Fethard, County Tipperary

Fethard (/ˈfɛθərd/; Irish: Fiodh Ard, meaning "high wood")[3][4] is a small town in County Tipperary, Ireland. Dating to the Norman invasion of Ireland, the town's walls were first laid-out in the 13th century, with some sections of these defensive fortifications surviving today.


Fiodh Ard
Town centre
Town centre
Fethard is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°27′54″N 7°41′46″W / 52.465°N 7.696°W / 52.465; -7.696Coordinates: 52°27′54″N 7°41′46″W / 52.465°N 7.696°W / 52.465; -7.696
 • Total2.21 km2 (0.85 sq mi)
69 m (226 ft)
Irish Grid ReferenceS207355

Fethard is located 16 km (9.9 mi) east of Cashel on the Clashawley River where the R692, R689 and R706 regional roads intersect. It is a civil parish in the barony of Middle Third and in the ecclesiastical parish of "Fethard and Killusty" in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. As of 2016, the town's population was 1,545.[1]


Fethard's walls with mural tower house (at left) and church tower (at right)

Fethard was founded in the early 13th century during the Norman invasion of Ireland.[5] While the low hill, on which the town stands, may been the location of a pre-Norman church, the first evidence of significant settlement dates from 1201, when a Norman lord, likely William de Braose, settled here.[5]

Fethard was laid-out with a market area, a church and graveyard, and a regular pattern of streets.[5] Its economy was supported by the area's arable farmland. Fethard's founding charter gave it the status of a 'borough' and provided it with a constitution. Under this constitution, the town's people (burgesses) had fixed annual rents, access to a court, and defined fines for certain offences.[5]

North Gate

The town and lands of Fethard passed out of William de Braose's hands in 1208 following a dispute with King John.[5] In 1215 Fethard was granted to the archbishops of Cashel, and it remained part of the archiepiscopal estates until the 16th century.[5] At the start of the 14th century, an Augustinian Friary was established outside the town.[5]

Because of some lawlessness in the town's hinterland (marked, for example, when the nearby woods of Thomas de St Aubin were cleared because some travelling merchants had been robbed or killed), defensive walls were built around Fethard and other towns in the area. The first reference to the walling of Fethard dates to 1292 when the king allowed levies to be applied (over seven years) on items sold in the town, with the collected funds allocated to "the inclosing of their vill and the greater security of Ireland".[5] Records of money still being collected (to fund wall building) date to the 14th century,[5] with another grant issued for Fethard in 1375. This grant specified that stone walls were to be built, suggesting that the earlier town walls were made of earth and timber.[5]

Defensive wall along the northern bank of the Clashawley River

The town received a royal charter from Edward VI in 1552-3, allowing it a corporation in perpetuity, composed of one Sovereign, one Provost, Burgesses and inhabitants.[5] The next royal charter was issued in 1608.[5] A figure in the attainment of this second charter was Sir John Everard.[6] John Everard, a lawyer and member of a local landed family, served the Butler clan and Earl of Ormond. His performances as a justice in the Earl's liberty of Tipperary saw him appointed by Elizabeth I as Second Justice of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland) in 1602.[6] Although the Everards were Catholic, John Everard (by this time "Sir" John Everard) pledged allegiance to the Crown, and when he surrendered all his property to the Crown in 1607, it was immediately granted back to him. His good favour with the Crown was a factor in Fethard attaining a new charter in 1608.[5]

Fethard Town Hall, built as an almshouse c. 1600

In the new charter, the town was described as "a place of strength surrounded with a fair strong wall", and under its terms the town's corporation was renewed and enlarged.[5] The Fethard corporation was directed to build "a Tholsel (common Hall) for assemblies", the foundations of which now lie under the main street.[5]

During the 17th century, the town was subject to two significant threats. The first was by the army of Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin, and followed his Sacking of Cashel in 1647. When news of the massacre at Cashel reached Fethard, its citizens submitted to Inchiquin. Three years later, in 1650, Oliver Cromwell marched on Fethard on his way to besiege and take Kilkenny. In a letter, Cromwell described Fethard as "having a very good wall with round and square bulwarks, after the old manner of fortification". Referring to the nearby Augustinian Friary, he wrote that he had stationed troops "in an old abbey in the suburbs". As with Inchiquin, the citizens of Fethard also agreed to terms of surrender with Cromwell.[6]

By the 18th century, some parts of the town were in a state of decay, with the corporation's books for 1718 noting that 56 people had houses with dangerous chimneys.[7] In the same period, the Everard family's involvement with Fethard came to an end when the last Baronet, Sir Redmond Everard, 4th Baronet, who lived in France, sold his family's properties in Fethard in 1752. The new landowner, Mr Barton (a wine merchant from Bordeaux), replaced the old Everard mansion with a new house, which in turn became a military barracks early in the 19th century.[5]

During the 19th century, the remaining medieval fabric of the town was largely demolished, with all but one of the town's gates removed. The west tower of the Augustinian Friary was removed in 1835.[5]

Despite some demolition works, much of the town's defensive walls remain,[8] making it one of the "best example[s] of a medieval walled town in Ireland".[9] In some areas the remaining walls rise to a height of 7.8 metres (26 ft).[9] Many large estates and farms are present around Fethard, including Grove, Kiltinan, Lakefield, Clonacody, Coolmore, Tullamaine and Rocklow.[citation needed] Historically, these estates employed many local people from the town and surrounding hinterlands.[citation needed]


According to Tipperary County Council's 2017 "Settlement Plan for Fethard", the economy and employment within the town are "linked deeply with the heritage of the Town, the surrounding agricultural hinterlands and the equine industry".[10] Heritage tourism marketing for the area focuses on the town's medieval defensive walls and the area's association with horse-racing and breeding.[11]


The town is also known in the thoroughbred horse racing industry as the home of Coolmore Stud and of the stables of Michael "Mouse" Morris. McCarthy's Hotel was the home of Dick McCarthy, a professional jockey of the early 20th century, who finished third in the Grand National at Aintree in 1929.[citation needed]

Fethard Rugby Club, based at the community sports fields, fields under-age teams for boys and girls and a senior side.

Fethard GAA Club plays at Fethard GAA Park, formerly known as the Barrack Field. The club holds 21 senior county football titles, more than any other team in the county.[12]


The Thurles-Clonmel bus route, operated by Bernard Kavanagh & Sons/The Shamrock Bus Company, serves Fethard.[13]

The nearest station is Clonmel railway station, approximately 13 kilometres away.

Fethard is located at the intersections of the R692, R689 and R706 regional roads.


The Fethard Medieval Festival takes place annually in June. A parade runs through the main street that culminates in Valley Park centred on the River Clashawley, next to the town's medieval walls. Activities in the festival include amusements, workshops, craft demonstrations, archery, live music, and food stalls.[14]

Fethard was used as a location for the 2011 film Stella Days, based on a book by Michael Doorley about life in Borrisokane during the 1950s.[15][16]

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Fethard". Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  2. ^ http://www.cso.ie/census and www.histpop.org. Figures include environs of Fethard. For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee "On the accuracy of the pre-famine Irish censuses" in Irish Population, Economy and Society edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p. 54, and also "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850" by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Nov. 1984), pp. 473–488.
  3. ^ A. D. Mills, 2003, A Dictionary of British Place-Names, Oxford University Press
  4. ^ "Fiodh Ard/Fethard". Placenames Database of Ireland. Government of Ireland. Retrieved 20 June 2011. (archival records)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q O'Keefe, Tadhg (1997). Fethard - A Guide to the Medieval Town. Fethard Historical Society. ISBN 9780951816813 – via fethard.com.
  6. ^ a b c Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 pp.227-8
  7. ^ Michael O'Donnell, Tipperary Historical Journal (1988), pp. 22–38.
  8. ^ "Fethard Historic Town Walls" (PDF). Conservation & Management Plan. June 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Fethard Town Walls". tipperary.com. Tipperary Tourism Company. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  10. ^ "Settlement Plan for Fethard, Co Tipperary" (PDF). tipperarycoco.ie. Tipperary County Council. April 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  11. ^ "Fethard Tourism Attractions". tipperary.com. Tipperary Tourism Company. Archived from the original on 6 November 2019.
  12. ^ Kenny, Joe. "Fethard GAA Club". Fethard At Your Fingertips. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Scheduled Bus Timetables". bkavcoaches.com. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  14. ^ Kenny, Joe. "Medieval Festival". Fethard News. Fethard News. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  15. ^ "Martin Sheen set to film 'Stella Days' in Tipperary". irishcentral.com. 2 November 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  16. ^ Butler, Tony. "South Tipp Today". South Tipp Today. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  17. ^ "Rich List 2019 - Profiles - John Magnier". independent.ie. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Good news for Tipp trainer Mouse Morris with extra horse added late to Aintree National". tipperarylive.ie. Tipperary Live. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  19. ^ "Cantwell High School". Archived from the original on 2010-09-19. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
  20. ^ "Butler, John, styled twelfth Baron Dunboyne (1731–1800)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4196. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  21. ^ "A Walk Around Fethard By Michael O'Donnell". fethard.com. Retrieved 3 November 2019.

External linksEdit