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Irish: Durlas
County Tipperary
Clockwise from top: Mall River Walk,
Cathedral of the Assumption,
Liberty Square Circa 1983,
Liberty Square at night,
St Patrick's College, and north-east view
Grid reference: S118583
Location: 52°40’44"N, 7°48’50"W
Population: 7,940  (2016)
Post town: Thurles
Postcode: E41
Dialling code: 0504
Local Government
Council: Templemore–Thurles MD

Thurles is a town and parish in the North Riding of County Tipperary. The parish forms part of the barony of Eliogarty. The cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly is located in the town.

Location and access

Thurles is surrounded by the Silvermine Mountains (to the north-west) and the Slieveardagh Hills (to the south-east). The town itself is built on a crossing of the River Suir.

The M8 motorway connects Thurles to Cork and Dublin via the N75 and N62 roads. The N62 also connects Thurles to the centre of Ireland (Athlone) via Templemore and Roscrea. The R498 links Thurles to Nenagh. Thurles railway station opened on 13 March 1848.[1]


Ancient history

The historical Hayes' Hotel in Liberty Square

The ancient territory of Éile obtained its name from pre-historic inhabitants called the Eli, about whom little is known beyond what may be gathered from legends and traditions. The extent of Éile varied throughout the centuries with the rise and fall of the tribes in occupation. Before the 5th century A.D. the details of its history which can be gleaned from surviving records and literature are exceedingly meagre, obscure and confusing. During this century however Éile appears to have reached its greatest extent, stretching from Croghan Bri Eli (Croghan Hill in Offaly) to just south of Cashel (in Corca Eathrach Eli). The southern part of this territory embraced the baronies of Eliogarty and Ikerrin, a great part of Middle Third, the territory of Ileagh and a portion of the barony of Kilnamanagh Upper.

By the 8th century, the territory of ancient Éile had broken up into a number of petty kingdoms: the O'Carroll occupied the northern portion, the O'Spillanes held Ileagh, the Eóganacht Chaisil had annexed Middle Third while the O'Fogartys held what is now the barony of Eliogarty. The O'Fogarty's gave their name to the town. In Irish, Durlas Éile means "Strong Fort of Éile", or more correctly Durlas Éile Uí Fhogartaigh ("Strong Fort of the O'Fogarty's of Éile").[2] The clan dominated the regions of Templemore and the Devil's Bit stretching as far as the Tipperary/Kilkenny border.

Feudal period

Towards the end of the twelfth century, the power of the O'Donoghue clan began to wane and by the early part of the thirteenth century, the Norman Butler dynasty came to be the most powerful. It is to the Butlers that Thurles owes much of its early development. Their architectural legacy may be seen today with two of the original family fortresses still standing (the Black Castle near the centre and O'Fogarty Castle by the Suir). Theobald Walter, 1st Baron Butler (Theobald Butler) was the ancestor of the Irish branch of the Butler dynasty. His father had been the hereditary holder of the office of Chief Butler of England and when Theobald assisted Kings Henry II and John in their invasions of Ireland, he was named "Chief Butler of Ireland". He was also granted a large section of the north-eastern part of the kingdom of Limerick. Later in 1328, his descendant, James Butler, was created Earl of Ormond by King Edward III.

Wesleyan Chapel, Thurles, Tipperary, Ireland (p.9, 1849)[3]


West Gate Street

Thurles was originally an agricultural market town. It is now a retail town having chain stores like Dunnes Stores, Heatons, Aldi, Boots and Holland and Barrett. Thurles Shopping centre was recently extended and plans to open a new a Tesco store to replace the current store in Liberty Square were announced. Stakelum's Hardware, which recently moved to the Nenagh road, is one of the biggest family owned business in the town. McKevitt's "Costcutter" is another large family business that operates two supermarkets in the town. High technology industries have been established in the Thurles Technology Park.

Music and arts

The Source Arts Centre

Source Arts Centre and Library

The Source Arts Centre opened on 2 October 2006 and has become the biggest music, theatre and arts venue in north Tipperary. It consists of a 250-seat auditorium with fully flexible seating, and a dedicated gallery space. The year-round programme of events includes film, theatre, dance, ballet, opera, music, family events and visual art exhibitions.

Féile festival

The Féile Festival which ran from 1990 to 1997, was held in Semple Stadium. At the height of its success, an estimated 100,000 people attended the festival, which was also known as "The Trip to Tipp".[4] Acts that played included The Prodigy, The Cranberries, Blur, Bryan Adams, Van Morrison, Rage Against the Machine, The Beautiful South and Deacon Blue.


Semple Stadium

Thurles is the birthplace of the Gaelic Athletic Association, founded in 1884 in Hayes' Hotel. Semple Stadium, where the centenary All-Ireland hurling final was played, is the second largest GAA stadium in Ireland with a capacity of 53,500, second only to Croke Park in Dublin. The stadium is the "spiritual home" of Munster hurling and many famous matches, especially Munster Finals, have been played. In 1984 it hosted the All Ireland Hurling Final to celebrate 100 years since the founding of the GAA in Thurles.

Thurles Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Assumption

The Cathedral of the Assumption is the mother church of the ecclesiastical province of Cashel and the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. It is not in its original site of the Rock of Cashel. This is due to the assumption of certain ecclesiastical properties by the established Church of Ireland at the time of the Reformation. Instead, following the relaxation of the Penal Laws, the Roman Catholic Archbishop chose to locate his cathedra and residence in nearby Thurles. The present Cathedral of the Assumption stands on the site of earlier chapels in the centre of the town. Work on the cathedral, with its Romanesque architectural style and its facade modelled on that of Pisa, commenced in 1865. It was consecrated by Archbishop Thomas Croke on 21/06/1879. The architect was J.J. McCarthy while Barry McMullen was the main builder. Mr. J.C Ashlin was responsible for the enclosing walls, railing and much of the finished work. The cathedral's main features include a rose window, a free-standing baptistery and a magnificent altar. Particularly noteworthy is the tabernacle, the work of Giacomo della Porta, who was a pupil of Michelangelo.

The cathedral was extensively renovated and the sanctuary sympathetically remodelled on the occasion of its centenary in 1979.

Famine Museum

St Mary's church, belonging to the Church of Ireland, is built on the site of another pre-reformation church in Thurles. This structure was built by the Normans in the 12th century to provide them with a separate and more exclusive place of worship. The building is currently occupied and boasts a Famine museum as well as a War Museum.[5]


Thurles Library is located in the arts centre.

Thurles Leisure Centre

In 2003, the county council demolished the old swimming pool with plans to build a new pool which were later scrapped. In 2007, a new swimming pool and gym was opened.[6]


Gaelic games

  • Thurles Sarsfields
  • Thurles Gaels is an amalgamation of three longstanding clubs, Thurles Kickhams, Rahealty and Thurles Fennellys and have their pitch in Kickham Park on the Mill Road in Thurles.

Association football

  • Peake Villa (founded 1967), playing in Tower Grounds
  • Thurles Town F.C., playing in the Greyhound Stadium.
  • Borroway Rovers (restarted 2002), playing in a shared pitch in Loughtagalla Park
  • Thurles Celtic (founded 2007), playing in a shared pitch in Loughtagalla Park
  • Suirside Wanderers (founded 2009), playing in the Vocational School grounds


  • Thurles Rugby Club (founded in 1924), located just beyond the Water Tower.


Horse Racing

Thurles Racecourse is the horse racing venue in the town which stages both National Hunt and Flat racing. Racing has taken place at Thurles since 1732 when a three-day festival took place at the venue.

The course is located a mile west of the town centre. The course is an oval right handed track of one and a quarter miles with 6 flights of hurdles and 7 steeplechase fences in each circuit. It is one mile, two furlongs long with a steep uphill finish.[7]


  • Thurles Crokes Athletic Club (Founded 1965)

Notable people

  • William Bradshaw, Victoria Cross recipient
  • Kerry Condon, actress
  • John Cunningham, Victoria Cross recipient
  • Des Hanafin, politician
  • Mary Hanafin, politician
  • Una Healy, singer
  • Patrick Leahy, bishop
  • Peter O'Meara, actor and singer
  • Paddy Ryan, World heavyweight champion boxer
  • Tony Ryan, founder of Ryanair
  • Pat Shortt, actor and comedian

Annalistic references

From the Annals of the Four Masters:

  • M894.6 - Gairbhith, son of Muireagan, lord of Dearlas, died.
  • M931.9 - A battle was gained in Magh-Uatha by Fearghal, son of Domhnall; and Sichfraidh, son of Uathmharan, i.e. the son of the daughter of Domhnall, over Muircheartach, son of Niall, where were slain Maelgarbh, son of Gairbhith, lord of Dearlas; and Conmhal, son of Bruadhran; and many others along with them.
  • M934.3 - Bec, son of Gairbhith, lord of Dearlass, died.
  • M962.9 - Furadhran, son of Bece, lord of Dearlas, was slain by the Cinel-Eoghain.
  • M983.8 - Dubhdarach, son of Domhnallan, lord of Dearlus, was slain.
  • M999.4 - Ua Domhnall, i.e. Cuchaill, lord of Durlas, was slain by Ua Neill, i.e. by Aedh.


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Thurles)