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The Bowles as Freemen of the Corporation Of Fethard 

Back to Charles Bowles of Coolquill or John Bowles of Fethard

The story of the six Bowles who received Freemen of Fethard status is best told in reference to the larger story of the fight for control of the Corporation.


The 6 were:




Date Admitted

Date Sworn

Date Voted

Sam. Bowles






Charles Bowles






David Bowles






John Bowels






George Bowles






Thomas Bowles







‘Admitted’ means that they had been granted Freeman status by appointment from a senior official of the Corporation, typically the Sovereign or the Recorder.


‘Sworn’ means that they were admitted as Freeman and had sworn the Oath of Supremacy which was basically an allegiance to the British Crown and denial of the Catholic church.


‘Voted’ means that they had received Freeman status as a result of being voted in by the burgesses of the Corporation.


The source reference for these admissions needs to be checked for further information:

Minute books of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, 1707 - 1834.

National Library of Ireland; Mss. 5858-5859



Instead of a Mayor and Council, a town which was administered as a corporation had a Sovereign, a Recorder and a number of burgesses.  The Sovereign was generally the main landowner of the town or someone selected by him.  The Recorder and burgesses were usually other smaller landowners or tenants and were also selected by the main landowner which effectively gave him absolute control over the town.  In the early 1700’s there was a struggle for control of the Corporation of Fethard between the Catholic Everards and the newly-conformed O’Callaghan family which initially resulted in a sharing of power but with an O’Callaghan ultimately taking control.  He then had to hold off takeover attempts from the Protestant Barton family.  This was at a time when not only was the state religion Protestant but anti-Catholic laws severely limited the rights of Catholics, denying them the right to vote, to hold land and even to openly practice their faith.  However, in defiance of those laws, there were still powerful and influential old Anglo Irish families like the extensive Butler family and the Everards of Fethard, who were of English origin but had lived in Ireland for hundreds of years, who nominally swore allegiance to the state religion but either openly or secretly continued to follow the Catholic faith and permitted their tenants to do so as well.  South Tipperary, including Fethard, had a strong Catholic landholder presence in the early 1700’s which gradually decreased as many members of the leading Catholic families left the country or yielded to pressure and converted to the Protestant faith in order to continue holding their land.





The first Everard arrived in Ireland with King John in 1187 with his descendants becoming the principle landholders of Fethard by the 1300’s.


In 1605 Sir John Everard was the only one of the seven Justices of the King’s Bench who openly professed the Catholic faith but mounting pressure against his recusancy forced him to retire in 1607.  That year he voluntarily surrendered all his land holdings which he held under an Irish tenure to the Crown and in return was granted a charter under English tenure for his land holdings in Tipperary and Waterford.  As this was at his own request it was probably done as a demonstration of his loyalty to the Crown.  In 1608 King James granted a new charter to the Fethard townland which confirmed the Corporation of Fethard with Sir John as Sovereign of the Corporation.  Fethard then passed down through the control of five more Everard heirs until it passed to Sir Redmond Everard, 4th Bart., in 1691.


In the early 1700’s Cornelius O’Callaghan, a Dublin barrister originally of county Cork, acquired Knockelly Castle through a fortuitous marriage.  With that share of the Fethard estate he applied for and was given admission as a Freeman of the Corporation of Fethard in 1710.  He established himself as a Recorder of the Corporation in 1712 and then used that position to ‘pack’ the corporation with a hundred or so of his supporters in 1713 which were sufficient to secure for himself a shared control of the corporation with the Everards including the election of himself and Sir Redmond Everard as Fethard’s two Members of Parliament.  They served jointly until Sir Redmond fled to Ireland after which O’Callaghan had control of the corporation.


The Everards had gradually fallen on hard times due to their allegiance to the Catholic religion. Their situation had forced them to take out mortgages and even sell off some of their parcels of land.  In 1713 Sir Redmond had to take the Oath of Supremacy to qualify for his seat in Parliament. By that oath he swore allegiance to the King and denied the authority of the Pope, but then he supported the Jacobite rising of 1715.  After its failure he felt it safer to leave the country and retired to France where his house became a center for Irish exiles. 


When Everard retired to France he retained his land in Fethard but would have yielded the control of the corporation to O’Callaghan.  The two had jointly represented Fethard to the Irish Parliament since 1713 but after Everard’s departure Epaphroditus Marsh and Guy Moore, likely both O’Callaghan men, were elected.  When Marsh died in 1719 a Joseph Slattery defeated Guy Moore in the election to replace him.  It appears that Slattery was an Everard supporter as his election was denied and Guy Moore was appointed.  This seems to have led to one last challenge by Everard when a new election was held in 1720 for the two representatives of Fethard.  On this occasion another vote manipulation similar to that of 1713 occurred with O’Callaghan gathering another 138 supporters, again mostly from far away from Fethard, to appoint as Freemen and as before, his choices Stephen Moore and Guy Moore were elected.


It may be an important lead or just a minor coincidence that Epaphroditus Marsh was originally from Hannington, Wiltshire and in his Will of 1719 he left £35 (quite a large sum in those days) to a John Bowles of Longcott, Berkshire to settle in full any claim he may have against his estate.  ref.  I also found a land deed memorial from 1734 involving a John Bowles of Lechlade, Gloucester, a Thomas Bowles of Wexford and others.  ref.  Lechlade is only about 4 miles north of Hannington.  This may be nothing as so far I haven’t been able to find any other link between the Bowles in this area and those in Wexford or in the Wiltshire/Berkshire/Gloucester region.



Control of the Corporation of Fethard would remain firmly in the O’Callaghan family’s hands until the next attempt to take it over would develop in 1742.


The first Bowles to be admitted as a Freemen of the Corporation of Fethard was Samuel Bowles of Middleton, co. Cork in 1725.  He was of the Boles of Co. Cork line and is 3.6 in the Thomas Boles of Cork Family Tree.  It was somewhat unusual for someone so far away from Fethard to be given Freeman status unless it was on one of the occasions when that right was given out freely in order to manipulate a vote but that did not occur in 1725.  In fact there was just a small number of appointees that year and most were local so Samuel was possibly actually seeking a Freeman’s right to trade in the two annual Fethard markets which would indicate that he had some local interest.  It’s unlikely that any of the later Bowles who were Freemen of Fethard were from his line as he died as a result of a fall from a horse in 1735 and his only son, Thomas, predeceased him.


Everard died in France in 1742.  The settlement of his debts resulted in the sale of the Fethard estate in 1751 to Thomas Barton, a successful Bordeaux wine merchant originally from Fermanagh. 


When the Protestant Bartons attempted to assume control of Everard’s former position in the corporation they had to get through the O’Callaghans first.  Thomas Barton’s son William attempted to gain a seat amongst the burgesses in 1754 with the support of Hamilton, James and David Lowe and of Mathew Jacob.  After a very stormy session the O’Callaghan appointee, Daniel Gahan of Coolquill, was elected.  In 1755 Cornelius O’Callaghan of Shanbally, a grandson of the original and the current sovereign of the corporation, used his majority to change the voting rights for the next election to include all Freemen of Fethard.  He enlisted a large number of supporters to ensure that the Bartons would not have enough votes to be elected as a burgess.  These supporters were “from all parts of Ireland and of all classes from nobles down to domestics in Shanbally Castle” (ref. Fethard, county Tipperary: Its Charters and Corporation Records With Some Notice of the Fethard Everards by Thomas Laffan, July 4, 1905; The Journal of The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland).  They were all admitted as Freemen of the Corporation of Fethard effectively loading the vote enough to control the corporation for the O’Callaghans.


Amongst these newly admitted appointees that year were a Charles and David Bowles.  They are of immediate interest to the Bowles family’s descent in this area as neither given name was common in any known Bowles line but both of which would later be found in The John Bowles of Fethard’s line in which children Charles and David were born in the 1770’s and then a generation later in The Bowles of Bawnlea.  The broad scope of the appointees doesn’t help us discover where these two Bowles lived or even their religion.  While there was a requirement in the corporation’s charter that Freemen be members of the established church we know that while the O’Callaghan sovereigns had professed the state faith their family was known to be Catholic and their ‘domestics from Shanbally Castle’ would have been from a class which was almost certainly Catholic.


Note: historians seem to be divided on O’Callaghan’s view of Catholics.  One writes that he showed the zeal of the newly converted, working to increase the number of Protestant’s on his land and would have prevented a Catholic presence in the Corporation but another writes that it was necessary for him to convert but with his absolute control of the Corporation no-one would have challenged his tolerance of his family’s Catholic associates or their support for him when it came to loading the vote.

I think that both might be true.  If you examine the list of Freemen of Fethard as published in The Irish Genealogist, the new appointees were generally 'admitted' prior to 1755 but after Barton's appearance virtually all of them were 'sworn'.  Swearing the Oath of Supremacy was a requirement of a Freeman as was specified in the town's charter.  During the Everard and O'Callaghan years that was largely ignored indicating a tolerance for nominees who would not swear that oath or at least a disregard for the importance of the oath.  Once Barton had made inroads into the area's gentry community O'Callaghan would not have found it so easy.  Also Catholic toleration in South Tipperary had a big setback with the departure to France of many prominent Catholic gentry who had supported the failed Jacobite Rising of 1715.  Their last hope was the failure of the Jacobite Invasion of England on 1745/46 which brought about a new wave of conversions.  That corresponded with O'Callaghan's first actions to build the Protestant population in Clogheen in his own estate.


Hopefully this can be confirmed by checking the corporation's minutes to examine O'Callaghan's appointments in 1755 for a Catholic presence which Barton would almost certainly have protested against. 


While few records for this period have survived there was a Charles Bowles and wife Anna Delahunty who baptized two children in the Catholic faith in Killenaule, Peter in 1747 and Edmund in 1750.  Edmund’s godfather was a Pierce Sause who was from another very old Catholic family of Fethard.  Over a hundred years earlier, in 1641, a Pierce Sause of Sausestowne was a burgess of Fethard when it was controlled by the Everards. 

In the same year as Edmund’s baptism a Pierce Sause leased a thatched house in Fethard to a John Everard, innholder which provides a connection between this Charles Bowles and Fethard.


The connection to O’Callaghan implied by the appearance of Charles and David Bowles as his supporters brings up the possibility that their connection to him might extend back to Shanbally or Dublin or even his family home in Cork.    There is a very good chance that the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard for 1755, which are held by the National Library in Dublin, may answer that question for us but they have not yet been checked.


It’s also significant that they were not only admitted by appointment of an official, they were actually sworn in as were almost all of the new admissions.  This aspect is not discussed in the articles that I’ve read on these events but my theory is that Barton would have been actively challenging O’Callaghan’s appointment’s eligibility to be Freemen which would have excluded all Catholics.  The oath required for admission as a Freeman included a declaration of loyalty to the Crown as Head of the Established Church and a denial of the Pope’s authority.


If the Charles who swore the oath in 1755 was the same as the Charles who christened two children in the Catholic church in 1747 and 1750 he had either just become a secret Catholic as Everard had earlier or he had truly converted.  The Anti-Catholic laws and the presence of Barton within what had been a predominately Catholic area would have made it difficult not to.  This may have when the Bowles family split into the two main religions occurred which would cause so many problems later in Bawnlea. 


One of Barton’s first steps when he acquired his land in Fethard was to order a survey of his land showing the names of each of his tenants in 1752.  This survey is held today by the National Library and should be examined to see if there were any Bowles amongst his tenants.  We know that John Bowles of Fethard was a tenant of William Barton’s in 1780 at an annual cost of £9.19.6 but Barton was in control of Fethard by then and had a much more extensive landholding than in 1752.  ref


Cornelius O’Callaghan of Shanbally continued to control the corporation.  He was elected as Sovereign of the Corporation of Fethard in 1751/52, 1761/62, 1764 and 1766.  In 1761 he was elected to serve as the Member of Parliament for Fethard until 1768 when he passed on his role to his nephew Cornelius (jr.).  Barton was probably not just biding his time as much as he was busy looking after his wine business interests in Bordeaux but he would return. 


In 1771 two local Bowles were admitted as Freemen: John Bowles of Fethard, a smith, and George Bowles of Coolquill (in neighbouring Crohane parish), a farmer.  We know more about them.


John Bowles, smith, may have been a goldsmith or a blacksmith but he was probably a tinsmith in Fethard as his sons Charles and William would later be.  This was more of a skilled trade than we would think of today which required apprenticing to a master smith. John’s eldest son, David, who was baptized that year, may have been the David Bowles who emigrated to Canada and married at Guysborough, Nova Scotia in 1829 although he would be a little too old for him to be a good fit.  John Bowles also had a second son William in 1776, a third son Charles, a fourth Jonas and a fifth son Robert in about 1780.  Robert married in Killenaule in 1802, had 5 children in Ireland where he served with the Tipperary Militia until 1823 and then they emigrated to Canada and settled in Guysborough, Nova Scotia where one more child, Charles William, was born in 1826.


The only other thing that we know about George Bowles of Coolquill in Crohane parish is that he was buried in Killenaule in 1777 at age 42 according to his memorial stone.  He would be the likely father of a John Bowles who lived in Crohane parish in 1830 and was buried at Crohane Lower cemetery in 1840 at age 78 (so born about 1762).  His memorial stone was raised by his son Charles Bowles of Knocknahone in Crohane parish.  The Anti-Catholic Petition of 1827 which The Bowles of Bawnlea signed and which I believe led to their, and The Bowles of the Commons’, emigration to Canada was also signed in Crohane Parish by a John Bowles Sr., Charles Bowles, William Bowles and David Bowles.  His age and the fact that he was a signer of the petition makes this David Bowles a better candidate for the one who married in Guysborough, Nova Scotia in 1829.   


As this was not a year when appointments were being made just to fight off Barton, the John Bowles of Fethard and George Bowles of Coolquill who were made Freemen of Fethard in 1771 were probably just getting the right to market their goods in the Fethard market.  They did not swear the oath, possibly as Barton was not there to demand it.


I believe John, born about 1744 or slightly earlier, and George Bowles, born about 1735 may have been brothers and I have two likely origins for them:


Theory 1:  The obvious solution, supported by the frequency of the given name Charles in both their families, would be that John and George were Charles Bowles and Anna Delahunty’s sons who were born prior to their sons Peter (1747) and Edmund (1750) or possibly they were the sons of David Bowles or an unknown brother of Charles’.  The baptismal records for this period are just too incomplete to be sure but the Charles and David Bowles who were admitted as Freemen of Fethard in 1755 were the only Bowles known to be in this area that early.


Theory 2:  One of the largest landowners in this area during this period was John Boles of Woodhouse.  He was a prominent member of the Quaker community of Ballintrane, co. Carlow who purchased an estate near Killenaule in the parish of Magorban and Saucetown in 1701 where he built Woodhouse.  He acquired further holdings in the area including several where we later find Bowles/Boles.  Due to the extensive records kept by the Quakers we know his family tree in great detail (see 7. John Boles in The Richard Boles of Cork Family Tree) with the exception of his son George (7.1 in the same tree) and his grandson John Bowles (7.1.3 in the tree).  George had left the Quaker faith, was ‘married by a priest’ in Dublin, where he worked as a chandler (a candle maker) in 1749, and was disinherited by his wealthy grandfather.  When George’s children grew up they all, other than his son John, returned to the Quaker faith.  While these events are well documented in Quaker records they make no reference to either of them after that.  I believe that I have traced George’s son John to Dublin where he married around 1732, a son George was born about 1734 and a son John Jr. was born in 1740.  Both were baptized in the Church of Ireland.  They are an excellent match for the John living in Fethard and the George living in Coolquill in 1771.  They could easily have returned from Dublin to the area where many of their family members still lived.


The proof of either of these theories or another solution entirely may well be found in the discussion in the minute books of the corporation when they were made Freemen.



In 1772 William Barton tried to gain control again with the election resulting in 5 of the 9 burgesses voting for Barton, 4 for O’Callaghan’s candidate, John Gahan, and the portreeve voting for Gahan which resulted in a 5-5 tie.  The sovereign then cast the deciding vote for Gahan.  Barton rejected the decision and claimed victory based on the Sovereign only having a vote if there was a tie between the burgesses (not including the portreeve) but he had won that vote 5-4.  O’Callaghan’s ruling party disallowed his claim.  O’Callaghan and William Barton fought a duel in 1772 over the dispute in which Barton was wounded in the thigh. 


Apparently O’Callaghan wanted to avoid another close call so once again the vote was extended to all Freemen of the Corporation and he set about admitting his supporters as Freemen, a few in 1772 and larger numbers each year from 1773-75.  That seems to have finally defeated Barton’s attempts as no further admissions were made between 1776 and 1780.


The list of Freemen admitted in 1773 includes John Bowles of Fethard and George Bowles of Coolquill who had been admitted in 1771 without being sworn in.  Barton may well have challenged them both on that basis so John Bowles was sworn in while George was admitted by a vote by the burgesses in 1773, 1774 and 1775.  The minutes of the corporation may explain just why it was done that way which might possibly tell us more about them.


A David Bowles was also voted in by the burgesses in 1773/74 and a Charles Bowles in 1774/75.  The Rev’d. Skehan equates them with the David and Charles admitted in 1755 in his Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard in The Irish Genealogist Vol. 4, No. 4 of November 1971.  It's also possible that they were of John and George's generation.

Thomas Bowles of Moyge, co. Cork was also admitted in 1774.  Like Samuel Bowles of Middleton who was admitted in 1725, Thomas was another one of the Boles of Cork line and appears at 3.2.1 in The Thomas Boles of Cork's Family Tree


After 1785 when Cornelius O’Callaghan was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Lismore of Shanbally an arrangement was made where the Bartons and Lord Lismore would alternate as sovereign. 

'After the Act of Union in 1800, parliamentary representation of the Borough ceased and Lord Lismore and Thomas Barton received 7,500 pounds each in compensation of the loss sustained.  As control of the Borough then became almost valueless, little or no interest was taken in the affairs of the town by either party.  The Corporation was totally suppressed by Act of Parliament in 1840 when its functions were handed over to Town Commissioners.' (Rev'd. Skehan in The Irish Genealogist, Vol. 4, No. 2 p. 82)

A Possible Connection to Another Bowles Line

We know that John Bowles of Fethard was a tenant of William Barton’s in 1780 ref.   His son and heir, Thomas Barton, who had married Mary Brabazon-Ponsonby in 1777, would have been John Bowles landlord in 1792.  Mary's brother Chambre Brabazon-Ponsonby was heir to their grandfather Sir William Barker, 3rd Baronet of Kilcooly Abbey in 1818 upon which he took the name Chambre Brabazon-Ponsonby Barker and was The Bowles of Bawnlea's landlord.


For their story see The Bowles of Kilcooly.


Fethard, County Tipperary: Its Charters and Corporation Records, with Some Notice of the Fethard Everards by Thomas Laffan as published in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Fifth Series, Vol. 36, No. 2, [Fifth Series, Vol. 16] (Jun. 30, 1906), pp. 143-153 (11 pages)




Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, 5th Edition (1892) Volume 2 by John O’Hart – The Everards of Fethard



The Irish Genealogist: (Eneclann CD)

Vol. 4 (October 1968 - November 1973),

No. 2, Oct. 1969, pp.81-92; Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary by Rev. W. G. Skehan;

No. 3, Nov. 1970, pp.183-193; Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary by Rev. W. G. Skehan;

No. 4, Nov. 1971, pp.308-322; Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary (continued) by Rev. W. G. Skehan;

No. 6, Nov. 1973, pp.616-624; Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary (continued) by late Rev. W. G. Skehan;

Vol. 5 (November 1974 - November 1979),

No. 1, Nov. 1974, pp.72-86; Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary (continued) by the late Rev. W. G. Skehan;

No. 2, Nov. 1975, pp.201-215; Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary (continued) by the late Rev. W. G. Skehan;

No. 3, Nov. 1976, pp.370-382; Extracts from the Minutes of the Corporation of Fethard, Co. Tipperary (continued) by the late Rev. W. G. Skehan, ed. Michael O"Donnell;


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