The ancient Irish name for this famous town is "Dúrlas Éile Ui Fhógartaigh". Dúrlas, anglicised to Thurles, means "fort", while Eile refers to the ancient territory in which the town is located. The Ó Fogarty's were the dominant family in south Eile, where the modern town of Thurles is to be found: indeed the local barony is Eliogarty, a mixture of the words "Eile" and "Fogarty". The history of Thurles in the first millennium is very scant, with references of perhaps only one per century existing in the great annalistic compilations. The most important of these deal with the death of Fogartach, "lord of Eile" in 757, and the death of Gormlaith, "daughter of O'Fogarty, king of Eile" and "wife of Turlough O'Brien". The O'Fogarty's, it seems, had established important connections, through marriage, with many of their powerful neighbours.

The Battle of Thurles

In 1174 the Norman invasion was in full swing and, for the most part, going very well for the invaders, led by Strongbow. That year, however, they were to meet very stiff opposition from High King of Ireland, Roderick O'Connor, the clans of Connaught and the Dalcassians, led by Dónal Mór O'Brien. Having camped in the area of Lognafola (The Hollow of Blood) Strongbow and his Danish forces were surprised early in the morning by the Irish forces. The Battle of Thurles cost 1,700 Norman lives, and, as an anonymous poet put it, "that iron tide, on Durlas's side, was stopped by King Donald Mór". It was not stopped for long, however. The Butlers of Ormond secured a foothold in the county early in the 13th Century, and in 1328, James, the 1st Earl, having received grants of lands in Tipperary and Kilkenny, built a castle in the town, along with a Carmelite monastery. In 1453 the two castles that still survive in the town, Black and Bridge castles, were built by MacRichard Butler.

Lady Thurles - Elizabeth Poyntz, 1587 - 1673

The years of the 17th Century in Thurles were dominated by one lady, Elizabeth Poyntz, more commonly known as Lady Thurles. Born into a staunchly Catholic English family in 1587, she married Viscount Thomas Butler, who drowned in 1619. Her second husband, George Mathew, also left her a young widow. During the turbulent years of the 1640s she found herself in a very difficult position, as she attempted to remain faithful first of all to her religion, and secondly to her nation, England.

She refused to grant entry to Thurles for Eoin Roe O'Neill in 1648, and during the hostilities of the 1640 -50 period she harboured and nursed many English families who had fallen foul of the Irish rebels. Indeed, the Irish considered her their enemy, and on many occasions threatened to torch her home. Lady Thurles was nothing if not well connected; her son was a Duke and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and her great, great granddaughter was Nano Nagle. Also relations of hers were Theobald Mathew and the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

Birthplace of the G.A.A.

Thurles, and more specifically Hayes' Hotel in the Square, is synonymous with Ireland's greatest and largest sporting and cultural organisation, the Gaelic Athletic Association, founded in the town in 1884. In the years since the county has prided itself on the fact that it is known as "The Home of Hurling", and Semple Stadium's Munster Hurling Finals are beloved by many as special, unique and almost spiritual occasions.

Sources - Kennedy, "A Chronology of Thurles, 580 - 1978"; Corbett & Nolan (Eds.), "Thurles, The Cathedral Town"

previousPrevious - Loughmoe Castle
Next - The Cathedral of the Assumptionnext