Carrick-on-Suir is situated in the south-eastern corner of County Tipperary, 13 miles east of Clonmel, and 17 miles northwest of Waterford. The town lies over three county lines, namely Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny. which marks the Tipperary-Waterford border. The main portion of Carrick-on-Suir north of the river and lying in Tipperary is known locally as Carrick Mór (Big Rock), though this is rarely used.
The town is connected to Limerick and Waterford by the N24 road and a rail link. Carrick on Suir railway station opened on 15 April 1853. Since 2004, three trains a day and numerous buses run to Waterford. There is a recently refurbished riverside walk to Clonmel along a former canal tow-path.
Carrick-on-Suir (originally called Carrig Mac Griffin) was formed on an island settlement upstream of Waterford. (The town remained as an island until the 18th century, when small rivers were diverted to form dry land north and west of the town).The earliest known records of a settlement are dated to 1247, when a charter of 3 fairs per year was awarded to Matthew Fitzgriffin, Lord of the manor of Carrick, and a member of the Anglo-Norman nobility.
By the early 14th century, Carrick Mac Griffin had become home to a prosperous Anglo-Norman family - the Butlers. The first significant leader of the Butler clan, Edmond le Bottiler, became Earl of Carrig in 1315. His son later received the title Earl of Ormonde, and this title would be used henceforth. The most notable members of the Butler clan were Thomas (Black Tom) Butler, the 10th Earl of Ormond who built the Tudor Manor House extension to the Ormonde Castle and James, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Ormond, who founded the woollen industry of the mid-17th Century.
Edmond le Bottiler erected two large, heavily garrisoned castle keeps named the Plantagenet Castle on the north bank of the Suir, just east of what is now Main St. In the 1400s, a four towered castle was erected on the same site, two of which are now incorporated into the Elizabethan Manor House built by Black Tom Butler, c. 1560. The Manor House still stands today, having being extensively refurbished by the State in the 1990s and is open to the public.
In 1649, the town was taken by English Parliamentarians during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. They captured Carrick by stealth after discovering an undefended gate as part of operations during the Siege of Waterford. Irish troops from Ulster under a Major Geoghegan tried to re-take Carrick but were eventually beaten off with the loss of over 500 killed.
In 1670 the Butlers set up a woollen industry in the town. By 1799, the town enjoyed some prosperity from the woollen industry, fishing, basketweaving and other river related businesses - the population reached around 11,000 by this point. Over the next 120 years however, the town suffered from high taxes and levies imposed by the British on the woollen industry, leading to high unemployment, poverty and emigration. The Great Famine also contributed greatly to the depopulation of the town.
With the coming of Independence and the Civil War, Carrick was initially occupied by the IRA until the town fell to the Free State army in 1922. By this stage, industrialisation had reached Carrick with the establishment of cotton factories and a local creamery. Most significant however for the economic development of the town was the arrival of the tanning industry in the 1930s, providing regular, dependable employment in the town for the first time. The local town council also embarked on building social housing projects in an effort to deal with appalling living conditions in the town for those economically disadvantaged. Despite these developments, economic opportunities were limited and poverty widespread - the town saw widespread emigration to Dublin, Britain and further afield especially during the long recessions of the 40s and 50s.
The closure of the Pollack & Plunder tannery in 1985 caused immense hardship in the town, as a significant proportion of the population (Carrick's population was roughly 4,000 by this point) were employed there or were dependent on someone who was. Carrick suffered a prolonged recession throughout the 80s and early 90s, again leading the population to drop due to emigration - a fate suffered by other small, rural Irish towns during the period. By the late-90s, the economy of the town was on the upswing - unemployment had dropped, the SRAM bicycle component factory had opened as had numerous small businesses, and the population began to increase again for the first time in 2 centuries.
Carrick's local infrastructure (in particular health and transport) still remains relatively undeveloped, due to its location on the border of 3 counties (and subsequent lack of political muscle both at county and national level), and the nearby larger towns of Clonmel and Waterford. As of 2006, no large manufacturing operation remains in the town - the SRAM plant closed in 2006, but Carrick continues to prosper economically. The population continues to increase, and the town expands with ongoing significant house building projects. The future of Carrick is likely to be that of a commuter town, servicing those working in Waterford and Clonmel - a role it has been performing for decades.
The river is tidal through the town and the tide turns above Glanbia upstream of Carrick-on-Suir. Flood waters spill on to the land above Glanbia on the County Waterford side of the river. Carrick has a one-in-50 year flood defence system with quay walls ranging in height from 1.2m to 1.5m. Currently the walls give protection from flooding caused by high tides. Carrick is less than 10 m above sea level and could be affected by global warming in the future. Flooding still occurs along the Glen/Mill River and Markievicz Tce.
In 1447 a stone bridge was built, now known as the "Old Bridge". A new, more modern bridge (later named after John Dillon) was built in the early 20th century. The central part of the Old Bridge (and likewise the Dillon bridge) was destroyed by retreating IRA forces in 1922 in an attempt to slow the advance of the Free State army, but both were rebuilt by 1927.
Carrick's Town Clock was erected in 1784. A public park was created in the Fair Green in the 1860s. The town fair continues to this day, having been moved from the Fair Green in the 1920s to a new site just west of the Fair Green.
Carrick-on-Suir and Carrick-Beg are home to three Catholic churches. In Carrick Mór lies St Nicholas' church and it is the largest church in the town. This church was built in 1879, replacing an earlier church of the same name built in 1804. In Carrick Beg are the small St Molleran's parish church (parts of which date back to the 1200s) and the larger Franciscan friary. The Franciscan order's presence in Carrick dates back to 1336 with the granting of land for a friary by the 1st Earl of Ormond. However, the suppression of monasteries by Henry VIII led to the closure of the friary. Just prior to the invasion of Ireland by Cromwell, the friars had returned for an 11 year period, before being shut down again and the friars having to go underground to avoid persecution. It was not until 1820 and the onset of Catholic Emancipation that the friars were able to fully return and a new chapel was built. The friars served the local community until the lack of vocations to the order led to the order finally leaving Carrick-Beg in 2006.
The local Church of Ireland community was relatively substantial until independence from the UK, when the majority left for Britain and Northern Ireland. The local Church of Ireland church on Main Street was abandoned until the late 1980s, when the church building and grounds were renovated and now serve as a heritage centre.
There are two theatres in Carrick-on-Suir, the Brewery Lane theatre and the Operatic Society. While the Operatic society tends to focus on musicals, operas and pantomimes, Brewery Lane usually does dramas which can be serious, or often black comedy. Many of these are Irish.