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County Kilkenny Ireland History

Barony of Gowran

Gowran in Kilkenny is written Gabhran in ancient Irish authorities and in old Anglo-Irish records. In very early times it was a residence of the Kings of Ossory, and it retained its importance long after the Norman invasion (12th century). A portion of this territory between the Nore and Barrow was sometimes excluded from the kingdom of Ossory, and was anciently styled Hy Creoghain Gabhran. The town of Gowran once stood on a strategic point known as ‘Bealach Gabhrain’, or Gap of Gowran on an ancient east-west route. It has also been written as Belach Gabrán, or Beallach Gabhran, the road or pass of Gabhran (Gowran).

The plain of Gabrán (Gowran) is noted in the eastern portion of modern Co. Kilkenny, just northeast of Magh Mail. The lands of the Ua Donnchadha (O'Dunphy, O'Donoghue) sept of Mag Máil were in the medieval cantreds of Oskelan and Ogenty (in the barony of Gowran). Some of these lands were granted to Theobald fitz Walter (Butler) about the late 12th century. The O'Kellys of Magh Mail, in the cantred of Ogenty, occupied an area west of the Barrow.

Magh Chearbaill (named for Cearbhall Mac Dunghall) was a name given to an area situated on a broad front from the Nore to the Barrow rivers, now comprising Gowran Barony. Ui Cearbhall, of the Reddened Spears, were cited as chiefs of northern Gowran (Oskelan).

Prior to the establishment of the 'barony of Gowran', in the 13th/14th century, this area consisted of the medieval cantreds of Ogenty and Oskelan. The eastern section of the barony of Gowran, not included in the kingdom (or diocese) of Ossory, east of the cantreds of Oskelan and Ogenty, was occupied by various septs possibly under the lordship of the Ui Drona (Idrone), e.g. the O Riain (O'Ryan), as well as tribes of the Ui Bairrche.

The origin of the cantred names of Oskelan and Ogenty is apparently tied to the ancient genealogies of the Osraighe tribes. Rev. Carrigan in his History describes O'Skellan and Ogenty as "old Ossory tribe-lands."   Tribal names mathcing these do appear in the ancient genealogies of the Osraighe [Rawlinson B502], that of the Úi Scelláin (in descent from Óengusa Ossríthe), and that of the Síl Daimíni (a quo Tír Úa n-Geintich, the Úi Geintich). Ui Geintigh is a name applied to Ogenty, an Irish district around Thomastown, according to Curtis's 1933 edition of the Ormond Deeds. Rev. Carrigan cites Ogenty as Ui-Geintigh, and Tir-Ua-nGentigh, i.e. the Descendants of Geintech, who was a great-grandson of Aengus Osrithe, and that Ogenty "would appear to have formed the southern division of O'Dunphy's territory of Magh Mail." He goes on to describe O'Skellan as "Ui-Scellain, i.e. [the tribeland of] the Descendants of Scellan, who was sixth in descent from Aengus Osrithe. According to the gloss on the Feilire if Aengus (Feb. 2nd), "Hui Scellain was in Sliabh Mairge, the mountain district which, extending into Kilkenny from Carlow and Queen's County, embraced the Castlewarren, Johnswell, and Kilmogar hills, in the north of the Barony of Gowran."
An entry in the Annals of the Four Masters, dated 938.5, cites the death of Maelmartin Ua Scellain, Lector of Leithghlinn (Leighlin, on the Carlow/Kilkenny border). It is difficult to say if there is any connection here, but the circumstance of time and place seem to match.

Following the Cambro-Norman invasion, beginning in 1169, grants of territory were planned as one of the main tasks of organizing settlement within Ossory. While Prince John (of Enlgand) was custodian of Leinster, between 1185 and 1192, he granted the cantred of Oskelan, in the northern portion of Gowran, to Theobald Walter [Butler] who had also received large grants in Tipperary and elsewhere. When William Marshall gained seisin of Leinster in 1192 he soon made further grants, including a grant of the cantred of Ogenty, in the southern portion of Gowran, to Thomas FitzAnthony. At this time, the modern civil parishes in eastern County Kilkenny, from Graiguenamanagh up through Shankill, were part of the diocese of Leighlin and were apparently not considered part of the 'medieval shire' of Kilkenny.

In his charter of confirmation of the grants of Prince John, William Marshal gave to Theobald Walter, among others, the 'land of Machtalewi' for the services of 4 knights fees. This was likely the area in Gowran, referred to as the cantred of Oskelan, and associated with the Butler's manor of Ballygaveran [Gowran]. Machtalewi, according to Brooks (Journal R.S.A.I., 1941, p. 53), is described as a Leinster chieftain.

Thomas Fitz Anthony built fortifications at Grenan, in Ogenty, and established an Augustinian priory in the area, around which the town now bearing his name grew, i.e. Thomastown. Thomas Fitz Anthony later founded a priory at Inistioge in 1215, and he likely died shortly after this. As Fitz Anthony had no surviving son, his inheritance descended to his five daughters, one of whom died unmarried, while the four others had as husbands named: Gerald de Rupe (head of the Roches), Geoffrey de Norrach, Stephen de Archedecne (Cody), and John fitz Thomas (Fitzgerald).

In one version of the 1247 feodary Gerald de Rupe held the 1 and 1/2 knights fees in Ogenti. In another version it shows William de Dene as tenant in chief. It is suggested that, though Gerald de Rupe did not die until 1261, he passed to Emma his daughter and to her husband William de Dene his wife's inheritance. Others holding knights' fees in Gowran in 1247 included:
Reginald de Kernet (de Kernek), 1/10 fee at Killmer, perhaps Killarney.
Theobald le Butiller (descendant of Theobald fitz Walter), 4 knights' fees at Baligaveran, Gowran and elsewhere.

In the feodary of 1317 the following persons held knights' fees in the modern barony of Gowran:
Edmund le Botiller (descendant of Theobald of 1247), 4 knights' fees at Baligaveran, Gowran and elsewhere.
heir of Robert de Carriou (Carew), 1 knight fee at Dungarvan & elsewhere (Dungarvan, barony of Gowran).
Robert de la Lyserne, or William son of William Lercedekne, 1/10 knight fee at Killerne (presumably Killarney).
Thomas Anteyn & parceners, or heir of Thomas de Dene & heir of Richard Lercedekne, 1 1/2 knights' fees at Ogenti.

A descendant of Edmund le Botiller of 1317, James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, built the castle of Gowran about 1385 and made it his usual residence. He was commonly called Earl of Gowran. It was he who purchased Kilkenny Castle from the descendants of Hugh le Despencer in 1391. Some time in the first half of the fourteen century the church and parish [of Gowran] was handed over by the Butlers to the Knights Templars and then to the Knights Hospitallers.

The name Howlin (Houlyn, later also Holden) appears in such records as the "Ormond Deeds" and "Judiciary Rolls From 1306", when Richard and John Houlin were tenants of the manor of Gowran [also see barony of Kells]. The Dobbyn family is cited as landed gentry in Dobbynswood, co. Kilkenny in the 15th century, an area within Gowran. A James Agar, of Gowran, is listed as landed gentry following the Williamite ascendancy of the late 17th century.

A branch of the Anglo-Norman Grace family settled in Ballylynch parish, barony of Gowran, in the 16th century. The Graces of Legan and Ballylinch are described by Canon Carrigan in volume IV of his history of the diocese of Ossory.

The distribution of lands in the barony of Gowran circa 1640 shows the major landowners to be the Butlers, the Archers, Cantwells, Blanchfields, Shees, Purcells, Shortalls, Codys/Archdeacons, Forstalls, Dobbins, Denns, Graces, Ryans, Kellys, and others.

The principal Irish names and their number in the 1659 census, Barony of Gowran, included: Archer, 06 ; Brin, 05 ; Birne, 020 ; Brohy, 020 ; Blanchvill, 014 ; Bryan, 010 ; Bolger, 010 ; Brenan, 046 ; Bergin, 006 ; O Boe, 07 ; Bane, 08 ; Barron, 08 ; Bourke, 05 ; Brodier, 06 ; Cody, 040 ; Comerford, 015 ; Cullen, 010 ; Goghill, 011 ; Clone & Clony, 010 ; Convoy & Coway, 009 ; Cantwell, 09 ; Cragh, 06 ; Clere & Cleary, 07 ; Carroll, 06 ; Cnogher, 05 ; Cormucke, 016 ; Dulany, 012 ; McDonogh &c., 012 ; O Donell &c., 015 ; Dowling, 016 ; Dobbin, 010 ; McDavid, 07 ; O Drea &c., 08 ; Dowly &c., 06 ; Fanning, 010 ; Farrell &c., 023 ; Flemming, 07 ; Fitzgerald, 011 ; Grace, 020 ; Heiden, 013 ; Hologhon (08) & Halighan (05), 013 ; Healy &c., 011 ; Heban, 08 ; Henessy, 08 ; Joue & Jouie, 010 ; Keating, 012 ; Kelly, 043 ; Kevanagh, 013 ; Kenedy, 05 ; Kearny, 06 ; Keefe, 08 ; McLoghlin, 011 ; Lallor, 017 ; Loghman, 06 ; Laules, 08 ; Morphy, 118 ; Mogher, 015 ; Mulrony, 08 ; Marten, 09 ; Neale, 032 ; Nolan, 030 ; Phelan, 025 ; Purcell, 020 ; Patrick &c., 010 ; Prendergast, 024 ; Power, 08 ; Quin & Quing, 012 ; Quiddihy, 09 ; Ryan, 089 ; Rock, 012 ; Roch, 06 ; Shortall, 016 ; Shea, 09 ; Tobin, 015 ; Tressy, 08 ; Welsh & Walsh, 095 ; Wall, 012.
The total number of Irish in the barony included 3,543 ; the total number of English included 311.

Further reference:
Parishes and Townlands of Gowran
Barony and Civil Parish Map of County Kilkenny


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