famine years and the Land War. Lord Clonmell and Earl Bessborough, two prominent landowners in Carrick on Suir, delayed land reforms in the 1880s and 90s resulting in some unrest in the town during that period.

Sporting Carrick

In discussing the town of Carrick on Suir, it would be remiss of one not to mention some of the sporting luminaries she has produced. Maurice Davin, one of the founders of the GAA, was born and lived in the town. Tom Kiely, an "All Rounder" (early decathlon) won several international events and in 1904, in St. Louis, became Tipperary's first Olympic gold medallist. But Carrick on Suir's greatest hero is of a more recent vintage. Sean Kelly, after whom the town square is named, established himself during the 1980s as one of the top 5 most consistent cyclists of all time.

Sources - Bassett, "County Tipperary"; Power, "Carrick on Suir and its people"; Power, "Carrick on Suir, Town & District, 1800 - 2000"; Maher, "Ormonde Castle: An Anthology"


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