Tipperary Annual 1913
To Fethard belongs not alone the distinction of being the home of the famous Tipperary Foxhounds, at present ably led by Mr. Richard Burke, but it is also the home of historical ruins and associations of great national importance, both religious and political. The town is picturesquely situated in the heart of a very rich and undulating country, quite close to the famed and historic Slievenamon Mountain. Fethard in the olden days had the privilege of returning two members to the old Irish Parliament, and the old Parliamentary Records tell us that Redmond Everard, who resided in a palatial residence in the town, was elected in April, 1585, to represent, not the Borough, but Tipperary Co. in the Irish Parliament. This was probably Sir Redmond Everard, who owned the splendid demesne and mansion of Grove, now the residence of Mr. Burke. The Everards were an illustrious and pre-eminently Catholic family and many of them are laid to rest within the walls of the beautiful and ancient Abbey of the Augustinians. Sir John Everard, son of Sir Redmond, was second Judge of the King’s Bench during the reign of James I., but was deprived of his office through no other fault, history tells us, than that of his religion. Sir John was afterwards elected Speaker of the Irish House of Commons by the Catholic Party, who thus showed their admiration for his brilliant attainments and their displeasure at his removal from the high office he held.
In January, 1559, Nicholas Hackett and Theobald Nashe were elected to represent Fethard in the Irish Parliament and would appear from the records to have represented the Borough for 26 years, for in April, 1585, William Nashe and David Wale were elected, and held office until 1st May, 1613, when Edward Everard and Redmond Hackett were honoured with the confidence of the burgesses. They appear to have looked after the interests of what, in those days, must have been a very important constituency, until June 23rd, 1634. On this date Thomas Everard and Thomas Heines were elected, and in the last record that I can lay hands on, Thomas Heines, who was re-elected, represented the Borough with Patrick Vyne or Vin, the date of their election being February, 1639. Sir John Everard, Knt., who was probably subsequently the Speaker of the House of Commons, was elected on the 13th April, 1613, to represent the County in Parliament. His residence was at Knockersill, not Fethard. There is a tomb of the Everard family in the Augustinian Abbey on which the following inscription is only discernible now:- “Here lies Edmund Everard, Gentleman, A.D. 152 .....”
At the Church of the Holy Trinity, formerly a Catholic place of worship, but now the Protestant Episcopal Church, the following inscription on the monument is to be found:- “Here lies Don James Everard, Burgess of this town, who died in December 1667. His wife Anastatia Donoghue, erected this monument, A.D. 1667.”
The Church of the Holy Trinity was erected many centuries ago by the Catholics for the Canons Regular of St. Augustine and dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. It was connected, it is supposed, with the present Abbey by an underground passage. The church, a photograph of which we reproduce, was of cathedral proportions and of great architectural beauty. The massive tower which surrounds the present edifice contains a peal of large bells, which in Catholic days summoned the congregation to the celebration of the Divine Mysteries. Portions of the old town wall, keeps and gateways remain, and are in good state of preservation. The ancient monuments in the Augustinian Abbey and the grounds of the Protestant Church are most historic and interesting relics of the past, and prove what a great part the noble families of those days took in the national and religious life of the country. There is a monument to the Dunboyne family in the Abbey grounds, and it is supposed that Lord Dunboyne is interred within the walls of the Abbey Church. This Lord Dunboyne was for some years Catholic Bishop of Cork, but renounced the Faith and married in order to preserve the family estates. He became reconciled to the Catholic Church on his death-bed, being ministered to by Dr. William Gahan, O.S.A., John Street, Dublin. Lord Dunboyne left a large sum of the endowment of that celebrated institution in Maynooth that now bears his name, i.e. the Dunboyne Establishment. At the time of his death he resided at Shangarry Castle, about 5 miles north of Mullinahone. It is supposed that in the year 1306 the foundation of the Augustinian Church and Monastery took place, but in the reign of Henry VIII. the Abbey, Monastery and possessions were confiscated, and the most valuable possessions of the church were handed over at ridiculous sums to men of his own class.
It is believed that the Augustinians, although outlawed and persecuted, never lost sight of Fethard and its people, and that for centuries after their suppression they quietly and unobtrusively kept in touch with the people, ministering to their spiritual wants. The last prior before the suppression of the religious houses by Henry VIII. was Father William Burton, and the Prior to-day after the lapse of well over 600 years, is Very Rev. Thomas O’Dwyer, a grand specimen of the good and kindly Irish priest, and a worthy successor to all the illustrious sons of St. Augustine that have gone before him - who devoted their best energies and the halycon years of their lives in ministering to the spiritual and temporal wants of a faithful people. The venerable ruin came back again into the hands of the Augustinians about 1820, and since then it has been beautified and restored at considerable cost, until today it is one of the most artistic churches in the Province of Munster.
Few towns of its size can boast of such historic associations as Fethard, and the part that its sons have taken in the past in almost every walk of life should make its history a proud and a glorious one. Thanks to the elaborate and numerous monuments of past ages the records of its greatness in those days cannot be disputed, but will leave to ages yet unborn a permanent memorial of its ancient glories, and an incentive, let us hope, to the coming generations, to make it a prosperous and leading centre in the new era that is opening up for the Ireland of the future, which will out-rival, if not excel, the Ireland of the good old days.
Fethard, at the present day, is in the happy possession of being free from rates - the corporate property being sufficient to pay all demands, and the Town Commissioners, I understand, have always a nice little balance to credit at the bank. Great strides have been and are being made to improve the town, and it is hoped that, in the course of some years, it will become one of the leading Urban centres in Munster.
Richard M. O’Hanrahan.