Cathair Dun Iascaigh is the ancient and proper name for Cahir. Its original meaning is circular stone fortress of the fish abounding Dun or Fort. Settlement in Cahir dates back to the stone age with evidence of megalithic tombs, ring forts and anchient roadways of Munster. These roadways past through Cahir linking Cashel with Lismore and was called "The Track of St. Patricks Cow" by the christians. Tombs, cairns and ring forts can be found at Lisava, Garryroan, Kedrah and Scaragh Wood.
The poet Fearchois MacGorman's history dates back a far as the third century when he lived near Cahir in a large earthen fort and legend says it was Cahir where he threw a spear through the heart of Lugaigh MacConn, the king of Ireland in 212AD.
The Rock on which Cahir castle stands was an earthen dun or fort, the residence of Badamair and the local Gaelic chief Finn MacRadamaid, of whom many legendery stories come.
With the arrival of christianity, the ancient pagan sites were gradually taken over. Cahir Abbey is such a site where there is a holy well, Tobar Iosa. Here the pagan custom of tying coloured rags on a nearby tree is still practiced.
Between the fifth and eleventh centuries church sites sprang up in many locations around Cahir and many were succeeded by medieval or monastic settlements. Before the Normans came, Conor Na Cathrach O'Brien, King of Thomand(Limerick), is said to have built a stone fort on the rocky Cahir island, replacing the earthen fort in the twelfth century.
In 1169 the Normans arrived in the area. The river Suir was navigable to Cahir, which had become an important link between Limerick and Waterford. The Normans were dedicated to christianity and founded an Augustinian priory at Cahir Abbey and further down the river at Kilcommonbeg another priory was founded.
The fourteenth century saw the lands around Cahir come into the hands of the Third Earl of Desmond who later granted them to his son and daughter. Cahir would become home to the Butlers for nearly 3 centuries.
In 1543, King Henry the Eight made Thomas Butler Lord Baron of Cahir, as a reward for his loyalty . This period also witnessed the dissolutionn of the monasteries and lands were granted to the Butlers. They then consolidated their holdings and built tower-houses all around Cahir.
The next years to follow was a rocky ride for the monarchy as the Irish rebels revolted. Cahir Castle was taken and re-taken but all the time remained in the hands of the Butler family.
However after religious turmoil in the mid-seventeenth century the result was exclusion from the central administration following the nine year war. In 1641 the castle was surrendered to Lord Inchiquin for Parliment, but was retaken in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell. The Butlers subsequently never lived in Castle again, but at their country manor and abroad in England and France.
By 1700 a sizable town had grown around the castle. Milling, agriculture and a range of trades brought industry to the muddy streets. At this time the quakers had a strong foothold in the town and the castle was let to William Fennell where he resided and kept a small wool industry. Cahir house was built in the 1770's as well as the Manor Mills, The Suir Mills and the Cahir Abbey Mills in the period 1775-90. Lord Cahir (Richard 12th Baron) married Miss Emily Jeffreys of Blerney Castle and together they led Cahir through its most delightful period. He sat in the House of Lords and the title "Earl of Glengall" was created. He unfortunatly died some years later.
The first 2 decades of the 1800's saw enthusiastic improvements to the estate. Cahir Park was landscaped, Cahir barracks was built among a number of other important buildings. Cahir became a fashionable centre among the gentry. There was a boom in Cahir as the milling and other business ' flourished due to the army regiment in Cahir.
In the 1830's money was poured into the estate by the Lord Glengall and a plan was created for his tenents to build the main areas of the town.
The great famine ensued in 1847-50 and building was shelved. Lord Glengall was eventually declared bankrupt and the estate was sold off to the various tenents. But after marriage Lady Margeret, heiress to the Lord and Lady Glengall repurchased Cahir town. She resided in London and 2 managers looked after the estate successfully. She again set about improving the town and Cahir was one of the first towns to receive a fresh water supply in 1876 and sewerage facilities in 1914. The 1960's saw the auctioning of most of the estate to the Land Commission and thus the end of a long line of gentry ownership.