ByRoute 3.2 Co. Kilkenny // Co. Tipperary (S)

Carrick-on-Suir (Co. Tipperary / Southeast)

Carrick-on-Suir (Carraig na Suire) (pop. 6000) straddles the River Suir; the main part of the town, Carrick Mór, is in the south-easternmost corner of County Tipperary, while the Carrig Beg district south of the river is in County Waterford. A good view can be seen here.

The Old Bridge, originally erected in 1447 by  Edmund MacRichard Butler. (Photo by Humphrey Bolton)

Carrick-on-Suir History

The earliest known records of a settlement are dated to 1247, when a charter  was granted to Matthew FitzGriffin for 3 fairs per year. Originally called Carrig Mac Griffin, the town  was situated on an island in the middle of the river until the C18th, when the northern channel was filled in.

Edmond le Bottilier became Earl of Carrig in 1315.  His son James became the 1st Earl of Ormond. The family went on to dominate Kilkenny and Irish politics for several centuries, and were the principal local landlords until only slightly over 100 years ago.

In 1649, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, English Parliamentarians captured Carrick by stealth after discovering an undefended gate. Kilkenny Confederacy troops from Ulster under Major Geoghegan tried to re-take Carrick but were eventually beaten off, with over 500 killed.

In 1670 the Duke of Ormonde set up a local woollen industry; by 1799  the town enjoyed some prosperity from this, fishing, basket weaving, brewing and other river related businesses, and the population reached around 11,000. Over the next 120 years however, the town suffered from high British taxes and levies imposed on Irish wool, leading to unemployment, poverty and emigration. The Great Famine also contributed greatly to the depopulation of the town.

The  Civil War saw the destruction of the Old Bridge and the bridge built in the early C20th (later named after John Dillon) by retreating IRA forces in 1922 in an attempt to slow the advance of the Free State army. Both bridges were rebuilt by 1927.

Carrick-on-Suir Heritage Centre & Tourist Information Office is housed in the former Anglican church on the main street, which remained derelict for many years after the local Protestant community fled in fear of the foundation of the Irish Free State. Many local artefacts and photographs are on display, notably the Butler church plate collection.

Interesting monuments in the churchyard include a Memorial to Thomas Butler (d. 1604), an illegitimate son of Thomas, 10th Earl of Ormonde.

Buried here too is Dorothea Herbert (1770 – 1829), the local rector’s daughter who wrote Retrospections, a fascinating account of life in the area, plus Journal Notes and a volume of poetry, all published long after her death.

Ormond Castle

Ormond Castle was first erected in 1309, but the two extant rectangular towers date from c.1450.

Some historians identify it as the birthplace of King Henry VIII‘s second wife Anne Boleyn, whose daughter Queen Elizabeth I was so confidently expected to visit that her cousin “Black Tom” Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond , built Ireland’s most beautiful Elizabethan mansion and incorporated tributes to her in the decoration throughout, above all in a fresco over the entrance and in the superb stucco work of the Long Gallery. (In fact, the Queen never crossed the Irish Sea). With mullioned windows, common in England but rare in Ireland, along its entire length, this is the only major example of a completely unfortified C16th Irish dwelling.

The house was a favourite residence of the Great Duke of Ormonde, but afterwards it was deserted by the family, although they continued to own it until the C20th. Fortunately, it was never allowed to fall into complete ruin and in 1947 was taken over by the State, which subsequently conserved the building.

There is a collection of magnificent royal charters, the oldest, dated 1661, granting James Butler the title of Duke of Ormonde.

The West Gate is all that remains of Carrick’s medieval walls.

Carrick’s Town Clock, an impressive tower with gunslots, was sponsored by a wine merchant called Galloway and erected in 1794.

The Town Park was established as a Fair Green in the 1860s with money left over from a Famine relief scheme. The town fair continues to this day, having been moved in the 1920s to a new site just to the west of the town.

Main Street. (Photo by Nigel Cox)

St Nicholas’ church (RC) in Carrick Mór, built in 1879 t0 replace an edifice dating from 1804,  is the largest church in the town.

St Molleran’s parish church (RC) in Carrick Beg contains fragments dating from the C14th. It stands on land granted in 1336 by James, 1st Earl of Ormond,  to the Franciscan Order, who returned sporadically after the 1540 Dissolution and in the C18th resumed residence in their ruined Friary across the road. The sturdy wall surrounding the church grounds was built as part of a relief scheme during the Great Famine.

The Franciscan Church, constructed in 1822, has not been used for worship since the Order left in 2006, presenting the building to the local Heritage Centre for art exhibitions.It is flanked by an exceptionally hideous raised grotto.

The Strand Theatre, recently renovated, is home to the Carrick-on-Suir Musical Society, a local group of  amateur operatic singers who have earned a major reputation.

The Brewery Lane Theatre is a drama and comedy venue, specialising in Irish language productions.

The Carraig Hotel and The Bell and Salmon Arms Hotel provide good accommodation facilities, and there are several popular bars and eateries.

Carrick has a well-equipped marina. The River Suir is tidal at this point.

Carrick is particularly proud of the champion cyclist Sean Kelly, who has both the central square and a Sports Centre named after him.

Carrick is also the birthplace of the Clancy Brothers musicians and the BBC World Service journalist Maurice Walsh.

Carrick-on-Suir is linked by a scenic stretch of the N24 to Killeshin and Clonmel.

The River Suir near Carrick. (Photo – www.southtippheritage.ie)

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