Roscrea 800 celebrated in Style
Roscrea 800 was celebrated at the 52nd Roscrea Conference at Mount St Joseph Abbey, last weekend. The Council of Roscrea 2013 got very special mention, as did the long history of Roscrea castle. Nenagh and Clonmacnois castles were also explored in the lecture as well as the medieval landscape. Midland poets and chroniclers, the archaeology of medieval Ireland and the Crosslands of Tipperary were other topics at the weekend. Special guided tours of the Roscrea Castle Complex were held on the afternoon of Saturday 6th A pril with archaeologist Con Manning. Music was provided on the castle lawn by CCÉ, Ros Cré. Ger Dooley MA gave a talk in the Damer Annex on ‘Ernie O Malley’s interview with Roscrea IRA Brigade leader Ned Quinlan. On the Thursday George Cunningham gave an in depth illustrated talk on the 800 years of Roscrea Castle.
Bishop of Killaloe threatened to excommunicate
the Archbishop of Dublin
It happened at Roscrea, Co Tipperary in 1213. At this time this south-west midland region of Ireland was frontier land which the Anglo-Norman were slowly fortifying and gaining the upper hand over the Gaelic lords. But sporadic resistance of guerrilla-type warfare did occur, sometimes posing more than just a local threat.
The continuing threat caused by the raids of Murchadh Ua Briain in the early 1200s to the emerging Anglo-Norman colony and the burning of five of their newly-erected castles across north Tipperary and south Offaly, forced the King’s Council and Host to gather at Roscrea. Perceiving the destruction been caused by Murchad as quite serious, they made a decision to fortify the town. The decision was a strategic one as this early monastic town was on the Slighe Dhála, one of the five great ancients roads of Ireland, and pivotally positioned in a gap between the Slieve Bloom mountains, the great Bog of Ely and Devilsbit mountain.
The King’s Council started to erect a fortification, a motte and bailey castle, on the high ground of a moraine beside the unchannelled river, a short distance from the parish church, once the seat of St Cronan’s celebrated monastery and the short-lived Diocese of Roscrea. Unfortunately for them this was on church land, lately acquired by the Bishop of Killaloe, Cornelius O’Heny and now part of his diocese. On learning of the incursion and unauthorised building by these knights, he came hot-footed to Roscrea and threatened to excommunicate them all, including the Justiciar, Henry of London, then archbishop of Dublin, if they did not desist. The King’s Council and Host (Potestes et Consilia Regis, forerunner of parliament) pleaded with him to allow the motte with its wooden tower to stand, that the peace of the country depended on it. He did so providing ample compensation was made, if the vill of Roscrea, worth thirty-five marks of silver. was not returned to him at the end of the war. This was agreed. The earthen castle remained. But this matter of paying suitable compensation dragged on for decades. Details of it emerged following an enquiry in 1245, but it was not fully resolved until 1280 when the bishop of Killaloe acknowledged the right of the King to the termon lands of Roscrea and the bishop received in exchange portion of the Norman manor of Newcastle Lyons in Co Dublin.
This then allowed the building of the stone castle, an irregular polygonal one with a gatetower, curtain walls and two d-shaped towers, which stands to this day,
The constitutional historians, Richardson and Sayles, regard this episode at Roscrea in 1213 as the first recording of a formal Council that later emerged as parliament. The King’ Council and army were indistinguishable at the time; the difference between them and later parliamentarians was that after making decisions of policy or strategy they then had to go out to they had to enforce their decisions themselves. Food for thought for today!!