Delaneys Corner sign at Nirranda, Australia

County Tipperary

The name "Tipperary" was originally Tiobraid Arann, Irish for the Well of Ara, located on the River Ara, which passes through Tipperary Town.

There is evidence in the County of all eras of Ireland's history. For example:

  • Megalithic tombs from the New Stone Age period of c. 3,000 BC to 2,000 BC
  • Gold neck ornament from c. 700 BC, found in the 1970's and now located in the National Museum, Dublin
  • Farmsteads or ringforts from 200-1000 AD
  • The Derrynaflan Hoard of precious vessels from the 8th century AD, found in the Littleton Bog, close to Twomileborris, and now in the National Museum
  • Churches, abbeys, monasteries, round towers, high crosses and castles, all in differing states of disrepair

The Celts arrived about 300 BC, bringing their distinctive culture, laws, customs and language, from which today's Irish language is derived. In the 5th century, St Patrick brought Christianity from Britain, establishing churches and monasteries, which became centres of learning and community. The monks copied all the western literature they could lay their hands on, the best examples of which are the illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow. When the Roman Empire was destroyed by the Vandals and Goths, European civilisation could well have disappeared, except for the mission of the Irish monks, who single-handedly re-founded European culture in the 7th and 8th centuries and Ireland became acknowledged as the cradle of Western Civilisation 1.

The Vikings came next to Ireland, looting and burning, but also establishing the first towns in Ireland - Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Limerick, before being defeated at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

The Normans from England were the next invaders, bringing order and prosperity to what had become inter-kingdom chaos. The Normans became so well assimilated into Irish society that the English Crown decided a re-conquest was needed, provoking fierce resistance from Ulster. O'Neill and O'Donnell were finally defeated at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. Native Irish were dispossessed of their lands and migrants from England and Scotland were settled.

The Cromwellian destruction of Irish monasteries, churches, abbeys, towns and the people followed in the 17th century. The "Curse of Cromwell" lives on today in folk memory. His approach was drastic: the remaining lands were taken from their Irish owners; those who were loyal were exiled to Connacht, while others were put to death. "To hell or Connacht!" was the cry.

James II tried to impose Catholicism in England; as a result he was deposed by William of Orange in 1688. He fled to France and then to Ireland, where he called together a Parliament in Dublin, pledging to return land to the Catholics. But the Protestants gave their allegiance to William of Orange. James was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne, on 12th July 1690, Orangeman's Day.

Penal Laws were passed in subsequent years to keep the Irish poor, powerless and uneducated, and so unable to teach and practice their religion without penalty. The Irish tenants - the former native owners - largely remained as tenants of the New Ascendancy; others moved to marginal uplands and reclaimed bog land areas, where the thriving potato became the staple diet.

Our ancestors, John Delaney and Catherine Flynn, were born about this time.

By 1761, landlords started to enclose commanage wasteland in breach of it's traditional role as a perequisite of the tenants, who were already subjected to high rents.

In Tipperary, the Whiteboy movement commenced, as tenant farmers, wearing white shirts, levelled the fences erected by the landlords. The Whiteboy movement spread, bringing harsh and repressive counter measures under the "Whiteboy Act".

The French invasion of Co Mayo was initially successful but was finally suppressed with great slaughter. The ill-fated United Irishmen's uprising of 1798 followed and terrorist action against tithes erupted in the 1820's and 1830's. The Tithes were taxes imposed on the tenants to support Clergymen of the Established Church, the Church of Ireland.

Faction fighting was also born in Tipperary at this time - battles occurred between family or parish groups on market days. The county was christened "Turbulent Tipperary".

The Irish were a gay and happy people, fond of singing and dancing in spite of their extreme poverty; it has been said that their living conditions were worse than that of the black American slaves. At the 1841 Census, the year before John and Bridget were married, nearly half of the rural population lived in windowless mud cabins of a single room.

The celebrated Charles Gavan Duffy wrote:

"The whole population was dependant on agriculture. The great landlords totalled two or three hundred. The mass of the country was owned by a couple of thousand others, who lived in splendour. The peasants, almost all Catholic, did the work, and reaped a harvest in which they never shared. Rent in Ireland meant the whole produce of the soil, except a potato pit. The food of the peasants was potatoes with a little milk or salt. One half of them lived in mud cabins of one room with no windows. The island was the most ignorant and impoverished of all the Christian nations on earth."

The Potato Famine

With the potato being the main food of the rural Irish, the failure of the potato crops in 1845-49 resulted in the disastrous Great Famine. Starvation and famine fever spread through the land; its greatest impact was in those communities on marginal lands. During the last part of the Famine, grain continued to be exported from Ireland to the markets of England, and Indian corn was prohibited by tariffs from entering Ireland (or England).

Government policies were criminally slow to react to the disaster. Workhouses, established under the Poor Law Act of 1838 for the relief of the destitute poor, were ovewhelmed. At the height of the Famine, 3,000 per week were dying in the workhouses of Ireland.

One million people perished due to the famine and within a decade or two, a further two million emigrated from Ireland.

Tipperary was relatively badly affected by the Famine. Almost 70 000 people died in the county between 1845 and 1850 particularly in the years 1849 and 1850. The county population fell from 435,000 in 1841, to 331,000 in 1851 and to 249,000 in 1861. The rural population declined by two-thirds in that period and the town population by nearly one-half.

1 See Norris McWhirter’s 'Book Of Historical Records - the 25 Main Civilisations of History', p.132. Virgin Publishing Ltd [Gr Brit], 2000. McWhirter edited the well-known 'Guinness Book of Records'.

Prepared by D.J. Delaney

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Unless otherwise stated all text & images © Maurice Delaney, 2001-2006