Homestead: Those seeking their roots in Ireland will find the road to their homestead camouflaged by various layers of administrative, territorial entities and language signage. Some roots will be found to be deeper and broader than others. Names such as Ryan and O’Dwyer are common locally and so confusion can arise. There is every good reason for this. A brief knowledge of our past will unravel some of the confusion. The loss of much of our archive material through fire in the civil war of 1922 does not help.
Ancient History: At first about ten thousand years ago, when the ice had melted, wild animals began to roam and native trees covered the island. Shortly afterwards various tribes of foreign persuasion began to arrive. Very few went back. Around that time Ireland got its name ‘Irene’ called after a Greek island. The name Irene was later changed to Ireland. This was from German influence. About 300BC the Celts came from Gaul. They brought impressive cultures and pagan rituals and the Irish language. The Brehon laws were enshrined in their constitution. The Chief of the clan, the family and cow were sacred. The brehons or judges and bards and druids made up the Aes Dana and were considered nobles. There are many archaeological items in the Upperchurch area relating to this period and beyond. Archaeologists speak of these as pre seventeen hundred antiquities. These include tombs, cists, urns, forts. They were associated with cremation and burials. The fulachta fiadh was the flexible equivalent of the cooker, washing machine and the bath, all in one. These and more antiquities provide us with the historical evidence and contribute to our national heritage. The absence of the Roman invaders helped.
Surnames: Gaelic family groups or clans formed. They became settlements. Surnames were not used then but rather the prefixes ‘O’ & ‘Mac’ signifying ‘descendent’ and ‘son’ of. Hence the many surnames with ‘O’ and ‘Mac (Mc)’ plus a Christian name e.g. O’Dwyer and MacDermott. Likewise with the prefix Fitz, however this is of Norman origin.
Townland: The local natives knew the landscape and the Irish language very well and so the townlands and placenames were christened in Irish. The people then were not bilingual. To fully understand their meanings local knowledge is important. Unfortunately over the passage of time the spellings and meanings have changed through anglicisation and mispronunciation. An example is ‘Baile fearainn’. In Irish, means ‘homestead land’ but has been anglicised to ‘townland’. Baile fearainn’ has nothing to do with a town. Our parish is made up of seventy three townlands. The names of five of these are of English origin.
Civil Parish: The Christian period was the next stage in our history. Monasteries sprang up. These were seats of religious learning and writing. Many of our manuscripts were written then. Some of these manuscripts relate back to the time of the early invaders and gives us an insight to the life and times then. We stand next to Greece and Rome for early literature. Ireland became the land of saints and scholars and missionaries. Voluntary emigration had begun. Civil parishes formed around these monastic and other settlements. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries some of these civil parishes were amalgamated to make up the Roman Catholic parish. Others were shared among RC parishes. Upperchurch Drombane is made up of three civil parishes: Moyaliff (part), Templebeg (part) and Upperchurch.
County: About 800AD more invaders came. At first the Norse came and later the Normans. The Normans were descendants of the Norse. The country was shirred into thirty two counties. Shirring meant courts, sheriffs, building of castles and landlords etc. This new feudal system was eroding the ancient Brehon law system. Upperchurch Drombane is in the county of Tipperary which lies south of the centre of Ireland. Its noted landmarks include the Rock of Cashel, Holycross Abbey and Semple Stadium. Our parish have strong connections with all three. Tipperary consists of one million acres and is the largest inland county. Its boundaries have held firm over time.
Barony: In time the county was further subdivided into baronies. These were centred on Gaelic and Norman lordships. Local government as we know it, was introduced. Upperchurch was situated in the old barony of Kilnelongurty, Drombane in the barony of Kilnamanagh. Both are now in the half barony of Kilnamanagh Upper. Baronies became obsolete when the local government act of 1898 was introduced. North Tipperary became the administrative authority. In modern times i.e. beginning of the 16 century, Ireland and its catholic people were subjected to religious persecution and land confiscation. The religious reformation of Henry V111 badly devastated the monastic structures. Following the defeat of the Irish chiefs at the battle of Kinsale in 1601, the land was confiscated and planted with adventures. Further civil and religious restrictions were imposed following the Treaty of Limerick in 1693. These were called the penal laws. It was not till after the relaxation of these penal laws that the Roman Catholic parishes were formed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.