The centre of administration for South Tipperary, Cluain Meala (meadow of honey) is located on the River Suir, southwest of Slievenamon and on the border with Co. Waterford. The town gets its name from the rich and bountiful pastureland it occupies, and it was once part of the Northern Decies territory, which stretched as far south as Waterford city.

Danish - Norman Roots

Tradition states that the town was founded by the Danes, who ventured up the Suir from the southeast and settled on the banks of what was to become Clonmel town. Indeed today a section of the town, by the river, is known as "Dane's Island". The area began to take on its modern shape during the 13th Century, and State Papers of 1215 make reference to "Clumell", whose lands were granted to the de Burgo family. In 1267 the sheriff of Co. Tipperary, Otto de Grandison, was granted the manor of Clonmel, and soon after the towns massive walls, parts of which still stand, were erected.

From Rebel Geraldines to Loyal Butlers

Maurice Fitzgerald, the Earl of Desmond, bought the Clonmel estate in 1338, and in the early 16th Century, like many other towns in the county, it came into the possession of the Butlers of Ormond. Earl James had married Fitzgerald's daughter, whose dowry consisted of Clonmel manor. The marriage was intended to put an end to the wars between Munster's two most powerful families, but the peace was short lived. Hostilities resumed soon after, resulting in the defeat of the Geraldines. It was through Ormond's loyalty to the crown during these years that Clonmel became known as a town that "performed laudable services" for the King against "rebels, robbers and republican enemies".

"Clonmel: The Stoutest Enemy Cromwell Ever Found".

The most famous chapter in Clonmel's history was written during the Confederate War of the mid 1600s. The King's soldiers, under the command of Earl James, garrisoned Clonmel. When Cromwell reached the town's walls in 1650, he met resistance from Hugh Dubh O'Neill. Artillery bombardment breached the walls, but an ingenious dead-ended alley, built by the defenders inside the breach, took a heavy toll on the Parliamentarians' army. Before the town eventually surrendered on good terms it had accounted for 2,000 of the enemies' soldiers and O'Neill, much to Cromwell's annoyance, managed to flee the town undetected. Cromwell would later admit that Clonmel had "nearly brought his noble to ninepence".

Revolution of a more peaceful kind

During the 1800s Clonmel was the focus for another revolution, but in this instance it did not involve politics, but transport. Charles Bianconi, the "King of the Irish Roads", first ran a coach from Clonmel to Cahir in 1815, and soon after his services stretched to the principal centres of the country. His hugely successful business was administered from Hearn's Hotel on Parnell Street. The Italian native, who forged a close friendship with Daniel O'Connell, became Mayor of Clonmel in 1846. In recent years, in recognition of the work done by Bianconi for the town, Clonmel was twinned with his hometown of Costa Masnaga.

Sources - Burke, "History of Clonmel"; "Clonmel Heritage Trail"; CBC, "Clonmel: Official Guide"; Bassett, "County Tipperary".

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