Fethard is truly unique : Over a kilometre of Town Wall (1292 AD) encircles the town, Holy Trinity Church ( built by the incoming Anglo-Normans in 1200) and the Abbey (built by the Augustinians in 1305) are both still in daily use. The same is true for the North Gate , the Town Hall (originally Almshouse c.1600), Watergate House (c1550) and what is very special is the view across to Slievenamon mountain from the South Battlements ; it is still the same view as it was 800 years ago when the first ‘town wall’ was built.
“You will not find the likes of it anywhere else in Ireland”
Oldest roof in Ireland
In 2011 it was confirmed that the oldest timber roof in the whole country is in Fethard (the roof of Holy Trinity church) dated to 1489 –four years before Columbus discovered America!
Well over 90% of the Town Wall, first erected in 1292, is still surrounding the town and Sparagoleith (North Gate) still watches over the road to Moyglass and north into the heart of Tipperary.
The Wall Walk on the South Battlements still looks out across the wooded countryside to Slievenamon mountain in the south east. The countryside is still as it was eight hundred years ago when the Anglo-Norman armies came up the Suir valley and began building a defended town on the banks of the Clashawley river, right in the middle of the grazing lands of the Gaelic Irish. Hard to believe,but true !
Sheela na Gigs
Fethard is home to three Sheela na Gig carvings – two in the town and a third on the private grounds of Kiltinan Castle. (A fourth ‘Sheela’ was stolen from ruined Kiltinan Church in 1990) These mysterious carvings, of women in ‘rude’ poses, intrigue all those who chance upon them.
At the other end of the scale, Fethard is also the original home of four of Irelands very rare medieval religious statues.
Unlike the rest of ‘Catholic Europe’ nearly all the carved Irish wooden religious effigies were destroyed – by order of the then governing English authorities – in Reformation times. Amazingly , four such life size statues ‘turned up’ in Fethard in 1932 and are now on loan – and on permanent display- in the National Museum in Dublin. (Replicas can be seen on your Backs to the Wall tour)
Fethard is set in glorious countryside in the shadow of Slievenamon mountain, with walled and wooded estates surrounding the town which contain numerous castles and ‘big houses’ and all have a story to tell.
Horses and more horses and cows as well
Fethard is at the very centre of Tipperary ‘Horse Country’ . It is surrounded by the manicured lands of Coolmore Stud , ( HQ is 3 Km outside the town) which is top of its league in the whole world of Thoroughbred horse breeding . Also many racing stables and equestrian establishments of all shapes and sizes are to be found in the surrounding countryside.
There are cows also , especially dairy cows , and Fethard is the actual home of the famous Cashel Blue cheese which is made by the Grubb family on their farm in Beechmount.
The Stories , the Stories, the Stories !
Of course its the stories that make all the difference and Fethard has plenty of stories.
And if Terry ever runs out of true stories, well then there is always the possibility of the plausible half truth !
You’ll hear of Goodies and Baddies in about equal measure.
Surprisingly, Oliver Cromwell seems to have behaved himself fairly well when he passed this way in 1650. However , the memory lives on ; as no funeral ever takes the short direct route out Barrack Street to the local graveyard . This is because Cromwell came in Barrack Street when he ‘visited’ over 360 years ago and that was enough to put the curse on it and people have long memories in these parts.!
Hearing stories like this , and many other stories like it, is what a guided tour is all about, and its up to yourself whether you believe all the stories or not . Either way , its all part of the experience and when the historical dates are long forgotten, the stories will be remembered.
“Come here ’til I tell you a story”