The word 'Butler' is Norman in origin and originally meant 'wine steward'. It has its origins in the same word that bouteille*, the French for bottle, comes from. Shortly after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century Theobald FitzWalter was made the Chief 'Butler' of the Lord of Ireland. At the time it was a great honour, and a position of great trust, to be made a Butler since monarchs and others in great power lived constantly under the threat of being poisoned by their rivals. Gradually the term 'Butler' came to be used for the head manservant, and still a position of great trust, of a large household or estate with additional responsibilities added to the traditional 'wine steward role.
*There is also some suggestion that the name is derived from the English word 'Butt', derived from the Latin Buttis, meaning a large cask—also use to store wine.
The Butler Family exerted large influence over the Tipperary region, arriving in Ireland in the 12th century (though not with the name 'Butler' at the time) and remaining one of the country’s leading families until the 18th century. The impact of the Butlers can be found throughout the area, in local history* and in the impressive architecture of Ormond Castle and the Swiss Cottage.
The most prominent Butler family in Ireland is descended from Theobald FitzWalter, who arrived in Ireland in 1185 with Prince John—who was 'acting' king since his brother, King Richard, was fighting in the crusades. Theobald was made the first 'Butler to the ruler of Ireland' and was granted 10% of all wine imported to Ireland to provide an income befitting his title. At some point he changed his name to Butler.
This was the period that the well known legend of 'Robin Hood' is set in.
Kilkenny Castle is the most magnificent example of a Butler residence. From the 14th to the 20th centuries, the castle was the main seat of the Earls and Dukes of Ormonde (titles held at times by Butler family members), who played a prominent part in Irish history. Other castles with strong Butler links include Cahir Castle—the Butlers came into possession of this castle in 1375 and it was taken from them in 1599. The Butlers also had connections with Knappogue Castle in Co Clare and with Ormonde Castle in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary.
Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel and Cahir, each with their own associations with the Butlers have individually launched the trail at three free family events. A series of historical re-enactments, craft demonstrations and walking tours took place in June when each town showcased its Butler heritage. The trail was launched at Ormond Castle in Carrick-on-Suir on June 2nd, The Main Guard in Clonmel on June 9th and Cahir Castle on June 30th. A map and guide produced for the Butler Trail is available from tourist offices and other loacations including the Craft Granary in Cahir.
The launch event in Cahir took place in conjunction with the Cahir Horse Festival.
*Local History on the Butler Trail: Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth 1, for whom Black Tom Butler built the beautiful Manor House in Carrick-on-Suir, was great granddaughter of the 7th Earl of Ormond. Queen Elizabeth 1 referred to Black Tom as her black husband – reputedly referring to his dark eyes.
‘The Butler Trail’ is an initiative of the South Tipperary Tourism Company and stretches thirty-eight kilometres along the River Suir, encouraging visitors to explore the history and the buildings of the Butlers and in turn discover the character of the towns they influenced.
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Councillor John Crosse, Chairman of the South Tipperary County Council, is driven to the Butler Trail Launch by Annika Rohrssen in a carriage that was taking part in the carriage driving trials.
Below left: They cross the ford in the river to the Inch Field
Below right: Folke Rohrssen, one of the organisers of the Cahir Horse Festival welcomes the Chairman of the Council to the events.
Above, left and right: The distinguished guests receive instruction on mediaeval weapons and protection.
Left: A good natured debate develops into an equally good-natured challenge and the Mayor and Chairman decide to "take it outside".
Below left: They square off to decide the matter but someone points out that they are contravening health and safety laws by not wearing the protective gear explained to them in the first photo. So they just pose for the cameras in front of the Butler Trail banner.