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County Kilkenny Ireland History


Town and Liberties of Callan


The town, and liberties, of Callan takes its name from Calland, a former name for the King's river. O'Donovan suggests the Irish monarch Niall Caille (Cailne) may have been drowned in the King's river in the 8th century, but there is no authentic record of this. Callan town and surrounding area was a cantred of Co. Kilkenny in the 13th century, and the area is often included in the early records of the baronies of Kells and Shillelogher. In Vetera Monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum Theiner notes that an alias for Callan (in Ossory) was Ralbride (Rath Brigde?).

In the middle of the 12th century the territory of Callain (barony of Callan, part of Kells) was home to the Ua Gloiairn (O'Gloiran, O'Gloerne) sept according to O'Heerin's Topographical Poem compiled in 1420. Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of 1837 mentions that Callan was the ancient inheritance of the O'Glohernys and the O'Coillys or O'Callans(?). The early forms O'Gloerne, O'Gloiairn and Gloryn occur fairly often in mediaeval records relating to Co. Kilkenny. Some genealogists claim that there was a sept called the O’Callans in the area, but this is of doubtful validity. O'Brien's Irish Dictionary notes the town and territory of Callain in co. Kilk. belonged to the O'Gloherny's and O'Cealys.

The town of Callan received a charter from Earl William Marshal in 1217 [some say 1207], and he is stated as its founder for this reason. The borough remained part of the estates of William Marshall and his descendents until purchased by the Ormonde Butlers in the year 1391.

The Anglo-Norman Tobin (orginally St. Alban, or St. Aubin) family was given large grants of land in the Callan area at an early date. The place Ballytobin near Callan took its name from them. The Fforstalls or Forestalls, Butlers, and Comerfords had fortified castles here.

The distribution of lands in the barony of Iverk circa 1640 shows the major landowner, outside the 'liberties of Callan, as the Earl of Ormond. The principal Irish names and their number in the 1659 census for the Towne and Liberties of Callan included Butler, 06 ; Comerford, 04 ; Lenan, 04 ; Mogher, 08 ; Phelan, 04. The total number of Irish in the town and liberties included 365 ; the total number of English included 86.

Further reference:
Parishes and Townlands of Callan
Barony and Civil Parish Map of County Kilkenny


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