- This article is about Birr, the town in Ireland. For alternative meanings see: Birr (disambiguation).
) is a town in the Midlands county
. Once called Parsonstown
, after the Parsons family who were local landowners and hereditary Earls of Rosse
, Birr is situated at the meeting of the Camcor and Little Brosna
rivers. On leaving Birr, the combined Camcor and Little Brosna rivers, now simply the River Brosna
, flow into the River Shannon
Birr is a designated Irish Heritage Town with a carefully preserved Georgian heritage. Birr itself has graceful wide streets and elegant buildings. Many of the houses in John's Place and Oxmantown Mall have exquisite fanlight windows of the Georgian period.
A monastery was founded at Birr by St Brendan of Birr
. It produced the Gospels of McRegol, named after the abbot at the turn of the 8th/9th century and now to be seen in the Bodleian Library
. The Synod of Birr
, held in 697
, was the occasion on which the Cáin Adomnáin
, or law of innocents, was pronounced. The town itself is an old market and former garrison town dating to the 1620s.
In Emmet Square stands Dooly's Hotel: one of the oldest coaching inns in Ireland, dating from 1747. The name of Galway Blazers was given to the Galway Hunt after a celebration held in the hotel in 1809 resulted in the premises being set on fire. The column in the centre of the square dates from 1747 and was built to carry the statue of the Duke of Cumberland, known as the Bloody Duke and the victor of the Battle of Culloden. The statue was removed in 1915 as it was in danger of collapse. On the Roscrea road, near the County Arms Hotel is the beautiful gothic-style Catholic church of 1817–25.
The town was also the location of The Crotty Schism, one of the few schisms to affect the Catholic Church in Ireland in the 19th century.
Places of interest
is the oldest inhabited home in the county. In the 16th century the O'Carrolls of Ely had one of their castles here and this was granted to Sir Laurence Parsons
in the course of the Stuart plantation, c. 1620
. Sir Laurence Parsons built most of the structure of the present castle. The castle was twice besieged in the 17th century and one of the towers still shows the scars of the artillery of Patrick Sarsfield
, who tried unsuccessfully to take it. The castle still remains the seat of the Earls of Rosse
and is home to the seventh Earl (Brendan Parsons) at present. As a family home, the Castle is only open to the public on special occasions. The surrounding demesne however is open to tourists
every day of the year, and the gardens contain many fine trees and shrubs set in a landscaped park with waterfalls, river and lake.
A main feature on the grounds of the castle is the great Leviathan of Parsonstown, an astronomical telescope with a 72-inch metal mirror erected by the third Earl of Rosse, which was, until 1917, the largest telescope in the world.
The population of Birr (and its environs) has risen by 21.5% from 1996 to 2006:
- 1996 ... 4158
- 2002 ... 4411
- 2006 ... 5053
Birr railway station opened on 8 March 1858
, but finally closed on 1 January 1963
The Ormond Flying Club has been in operation at Birr Airfield for over 30 years. The area has been linked with aviation for some time - as a British Army airstrip was previously near the current field.
Birr also has a very successful hurling team, Birr GAA
, winning the all-Ireland championship four times. Many of Birr's hurlers—including Brian Whelehan
—learned their craft at St. Brendan's Community School
, which also boasts a strong musical and scientific tradition.
The first ever All-Ireland hurling final was played in Birr, on Easter Sunday, 1 April 1888, between Tipperary and Galway. The match was won by Tipperary on a score line of 1 goal, 1 point and 1 forfeit point to Galway’s no score. A forfeit point was given against a player carrying the sliotar over his own goal line.