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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow Through The Ages

Origin of the County Carlow Coat of Arms

The arms have strong associations with the Butler family. Like the arms of Kilkenny and Tipperary the field is ermine and for the same reasons. The two English lions signify that the Butlers held their land from the English crown. The rampant lion comes from the arms of another Butler family from Garrybunden in the County.

(Source: "Up Tullow Street" an article in The Advertiser by Michael Purcell c 1992. Carlow in Old Pictures & Carlow in Old Pictures Vol 2 by Michael Purcell & The Official Guide to Carlow 1985-86.)

A Norman Frontier Post

Carlow takes its name from the Irish word 'Catherlagh', referring to a large rock at the centre of the town which was once surrounded by water. The Normans erected a timber castle here in about 1180 but it was inevitably burned down by disgruntled clansmen in the surrounding neighbourhood. How did they light fires in those days anyhow? At any rate, the Normans duly twigged that stone castles fare better than wooden ones and so a new and rather large castle was erected between 1207 and 1213 by Strongbow's son-in-law, the celebrated jousting champion and all round chivalrous knight, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. The castle was of immense strategic value to the Norman conquest of Ireland being located in the heart of the MacMurrough kingdom (ie: the former kingdom of Strongbow's father-in-law Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster) as well as affording a strategic crossing point across the River Barrow. The town was walled in 1361 by Lionel, Duke of Clarence. Less than 50 years later, Art MacMurrough, ancestral King of Leinster, captured both town and castle and burned the entirety. During the Desmond Wars against Queen Elizabeth I's army, Carlow was again captured, in 1577, by Rory Og O More.

Source: Turtle Bumbery

William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke

Lionel Duke of Clarence

Rory Og O'More


Below are three of the merchants tokens struck in Carlow in the seventeenth century.
(source: Carlow, The Manor & Town by Thomas King)

Edward Reynolds
Carlow Tokens
Garret Quigley
Carlow Tokens
John Masters


Although not generally welcomed in the county or the garrison town of Carlow, there were approximately 11,000 members of the United Irishmen in the County by 1798. As part of an overall strategy for a rising, Carlow town was attacked by 2,000 rebels on 25th May 1798. The plan was doomed to failure because informers had made known the plot to the defenders of the town. A small number of yeomen were placed at the entrance to the town with orders to retreat on the appearance of the rebels.

This was to encourage the rebels to break ranks and drop their guard. The plan worked, the rebel divisions advanced so rapidly that they were a disordered mass by the time they entered Tullow Street and the Potato Market, where the whole place seemed deserted. Elated by what looked to be an easy victory they commenced cheering as a signal for their friends to join them.

The answer to the 'roar of a thousand voices' was a tremendous volley of musketry from every window and roof top. Surrounded on all sides 'the town became like a slaughter house'. Every vantage point had been occupied in such a way as to lure the rebels to their doom. Many lost their lives, actual number is unknown. There were no fatalities recorded on the side of the defenders. The dead were unceremoniously dumped in a gravel pit, now know as the Croppies Grave in Graiguecullen.

The town was so gallantly defended by a small party of the military, stationed in the barracks within the town, that they were repulsed with very great loss; forty-eight men, and several rebel officers were taken prisoners, and executed a few days afterwards. In this attack, upwards of eighty houses were burned to the ground. A handsome monument rises above the site of an old sand pit where in the aftermath of the disastrous rising of the United Irishmen in 1798, the bodies of 640 Carlow insurgents were slaughtered and were then thrown into a gravel pit and covered with quick lime in a mass grave at Graiguecullen. The grave is now known as the "Croppies Grave". The monument stands as testimony to those who gave their lives to further the cause of freedom from a harsh regime.

Croppies was the name given to the United Irishmen after the habit of cropping their hair to mark their allegiance to the cause.


It was governed by a sovereign, and sends a member to the Imperial parliament; its present representative is Lord Charleville.

In 1824 the population of Carlow town was about 6,146 .
In 1841 the population of Carlow town was about 10,409
In 1901 the population of Carlow town was abou 6,513
In 2011 the population of Carlow town was about 23,030 (County = 54,532)
From 1854 the town was administered by town commissioners.
In 1898 the Local Government Act gave power to elect representatives.

See also CARLOW TOWN as described in Pigot & Co's Directory of 1824

County of Carlow c1820County of Carlow c.1820

Historic Map Reprint of: Ireland Circa 1820. Originally issued by John Pinkerton in the early 19th century. This large sheet map shows many small place names not found on many modern maps.

Sent to me by Elaine Neuhaus

Carlow 1891

Carlow town was the first inland town in the British Isles to receive the Electric Light.  The power for the town was generated by a dynamo situated at Burrin Bridge.


Please Note that the Carlow Research Centre is CLOSED

History of Carlow

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