ByRoute 6.1 Co. Kildare // Co. Tipperary (SW)

Tipperary town (Co. Tipperary / Southwest)

Tipperary town (Tiobraid Árann) (pop. 5000), on the River Ara in the heart of The Golden Vale, is not and never has been the county capital. Although it began as a Norman settlement at the end of the C12th, very little survives from before the C19th, when it became an important dairy-farming centre.

Tipperary town’s main streetscapes have changed little in over 150 years. There are several good pubs and places to eat in the town.

It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, the famous WWI marching song, is alluded to by a sign greeting visitors with the words “You’ve Come a Long Way“. The song is not popular locally, as it was frequently sung by the notorious Black & Tans.

Tipperary town has a strong Nationalist tradition, and is proud of native son John O’ Leary (1830 – 1907), the Young Irelander enthusiast and Fenian leader immortalised in WB Yeats‘ poem September 1913 with the lines “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / it’s with O’Leary in the grave“. The IRB leader Charles Kickham is commemorated by a bronze statue in the main street, near another monument called The Maid of Erin, honouring the three Fenians hanged in 1867 popularly known as the Manchester Martyrs.

A Fenian “rising” took place on 6th March 1867 in the local townland of Ballyhurst, where 150 men armed with pikes assembled under the command of Thomas F. Bourke (1840 – 1889), a Fethard-born American Civil War veteran who had been seriously injured at the Battle of Gettysburg. Crown forces easily overcame the insurgents, and Bourke was held with 40 others in Tipperary town’s Bridewell for a week before being sent for trial in Clonmel. He was eventually tried in Dublin, where he followed the tradition of making a splendid speech before being sentenced to death. As a result of intervention by the President of the United States and others, the penalty was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was released in 1871 to return to America.

Tipperary took an active part in the late C19th Land League movement. In 1889, following an increase in rents by local landlord Arthur Henry Barry Smith (already notorious for mass evictions on the former Ponsonby estate near Youghal), his tenants rebelled and, assisted by other tenants from all over Ireland (who gave their services free for a week), constructed New Tipperary, but the scheme was later abandoned.

The War of Independence saw Dan Breen and Seán Treacy leading a group of volunteers in an attack on members of the RIC transporting  gelignite at a nearby quarry on 19th January 1919. This is one of several engagements claimed as the first in the war. British troops hunted down IRA activists and interrogated them in Tipperary Barracks, where several (including James Hickey, William O’Brien and Martin Purcell) met their deaths.

Tipperary Barracks



Tipperary Barracks (1878), one of the most ornate in Ireland, had state-of-the-art facilities for the troops and their families, including administration offices, armoury, magazine, stable, workshops, accommodation blocks, Officers’ Mess, Sergeants’ Mess, cookhouse, canteen, chapel, hospital, school, laundry, bath-house, latrines, band-room, guard room, detention barracks, stores, and an integral miniature rifle range. Recreational facilities included a fives court, a skittle alley, a sports green tennis court and a fully equipped gymnasium.


The Barracks accommodated as many as 10,000 men at the beginning of WWI, when it was used to muster and train troops from all parts of the UK destined for the trenches in France, and later housed a military hospital.


The British Army withdrew from the Barracks in February 1922, and at the beginning of the Civil War it was quickly occupied by Irregulars. Realizing that they could not hold it against Free State troops, the Republicans set fire to the buildings.

Only the hospital building, water tower and a few other remnants still stand; the rest of the land occupied by the barracks is taken up with the GAA’s Sean Treacy Park.



The Remembrance Arch, formerly the entrance to the officers’ mess, now bears panels inscribed  with the names of Irish soldiers killed in wars over the centuries and on UN Peacekeeping missions. In September 2005 the memorial was dedicated to Ireland’s fallen by President Mary McAleese, in the presence of representatives from the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Spain, France, Austria and Germany, military and religious dignitaries and family members of those commemorated. The banner of the Royal Munster Fusiliers made a rare modern appearance. Few townspeople attended the ceremony.

The Tipperary Heritage & Genealogy Centre, housed in the former Bridewell, hosts exhibitions and courses throughout the year.

The Churchwell fountain was built by landlord Augustus Stafford O’Brien (1811 – 1857), an MP for Northamptonshire who served in Lord Derby’s brief 1852 government.

The Canon Hayes Sports Complex at the east end of Main Street houses a large display commemorating The Troubles 1918-1923, in particular the exploits of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade of the old IRA, complemented by exhibits of various kinds, including letters, photographs and personal items relating to the period.

The Tipperary Excel Centre has two cinemas, a modern theatre, an art gallery, a craft shop, a tourism office and a genealogy research facility. Details of current and forthcoming evens are available here.

The Excel Guide to the Heritage of Tipperary Town is interesting and informative.

Tipperary Town is wthin easy reach of the Glen of Aherlow on ByRoute 5.

Limerick Junction, originally called Tipperary Junction, is a pleasant hamlet that owes its existence to the location of a draughty but important train station at the meeting point of the main Waterford – Limerick and Cork – Dublin railway lines, about two miles northeast of Tipperary Town. Commuter trains serve Ennis (Co. Clare) and Tralee (Co. Kerry).

Tipperary Race Course at Limerick Junction holds top class flat and National Hunt (steeplechase) race meetings from April to October; winter races are  no longer held due to seasonal waterlogging. Thursday evening races are particularly popular.

Emly (Co. Tipperary / Southwest)

Emly / Emlybeg (Imleach Iubhair – “The Border of the Lake of the Yew Trees”) (pop. 300), a village in the Golden Vale, has clearly made considerable efforts to make itself attractive.

Emly was the site of a monastery founded by / dedicated to Saint Ailbe, who according to tradition preached Christianity in Munster before the arrival of Saint Patrick. The monastery was famous for its school, and developed into the episcopal seat of the premier diocese in the south of Ireland. In their book The Parish of Emly, the brothers Michael and Liam O’Dwyer write “Despite the complete obliteration of the layout of the original site we may presume that the monastic enclosure coincided with the present graveyard. The presence of a well and an inscribed cross, both tradition ally associated with St. Ailbe, and the fact that successive cathedrals occupied the area near the middle of the graveyard, are sufficient evidence for this assumption.”

Terence Albert O’Brien was the last Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Emly. He was captured by Cromwellian troops after the 1691 Siege of Limerick and with other leaders was put to death. A similar fate had befallen Dermot O’Hurley, a native of Emly who on his return from Rome to Ireland to take up his appointment as archbishop of Cashel in 1581 was arrested, charged with treason, tortured and then executed. Both men were beatified in Rome by Pope John Paul II in 1992.

Emly remained a Cathedral city until 1715, when the Roman Catholic see was merged with the Archbishopric of Cashel, its former Metropolitan, hence also now known under the name of Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. However, as this merger was post-Reformation, Emly is not in the Church of Ireland’s Diocese of Cashel and Ossory, but part of the Anglican Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.

St Ailbe’s parish church (RC), a Gothic limestone building designed by George Ashlin and completed in 1892, has fine stained glass windows. It replaced an earlier edifice dating from 1810, now used as a parish hall. The graveyard contains St Ailbe’s Cross and Well. A unique monument to Emly’s many emigrants stands in the church carpark.

Emly also has an attractve Four Seasons Park and an interesting Environmental Garden.

William Monsel (1812 – 1894), the local landlord, was a Liberal MP for Limerick from 1847 to 1874, and held various UK government posts. A friend of Cardinal Newman’s, he astonished Anglo-Irish society by converting to Roman Catholicism in 1850, and thereafter represented that Church’s interests in Parliament. Initially popular with his tenants, he was elevated to the Peerage of the UK as Baron Emly, and from the House of Lords opposed both the Land League and the Home Rule movement.

Emly is

Next: Knocklong (Co. Limerick)


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