Ireland Genealogical Projects

County Kilkenny
History


In his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland Samuel Lewis wrote the following in 1837 about Kilkenny, "According to Ptolemy, this county was originally inhabited by the Brigantes and the Caucoi, and it afterwards formed part of the kingdom of Ossory. The name Uisraigagh, modernized into Ossory, is supposed to be expressive of its local situation, being compounded of the Gaelic words uisge, "water," and rioghachd, "kingdom," as lying between the rivers. The portion between the Nore and Barrow is sometimes excluded from the kingdom of Ossory, and was anciently styled Hy Creoghain Gabhran; the southern part of the county was sometimes called Comor na tri uisge, "the high district of the three waters." The countries of Ely O'Carroll and Hy Carthin comprised some of the north-western portion of this county. This kingdom was sometimes tributary to Leinster, and sometimes to Munster. After the arrival of the English, it formed one of the counties into which King John divided the portion of the island that acknowledged his sovereignty. At the commencement of the reign of King James I, it was chiefly occupied by the Graces, the O'Brenans, the Wandefords, the Butlers, the O'Sheas, the Rooths, the Harpurs, the Walshes of the mountains, and the Shortals."
The full text of Lewis' commentary on Kilkenny is located at the following external link: County Kilkenny

One of the more extensive histories concerning Kilkenny was Reverend William Carrigan's "The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory". Written in 1905 Carrigan makes note of many of the early events, places and families in the county. According to Carrigan, the kingdom of Ossory was founded by Aengus Osrithe who flourished some time about the latter half of the second century of the Christian era. His successors extended their boundaries to include part of Tipperary. In the fifth century the neighbouring tribe of the Deisi, aided by the Corca- Laighde, conquered South Ossory, and for over a century, the Corca- Laighde chiefs ruled in place of the dispossessed Ossory chiefs. Early in the seventh century the ancient chiefs recovered much of their lost possessions, the foreigners were overcome, and the descendants of Aengus ruled once more. One of the greatest was Cearbhaill, prominent in the ninth century and distinguished in the Danish wars.

In the latter part of the twelfth century parts of Kilkenny began to experience politically changes brought the Anglo-Normans, whose initial arrival started with the adventurers under Strongbow [Richard de Clare] around 1170. Kilkenny soon became the residence of Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, Strongbow's heir and descendent, by whom Kilkenny Castle was first built. Kilkenny became a county under the Anglo-Norman model in the first part of the thirteenth century, and the establishment of manors and towns was underway. Before the fourteenth century Marshall's inheritance passed to the Ormonde Butlers, and under them Kilkenny city became great. It was during the fourteenth century a number of parliaments were convened in Kilkenny including one which enacted the "Statues of Kilkenny", largely ineffective laws condemning English settlers who adopted Irish customs.

The sixteenth century saw a campaign against the Roman Catholic Church with the introduction of Anglican Church of Ireland, the transplanation of Protestant settlers in parts of Ireland, the dissolution of many monasteries, and the virtual power of the English parliament over an Irish parliament. With continued pressure for further English control in Ireland, it was in the seventeenth century the Anglo-Norman [Old English] landed gentry in County Kilkenny lost much of their land and political power, and were supplanted by those who invested support in Oliver Cromwell against what was termed the "Confederation of Kilkenny", a provisional government whose aim included [among others] the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church to its original position.

Further external reference regarding County Kilkenny history may be found at the following sites:

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