Cahir is one of Co. Tipperary's most valuable historical treasures. Dividing the Irish place name for Cahir, Cathair Dhún Iascaigh, into two parts sheds some light on the formative years of the town. Earliest records refer to the name of the area as Dún Iascaigh ("the fish abounding fort"), and the name assumed the prefix Cathair ("stone fort") after the King of Thomond, Conor na Cathrach O'Brien, reinforced the stronghold in the 12th Century.



The town had connections with Munster royalty before the arrival of Christianity in the 5th Century. It was one of the royal seats of residence in the province, and Brian Ború, whose successors held the settlement until the Norman invasion, refortified the fort before his death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

Early Norman

By 1192 the county was under Norman administration, and Philip of Worcester was granted land around Cahir by John, Lord of Ireland. Philip established his headquarters at Knockgraffon, 3 ½ miles north of Cahir. In the 13th Century work on Cahir Castle and Abbey, an Augustinian Priory founded by Geoffrey de Camville, began. Remains of both still survive.

Rise of the House of Ormond

1375 saw the granting of the barony of Cahir by Edward III to James Butler, the Third Earl of Ormond, beginning what would prove to be a long relationship between the town and the House of Ormond. Following the dissolution of Cahir Abbey by Henry VIII in 1540 Thomas Butler acquired the lands of the monastic estate, and further honours were bestowed when, in 1543, Henry appointed Thomas as Lord Baron of Cahir.

Cahir Castle, stronghold of then rebel Thomas, the 1st Baron of Cahir's grandnephew, was taken in 1599 by Lord Essex after a three-day siege. In the years that followed, despite surrendering the town to Inchiquin and Cromwell, and supporting the Jacobites in the Williamite Wars, the Butlers still maintained proprietorship of Cahir.

Towards a Modern Town

Throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries Cahir assumed its modern form. In the 1770s and '80s James, 9th Lord Cahir, maintained his estates well and built both Cahir House and Market House, while the Quakers established both Suir Mills and Abbey Mills. Development of the town coincided with the Butler's elevation in status and in 1816 Richard, Lord Cahir, was created Earl of Glengall. With the establishment of the Cavalry Barracks in the town local milling and agricultural businesses prospered. Richard, 2nd Earl of Glengall who, in the 1830s, funded the development of the Square and Castle, added to this affluence.

Lady Charteris' landladyship brought water and sewerage supply to the town, she laid out Cahir Gardens and oversaw the peaceful transfer of property following the Land War. After the death of her son Richard, in 1961, 2,750 acres of his estate were sold, bringing to a close the relationship between Cahir and the Butlers that lasted 600 eventful years.

Sources - Butler, D.J., Cahir - A Guide to Heritage Town & District; Dúchas, The Heritage Service - Cahir Castle, Co. Tipperary; Cahir Heritage Newsletters, 1988

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