Tipperary was one of the first parts of Ireland to be shired during the 13th century following the Norman invasion of Ireland. For local government purposes the county is divided into the counties of North Tipperary (county town: Nenagh) and South Tipperary (county town: Clonmel). This division dates back to the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898, with the county’s two “ridings” having had separate assize courts for much longer. The use of riding for the divisions was an historical misnomer, since the word derives from the dividing of an area into three parts.
There was a Neolithic civilisation in the Clare area — the name of the peoples is unknown, but the Prehistoric peoples left evidence behind in the form of ancient dolmen; single-chamber megalithic tombs, usually consisting of three or more upright stones. Clare is one of the richest places for these tombs in Ireland, the most noted is in The Burren area, it is known as Poulnabrone dolmen which translates as the hole of sorrows. The remains of the people inside the tomb have been excavated and dated to 3800 BC. Ptolemy created a map of Ireland in his Geographia with information dating from 100 AD, it is the oldest written account of the island with geographical features. Within his map Ptolemy names the Gaelic tribes inhabiting it and the areas in which they resided; in the area of Clare he identified a tribe known as the Gangani. Historians have found the tribes on the west of Ireland hardest to identify with known peoples, however Camden and O’Conor speculated a possible connection between the Gangani and the Concani, one of the eleven tribes in the confederacy of the Cantabri in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula.
During the Early Middle Ages the area was part of the Kingdom of Connacht ruled by the Uí Fiachrach Aidhne, until it was annexed to the Kingdom of Munster to be settled by the Dalcassians in the mid-10th century. It was renamed Thomond, meaning North Munster and spawned Brian Boru during this period, perhaps the most noted High King of Ireland. From 1118 onwards the Kingdom of Thomond was in place as its own petty kingdom, ruled by the O’Brien Clan. There was some Norman influence during the 14th century due to battles with the de Clare’s for control. The county’s name comes from the Irish word Clár, meaning a board or plank. A board was placed across the River Fergus outside Ennis, at a place which was to become known as Clare, (now Clarecastle town). This Clare was a place of some importance as early as the 12th Century.
Sovereignty of Thomond was handed over to the Tudors in 1543 and the area joined the Kingdom of Ireland as a county. After the kingdom was merged into the United Kingdom, there were wars in the 20th century which resulted in secession of the Irish Free State. The conclusion of the pro-treaty, anti-treaty Irish Civil War confirmed its status — the state became the present republic Ireland in 1937.
County Clare succeeded the district of Thomond (which was part of Connacht), and when first created it was sometimes called County Thomond. Its nickname is the Banner County, which may refer to a former local tradition of carrying banners at political meetings and public occasions.
It is thought that humans had established themselves in the Lough Gur area of the county as early as 3000 BC, while megalithic remains found at Duntryleague date back further to 3500 BC. The arrival of the Celts around 400 BC brought about the division of the county into petty kingdoms or túatha.
From the 4th to the 12th century, the ancient kingdom of the Uí Fidgenti was approximately co-extensive with what is now County Limerick, with some of the easternmost part the domain of the Eóganacht Áine. Having finally lost an over two-century-long conflict with the neighboring O’Briens of Dál gCais, most of the rulers fled for County Kerry and soon after that County Cork. Their lands were almost immediately occupied by the FitzGeralds and other Norman families, who permanently prevented their return. The ancestors of both Michael Collins and the famous O’Connells of Derrynane were among these princes of the Uí Fidgenti. The Norse-Irish O’Donovans, descendants of the notorious Donnubán mac Cathail, were the leading family at the time and were responsible for the conflict.
The precise ethnic affiliation of the Uí Fidgenti is lost to history and all that is known for sure is that they were cousins of the equally shadowy Uí Liatháin of early British fame. Officially both are said to be related to the Eóganachta but a variety of evidence suggests associations with the Dáirine and Corcu Loígde, and thus distantly the infamous Ulaid of ancient Ulster. In any case, it is supposed the Uí Fidgenti still make a substantial contribution to the population of the central and western regions of County Limerick. Their capital was Dún Eochair, the great earthworks of which still remain and can be found close to the modern town of Bruree, on the River Maigue. Catherine Coll, the mother of Éamon de Valera, was a native of Bruree and this is where he was taken by her brother to be raised.
Christianity came to Limerick in the 5th Century, and resulted in the establishment of important monasteries in Limerick, at Ardpatrick, Mungret and Kileedy. From this golden age in Ireland of learning and art (5th – 9th Centuries) comes one of Ireland’s greatest artefacts, The Ardagh Chalice, a masterpiece of metalwork, which was found in a west Limerick fort in 1868.
The arrival of the Vikings in the 9th century brought about the establishment of the city on an island on the River Shannon in 922. The death of Domnall Mór Ua Briain, King of Munster in 1194 resulted in the invading Normans taking control of Limerick, and in 1210, the County of Limerick was formally established. Over time, the Normans became “more Irish than the Irish themselves” as the saying goes. The Tudors in England wanted to curb the power of these Gaelicised Norman Rulers and centralise all power in their hands, so they established colonies of English in the county. This caused the leading Limerick Normans, The Geraldines, to revolt against English Rule in 1569. This sparked a savage war in Munster known as the Desmond Rebellions, during which the province was laid to waste, and the confiscation of the vast estates of the Geraldines.
The county was to be further ravaged by war over the next century. After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Limerick city was taken in a siege by Catholic general Garret Barry in 1642. The county was not fought over for most of the Irish Confederate Wars, of 1641-53, being safely behind the front lines of the Catholic Confederate Ireland. However it became a battleground during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649-53. The invasion of the forces of Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s included a twelve month siege of the city by Cromwell’s New Model Army led by Henry Ireton. The city finally surrendered in October 1651. One of Cromwell’s generals, Hardress Waller was granted lands at Castletown near Kilcornan in County Limerick. During the Williamite War in Ireland (1689–1691) the city was to endure two further sieges, one in 1690 and another in 1691. It was during the 1690 siege that the infamous destruction of the Williamite guns at Ballyneety, near Pallasgreen was carried out by General Patrick Sarsfield. The Catholic Irish, comprising the vast majority of the population, had eagerly supported the Jacobite cause, however, the second siege of Limerick resulted in a defeat to the Williamites. Sarsfield managed to force the Williamites to sign the Treaty of Limerick, the terms of which were satisfactory to the Irish. However the Treaty was subsequently dishonoured by the English and the city became known as the City of the Broken Treaty.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw a long period of persecution against the Catholic majority, many of who lived in poverty. In spite of this oppression, however, the famous Maigue Poets strove to keep alive their ancient Gaelic Poetry in towns like Croom and Bruree. The Great Famine of the 1840s set in motion mass emigration and a huge decline in Irish as a spoken language in the county. This began to change around the beginning of the 20th century, as changes in law from the British Government enabled the farmers of the county to purchase lands they had previously only held as tenants, paying high rent to absentee landlords.
Kerry (Irish: Ciarraí or more anciently Ciarraighe) means the “people of Ciar” which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish “Ciar” meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective describing a dark complexion. The suffix raighe, meaning people/tribe, is found in various -ry place names in Ireland, such as Osry – Osraighe Deer-People/Tribe. The county’s nickname is the Kingdom.
Lordship of Ireland
On August 27, 1329, by Letters Patent, Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond was confirmed in the feudal seniority of the entire county palatine of Kerry, to him and his heirs male, to hold of the Crown by the service of one knight’s fee. In the 15th century, the majority of the area now known as County Kerry was still part of the County Desmond, the west Munster seat of the Earl of Desmond, a branch of the Hiberno-Norman FitzGerald dynasty, known as the Geraldines.
Kingdom of Ireland
In 1580, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, one of the most infamous massacres of the Sixteenth century, the Siege of Smerwick, took place at Dún an Óir near Ard na Caithne (Smerwick) at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. The 600-strong Italian, Spanish and Irish papal invasion force of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald was besieged by the English forces and massacred.
In 1588 when the fleet of the Spanish Armada in Ireland were returning to Spain during stormy weather, many of their ships sought shelter at the Blasket Islands and some were wrecked.
During the Nine Years War, Kerry was again the scene of conflict, as the O’Sullivan Beare clan joined the rebellion. In 1602, their castle at Dunboy was besieged and taken by English troops. Donal O’Sullivan Beare, in an effort to escape English retribution and to reach his allies in Ulster, marched all the clan’s members and dependents to the north of Ireland. Due to harassment by hostile forces and the freezing weather, very few of the 1,000 O’Sullivans who set out reached their destination.
In the aftermath of the War, much of the native owned land in Kerry was confiscated and given to English settlers or ‘planters’. The head of the MacCarthy Mor family, Florence MacCarthy was imprisoned in London and his lands were divided between his relatives and colonists from England, such as the Browne family.
In the 1640s, Kerry was engulfed by the Irish Rebellion of 1641, an attempt by Irish Catholics to take power in the Protestant Kingdom of Ireland. The rebellion in Kerry was led by Donagh McCarthy, 1st Viscount Muskerry. McCarthy held the county during the subsequent Irish Confederate Wars and his forces were some of the last to surrender to the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1652. The last stronghold to fall was Ross Castle, near Killarney.