Situated at the confluence of some small rivers and adjacent to marshy ground at the head of Tralee Bay, Tralee is located at the base of a very ancient roadway that heads south over the Slieve Mish Mountains. On this old track is located a large boulder sometimes called Scotia's Grave, reputedly the burial place of an Egyptian Pharaoh's daughter. The Norman town was founded in the 13th century by Anglo-Normans and was a stronghold of the Earls of Desmond. A medieval castle and Dominican order Friary were located in the town. The mediaeval town was burnt in 1580 in retribution for the Desmond Rebellions against Elizabeth I. Tralee was granted to Edward Denny by Elizabeth I in 1587 and recognised by royal charter in 1613.
The name Edward recurs in the Denny family. In May 1795 the heir to the Denny estate, Sir Edward Denny, married Elizabeth Day, whose father (the future Judge Day) thereupon became principal trustee of the Denny estate. He restored the estate to solvency and provided for the succession rights to the estate with the Denny Act of Parliament (1806): this was necessary as Edward's predecessor, his brother Barry, was shot in a duel in 1794, and as he and his wife were childless to that point his death transferred the possibility of successors to his brother Sir Alice. Sir Edward Denny, 4th Baronet was a notable landlord in his day: especially during the time of the Great Famine when instead of increasing his rents as so many landlords did at that time he maintained rents to suit his tenants. He was a notable Plymouth Brother.
Judge Day authored famous diaries of that period as well as charges to Irish grand juries, which he published during his life.
A monument commemorating the 1798 rebellion - a statue of a Pikeman by Albert Power - stands in Denny Street. The modern layout of Tralee was created in the 19th century. Denny Street, a wide Georgian street was completed in 1826 on the site of the old castle.
Tralee courthouse was designed by Sir Richard Morrison and built in 1835. It has a monument of two cannons commemorating those Kerrymen who died in the Crimean War (1854–56) and the Indian Rebellion (1857).
The Ashe Memorial Hall sits at one end of Denny Street, dedicated to the memory of Thomas Ashe - an Irish Volunteers officer in the Easter Rising of 1916. The building is built of local sandstone and houses the Kerry Museum and a reconstruction of early Tralee.
Tralee saw much violence during the Irish War of Independence and Irish Civil War in 1919–1923. In November 1920, the Black and Tans besieged Tralee in revenge for the IRA abduction and killing of two Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) men. The Tans closed all the businesses in the town and did not let any food in for a week. In addition they burned several houses and all businesses connected with Irish Republican Army (IRA) activists. In the course of the week, they shot dead three local people. The incident caused major international outcry when reported by the press, who wrote that near famine conditions were prevailing in Tralee by the end of the week.
In August 1922, during the Irish Civil War, Irish Free State troops landed at nearby Fenit and then took Tralee from its Anti-Treaty garrison. Nine pro-Treaty and three anti-Treaty soldiers were killed in fighting in the town before the anti-Treaty forces withdrew. However the republicans continued a guerrilla campaign in the surrounding area. In March 1923 an infamous atrocity was carried out by Free State troops near Tralee when nine anti-treaty IRA prisoners were taken from the prison in Tralee and blown up with a land mine at nearby Ballyseedy.
In addition to the above, a very considerable number of archaeological sites around Tralee and throughout the County of Kerry, especially ring-forts, are listed for preservation in the new Draft Kerry County Development Plan 2009–15.
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Tralee has also formed its very own American Football club called the Tralee Titans. They are the first team in Kerry to play this sport and will participate in the IAFL (Irish American Football League)
There is also a strong Basketball tradition in the Tralee area with Tralee Tigers being the most well known although St. Brendan's have a bigger youth selection. Tigers play in the National League and Cup while St. Brendan's play in league 1. In soccer there is St Brendan's Park, Kingdom Boys, Tralee Celtic and Tralee Dynamos.
The President of Tralee Chamber of Commerce has said an article in the Sunday Independent about the town created a strong reaction and many people were "furious and angry" about the depiction of Tralee, although he did agree the town needed to face up to certain challenges.
Aug 23, 2009; tralee sees red at claim that it's no bed of roses Anger in festival town over 'one sided' report of drugs and violence...
Tralee Blooms; JENNY MURRAY Avoids the Airport May Hem & Costa Chaos with a Short Journey into the Heart of Kerry Where Beautiful Roses Grace This Majestic Kingdom
Aug 08, 2009; Byline: JENNY MURRAY WITH the Rose of tralee festival fast approaching, Kerry should be high on your list of holiday...