What's the story with Nenagh, then?

The following extract comes from the excellent booklet "Walkabout Nenagh" by Nancy Murphy.

Nenagh or Aonach Urmhumhan

The town of Nenagh is situated almost in the geographical centre of North Tipperary and in close proximity to the largest lake on the River Shannon - Lough Derg. In 1991, the census showed a population of 5,525.

The name "Nenagh" is derived from two Gaelic or Irish words; "an" meaning "the" and "aenagh", "fair". The first "a" is dropped in each word, thus giving the anglicised form of "Nenagh". The addition of "Urmhumhan" gives the aenagh or aonach (the modern spelling) a territorial location - the Fair of Ormond/East Munster. Many established residents affectionately pronounce it "Naina" which is closer to the old Irish name than the refined "Nenagh".

As a walled town it dates from the building in the thirteenth century of a stone castle by a Norman named Theobald fitzWalter.

The first group of invading Normans had arrived in Ireland in May, 1169. Later that year they were joined by other knights and followers and in August, 1170 by the Earl of Pemborke (Strongbow) who captured most of Leinster. In the succeeding years Norman colonies were established on conquered territory and fortified buildings erected, but much of Ireland still remained in Irish hands, including Ormond, territory of the O'Kennedys.

King Henry II of England appointed his youngest son John as Lord of Ireland. John came to view his acquisition in 1185 and initiated a policy of granting lands, hitherto uncolonised, to members of his entourage. Almost all of the area now comprising the administrative county called Tipperary North Riding - which includes the baronies of Upper and Lower Ormond - was part of the grant made by John to Theobald, eldest son of Hervey Walter of Lancashire, England.

Theobald was subsequently appointed Pincerna Hiberniae or Chief Butler of Ireland. By about 1250, title and surname had become Le Botiller, later anglicised to Butler. Nenagh was one of their principal seats in the northern part of County Tipperary until the fourteenth century, when they moved to Gowran, Co. Kilkenny, and later still to the castle in Kilkenny city. However, Nenagh's castle and manor remained the property of Theobald's descendants for over 500 years.

Apart from the castle and the remains of a Franciscan friary, also dating from the thirteenth century, the town's buildings date from the mid-1700s onwards when its sale out of Butler onwership led to the large-scale grant of leases and the subsequent growth of industries and buildings. The town's growth and development was accelerated in 1838 when the geographical county of Tipperary was divided into two ridings and Nenagh became the administrative capital of the North Riding.

In the nineteenth century Nenagh was primarily a market town providing services to a rich and fertile agricultural hinterland. Brewing, corn processing, coach building and iron works were the dominant industries. Small ones, such as tailoring, dressmaking, millinery, shoemaking, carpentry, wood-turning, wheelwrighting, harnessmaking, printing, and monumental sculpting, provided considerable employment and were usually located alongside the place of residence, be that just a house or a shop with residence overhead. The advent of a purpose-built milk processing plant/creamery in 1914 added buttermaking.

The picture today is of a flourishing but not over-industrialised town, producing aluminium, stainless steel and copper holloware, road signs, glass, healthcare products, including the world-famous Oil of Ulay and Maalox, electronics, farm machinery, meat products, fertilisers and animal foodstuffs, as well as butter, yoghurt and dried milk from the much-expanded co-operative creamery.

The fluctuation in population mirrors that of many an Irish town and the changing fortunes of the Irish economy: 1657 - 275; 1841 - 8,618; 1946 - 4,517; 1971 - 5,089; 1991 - 5,525.

The town is twinned with Tonnere, a town in the Dijon area of France about 150 km south of Paris. The Urban District Council also has an association, including mutual visits, with Moyle District Council which is centred on Ballycastle, Co. Antrim.

Many European tourists stop at Nenagh en route between the capital, Dublin (102 miles/163 km distant), and the city of Limerick (24 miles/39 km) and Shannon International Airport (37.5 miles/60 km).

(c) Nancy Murphy, 1994. Published by Relay Publications, Tyone, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Reproduced with permission.

Couldn't have put it better meself, actually...

Incidentally, Nancy Murphy tells me that Relay Publications have a number of fine books relating to the history of Nenagh and North Tipperary generally, including:-

All of the above books can be obtained by contacting Relay Publications at tel. +353 67 31734, or fax. +353 67 31734. End of free advertisement.

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