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The Butlers of Ballyglasheen, County Tipperary

Ballyglasheen House

A branch of the Anglo-Norman dynasty of Butler settled in County Tipperary during the 16th century and became one of the leading cattle farming families of Tipperary Town by the advent of the War of Independence.




The Butlers of Ballyglasheen descends from Theobald Fitzwalter, son of Hervey Walter, hereditary butler of England, by his wife Maud de Valoignes. In 1185, Theobald accompanied Prince John, Lord of Ireland, on an expedition to Ireland. John duly named Theobald hereditary butler (le botelier) of Ireland, awarding him a vast estate in counties Limerick and Tipperary, and a smaller estate in County Wicklow.

Over the ensuing centuries, Theobald’s descendants consolidated their position in Irish society, building castles and churches at strategic locations and marrying noble Irish ladies. The Butlers racked up at least 25 patents of nobility, including such titles as Ormond, Dunboyne, Caher, Mountgarrett, Galmoy and Ossory. [1] They were also awarded a mouth-wateringly useful grant of the ‘prisage of wines’, which entitled them to ‘about one tenth of the cargo of any wine ship that broke bulk in Ireland.’ [2]


The Fertile Triangle


Taylor & Skinner’s Road Map of County Tipperary from 1778 does not show Ballyglasheen itself, but does indicate some of the ‘Big Houses’ in the area, such as Kilfeake, Mount William, Thomastown and Kilmylar, where another branch of the Butler family were in residence.

By the start of the 16th century, a branch of the Butlers had secured control of that fertile triangle of pastureland that lies between the present day towns of Cashel, Caher and Tipperary. The barony of Clanwilliam occupies the north east of this golden triangle and at the heart of this barony is Ballyglasheen, or Baile Uí Ghlaisín, presumed to mean ‘O’Gleeson’s Homestead’, where the Butlers of this tale maintained their farm. [3]

Samuel Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland of 1837 does not list Ballyglasheen, but it is located midway between Kilfeacle (3km) and Bansha (3.5km), and about 7km east of the market town of Tipperary.

The splendid ruin of Thomastown Castle, once home of the Mathew family, stands 3km to the east, while the old Scully home at Kilfeacle House is about the same distance to the north. [4] Just east of Thomastown is Athassel Abbey, sprawled upon the banks of the River Suir, where Edmond Butler was Prior from 1523-1537.

Augustinian canons founded a monastery at Tipperary in the reign of Henry III. In 1329, the monastery survived when Breyn O’Breyn burnt the town down. Ruined castles and ancient raths are numerous in the area.


Wild Piers Butler (1521-c.1577)


The remains of Grallagh Castle, once home to Wild Piers Butler, ancestor of the Butlers of Ballyglasheen. (Photo: Brian T McElherron)

Thomastown Castle, seat of the Mathew family, was one of the most magnificent seats in Ireland. Located just 3km east of Ballyglasheen, this was the childhood home of Father Theobald Mathew (1790-1856), the celebrated Apostle of Temperance. During the 1840s, he persuaded over half of Ireland’s adult population to give up alcohol.

The Butlers of Ballyglasheen almost certainly descend from Wild Piers Butler (Piers na mBuile), aka Peter Butler of Grallagh. Born in 1521, Wild Piers was the second son of James, 9th Lord Dunboyne. His grandfather, the 8th Earl of Ormonde, served as Lord Deputy and Lord Treasurer of Ireland during the early years of Henry VIII’s reign. However, when the King took a fancy to Anne Boleyn – a cousin of the Ormondes – the Earl was obliged to hand the ‘Ormonde’ title over to Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn. The Earldom of Ormonde was restored to the 8th Earl after Anne’s execution, but the vulnerability of the family to the whims of England’s monarchy was now plain, as Edmund Butler, Prior of Athassel Abbey, discovered when he was deposed by Thomas Cromwell in 1537 as part of the Reformation.

Wild Piers was just two years old when his father died in 1523, leaving him 16,000 acres of the County Palatine of Co Tipperary, including Grallagh Castle, and other lands together with the manor of Drangan, Crohane, and Magoury, and quite possibly stretching as far west as Ballyglasheen itself. [5] About 100 feet of the wall of his four storey-tower house at Grallagh are apparently still visible today. On 6 May 1544, the 9th Earl of Ormonde wrote to Henry VIII stating:

‘I have appointed a young gentlemean called Piers Butler, being also a nephew to me and seconde brother to the Baron of Dunboyne, to have the rule and conduct of one hundrethe of my men.’ [6]

Sure enough, 23-year-old Piers Butler commanded a company of one hundred men in the army of Ormonde, his uncle and brother-in-law, which served for Henry VIII against the French at the Siege of Boulogne.

Two years later, Lord Ormonde and seventeen members of his household died during a deeply suspicious mass poisoning in London . [7]

In the early 1560s, Piers and his older brother, Lord Dunboyne, had a serious fall out over the Grallagh inheritance. With the support of his cousin, the 10th Earl of Ormonde (known as ‘Black Tom’), Piers resisted Dunboyne’s attempts to legally force him to hand over part of his estate. In 1568, Wild Piers repaid Black Tom for his support when he joined his rebellion, known as ‘Butler’s War’, against the scurrilous English adventurer, Sir Peter Carew.

In January 1571, the Butlers were granted a general pardon by Queen Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn and childhood sweetheart of Black Tom Butler. However, Wild Piers’ second son John Butler was killed shortly afterwards while defending Crohane Castle against Lord Dunboyne. Another son Gerald Butler was killed in the Desmond Rebellion of 1580-83.


James Butler of Boytonrath (1605-1653)


The original lintel stone of Ballyglasheen House.

Both Wild Piers and his wife Lady Honora (a daughter of the 10th Earl of Desmond) died in about 1577. [8] Their surviving sons – James, William, Theobald and Richard – all lived in Tipperary and places associated with them include Kilmoylar, Moyglone, Synoss, Boytonrath, Ballycarron and Ardmaile. Many of these places lie within the aforementioned Cashel-Caher-Tipperary triangle, close to Ballyglasheen.

In 1641 the Irish Catholics rose up and the Confederate Wars commenced, pitting a fragile alliance of Irish and Anglo-Norman Catholic against the forces of English Protestant Republicanism. Head-quartered in Kilkenny, the Confederate forces produced many admirable victories, but were ultimately unable to sustain the pressure. Following Cromwell’s brutal suppressions of the garrisons at Drogheda and Wexford, a treaty was signed at Caher Castle in County Tipperary. The collapse of the Confederacy enabled Cromwell to proceed with the confiscation of all property belonging to Catholics accused of complicity in the “rebellion”. These lands were duly granted to soldiers who had fought in his victorious wars against the Royalist forces of King Charles I and the Catholics in Ireland.

Among the leading Confederates was James Butler, great-grandson of Wild Piers, who was based in a castle at Boytonrath, the ruined foundations of which still stand today, some 10km west of Ballyglasheen, just off the day N8 Cashel – Caher road. In 1641, James commanded 400 men in an eleven week siege of Golden Castle beyond Kilfeacle. [9] In 1650, he was captured by Cromwell’s forces in Fethard but released. Captured again at the defence of Limerick in 1652, he was hanged, drawn and quartered and had all his lands forfeited.

Few things in history can ever be guaranteed but, as the Butlers of Ballyglasheen remained Roman Catholic throughout the ensuing centuries, it seems likely they would have sympathised and perhaps fought on the side of the luckless James Butler of Boytonrath. James may even have been their direct forefather but that link is yet to be proven.

James’s conviction entailed the forfeiture of both his life and his estate, but as he was merely a life tenant of Boytonrath, the ownership of this land devolved upon his eldest son Edmond Butler. As Sir Henry Blackall noted, Edmond was a youth at the outbreak of the rebellion and ‘thus he came within the category of those comparatively “Innocent Papists” who were to be transplanted into Connaught and Clare, there to receive lands equivalent to one-third or two-thirds of their former estate.[10]After the Restoration, many of the Butlers forfeited estates in Tipperary were granted to the Great Duke of Ormonde. He is presumed to have made a fee-farm grant of Ballyglasheen, leasing the lands on generous terms to the descendants of its former owners.


Return to Ballyglasheen


James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde by Michael Dahl.

During the 1690s, William of Orange’s victory over James II established the Protestant elite in Ireland. The 2nd Duke of Ormonde, head of the Butler family, was still one of the most influential men in the kingdom but his power base was slowly crumbling. His vast estate was being ‘devoured by debt’ (on account of his grandfather’s expenses) and his inheritance ‘encumbered and mortgaged in every part, inefficiently managed, top heavy with superfluous personnel’.

Renting land from the Duke was not a particularly costly business. Indeed, one of the reasons the Ormonde estates were so profitless was their common practice of ‘abatements of rent to be granted and arrears indulged’. Collection of rents was slow ‘on the pretext that the depredation of both sides in the Jacobite wars had destroyed stock, damaged agricultural production and made ready money more scarce’. In due course, the Ormonde’s extravagant lifestyle and the costs of maintaining so many houses and castles obliged them to sell off some of their property. The Butlers are said to have been in Ballyglasheen, since at least 1711. It is to be noted that this was the very time frame in which the Ormondes were selling off lands in Co Tipperary. It is also possible that the lands were owned by the MacCarthy Reaghs of Springhouse and Kilshane, the main branch of which left Ireland on account of the Penal Laws in the 1690s. [11]

In 1714, Queen Anne died and the German House of Hanover prepared to occupy the British throne. The Duke of Ormonde took a gamble and threw in his lot with the Old Pretender, the Hanover’s Catholic rival. Like so many other Jacobites, the Duke quickly discovered he had backed the wrong horse. He was summarily dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and fled into permanent exile in France.


A Catholic Community


In William Petty’s Survey of Ireland from 1659, ‘Ballyglassin’ in Kilfeacle, Co Tipperary, had a population of ten residents, all described as ‘Irish’ and ‘Catholic’. The entire barony of Clanwilliam had 180 ‘English’ and 2,713 ‘Irish‘.

Even in 1911, Ballyglasheen was an exclusively Roman Catholic area, with n’er a Protestant in sight, although everyone spoke English. The 1911 survey of ten neighbouring houses in the area, including the Butlers, states that all 64 residents (34 men and 30 women) were Catholics. They presumably worshipped at the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Annunciation in Bansha, built in 1807. [12] One of the greater excitements of the early 1820s occurred when the Lows, an English whiskey-blending family, purchased the old MacCarthy estate of Springhouse and its crumbling mansion, and built a new Regency mansion at Kilshane House.


Tipperary Tactics


When Lord Gough ordered his soldiers to charge directly at the enemy Sikhs in India, his critics lambasted his ‘Tipperary tactics’. The very word ‘Tipperary’ had become synonymous with violence in English minds.

In 1841, Ballyglasheen was described as an area of 334 acres and 34 perches. Its population had grown to 36 and numbered several Butlers amongst them. [13] It was at about this time that a notice was posted on the walls of one of the properties in Ballyglasheen which may have sent shivers down land-owning spines. It read:

Take notice that any person in this neighbourhood is not to pay more than half a year’s rent this year, in consequence of the year being so bad – any person, after this notice, that do attempt paying more will be made a public example of, as we are determined to put a period to the drivers and keepers of this place, particularly Mr Ryan Padeen and his keepers, as his doom is long time due to him. “ JOHN ROCK”. [14]

In 1842, Thackeray wrote how some Irish tenants retained their occupancy of the farm ‘in Tipperary fashion, by simply putting a [bullet] into the body of any man who would come to take a farm over any one of them’. [15]


Cattle Farmers of Tipperary


Griffith’s House Books of 1848 indicate that at least three Butlers were living at Ballyglasheen in a year when the Young Ireland movement launched its lacklustre rebellion in the Tipperary village of Ballingarry that summer. The three Butlers were James, John and Richard. We know no more of these men yet, save that the Butlers of whom we treat in this tale descend from one of them. [16] They were farmers and it is almost certain that they farmed cattle. Located on the lower ranges of Slievenamuck, the ‘limestone and brownstone’ lands around Ballyglasheen were described in 1837 as perfect for the raising of such bloodstock, being ‘of excellent quality and in a high state of cultivation’. The area was liberally watered by the River Arra, one of the Suir’s numerous tributaries, while ‘a chalybeate spring issues from the adjoining hills’. [17] In 1889, Basset’s concurred that ‘the land of the district is good for grazing’, noting that ‘oats and potatoes are the principal crops.’

When Tipperary Barracks were built in the 1870s, they were amongst the most contemporary in the British Empire. However, they also meant that a large number of British troops were always in residence.

The Butlers would have walked their cattle into Tipperary, a town which hosted market days and fair days every month, generally on the second Tuesday of the month. The town also held a first class butter market every day, considered second only to the one in Cork, with large numbers of butter merchants and agents lined along Henry St, Church St and Bank Place. There were plentiful flour and meal dealers, as well as grocers, with whom the Butlers presumably did business.

As a town, Tipperary was evolving rapidly. In 1861 its population was 5,872. Within twenty years, it had risen to 7,274, inhabiting 1,091 houses. (Bansha’s population in 1881 was 416). There was a corn and provision market, built in 1869 by the Smith Barry family who owned most of the town. There were four trains daily on the Waterford & Limerick Railway from Tipperary, which called at Bansha, and on the Great Southern & Western from Limerick Junction.

In 1878, the substantial and unusually ornate British military barracks were opened close to the railway station. Designed between 1872 & 1874 and built between 1874 & 1878, the barracks cost £25,000. Constructed of limestone, it featured high ceilings and many French windows giving a feeling of light and space to the interior; and causing those who occupied it to surmise that it would have been better suited to the hot climate of India or The Far East instead of the damp chilly climes of Ireland! It was lit by gas, and had state-of-the-art facilities for the troops and their families, including administration offices, armoury, magazine, stable, workshops, accommodation blocks, Officers’ Mess, Sergeants’ Mess, cookhouse, canteen, chapel, hospital, school, laundry, bath-house, latrines, band-room, guard room, detention barracks, stores, and water tower. The Barracks had an integral miniature rifle range, and a larger outdoor range at Ballyglass, County Tipperary. At the time of Thomas J Butler’s birth in 1887, the barracks were occupied by the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment.

Business for County Tipperary’s cattle farmers undoubtedly improved after 1879 when Quebec-born Thomas Cleeve purchased a revolutionary milk separator at the Clonmel Show that finally enabled the Irish dairy industry to compete with Denmark. Cleeve subsequently established the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland, manufacturing dairy products such as condensed milk, butter, cheese and confectionery (notably Cleeve’s Toffee). By the close of the century, Cleeve’s was the largest business of its type in Britain or Ireland, with 2,000 employees on its payroll and 3,000 Munster farmers supplying its raw material. (Thomas’s grandson Harry Cleeve was a great friend of my paternal grandfather and indeed I celebrated my 30th birthday in 2002 by having lunch with both men.) Cleeve’s also operated the creamery in Tipperary Town and, until it was destroyed during the Civil War, the Butlers were almost certainly one of its key suppliers.

One other detail to note of Bansha in this period is that it was the birthplace of circus strongman, Chuck O’Connor, who married acrobat, Effie Irene Crane. Their son Donald, born in 1925, would earn a Golden Globe for his extraordinary dance performance for the song ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ in Singin’ in the Rain.


John Butler (b. 1853- ), Farmer


A distant kinsman of the family was the Victorian soldier and explorer, Sir William Francis Butler of Bansha Castle. In 1898, this pioneering soul was made Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in South Africa. His views on colonialism were often controversial as he was sympathetic to the natives in many of the
outposts of the Empire in which he served. His wife was the artist, Elizabeth Butler (1846-1933). She lived at Bansha Castle until 1922.

The first of the Ballyglasheen Butlers upon whom we have a fixed date are John Butler, born in 1853, and his brother Paddy, born in 1861. By the time Francis Guy compiled his Directory of Munster in 1886, John was one of nine men listed as ‘Principal Farmers’ for the Kilfeacle Parish. [18] Little is known of him, save that he was said to have been a short-tempered man. Some recall seeing his cart headed for Cleeve’s Creamery with the words ‘John Butler, Ballyglasheen’ etched onto a steel plate. His wife, Alice English, was born at Oola, some 6 miles north of Tipperary Town. Eight years younger than her husband, she was the only girl born into a farming family and was remembered with great affection by those who knew her. [19] John and Alice were married in 1882 and had at least five children, three sons and two daughters. John’s brother Paddy also lived with them, working on the farm, and was still there, a 50-year-old bachelor, when the 1911 Census was taken. [20]

John and Alice’s firstborn child, Alice Butler, is said to have died of tuberculosis when she was in her early teens, probably before the turn of the century. Their second child Thomas J Butler was born in 1887, succeeded to Ballyglasheen, and his story follows below. Their third child Margaret (known as Madge) was born in 1889 and married Andy Hickey, a farmer from Gortrue, near New Inn, with whom she had four sons, John Jo, Father Phil, Christy and Eddie. John and Alice’s fourth child William (known as Bill) was born in 1891, never married and died at Ballyglasheen in the 1930s. The youngest child Richard (known as Dick) was born in 1894 and eloped to Limerick where he married his second cousin and had a family of three girls, Sheila, Maureen and Kitty, and a son, Richard. Owing to ill health Dick Butler was unable to work and died young. His sister Madge subsequently raised two of his daughters.


Thomas J Butler (1887-1961)


John and Alice’s eldest son and heir, Thomas J Butler, was born in 1887, three years after the GAA was founded at Hayes Hotel, Thurles, and the very same year that Tipperary defeated Galway to become the first team to win the All Ireland senior hurling title. In 1889, Tipp became the first county to win both the Liam McCarthy Cup and Sam McGuire cup. They won the Hurling-Football again in 1895 and 1900, 90 years before Cork finally caught up in 1990.

The Butlers were to prove keen hurlers for many generations to come. They must have often played at the sports field in Golden, home to the local GAA club of Golden-Kilfeacle, which originally ‘rejoiced in the more exotic name of the Golden Fontenoys.

Thomas went to school in Bansha and presumably came home to work on the farm from an early age.

An aerial photograph of Ballyglasheen from the 1970s.

When Constable Jeremiah Sullivan collected the census returns for Ballyglasheen in April 1911, the Butlers were a family of seven, occupying a five room farmhouse. It is probable that they were the most prosperous of the ten families then living in Ballyglasheen. Their house was one of three that boasted ‘5 or 6’ rooms, the others being those of John’s cousins, James Butler and Richard Butler. [21] (Everyone else had four or less rooms). The three Butlers also had four windows at the front of their house, where everyone else had three or two. John Butler’s property included thirteen ‘out-offices and farm steadings’, which, from a late 20th century photograph (right), appear to run in a long white-washed wing extending in an L-shape around from the main house. In 1911, these premises were described as a stable, coach house, three cow-houses, a calf house, three piggeries, a fowl house, a boiling house, a barn and a turf house. One assumes there were also privies and ashpits but these were not entered on the 1911 census.

It is notable that John did not have a dairy so either he shared one with James Butler (the only man around with a dairy) or his cattle were strictly beef. James Butler, who had twelve out-buildings, is also the only other man with a coach house and 2 piggeries. Next on the list of most out-buildings came John Harris (7, who had a family of nine living in three rooms), Richard Butler (6) and Patrick O’Brien (6), Michael Ryan (3, a family of eleven, leasing from the colourfully named Maurice Morrissy), John Shiels (3), Patrick Roche (3, described as a 3rd class house), James O’Gorman (3, leasing a wooden house or cabin from John Harris for his family of five) and Michael Moroney (2). [22] That said, of the ten houses, only three had roofs of slate, iron or tiles – John Butler’s farmhouse was one of those made of thatch, wood or some other perishable. It must have been a noisy neighbourhood. Everyone had chickens and nine out of ten households kept pigs.


A Time Of War


Dan Breen of Co Tipperary was one of the men who fired the opening shots of the Irish War of Independence. He was Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary from 1932-1965. You can see his unrepentant thoughts on the war on You Tube by clicking here.

Seán Hogan’s (No. 2) Flying Column, 3rd Tipperary Brigade, IRA.

During the Great War of 1914-1918, the number of British troops stationed in Tipperary Town rose from 4,000 to a peak of 10,000, as the barracks were used as a both a military hospital and a Posting Area to muster and train new troops destined for the war in France. Most of these soldiers went directly from Tipperary to the Western Front, no doubt whistling ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’. (Why not listen to the song yourself by clicking onto this fine recording by Albert Farrington). At least seven Butlers from Co Tipperary died in the Great War. [23] But Ireland’s struggle for independence was also coming into its element, under men like Bansha publican John Cullinane, an active member of the GAA who was elected Nationalist MP for Tipperary in 1900. Cullinane remained at Westminster until the 1918 election when Sinn Féin famously defeated the Irish Parliamentary Party in most constituencies.

By the summer of 1917, the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Co Tipperary were amongst the most active in Ireland, constantly recruiting, drilling and parading, with local man, Sean Treacy at the helm. De Valera’s visit to Tipperary Town in August 1917 stirred considerable excitement in the area.

On 21 January 1919, the War of Independence officially began when Treacy and Dan Breen launched an unauthorised ambush on two Royal Irish Constables who were transporting some gelignite at Soloheadbeg, some two miles outside Tipperary Town. The two officers were shot dead. South Tipperary was swiftly placed under martial law and declared a Special Military Area.

Almost a year to the day later, on 20 January 1920, RIC Constable Luke Finnegan was shot dead in Thurles, prompting a major assault on the town by the RIC during which the houses of several leading Sinn Feiners were destroyed, including that of comedian Dermot Morgan’s grandfather, Denis Morgan. Read ‘The Morgan Family’ by Turtle Bunbury for more.

In March 1920, the Black and Tans arrived in Ireland to be followed in July by the Auxiliaries. Sending these reckless thugs to Ireland was probably London’s daftest decision in 800 years. They embarked on a campaign of terror against the Irish people and the communities in and around Tipperary town suffered as much as any.

On 14 October 1920, Sean Tracey was spotted on Talbot Street in downtown Dublin and was killed in a gun battle with the British in which two soldiers and several bystanders were also killed. At the time of his death, he was the Vice-Brigadier of the Third Tipperary Brigade. He is buried in Kilfeacle Cemetery.

The funeral of Michael Collins in Dublin. The Butlers of Ballyglasheen took the Pro-Treaty side during the Civil War.

In December 1920, the Tans forcibly dragged a local Volunteer, Michael Edmonds, from his house in Tipperary Town to an area called “The Hills” where he was beaten, tortured and summarily executed. They also attempted to pull down the town’s Maid of Erin monument, using chains and a Crossley Tender, but the Maid stood fast and did not fall. It is believed that the Butler family played no active role in the War of Independence.

However, Ballyglasheen was occasionally used as a safe-house for those on the run from the dastardly Tans who frequently ran rampant around the area, burning and shooting up houses. The farmhouse was raided on many occasions, the khaki-clad soldiers pilfering the family’s food supplies and overturning their milk churns by way or a warning.

A truce between the two sides was initiated on July 1921 and followed by the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London on 6 December 1921.

Thomas J Butler was 35-years-old when the last British military personnel marched out of Tipperary Barracks on 16 February 1922.  In the ensuing Civil War, it is believed the Butlers played no active part, although they supported Michael Collins and the Irish Free State and opposed de Valera’s anti-Treatyists. The politics associated with W. T. Cosgrave were held in particularly high regard. Life at Ballyglasheen must have been extremely tense at the close of July 1922. On 26 July, Pro-Treaty forces under the command of Commandant Jerry Ryan stormed the village of Golden.

Three days later this army of five hundred men advanced on Tipperary Town, then under the control of the Anti-Treatyists. Cleeve’s Creamery, where the Butlers brought their milk, was amongst many buildings destroyed in the intense battle that followed. So too was the town’s water supply and most of its roads and bridges. By the evening of Sunday 30 July, the Government forces had regained control of the town. The conflict continued until April 1923, when de Valera issued his cease-fire order. Government troops withdrew from Tipperary Town in September and normal life was slowly resumed. The military barracks were beyond repair and most of its remains were demolished and removed at some time in the late 1940s.

The woman is Nora Loughman (known as Noni) and it is believed the man with her is Thomas J. Butler, her husband. Noni is thought to have died giving birth to their only child John Butler in the 1920s. (Thanks to Dolores O’Shea)

Thomas J Butler was married twice. His first wife was Nora Loughman (known as Noni) and she provides an intriguing link as the Loughmans of Co Tipperary were closely related to the Harrington family to whom we are now about to turn. We know no more of Noni Butler save that she is said to have died giving birth to their only child, a boy called John Butler, at some point in the late 1920s.

In 1934, Thomas was married secondly to Josephine Harrington, daughter of Florence and Molly (Loughman) Harrington of Milleens near Eyeries on the north side of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. See her family history here.

Thomas and Josephine had seven children, namely Essie, Mary Pat, Ita, Thomas (of whom we treat), Alice Mary, Sheila and Florence.

Thomas J Butler died in 1961, after which Josephine was married secondly to Tom Sheehan of Limerick. We don’t yet know what he did for a living but he died circa the early 70s. Josephine died circa 1998.


A Double Wedding


The Munster Tribune of Friday 31 July 1959 ran the below photograph with the caption below:

‘The wedding took place in St. Mary’s Church, Cahir, of Mr. MI. Ryan, son of Mrs. and the James Ryan, Bohercrowe, Tipperary, and Miss Mary Patricia Butler, N.T., daughter of Mr. and Mrs Thomas Butler, Ballyglasheen. Tipperary. The best man was Mr. John Ryan, brother of the groom and Mrs. T.  Walsh, sister of the bride, was matron of honour. Also of Mr. Maurice O’Carroll, (Town Planning Officer, Herts Co. Council), of Cahirdown, Listowel, Co. Kerry, son of Mrs. E. O’Carroll and the late Timothy O’Carroll, Listowel, Co. Kerry, and Miss Ita  Butler, daughter of Mr and Mrs Thomas Butler, Ballyglasheen, Tipperary, Mr. M. O’Connell, brother of the groom was best man and Mrs. Sheila Lawlor, sister of the bride was matron of honour. Both brides were given away by their father … The reception was held at Kilcoran Lodge Hotel, Cahir, at which over sixty guests attended. The  honeymoons are being spent touring the South and West of Ireland.’


Thomas C Butler (b. 1939)


Thomas C Butler in 1951, on his confirmation day

Thomas on his confirmation day.

Thomas on his wedding day (with his best man)

Thomas on his promotion to Inspector (January 1982).

Thomas and Josephine’s eldest son, Thomas C Butler, was born on 11 October 1939. He was raised on the farm in Ballyglasheen where his family had lived for nearly 240 years before his birth.

As a youngster, he must have been much impressed by the efforts of the Rev. John Canon Hayes, founder of the Muintir na Tíre community development group, who became parish priest of Bansha & Kilmoyler in 1946. Father Hayes spearheaded many initiatives including the Rural Electrification Scheme and the Bansha Rural Industries preservatives factory.

During the 1950s, Bansha enjoyed the soubriquet of The Model Parish. Indeed, it seems logical that Father Hayes and Thomas’s mother Josephine were acquainted as the Irish Housewives Association, of which Josephine was a senior member, was closely in tune with Father Hayes’ ambitions.

Thomas was in his early teens when, while bringing cattle into the market in Tipperary Town, he caught the eye of his future wife, Catherine O’Donnell (known as Carmel). The couple married on 10 September 1963 and have four children – Diarmuid (born 1964), Siobhan (born 1967), Gráinne (born 1973) and Clodagh (born 1980). Thomas later became a Chief Superintendent in the Garda Síochána na hÉireann. The Butler family home at Ballyglasheen was sold in 2006.


With thanks to Grainne Butler.





Flor Butler, Josephine Sheehan (nee Harrington) and Thomas Butler on the latters’ wedding day.

[1] Grehan, Ida, Irish Family Histories, Boulder, Co.: Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 1993.

[2] In other instances it appears to have been one twelfth of the wine prisage. In 1810, this office was declared redundant and Walter Butler, Marquess of Ormonde, inherited £2l6,000 by way of compensation. Some dispute as to the authenticity of the prise of wines can be found at ‘Family origins and other studies’ by John Horace Round, William Page (Routledge, 1971)

[3] This should not be confused with another Ballyglasheen near Clonmel, County Tipperary, once celebrated for the Ballyglasheen Cup for greyhound coursing.

[4] Denis or Denys Scully of Kilfeacle, an important ally of Daniel O’Connell, was a prominent figure in the campaign for civil liberty at this time. That said, he issued an anti-French pamphlet to emphasise catholic loyalty to the crown.

Mary Pat, Josephine, Flor, Ita, Thomas & Essie Butler on Flor’s wedding day.

Mary Pat, Josephine, Thomas and Flor Butler.

[5] Inquisition taken at Clonmel on 24 Aug. 1536 found that on 5 Aug. 1524 James Butler, Baron of Dunboyne, executed a settlement whereby his second son, Peter was to inherit at his death the lands of Drangan, Grellagh, Magowry, Clonyn, Liskevine, Parkestown and Ballygallward near the Abbey of Holy Cross, and his third son, Thomas, the manor of Boytonrath and lands in Cashel. (Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire. Hen. VIII – Eliz. Vol. I).

[6] State papers (D.S.) Hen. VIII, 1544, Vol.IV,Pt.1111 p.495.

[7] Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII, pgs.121- 124.

[8] Honora Fitzgerald, dau. of James, 10th Earl of Desmond, by Elinor, dau. of Robert Walsh of Castle Hoel, Co. Kilkenny. Carew MSS 625/36-7 and 635/166. She was Piers Butler’s 2nd wife. He mar. 1st Elinor Grace, dau. of Sir Oliver Grace, lord of Carney in Lower Ormond (M.P. for Co. Tipperary. 1559) by Mary, dau. of Sir John Fitzgerald, 3rd Lord Decies.

[9] Suir Castle, just outside Golden, was the family home of the artist and sculptor Tony O’Malley (1913-2003). The house was purchased by his grandfather, Major Harold McDonnell O’Malley, an eccentric descendant of the O’Malleys of Westport. The Major’s wife, Nancy Olga Edwards, was a cousin of Sarah Ferguson’s grandmother and daughter of the wealthy London impresario George Edwards, founder of the Daly Theatre and the famous singing-dancing Gaiety Girls at the turn of the century.

Thomas Butler, Dave Higgins and Flor Butler on a golf trip to Spain in the 1980s.

[10] The Butlers of County Clare by Sir Henry Blackall, North Munster Antiquarian Journal, Vol. 6, 1852, No 4.

[11] By the 1680s, the largest landowner in the Ballyglasheen area was Denis McCarthy Reagh, Chief of the McCarthy Reaghs, who moved his family seat north from Kilbrittain Castle outside Kinsale and built a mansion at Springhouse west of Bansha. At 9,000 acres (36km2), the McCarthy estate was one of the largest cultivated farms in Europe at this time. In the wake of the Penal Laws the family were obliged to flee to France and sell the Springhouse estate. In 1776, Justin McCarthy of this clan was ennobled as Count of Toulouse by King Louis XVI. See: Butler, W.F.T., “The Barony of Carbery“, in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society Volume X, Second Series. 1904. pp. 1–10, 73-84.

[12] The Church of Ireland is known to have been in use from 1718 but is now closed on account of the dwindling local congregation.

[13] Second Report of the Commissioners for Inquiring into the Number and Boundaries of Poor-Law Unions and Electoral Divisions in Ireland 1850, Oxford University.

[14] Petre, Hon. Edward Robert. ‘The Catholic claims rejected: an answer to the letters of ‘An English Catholic, ‘The Revd. Sydney Smith’ and ‘Mr. Charles Butler’ and ‘Thirty-two thousand’ other popish productions, by an English Protestant. (Oxford University, 1826).

[15] Thackeray, Irish Sketch Book (London, 1843).

[16] These House Books were effectively notes compiled by the surveyors of the Valuation of Ireland. John Butler’s name was actually crossed out suggesting that while he had once rented a house or land in the townland, he was no longer there.

[17] Lewis, 1837.

[18] In 1870, John is said to have owned 168 acres at Ballyglasheen; his wife was one of the Chadwicks. He is listed as one of the magistrates on Tipperary’s Grand Jury in the Irish Times in 1863 also.

[19] Her three brothers included Richard and Willie English.

[20] Also of this family was James Butler of Ballyglasheen, whose daughter Annie Butler married a farmer by name of John Hourican and lived in the farmhouse as you entered the gate going up to the family house. Annie may have had a brother James who lived locally, never married and died young. In July 2018, I was contacted by Annie Hourican’s granddaughter Helen who was born in New Inn, County Tipperary, and now lives in Birmingham, England.

[21] John’s cousin James Butler was 53-years-old at the time of the 1911 Census. He lived with his wife Anne (47), two daughters Johanna (18) and Anne (12), and three servants, Nora Moore (36 yrs old), Patrick Roche (24) and John Kelly (15).

John’s other cousin Richard Butler was 40 years old and lived with his wife Mary (aged 39), widowed mother Mary (66), brother Thomas (aged 32), daughter Mary (7 months) and a 17 year old servant called Edmond Roche.

[22] One wonders whether John Shiels was a relation of the orator and politician Richard Lalor Sheil (1791-1851) whose father Edward Sheil had acquired considerable wealth in Cadiz in southern Spain and owned an estate in Tipperary. Richard Sheil’s mother was Catherine McCarthy of Springhouse, near Bansha, a member of the McCarthy Reagh family who were sometime Princes of Carbery and Counts of Toulouse in France.

[23] The Tipperary War Dead.


Further Reading




  • Bassett’s Directory of Tipperary (1889)
  • Butler, Dr David, South Tipperary, 1570-1841: Religion, Land and Rivalry (Dublin, 2005: reissued 2007 as paperback)
  • Kavanagh, Art, and Hayes, William, The Tipperary Gentry, Vol 1 (Irish Family Names, 2003).
  • Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 2 vols. (London, 1837; reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1984), Vol. I, 302.
  • Marnane, Dr Dennis (Des), Land and Violence: A History of West Tipperary from 1660. (1985)
  • Marnane, Dennis, Land and Settlement: A History of West Tipperary to 1660 (2003), (2003).
  • O’Laughlin, Michael C., Genealogy and family history of County Tipperary – Tracing Irish ancestors (Irish Roots Cafe, 2001)
  • O’Shea, Walter S, A Short History of Tipperary Military Barracks (Infantry) 1874-1922 (1998)
  • Ryan, Martin, William Francis Butler, a life 1838-1910. (Dublin, 2003).
  • Ryan, Senator Willie, Golden-Kilfeacle: The Parish and its People (Golden-Kilfeacle GAA, 1997)
  • Tracy, Frank, If Those Trees Could Speak: the Story of An Ascendancy Family in Ireland (South Dublin Libraries, 2005)
  • Wallace, Robert, Farm Live Stock of Great Britain (Oliver and Boyd, 1923).




  • Delaney, Edward, The Famine from Cashel to Kilfeacle, 82-83. Tipperary Historical Journal 1995 [No 8]
  • Hayton, David, Ruling Ireland, 1685-1742: politics, politicians and parties, Volume 1, Irish Historical Monographs (Boydell Press, 2004).
  • Marnane, Denis G. ‘John Davis White’s sixty years in Cashel’. Tipperary Historical Journal (2001), pp. 57-81.
  • O’Neill, Timothy M., 19th century AD, Eire-Ireland: Journal of Irish Studies, Spring-Summer, 2001.


Maps & Indexes


  • Taylor and Skinner’s maps of the roads of Ireland surveyed in 1777 and corrected down to 1783 (1783)
  • Griffith’s Valuation is indexed by county and is shelved in the main reading room of the National Library of Ireland, Dublin.




With thanks to Grainne Butler, Seamus King (, Liam O’Donoghue, Harry Cleeve, Melo Lenox Conyngham (Sec. of The Butler Society), Gerard Ryan (PRO, Tipperary County Board), Dolores O’Shea, Dr Des Marnane and Dr David Butler.