The Franciscan Friary was founded in 1269, either by the townsmen, by Otto de Grandison, or by the Desmond Geraldines. The convent was reformed by the Observants in 1536, and surrendered by Robert Travers, the last guardian, 3rd March, 31 Hen. VIII. The property was given, half to the Earl of Ormond and half to the townsmen, who maintained the church, which the Provincial, Father Mooney, found in good order at his visitation to it in 1615. The Tudor iconoclasts had even failed to destroy a miraculous image of St. Francis, on which witnesses used to be sworn “it having been observed that perjurers had often been punished and confounded when they had had the audacity to swear against the truth, calling St. Francis to witness” (Alemand).
The Rev. C. P. Meehan has given us further particulars about the condition of the place when Mooney saw it. The conventual buildings were gone. But in the church the altars were standing, and also a magnificent monument to the Baron of Caher, and many others. The zealous Provincial was much “scandalised by the conduct of some Jesuits and other ecclesiastics, who, in the absence of the Franciscans, allowed the remains of the Protestant sovereign of Clonmel to be interred close by Lord Caher’s monument in the choir, and that he caused the body to be exhumed in the night time, and buried elsewhere. This, he informs us, he did with the permission of the Archbishop of Cashel.” The Archbishop was David Kearney. The Jesuits, if they showed less zeal than this distinguished Franciscan, certainly showed more policy. Mooney succeeded in rescuing the church altogether from the disciples of Loyola; but the lands, in spite of all his efforts, remained with the Earl of Ormond. These were but a few acres of land, partly situated at “New town, near Anner’s Bridge.” A long narrow pasture-field by the riverside, and lately added to the Osborne estate at Newtown Anner, is called, to this day, Inch-na; braher, or Friar’s Field. There were also some houses, one or more mills, and a fishing-pool and weir in Clonmel. The Earl of Ormond and the townsfolk respectively paid twelve pence rent to the Crown for their moiety or halfindel.
Cromwell is said to have stabled his troopers in the church, and the place fell gradually to decay. After other strange vicissitudes, the building passed once more into the possession of the Franciscan Order. In 1827 the Friary was restored, and it is to be regretted that this was accomplished in a manner calculated, in a great measure, to destroy many traces of its original architecture then in existence. From the remains of the east window of the choir, which can now only be seen between the present ceiling and the outer roof, it was evidently a pure specimen of the Early English style, similar to the cathedral on the Rock of Cashel. The tower is the only part left in its original state – its parapet and pinnacles are, however, of modern erection. The present resident guardian, the Rev. James Walsh, O.S.F., has done much in beautifying the interior of the church, and has also shown a most praiseworthy interest in protecting from further injury the few fragmentary remains of the ancient sculptured monuments which once adorned the abbey. The covering slab of a remarkably fine tomb, belonging to the Butlers, and bearing the effigies of a Knight Templar and his wife, of the House of Ormond, has been carefully set up inside the church, immediately opposite the main entrance. We learn from the inscription it bears that this tomb was originally erected the memory of “James Galdie Butler,” and other members of the family, who died during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Author : WILLIAM CLARKE. Published in In “Clonmel Chronicle.”
Taken from My Clonmel Scrapbook
Compiled & Edited James White
Second 1000 ; Published E. Downey & Co., Waterford ; 1907 ; No. ISBN